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This article, from "Deadline Hollywood", is an eye opening look at how a screwed up advertising campaign can sink a new movie. Jillian and I watched "Bandslam" over the weekend: She had to drag me in, kicking and screaming, because I thought it was just another Disney "let's put on a show" musical rip-off.

Instead, it was the best movie I've seen yet this year. And yes, I did admit she was right.

Behind-The-Scenes Of 'Bandslam' & Summit

By Nikki Finke

This was emailed to me by a Bandslam insider who's also a prominent filmmaker (and asked to be anonymous) in response to my box office report that the Walden Media/Summit Entertainment pic had a disastrous $2.3M weekend despite great reviews, and that the marketing/packaging was so young that moviegoers thought it was High School Musical when it was closer to School Of Rock:

summit logo"Isn't there a story here? Death by marketing? A movie that gets 80% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes -- 90% from top critics -- won't see the light of day because Summit consistently made some of the worst choices, and their core audience summarily dismissed the movie without seeing it based on their sale.

bandslam posterStart off with the fact that they chose BANDSLAM for a title instead of WILL. They thought WILL was too indie. But that’s what made this movie special. It was an indie voice wrapped up in a high concept. So, instead of selling it quirky and cool (a la Juno) they sold it on the Disney channel's Vanessa Hudgens and Aly Milchaka. Instead of selling the concept, band of outcasts like The Commitments, they Disneyfied this movie with glitter paint. So what is an ironic, smart script with a killer soundtrack was sold like High School Musical meets Phil Of The Future. Instead of embracing it for its quirky-ness, for its unique voice (Will, the lead, calls high school “Guantanamo Bay with a lunch period”) they flattened it out so it looked like everything else. There have been literally dozens and dozens of calls today and e-mails from heads of marketing at different studios saying this may be singly the worst job they've ever seen on a movie whose unique voice deserved to be heard through positioning, title, marketing tie-ins, and knowing your audience. But Rob Freidman and Summit infantalized their audience. They presumed that since HSM was a hit, and the same star was in their movie singing, they should just sell it the same way.

Nancy Kirkpatrick took instructions from Rob. He had this idea in his head to sell it with the Disney slant, and no one could sway him. People tried, trust me. They knew the movie tested through the roof but the materials didn’t. And still he was bullish. He’s just so fucking arrogant. The real problem was that this was [Walden Media] Cary Granat’s baby and when he was let go, and Alex Schwartz was let go – the project got taken over by Summit. Eric Feig was in the middle of TWILIGHT, so it became Rob’s baby. He saw Vanessa singing and he could only could think of one way to sell it. The only problem is, she’s not playing Gabriella from HSM. She’s playing a dark, monotone goth character. And she’s really pretty good. But you wouldn’t know it by the ads. They should have let the audience re-discover her as this Aly Sheedy, Breakfast Club, freak, but instead, they found shots of her smiling, and sold it on that. And even though the movie was so NOT Disney. You’ve got lines like “A Nuremburg rally produced by MTV”, and a whole section that takes place in an abandoned CBGB’s talking about The Killers, The Sex Pistols, Black Flag, The Police, and U2. I mean, come on, this is NOT High School Musical. You’ve got a kid obsessed with David Bowie, writing him letters throughout the movie.

Look at the comments you got in your own section on this, the movie deserved to be seen. Todd Graff wrote and directed a beautiful lyrical film with a killer soundtrack that the Hollywood Reporter critic compared to a cross between Cameron Crowe and John Hughes. Read the Washington Post review. It’s crazy making.

For what it’s worth, Rob is very contrite now. He’s apologizing to everyone. Tail between his legs, that kind of thing. But as the reality hits, it’s too little, way too late. Heartbreaking.

Shame on them. The movie's good. It deserved a chance."


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 18th, 2009 11:13 pm (UTC)
This is very interesting. I actually haven't heard of the movie (I don't think I've been under a rock more than usual but I supposed it's possible!) but it's interesting from a marketing/advertising/PR perspective. Who's the article (letter?) by? If I can properly credit it, and if you would let me do a copy and paste from your journal, I'd like to post it on the Sime~Gen mailing list. (It has nothing at all to do with Sime~Gen, but the list is full of writers and marketing is often a big topic there.) (Hmm, I'm wondering if you'd be interested in it. It's not very active right now - it was founded by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah - both professional writers and former fanfic writers in Star Trek. I think they have other lists dealing more specifically with writing but I'm not sure. Information at www.simegen.com , anyway.) (And I think I've just broken some sort of record for having more parenthetical sentences in a comment than actual comment!)
Aug. 19th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
Oops -- you'd think a writer would know to enclose the byline! It's an article by Nikki Finke. Copy and paste is fine!

