The other side of IMDB

September 27, 2007

While Jane is correct in that the IMDB can be a useful tool in publicity, one should also be aware of the inherent problems with the system, and there are many.  If you’re using it as a research to obtain past credits for an actor or filmmaker, do not take what the IMDB lists as the absolute be all and end all.

Here’s the problem.  In the same way that Jane suggests that anyone can use the service to list their project, the thing is that ANYONE can use the service.  Many is the time I’ve checked the listing of a film I’m working on to find someone or many someones have added their own names, credits, etc.  While I have no problem with them getting the credit for work done, they can also add cast members, change character names and cause general havoc with great ease.  On more than one occasion, I’ve found actors listed in the cast of my films that have never even been considered for the project, much less appearing in it.

In addition to names appearing out of someone’s fevered imagination, projects that have never gone past the “hey…how about this?” stage, are now part of a person’s past.

Case in point:  Years ago, I was working with a very talented actor by the name of Jonathan Silverman.  Jonathan had starred in (among many, many other things), a hit series called “The Single Guy,” which ran for a few seasons.  During the course of our film, I went to the IMDB to check Jonathan’s credits and found an entry for a project (listed as ‘in pre-production’) called “The Married Guy.”  Back on the set, I made mention of it to Jonathan, who looked at me, smiled and said, “You’re kidding, right?”  When I assured him I was not, he laughed and then assured me there was no such project, never had been such a project, and would not be such a project.  He graciously accepted my offer to have it removed from the page, and I went through the requisite steps (registering, verifying the information, etc.)  It remained there for years.

There’s no one you can call at the IMDB.  If you want to make a change, you have to go through the system and it can take weeks, months, years.  There is very little, if any quality control or fact checkers to maintain the integrity of the system.

That being said, like the National Enquirer, they’re more often right than wrong.  My point is, if you’re using the IMDB as a research tool, don’t accept it all at face value.  That’s all.



Publicity Tip – Production Notes

September 26, 2007

One important section of a film’s press kit is the production notes.   This section gives details about what it was like to make the film. Typical topics covered include, among others:

  • How the idea for the script/story came about
  • What the writer and/or director envisioned for the film
  • Why shooting locations were chosen and what they bring to the film
  • Comments and quotes  from the director, director of photography, and any other principal designers on particular cinematography techniques, set design, casting decisions, special effects, any information that provides  insight into the filmmaking process
  • Comments and quotes from the lead actors on what attracted them to the project
  • Anecdotal descriptions of particularly memorable/challenging/amusing moments during production
  • The production timeline: a brief description of what it took to get from concept to “the can”

There are plenty of film production notes available on the Web.  A quick google will put a wide selection at your fingertips.  

“Make it incredibly easy for people to publicize your movie” – Scott Kirsner, Cinematech

September 21, 2007

I owe Karina at SpoutBlog thanks for bringing attention to a post that almost has me doing cartwheels of joy.

I think I heart Scott Kirsner.  Why?  Well, I often take the idea of allowing fans to help with film publicity and I pound it, over and over, into the heads of filmmakers I work with.  “Use the fans, use the bloggers, use social networking!”  Pound, pound, pound, until my filmmaker and production company clients succumb to my nagging.    And I’ve beat the same drum on this blog.  Sometimes it seems a lonely job.  But it’s my mission in life.  Or at least my mission as a film publicist who firmly believes that Web 2.0 and social networking must be incorporated into publicity and marketing campaigns for films.

So, when I read Scott’s post about his experience while attending a workshop on Niche Marketing at the IFP market, I felt like shouting “Yes!” and spinning a cartwheel or two down the hallway.  I love it when others also beat the drum:

“The lesson for filmmakers (and other studios): make it INCREDIBLY EASY for anyone who wants to help publicize your movie to do so. Production notes should be on your site, making-of clips, production stills, press releases, cast bios, your prize-winning recipe for beef stew, etc. “

Rat-a-tat-tat!  Thank you, Scott, for helping to pound in a great idea!

Good vs. bad publicity — more thoughts

September 18, 2007

Michael and I have both recently posted on the old (and patently false) adage that “all publicity is good publicity”.  He wrote a very cogent post explaining why bad publicity is, well, bad.  And I offered Miramax’s decision to delay the UK screening of Gone Baby Gone as a possible move to avoid bad publicity. 

It seems that every other day, if not more frequently, someone or something is caught up in a sh*tstorm of bad publicity.  Most notoriously in recent current events, a certain former NFL player comes to mind.  Mind you, this certain person seems extraordinarily adept at creating his own bad publicity, but that’s a topic for someone else’s blog.    The point is that nowadays, the instant access to information, good and bad, provided by the Internet, can create publicity, for better or for worse, in a nano-second.

