How do you hype a movie that has no advertising budget to speak of? More specifically, how do you tell other people that there is this movie that you made, and that you want people to watch it? It is the problem of almost every independent filmmaker that I’ve encountered. When I say independent here, I mean those who work truly outside of the studio system, and those who work with the smallest of budgets. And when I say hype, I mean something more than just a passing resemblance of a trailer that you cut together from the film footage, coupled with a relatively exciting track, and post up to youtube (before spamming the entire Malaysian Cinema mail list about it). Hype, in this context, means getting people truly excited about it, and really grabbing the attention of your target audience.
Thank God for the Internet, then. To be more precise, thank God for the creation of blogs.
The blog I’m talking about here is that of John August’s. For those not in the know, he is a Hollywood screenwriter. Hollywood, because he’s written plenty of scripts that has been made into movies (such as Go, Titan AE and the Charlie’s Angels movies). Not that he’s the only one, mind you. So what makes him stand out from the rest? The answer, as you might have guessed by now, is that he runs a blog. Not one that exposes every facet of his personal life to satisfy our voyeuristic desires. Rather, it is primarily a scriptwriting blog, chock full with tips, hints, suggestions, tutorials, and once in a while, answering questions from readers. I frequent it (you can find it in the ‘Filmmakers Online’ section), and I can vouch for its usefulness.
I say “primarily screenwriting”, because, as of last year, John joined the pantheon of writer-directors with his first effort, ‘The Nines’. And to answer the first question of this post, he has included the readers of the blog in almost every phase of production, especially post-production. Being the good Samaritan that he is, he even posted copies of his script online, allowing the readers to better understand the process of translating the written words into silver screen magic. Hell, you can even be a part of the magic: August ran a competition online, allowing readers to use the raw footage from the film and cut together a trailer, the best of which will be included on the DVD.
You can’t do that for ‘Transformers’.
Alas, the tricky bit lies in telling people about it. “You’ve got to watch ‘The Nines’, man, it’s probably the best movie I’ve seen so far this year.” “Ah, OK. What is it about?” “Err…I don’t know” is the best of my answer at times. “Don’t know how to describe it” is another. A metaphor, or a simile, might help. It’s similar to ‘Memento’, with the playing around of time and memory. But then again, it is more straightforward than ‘Memento’ is. ‘The Fountain’, with its play on religion. ‘The Matrix’, even, with its tease on reality.
Essentially, it is three short films put together. The first one, “The Prisoner”, tells the story of an actor who is living under house arrest because he burnt down his own home. Thus, he has to live in the house of a script writer. “Reality Television” follows the trials and tribulations of a television writer who wants to makes a TV series, while “Knowing” is about a video game designer whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Leaving his family in the car to go and look for help, he encounters another person, who, despite promising to help him, seems to be more than who she says she is.
That is the short and long of it. And I’m guessing that from the above, you can see the links between the three films. “Oh yeah, the house in the first story belongs to the writer in the second story,” and so on. But the truth is more than that. Yes, they’re linked, but linked by way of separate realities. It should help that the actors all play multiple roles; the actor, writer, and video game creator is played with confidence and charisma by Ryan Reynolds, while Melissa McCarthy, performs the role of the parole officer, herself, and the creator’s wife. And yes, I did write ‘herself’, for she played herself in the second segment. Further blurring the distinction between reality and…well, other realities, her husband is played by…her husband. Confused yet? You should be, actually. In fact, if you are able to follow all that, then I stand up, take off my songkok, and heartily applaud you, you smart bugger. I played the DVD twice, and I still am thinking hard about the connection.
Maybe that is a reflection of me. Perhaps I’m not as smart as I think I am. But it’s no bad revelation; rather, it is a big pleasure to put into motions the mental exercise that really, really stretch you imagination. Does this mean that you should watch it? Hell yeah! You would learn something from this, and once you do feel that the lines are connected and the Is are dotted, then there is a sense of satisfaction that few movies can give. It is, however, a difficult movie to watch because of that, though still enjoyable; that is reflected in the box office takings, taking in slightly less than $70,000. I think David Beckham makes more than that in a week.
But then again, I doubt whether he would get it. Pity. His loss.
Fikri thinks that Beckham will be a success in the USA.