Saturday, July 29, 2006
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Interest group capture and Snakes On A Plane
For nearly a year, SoaP obsessives have been chatting and blogging about the movie, not to mention producing their own T-shirts, posters, trailers, novelty songs, and parodies. As the movie has morphed from a semiprecious nugget of intellectual property into a virtual plaything for the ethertainment masses, Snakes and its cult are teasingly threatening to revolutionize the rules of marketing for the do-it-yourself digital era....New Line execs are not the only people freaking out -- Chuck Klosterman has a rant on this in the August issue of Esquire:
I have not seen Snakes on a Plane, so I have no idea how good this movie is (or isn't). But I do know this: Its existence represents a weird, semidepressing American condition, and I'm afraid this condition is going to get worse. I suspect Snakes on a Plane might earn a lot of money, which will prompt studios to assume this is the kind of movie audiences want. And I don't think it is. Snakes on a Plane is an unabashed attempt at prefab populism, and (maybe) this gimmick will work once. But it won't keep working, and it will almost certainly make filmmaking worse....There are several possible ways this could play out. However, the one that interest group theory suggests will happen is that by trying to please the most ardent base of fans, the movie will reduce its appeal to a wider audience.
Of course, both Jensen and Klosterman miss one important point in their analyses -- they're generalizing from a $30 million dollar film. $30 million is a lot to you and me, but to Hollywood that's barely enough to pay for Jessica Alba's skin care products. Somehow I doubt this kind of interactive filmmaking process would take place with a tentpole movie, as it were. With a bunch of lower-budget films, however, this kind of feedback might increase the viewing pleasure of specialized viewers, even if it doesn't make the movie seem any better to a general viewer.
There's more to discuss here, but I'l leave it to my readers and a plaintive cry for help from Virginia Postrel.
All I want to know is, why isn't Salma Hayek in this mother f*&%ing movie?posted by Dan on 07.29.06 at 11:07 PM
I'm a little surprised by Samuel Jackson's and Julianna Margulies's comments in the EW piece. Both seem to suggest that input from a film's intended audience is likely to artistically hurt an unfinished film. It's not clear to me why that would be the case.
Film is communication between the filmmakers and the audience, and I suspect that preliminary feedback from the audience would often improve a film's effectiveness. We have already seen this happen in some of the great films, such as "The Rules of the Game" and "2001," which were changed--and, in my opinion, improved--by their directors after stiffly negative reactions at early screenings. The input of audiences could similarly help an incomplete film. It's not likely that plot details will be improved, but audiences will certanly have useful suggestions on presentation and perspective from the fragments of the film they see. I imagine the advice from audiences will likely be both better and less cumbersome than that from producers, studio heads, and marketers.posted by: mschrist on 07.29.06 at 11:07 PM [permalink]
I concur with your analysis that this probably won't create any of the disturbing trends that Klostermann is worried about. It's not like we haven't movies with quirky production arcs create huge buzz, moderate box-office, and minimal follow-on. _The Blair Witch Project_, _Serenity_, _Sky Captain and the World of Tommorow_ and even _Reservoir Dogs_ all promised big changes to how movies would be made, but the reality just didn't live up to the hype.posted by: Dave on 07.29.06 at 11:07 PM [permalink]
Klosterman: "the movies will become idiotic and impersonal"
What theater has this guy been going to, and how can I get tickets? Or has he simply not seen any mass-market movies for the last 30-40-50 years?posted by: JakeB on 07.29.06 at 11:07 PM [permalink]
Julianna compensates for the absence of Salma.
Thank God for old movies on DVD, I don't have to buy overpriced popcorn and watch these turkeys in a theatre full of homrmonal teenagers on cell phones.posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 07.29.06 at 11:07 PM [permalink]
Just out of curiosity, does Steve Irwin have a role in this movie? "Krikey! Snikes on the pline! Danger, danger, danger!"
It just seemed to me from a trailer I've seen that this movie could present an ecologically unfortunate view of our legless friends, who after all occupy important places in the higher positions of the food chain. I wondered whether perhaps it had made room for a different perspective, or at least for a character able to suggest that a typical commercial airliner has an air conditioning system powerful enough drive the cabin temperature below the point at which snakes become torpid.posted by: Zathras on 07.29.06 at 11:07 PM [permalink]
However, the one that interest group theory suggests will happen is that by trying to please the most ardent base of fans, the movie will reduce its appeal to a wider audience.
Huh... I never expected this post to be tied back into politics. When I read that, I thought I was reading a post on the primary election system.posted by: Justin on 07.29.06 at 11:07 PM [permalink]
Anyone remember Blair Witch Trial?posted by: kwo on 07.29.06 at 11:07 PM [permalink]
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