Best of Every Last Thing in the World
ALISON STEWART, host:
This is the time of the year when best-of lists abound - best songs of '07, best movies. Even Progressive Farmer magazine has picked the best place to live in rural America for 2007. The winner, by the way: Barren County, Kentucky.
In a related story, producer Dan Pashman declared Barren County, Kentucky, the most ironic name for best rural award winner in 2007. I digress. I can even say, you know what? The BPP, we might engage in a little of best-of-ing. For example, since there are a lot of these year-end lists out there and you don't have time to wade through them all, the BPP will bring you an occasional series we're calling The Best of the Best of 2007.
(Soundbite of song, "Simply the Best")
Ms. TINA TURNER (Singer): (Singing) You're simply the best, better than all the rest.
STEWART: You tell them, Tina.
Today, we turn to the LA Times to - a list of the Best Online Movie Gimmicks. The lengths studios went to market their films to the computer savvy.
Patrick Day from the LA Times worked on this story.
Mr. PATRICK DAY (Reporter, LA Times): Hi. Good morning.
STEWART: So you were very specific in your choice of the words for this best of list. Why did you call it best gimmicks?
Mr. DAY: Well, I mean, every movie has a Web site now, but not all of them tried to take it to the next level. I mean, most movie Web sites are kind of like a press kit where you have the trailer, synopsis of the movie, and a rundown of the cast. But for a lot of the big budget movies, more recently, they've tried to engage the audience in a, you know, in a grander way to try to get people more excited about the movie, and so I termed them gimmicks. I mean, maybe in the PR world there's a better word for it but that's what they seem like to me.
STEWART: Well, I want to start with a clip from a film I thought would need no marketing.
(Soundbite of movie, "The Simpsons Movie")
Mr. DANIEL CASTELLANETA (Voice Talent): (As Homer Simpson) (Singing) Spider pig, spider pig does whatever spider pig does. Can he swing from a web, no he can't, he's a pig. Look out, he is the spider pig.
STEWART: No better way to start your day as far as I'm concerned.
LUKE BURBANK, host:
That's my new ring tone.
STEWART: So with this built-in fan base, what did the creators of "The Simpsons Movie" do to ensure that fans would be loyal to the film?
Mr. DAY: Well, I think that in the past year, the absolute best - the online movie gimmick was the turn yourself into a Simpson generator on "The Simpsons Movie" Web site. And what you could do is you could go on to the site, and you could choose various hairstyles and facial features and create a Simpsons character that looks surprisingly like you.
In the LA Times office there's a lot of my colleagues turned themselves into Simpsons characters and posted them on a wall, and people could come by - and there were no names on any of the printouts, and people could come by and pretty accurately pick out who is who.
STEWART: Oh, that's John, right?
Mr. DAY: Yeah.
STEWART: Oh, trust me, we did it here too.
This film "Superbad" worked mighty hard to hustle up some Internet buzz as well. What was the ploy for this sort of coming-of-age love story between these two best friends headed off to college?
Mr. DAY: Well for that they sort of took advantage of a trend that's really taken off with the growth of YouTube which are these file videos that could be real or maybe leaked, some of them are real. In this case it was a footage from a press junket interview with the stars, Michael Cera and Jonah Hill, where Jonah Hill finally snaps at the idiotic questions that are being asked of him, and just goes of on the interviewer, freaks out and walks out of the interview.
And it's designed to be passed around, so you watch it and you have to wonder was this real? Did this get leaked? And then you send it to your friends and the gimmick has done its job because now two people have seen it.
STEWART: All right. Let's take a listen to this fake interview clip of the, sort of, snarky, good-looking interviewer asking Jonah Hill, who's - we'll say he's full figured, about making of the movie "Superbad."
(Soundbite of "Superbad" interview gimmick)
Unidentified Man: Jonah, do you think it's important to be unattractive to be funny?
Mr. JONAH HILL (Actor): Ah.
Unidentified Man: Can skinny people be funny?
Mr. HILL: I don't think it has to do with, like, anything besides just being funny and like being yourself, you know, like…
Unidentified Man: What will you do when your career is over in a couple of months?
Mr. HILL: What (bleep) man. You know, are you deliberately trying to do this to like get a rise out of - is this English dry-wit?
STEWART: So, did this gimmick work?
Mr. DAY: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's been passed around. It's on YouTube. It's got several hundred thousand views. And the movie was a big hit. Whether there was any connection between the two things, it's really hard to say. The studios aren't really sure. I mean, there have been examples - for instance last year "Snakes on a Plane" had an amazing online gimmick with you could record Samuel L. Jackson and send it to your friend and they would say your friends name and say your name and he would tell you to go see the movie, and that was so successful that the Web site was jammed. And then the movie came out and no one's thought - but in this case, right, I think the video did contribute to the success of "Superbad."
STEWART: Sometimes a good idea goes bad in the Wild West of the Internet when people take over from the movie studio's original intention. And that's what happened in the case of a film which has been titled "Cloverfield," that's the working name anyway for a new J.J. Abrams movie. I was really into this, everybody here. Matt Martinez, our producer, when the trailer had a brief theatrical run and then it was passed around the Internet.
Let's play now the trailer for this new horror film "Cloverfield."
(Soundbite of movie, "Cloverfield")
Unidentified Group: Ay. Whoa. Hoo.
(Soundbite of music)
Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) What's that's noise?
Unidentified Woman (Actress): (As character) I think it's (unintelligible).
Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) Looks like you should have left town a little bit earlier.
(Soundbite of screaming)
STEWART: All right. So the some, sort of monster or something is attacking New York. So they play this trailer once in the film in the theaters, then it goes online, and then what happens? Explain how this went wrong?
Mr. DAY: Well, that's one of the dangers of viral marketing. You know, viral marketing is the - you're being marketed to but you don't want to appear you're being marketed to.
So the trailer came out over the summer. It was attached to "Transformers" - the "Transformer" movie, and people got really excited, well, what this movie - what's it all about? We don't know.
So they went online and the movie rumor sites posted that some of the viral Web sites were - there was a site called ethanhaaswasright.com. And so in the initial flush of publicity and mainstream press writing about this mystery trailer and the mystery behind what this movie was about, they all pointed everyone to this site ethanhaaswasright.com. And the site looks mysterious and there's a city that sort of looks like Manhattan in the background on the site. And there's all kinds of puzzles and you solve the puzzles and there's videos that sort of hint in some sort of apocalyptic future.
And so there are all kinds of rapid speculation about what these videos meant for the plot of the J.J. Abrams movie. And it turns out that they mean nothing because the Web site was designed to promote a role-playing game called "Alpha Omega."
STEWART: So it was about something completely different. It had nothing to do with the film.
Mr. DAY: Absolutely unrelated to the movie. Yeah. And so, J.J. Abrams actually had to do interviews where he said that, you know, these sites aren't the viral sites we created. There are some out there that haven't been found yet. Then, of course, they, you know, they haven't been found and covered, but when the people were initially excited about the trailer over the summer, what got the most publicity were the sites that had nothing to do with the movie.
STEWART: Well, Patrick Day, it's a really good read. It's the Best Online Movie Gimmicks to Promote Films.
Patrick Day is from the LA Times.
Thanks a lot, Patrick.
Mr. DAY: Thank you.
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