Adventures in Movie Marketing

At this year’s Cinequest film festival in San Jose, one of the filmmakers’ panels included some intriguing—and distressing—talk about this year’s buzzword, “viral marketing.” One suggestion for flogging an indie film included inviting bloggers who write about film to get in at the beginning and visit the set and watching the making of a movie. Unsaid, was the assumption that said bloggers, so overhwelmed by the bonding experience, would then be more flattering to the final product.

On the one hand, the big studios are both repelling and embracing such cybertactics. A recent screening announcement from Disney about the next Narnia movie included the dire warning that reviews are embargoed until release date and “this includes online postings and opinions in blogs even it it’s not a formal review.”

Talk about thought control. We are not even allowed an opinion until they say it’s OK. (To hell with them: Here’s my opinion, sight unseen. The next Narnia movie will suck.)

Then again, the people behind Forgetting Sarah Marshall are all about viral marketing, having created fake blogs and YouTube videos by Peter (Jason Segel), the guy who is obsessed with his ex-girlfriend. Not to mention those annoying billboards.

Which brings us to a further frontier of viral marketing. We just received an email some outfit called Better World Film and Music (“a new entertainment company”—oh, that’s why we haven’t heard of them). The joint effort of music man Eddie Hustle, songwriter/producer Rob Schwartz and “billionaire marketing genius Beryl Wolk” (he claims to have created AARP and the Home Shopping Network—how hip can he be?), Better World wants to enlist the public in the making of its new movie, Let the Children Play, a horror flick about a family that has to move to an “underprivileged neighborhood” and fight to survive (could it be an allegory about the subprime crises? Nah.) Anybody who goes to the website——can read the script and make suggestions, give an opinion on casting and see clips of the film as it is shot.

Sounds like a great idea—too bad the website didn’t work when we tried it. Maybe you’ll have more luck. Or maybe it’s a brilliant hoax. In cyberspace, no one can hear you laugh.

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