Sure, I'd be interested. It might not be very active right now, but I'm busy right now anyway, so it's probably a pretty good time fit!

(I actually made a joke in a column once about how I often I used parenthetical sentences in that piece.)
Aug. 19th, 2009 03:57 am (UTC)
Glad you found this article interesting. I always read Deadline Hollywood because she was so great during the strike. She was the only one actually documenting all the protests etc.
Aug. 19th, 2009 04:24 pm (UTC)
Clearly she's willing to talk about what's really going on over there, instead of just fawning over the powers that be.
Aug. 22nd, 2009 05:04 am (UTC)
Thanks for letting me share with the list - I did it tonight.

This is the link to the page with the information about the mailing list (in the top banner "Sime~Gen Discussion Lists"): http://www.simegen.com/sgfandom/ .
Aug. 22nd, 2009 06:41 am (UTC)
That's an interesting website! I have to admit, I've never heard of this universe before.
Aug. 22nd, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
It's one of those series that people seem to be either "meh" about or they get obsessive. I love the books. They're all, sadly, out of print right now and it took me awhile to find copies of all of them. I found the ones I was missing while I lived in Las Vegas and actually bought duplicates of some. They're a form of vampire fiction - energy vamps rather than blood vamps, but that word is never used in the books. They focus on the "vampires" (Simes) trying to learn to live without killing the "non-vampires" (Gens). They're also set in a post-apocalyptic earth (a millennium past, at least) so it hits lots of my reading kinks.
Aug. 23rd, 2009 07:07 am (UTC)
It sounds like you feel the same way about that series that I do about the Oz books ... with the added advantage that your books are actually written for adults!
Aug. 23rd, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)
I bet you're right! The Oz books have a special place in my heart - my first boyfriend, when I was 14, loved the Oz books. I read all the Baum books back then, though I've never read any of the others. As annoyed as you get when you see a brunette Dorothy - that's how annoyed I get over ruby slippers. They're silver, darn it! :-)
Aug. 24th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC)
Exactly! It's a blonde girl in silver slippers, dammit, and that's how she's going to be in my book.

As much as I'm a fan, I also haven't read most of the later books. To me Baum is canon, and although I want to read all of them someday, they're just not as important to me as the originals. More like ... paid fanfiction. Of the ones I have read, some are really good and some not so much -- also like fanfiction!
Aug. 19th, 2009 09:09 am (UTC)
Very interesting, thanks for posting this. I'm not sure it makes me more likely to see the movie (they're so indie they talk about U2? Wow), but a very depressing look at what the US movie business has become.
Aug. 19th, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC)
I don't listen to indie music ... well, at least I don't think I do; if it strikes my fancy I listen, otherwise I don't. In other words, I'm not sure I really know what indie music is! At one point the main character is caught listening to a Glen Campbell song, so maybe "eclectic" is a better word for what he likes.
Aug. 19th, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
Sorry, I was unclear; I wasn't thinking about indie music but about indie movies - based on this description, it sounds more like a clever "if you liked Juno, you'll love this" than a clever "if you liked HSM, you'll love this". A little too deliberately "indie"-ish (it's quirky! It's got quirky dialogue! It's got quirky characters!). The U2 comment was more about them listing huge mainstream artists like U2 and David Bowie as examples of how it's NOT another mainstream film... but there's no point in me bashing a movie I haven't seen, so nevermind.
Aug. 21st, 2009 05:05 am (UTC)
Oh, that's an indie of a different color!

No, Bandslam doesn't strike me as a movie that's trying to be like anyone else. It's maybe 50%Juno and 5% High School Musical (the good five, thank goodness -- not the hackneyed plotline). In addition to great music it likes to slap cliches across the face and plays some of its actors and characters against type, to great effect.

However, it's important to note that just because it got 80% on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't mean you can forget the other 20%. I've yet to see the movie that *everyone* likes.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 19th, 2009 04:27 pm (UTC)
Hope you like it!
Aug. 21st, 2009 04:01 pm (UTC)
I've never even heard of this movie. Interesting, because I do go to the movies a lot and I haven't even seen any previews for it, although it is possible I saw them and just don't remember. The brain tends to click off these days more than usual, especially since it wasn't being marketed at me.

I'll try to catch this if it's still around our area.
Aug. 21st, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
I saw only a couple of ads, and based on them came to exactly the wrong conclusion about the film -- it's probably for the best that you didn't hear about it! Hm -- both under advertised and wrongly advertised, it's as if somebody had it out for this flick.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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