Mark Cuban joins the conversation about publicity on his blog. Among other points made, he says:

“In essence, the internet has put us all under a form of digital arrest.”

I suppose that’s one way to look at it, although I prefer my perspective that the possibility of instantaneous publicity provided by the Internet can be mostly a very good thing, for instance, if you’re a filmmaker who’s trying to get some attention for your film.  But yes,  if you do have skeletons in your closet, or other places, then those can be trotted out, as Mark suggests, taken out of context, spread around the Web, and cause harm to your business and your professional and personal reputation.

 Mark says that “everything is everywhere. Forever.”  Technically that’s true, or at least until databases are purged, servers are cleared, links become old and broken, etc.  But the one consolation, if there is one, is that people’s attention spans shrink more every day.    The hot “bad publicity” of today can be overcome and replaced by something even more scandalous tomorrow. 

So yes, there is definitely such a thing as bad publicity.  And “abused publicity” as Mark puts it.   And in the Internet age, everything is laid bare for everyone to scrutinize and discuss.  The trick, for filmmakers, is to use this knowledge to advantage. 

Madeleine McCann’s case nixes a film’s debut – a case of avoiding bad publicity?

September 15, 2007

Art imitating life happens fairly often. On occasion, art will, inadvertently, imitate current events just a little too closely.  If those current events are negative, highly visible and the public’s reaction is emotionally charged, the result is sometimes poor timing to display the art.  

10m.jpgThat’s exactly what has happened to Miramax’s Gone Baby Gone. According to this Sky News article the film’s UK debut has been delayed because the story resembles the case of the missing McCann girl much too closely for anyone’s comfort.

Some may argue the case’s worldwide publicity in the news could be a bonanza for the film, and the studio should strike while the iron is hot and put it in theaters now.  I could only imagine the controversy and backlash that would create.  I think Miramax made the right decision. Call it sensitivity, call it savvy business sense.   As Michael pointed out in his recent post, there is such a thing as bad publicity, and it should be avoided, even if its cause is external and through no fault of those associated with the film.


September 12, 2007

List your film on the Internet Movie Database. It’s free. Well, except for uploading photos,which cost between $10 and $35 per shot. imdb_logo1.gifIMDb is not just for the majors, just about any film that has been, or is about to be screened publically, will be accepted for inclusion. Read the eligibility rules for adding a new title to the database, and if you think your film qualifies, go for it. There’s a certain sense of legitimacy in being included in the largest film database on the planet.

Tip:  List your film on for free.

Talk:  Post your listing in a comment and I’ll feature your film in a future post.

Oh yes there is…

September 10, 2007

 from Guest Author Michael Klastorin

They are guilty pleasures to be sure. The People magazines, the National Enquirers, the TMZs…and as the antics of the various celebs are discussed, analyzed, whispered about and snickered at, no matter how atrocious the behavior of the personality in question (and you know who they are. I don’t need to name names. you’ve seen the trainwrecks), someone will invariably offer what they think to be a deep and knowledgeable insight…

You’ve heard it time and time again. You may have even said it yourself at some point. Which one is it, you ask? It’s the one that goes a little something like this:

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

I disagree. Vehemently. I believe that little gem was first uttered by the publicist of actor John Wilkes Booth, who, after a really bad performance, called said publicist upon seeing himself on the front page of the Washington Tattler. “No……honest…everyone is talking about you. Really, up until, well, you know…Mrs. Lincoln was enjoying the show. No, not everyone is crazy about the way it turned out, but trust me, there is no such thing as bad publicity.”

Or something to that effect.

While the strictest definition of publicity is the notice or attention given to someone or something by the media, most of us who make our living seeking it, try to make it a point of attracting the positive kind. If we’re talking about a film, a publicity campaign is designed to entice people into paying to see it. If an actor/filmmaker hires a publicist, it’s with the intent of that publicist using their skills to get the public interested in that person, and thereby making them a more sought-after commodity. Simple concept? Of course. But if we’re hired to generate good publicity, that means another kind exists. Bad Publicity.

In the “golden age” of film, studio heads paid thousands upon thousands of dollars to cover up the indiscretions of the stars of the day. As technology has developed and more and more outlets compete for airtime, headlines, whatever, it’s become increasingly more difficult for a person in the public eye to remain under the radar. Whatever the reason is for their headline grabbing behavior, that’s their business. But I guarantee none of them are taking the ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ partyline.

Some have been able to rebound from seeming career suicide, but many (and that’s the reason you can’t think of them) have not, and there are some heading down that path as we speak.
I realize that my thoughts are anything but earth shattering, but it’s always made me bristle when I hear someone utter that phrase. Since I have this forum, it seemed like a good place for me to vent. So there it is.

Bad publicity exists.

And it kills.