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Saturday
Apr162011

What NASCAR Taught Me about Making Movies

A to Z Challenge,Hollywood,Filmmaking,Product Placement
Here, I visited the Penske Garage a few years ago.

NASCAR is pretty cool to watch if you like adventure and/or fast cars. The sport that made Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. household names also has something in common with the film industry that I believe independent filmmakers and Hollywood movie producers are not taking advantage of properly. This common denominator is Product Placement and one of these two industries in entertainment and/or recreation uses it more effectively than the other.

The film industry does not hold a candle to NASCAR when it comes to the way that corporate sponsorships are handled. NASCAR heavily promotes their sponsors and corporate partners without sacrificing the main point of their business but studios and producers of Hollywood movies do not. Gone are the days where E.T. ate Reeses pieces without the audience being subjected to a less than stellar film.

Now, movie producers seem more interested in generating as much revenue as possible before their film even hits the theaters than making sure that their motion picture has all of the elements for box office success and critical acclaim. Many times, I wonder whether movies are nothing more than 2-hour long commercials dressed up to fit in the cinema category they lack the substance necessary to create a compelling storyline and characters with depth.

A to Z Challenge,Hollywood,Product Placement
As a movie lover and consumer, I do not mind the product placement of Apple computers in the “Sex and the City 2” movie. It could pass as an appropriate placement since Sara Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie Bradshaw is a writer and best-selling book author. Placement of that HP TouchSmart PC in scenes with Kim Cattralls’ Samantha Jones could even convince me as an appropriate feature since Samantha’s job is getting her clients more publicity.

What I find absurd is the development of an entire storyline around Absolute Vodka. That is a ridiculous placement, even in a film like “Sex and the City 2” where the main character loves to shop. When was the last time you saw the Daytona International Speedway reconstructed to look like the VISA logo? The answer is Never! NASCAR still gets money from this credit card company without adjusting the foundation of their sport to suit the needs of a corporate brand, so it baffles me that movie producers are willing to rewrite or add pages to their screenplays for dialogue or scenes that have nothing to do with the story.

A to Z Challenge,Hollywood,Product Placement
Product placement is not necessarily a bad deal, especially for the business side of movie making. As a filmmaker, I understand....it costs a lot to get A-list actors like Tom Cruise, Will Smith and Sandra Bullock in a film and then you have to feed them and the crew as well! Who wouldn’t want to make sure that they get a good ROI on their production budget? Independent filmmakers may even be able to finance their entire production using product placement because it is a lucrative fundraising resource. However, the boundaries on how far these deals go to the point where they have negative impacts on the creative elements of a movie seem to be nonexistent these days.

What I learned from the manner in which NASCAR promotes their sponsors is that product placement works when it fits within the action that is happening and the elements that are already set in place. Drivers are already using cars and wearing uniforms, so adding an M&Ms logo on the hood of a Toyota Camry is not going to distract the purpose of the race or affect Kyle Busch’s strategy to get to the finish line and obtain that checkered flag. Movies should be made like this......show actors driving a specific car if the screenplay and scene already calls for it such as Daniel Craig's use of the Aston Martin in those James Bond movies.

Do not put a character in a car just because you want to promote Aston Martin, or even Toyota Camry.....especially if that character is supposed to be walking or flying in the scene. Just imagine what “Catch Me If You Can” would look like if Leonardo DiCaprio was in a Rose Royce instead of a plane. The movie would probably not only have a different ending but would also be historically inaccurate. Kyle Busch is still going to drive, whether he is in a Toyota Camry, Ford Mustang or some motorized concoction that he built in his garage. His product placements make sense. Unfortunately, some movie producers cannot say the same about their work.

A to Z Challenge,Hollywood,Product Placement,Filmmaking
Using the “Kill the Irishman” starring Vincent D’Onofrio as an example, here are a few types of product placement that I would use based on the blatant disclosure of funding sources that is practiced at NASCAR games and their use of available resources.

