Sunday, August 28, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
In the creative world, there is one sin that is reviled above all others – selling out. But just what is a struggling auteur filmmaker to do in these crazy times of blockbusters and bottom lines to make sure his film is still seen? Heck, how is he even going to get his quirky little movie made for that matter considering the mounting cost of the supposedly independent film? Well, he could give up a tiny bit of creative control and allow a little product placement into his latest oeuvre, but how would he even know how to get to hell if he decided to shake hands with the devil?
Enter Morgan Spurlock; the infamous documentary filmmaker recently made his latest film on location in hell and he can tell you just how you can buy in before selling out. “If you’re going to make a big movie,” Spurlock tells me over the phone, immediately following the Canadian premiere of his third documentary feature, POM WONDERFUL PRESENTS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD at the prestigious HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto, “you need all these promotional partners to drive awareness, to create a mentality around the movie, to make it bigger than life. We bought into this whole idea.” With this in mind, Spurlock set out to make what he calls the IRON MAN of documentaries, coining the term, “docbuster”.
Just like our virgin auteur though, Spurlock did not know where to begin on his quest. To make matters worse, said quest was extremely arduous. “We sat down with people from product placement companies,” he explains of the process. “None of these people wanted to help us.” This was not for lack of any effort on Spurlock’s part; there were other forces at play. “I immersed myself in ad speak to explain to people in a way that would get them excited to work with somebody who was potentially tainted or who comes with the kind of baggage that I do from a corporate standpoint.”
For those of you unfamiliar with any reason corporations might be hesitant to work with Spurlock, you have clearly not seen SUPER SIZE ME. The 2004 Academy Award nominated documentary put Spurlock front in center as the face of the film and found him embarking on a McDonald’s only diet for 30 days. His intent was not to lambaste the fast food giant but rather to look at the health issues associated with an all fast food diet. Regardless, the damage to one specific brand was fairly clear and Spurlock was subsequently branded himself, as an anti-establishment troublemaker.
On a related topic, Spurlock did contact McDonald’s about participating in THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD. It went a little something like this. “’Hey. It’s me, Morgan. It’s going to be really different this time, I promise. Please call me back.’ They never did.”
Once upon a time, it was only known as THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD. The brand above the title would depend on which company was willing to shell out the top buy in price of $1 million. Spurlock contacted hundreds of companies to obtain sponsorship partnering for the film but would only have successful conversations with about 3% of those. “Ultimately we had to reevaluate every day as to why we were doing this,” he confides without any hesitation. “People would say there is no way we are going to let you super size our business like you did that other company.” Abercrombie & Fitch actually asked if they had to spell out to him why he wasn't the appropriate half-naked body, I mean, face to represent them. Ouch.
Spurlock did manage to snag a grand total of 22 sponsors, including major sponsor, POM Wonderful – hence the name above the title of the film. Other sponsors include Old Navy, JetBlue and Sheetz, an American convenience store chain that would get Spurlock’s face on collectible soft drink cups, a first for any documentary. Obtaining those contracts make up the first part of the film and, while accomplishing this goal was difficult enough, what would follow would seem even more insurmountable.
Getting in bed with commercial sponsors, which is where every penny of financing for this film came from, means meeting the demands they make in exchange for their large financing contributions. Sure, Spurlock could fly around the country courtesy of JetBlue and could stay at Hyatt’s wherever he went but that meant he had to include actual commercial spots he made himself for these companies in the finished product. And how is this not selling out exactly?
Transparency is a key issue for Spurlock and the film’s success. Applied to advertising, transparency allows you to be clearly informed when you are being advertised to. In the context of the film, that application is expanded to shine a light on the entire process in a more extreme fashion. “We pull the curtain back and when the film is over, it changes the way you look at marketing and advertising in the real world.”
And while this is a great feat, accomplished by a great film and filmmaker, there is one other thing Spurlock has noticed on the minds of filmgoers when they’ve finished with THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD. “When you walk out of the theatre, you also mysteriously have to have a POM right away.”
Money well spent, POM Wonderful, money well spent.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
A young lady with a stern, hard look on her face leaves a large stately manor. She makes her way into the rain-soaked fields that stretch on as far as she can see. Soon, she can no longer hold back her tears and they stream down her cheeks while she forges ahead toward an unknown destination, an undetermined future On the surface, the introduction to Cary Fukunaga’s second feature, and first major production, JANE EYRE, based on the Charlotte Bronte classic, can come off as dramatic, even overly so. Fortunately for him though, the woman walking this mile in Jane Eyre’s shoes is Mia Wasikowska and it is clear from one look at her that if anyone possesses the resolve to bear the burden of Eyre’s hardships, she does.
There is a particular brand of period piece that always seems to feature women who just don’t fit into the molds society expects they should. Jane Eyre, taken in as a child by her aunt (Sally Hawkins) after her parents passed, has never been looked upon as though she matters. She has always been plain in the face and difficult to control, which renders her somewhat useless, as the only purpose a woman held at the time was to be married off. An uncontrollable tongue needs at least be camouflaged by a pretty face to make it worth the trouble. She grows up surrounded by attempts to make her conform but emerges from the torture triumphant when she pursues a position as a tutor to a young girl who comes from reasonable means. While she continues to be reminded of her place in her new surroundings, she also finds herself the object of affection of the master of the house, Mister Edward Rochester (the strapping, sturdy Michael Fassbender). No one has ever loved her before and suddenly her years of abuse endured show their far reaching ramifications.
Fukunaga entered the world film scene with his brilliant immigration drama, SIN NOMBRE(click for review) in 2009. His eye for understated beauty and sensitivity shown to character in that film are put to great use in JANE EYRE. Like his heroine, the sets and costumes are all spectacular but matted as not to overwhelm. Instead, they are further appreciated for their restraint and delicacy and the same can be said of the entire cast, led by another surprisingly potent performance by Wasikowska. She plays Eyre with so many layers that even she seems unaware of them all at times. She claims to have no tale of woe when asked what hardships she has had to suffer through and her determination to carry on despite everything she’s known is certainly commendable. However, as strong a woman as she is, she cannot escape unscathed, forcing her to learn that love for one’s self is a challenge that is always ongoing. As for allowing one’s self to be loved by another, that takes a strength we may not even know we have and this is what JANE EYRE embodies.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Sunday, August 07, 2011
Saturday, August 06, 2011
Monday, August 01, 2011
First time feature filmmaker, Massy Tadjedin, understands the nuances between couples who have been together for some time and that the tiniest shift between them can sometimes not be undone. Her first film focuses on these moments, beginning with Joanna and Michael Reed (Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington) as they prepare for a night out. They move around each other like they can anticipate each other's next step, so it is no wonder that Joanna is able to pick up on some sexual tension between Michael and a very attractive co-worker (Eva Mendes), that night at the party. When Michael leaves on a business trip the next day with said attractive co-worker, Joanna accidentally runs into the man that got away (Guillaume Canet). As each Michael and Joanna struggle with their devotion to each other and their baser instincts, Tadjedin observes carefully and allows the sometimes deceitful and selfish sides of marraige to play freely.
LAST NIGHT comes off at times as a tad bit too experimental. The able and engaging cast all smoulder but all the brooding doesn't make for a very entertaining evening and Tadjedin does not allow for many breaks from the drama. Still, it is a stylish, smart work of film that is really only hindered by its intensity from time to time. One thing is for sure, LAST NIGHT will not easily be forgotten.
LAST NIGHT is now available to rent or own thanks to eOne Entertainment.