1. Vincent DiGiorno: Special movie posters would be made to feature a modified title credit for Vincent D’Onofrio, which the DiGiorno company could use to advertise their new Pizza & Cookies campaign. I would provide free movie posters to Grocery stores so they could give it to customers who buy a box of DiGiorno pizza. This would not only help to encourage people to do see “Kill the Irishman,” but it also boosts sales for DiGiorno pizza, since you have to make a purchase in order to get the free movie poster.

2. Add Brand or Product Logos to the “Kill the Irishman” Movie Poster. Many film festivals are not too good to display sponsor logos on their advertising materials, so my press materials for “Kill the Irishman” should not be any different that those of film festivals if I’m getting money from product placement deals in this movie.

For those who may want to whine that this would ruin the artistic direction of the movie poster design, blah, blah, blah....well, there is a solution for this problem if I want the design to remain in tact. I would incorporate the product placements into the movie poster design. Afterward, I’d laugh if someone tried to tell me how the “Kill the Irishman” movie poster loses it’s visual appeal just because I added a Ralph Lauren logo to that scarf hanging around Christopher Walken's neck.

3. There are balloons in one of the “Kill the Irishman” movie trailer scenes. I see no reason why these balloons cannot have display advertisements on them featuring labels from wine companies, logos of the cigars the characters are smoking in this movie or promotional graphics for the booze that they are drinking in some of the scenes.

A to Z Challenge,Hollywood,Product Placement,Filmmaking
It costs like $20 million to sponsor a NASCAR team for the season and like $500,000 per race but the drivers still deliver on the action that they promote to fans of this sport, so if you’re a Hollywood or independent producer who is getting similar payments from companies to promote certain brands, your film festival screening or theatrical release or DVD better be about the movie and not about some damn car when consumers pay their hard-earned money to see it.

There are similar problems with product placement that I also plan on addressing in a future post.
A to Z Challenge,Hollywood,Product Placement,Filmmaking
“Super Size Me” director Morgan Spurlock’s new film titled "POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and is an attempt at spoofing product placement in movies.
A to Z Challenge,Hollywood,Product Placement,Filmmaking
Some critics think that his own product placement deals and advertisement of brands throughout the film overshadows the points he is trying to make or attempting to tell the audience, but hey, I don’t understand what the problem is with Spurlock’s method of moviemaking and marketing. At least someone knows how to use the NASCAR approach of product placement in a way that matches the subject matter of his film.

Much like what is supposed to be a family centered TV show being produced by beer company, product placement in movies are inappropriate when they seem out of place compared to main elements in the production.

What are YOUR views on Product Placement in movies?

Here are some disclaimers for this particular blog post on it’s subject matter and content choices, if you want to know about them and are interested in further reading material:

-I chose “Kill the Irishman” as my example because Vincent D’Onofrio, who currently sits on the Madlab Post’s King Dong throne for April 2011, is one of the actors in this movie. Therefore, this A to Z Challenge post had to kill two birds with one stone because the weekends this month are dedicated to him.

-I chose DiGiorno pizza because it sort-of rhymes with Vincent D’Onofrio’s last name so it was a fitting product for one of my product placement efforts.

-I chose DiGiorno’s “Pizza & Cookies” product line because I saw a TV commercial promoting their new offering....pizza and Nestle Toll House cookies, all in one box, while I was watching the Season Premiere for the Fifth and Final Season of “Friday Night Lights” on NBC.

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Friday
Apr152011

My Movie Collection & Top 10 Independent Films

MyMovieCollection
'M' is for "Movie Collection" today, so allow me to show you my movie collection as I move along in the A to Z Challenge. This post was a long time coming and was written in response to a Top 10 Movie List and "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" bait from Terrible Analogies. Here is my movie collection, which is followed by a list of my top 10 independent films.

As you can see, my movie collection is very unorganized. Not only does it contain a mixture of VHS movies, VHS tapes filled with recorded movies that aired on television, VHS tapes featuring some of my school work when I studied film & video and DVD movies, it also lacks an alphabetized or categorized setup in my storage bin.

Some years ago, I just dumped my movies into a container and there they sit....until I decide to watch one of them. Also, please excuse those white and black dots in the picture. I had some trouble trying to get rid of them after covering a label on a VHS tape because...well frankly, that particular tape in my movie collection is not exactly appropriate for this particular blog post and also it is nobody's business.

Now, on to my Top 10 Independent Movies (in no particular order):

A to Z Challenge,Movies,Movie Collection,Top 10 Independent Films
1. The Professional – Man meets girl. Girl gets into trouble. Man kicks ass on a mission to rescue girl. End of story. What more do you want?

A to Z Challenge,Movies,Movie Collection,Top 10 Independent Films
2. Million Dollar Baby – I don’t care what anyone says, women fighting is gross even if it is in the professional arena. Still, Million Dollar Baby is one of my top 10 independent films because it displays important messages that are worth trying to live by. Hilary Swank’s character went from a waitress who brought home customer leftovers because she couldn’t afford to buy food to a professional boxer adored by fans and the media.

Most people are afraid of dying but Maggie (played by Hilary Swank) was so satisfied with the life she lived that death would not be scary at all. This woman in Million Dollar Baby lived as she desired and kept a positive attitude throughout the entire movie, even when she encountered situations that would have most of us throwing a tantrum like Tony Stewart on a NASCAR track.

A to Z Challenge,Movies,Movie Collection,Top 10 Independent Films
3. School Daze – The perspectives of some of the characters in School Daze were not a favorite but this is one top independent film that brings a whole new meaning to school spirit. Those fun stepping scenes made me want to join a sorority or at least visit a historically black college to watch them perform next to fraternity brothers during school events. An entire decade has past and I still wonder…..what is the significance of Tisha Campbell and Giancarlo Esposito’s hair/scalp licking scene? Some may think it’s sexy or even humorous, at best. Here is a news flash: It’s NOT. It’s gross!

A to Z Challenge,Movies,Movie Collection,Top 10 Independent Films
4. Menace II Society – A movie about growing up in the “hood” (um, or the ghetto) and how the choices you make today will affect your future in a negative or positive way depending on which path you choose. Movie fans that will enjoy Menace II Society may be those who also liked Boyz N the Hood, New Jack City, Belly, State Property or other “hood” movies. For those who have already watched Menace II Society, all I have to say is “…hey man, I got these cheeseburgers”, lol.

A to Z Challenge,Movies,Movie Collection,Top 10 Independent Films
5. Kids – All movie fans must watch Kids at least once. It’s not only one of the most popular and critically acclaimed independent films of our time. Kids is also still relevant today, in 2009 and will likely remain that way for as long as it is available on video, DVD, online or television. This movie follows a group of disorderly teenagers, one of which is a little ungrateful and disrespectful bastard on a quest to have sex with as many virgins as he can. The plot thickens with intertwined storylines that only get worse throughout the duration of Kids.

It’s a sad movie that also made me angry because it is a reflection of the way many of us behave and allow our children behave in real life. Kids should be required viewing for all 8-12 grade students and their parents. It would even be appropriate to play this in some college classes as well so young men and women in our society make responsible choices when deciding whether to have sex or not. The main conclusion of this movie, in my opinion, is that ALL kids need more supervision. Forget letting them go to the mall with a group of friends. Tell them to read a book!

A to Z Challenge,Movies,Movie Collection,Top 10 Independent Films
6. Crash – Everyone is racist or has some level of prejudice against other people, whether they realize it or not and whether their prejudicial behavior is intentional or not. Bottom Line! Crash doesn’t sugar coat anything and that’s what makes this a “Top 10” independent film. For some odd reason, I got really mad when that store owner used a gun to solve his problems instead of taking responsibility for his own choices.

His scenes were very important to me because it brought up a good underlying message that many of us, especially adults, should stop blaming other people for our problems. If you do what you’re supposed to do from the beginning, then you wouldn’t have any problems to start with! It’s not the Spanish guy’s fault that you have theft, vandalism and insurance problems……it’s YOUR fault for not securing your property in the first place, dumbass!

A to Z Challenge,Movies,Movie Collection,Top 10 Independent Films
7. Requiem for a Dream - If Kids can make you think twice before having unprotected sex, Requiem for a Dream will convince you to always say no to drugs. I was unfamiliar with Requiem for a Dream until one friend told me this movie made him want to stop smoking weed and never do drugs.

I bought the DVD, watched the movie once and understand why Requiem for a Dream is like Scared Straight for people on drugs or those who may consider trying a little marijuana, ecstasy, heroin, etc. here and there. The old lady in this movie is enough to drive the toughest adult to tears. While I do not have the courage to watch Requiem for a Dream again, the DVD will remain in my collection because it’s one of those movies that you must watch before you die!

A to Z Challenge,Movies,Movie Collection,Top 10 Independent Films
8. Boyz n the Hood – Did you know that John Singleton received two Academy Award nominations for Boyz n the Hood? I didn’t until 2009 year while doing research on Michael Jackson music videos. He was the youngest person ever nominated for an Academy Award, which now makes him someone I consider to be inspiring. Until then, Nick Cannon was an idol of mine for his success at such a young age.

Anyway, Boyz n the Hood is another one of those “hood” (aka Urban, Black or however you want to categorize it) movies but I like the structure and star power it boasts (Lawrence Fishburne, Angela Basset, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ice Cube, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut and the list goes on). The story has a powerful message about raising children in tough neighborhoods and places emphasis on the importance of fathers being in the home or at least taking an active role in setting a good example for the boys that they helped conceive to be productive, responsible men who stay out of trouble.

A to Z Challenge,Movies,Movie Collection,Top 10 Independent Films
9. Cooley High – Talk about Retro! If you think Lean on Me is a classic, then Cooley High better be in that group as well. This movie has a mixture of drama and comedy but is very sad. Cooley High displays moments of mischief and classic behaviors of urban city residents, specifically two high school friends who get into trouble before reaching college. The soundtrack is killer and I would definitely love to have it on CD but for now, I will be grateful for the VHS movie of Cooley High in my collection.

A to Z Challenge,Movies,Movie Collection,Top 10 Independent Films
10. Timmy – This may be cheating since it's shorter than most TV shows, but Marc Hall’s horror film “Timmy” is on my top 10 independent films list because it’s well produced. I also had difficulty coming up with another feature length movie that was independently produced, so Timmy takes the spot.

Timmy is classified as a horror film but I would place it in the suspense category as well. At 7 minutes in length, there’s not a lot you can do but Timmy has a clear and concise beginning, middle and end. The story moves along well with an ending twist that no one suspects. I would recommend Timmy to any movie fan who likes horror films or enjoys watching short films.

Unfortunately, as of this month, I do not have one (or some) of the movies on this list in my movie collection (ahem, “Crash,” ahem, “School Daze,” ahem) and plan on changing that eventually. If someone wants to buy them for me, I welcome gifts. Also, if someone has them and would like to do a DVD exchange with me, I'm game for that as well!

What movies do YOU think everyone should add to their movie collection?

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Thursday
Apr142011

Love in 140 Characters or Less

All of you who are Twitter fanatics with a short attention span may enjoy this post, as I attempt to put my long form content on the shelf for a moment. 'L' stands for “Love” today and I welcome you to join me in discussing the topic of love or lack thereof as it relates to movies and the entertainment as a whole in some way. Here is a description of my thoughts on love within three areas of this industry including movies, television and music.....each in 140 characters or less.

Movies:
I've never understand why many people make such a big deal about “Love & Basketball.” The movie is a silly depiction of relationships.

Television:
The transition to Digital Television (DTV) has me falling in love with my DVD player due to frozen or pixelated scenes of “House” and lost signals.

Music:
Right now, I'm loving Adele, Nicki Minaj & Marsha Ambrosius but concert ticket fees these days have me enjoying their songs from a distance.

Can YOU share what you love, or don't love in movies, television and music in 140 characters or less?

Shoot! The television category is over by one character. I'll have to try this again on another day.

This post is a part of my participation in the A to Z challenge.

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