Friday, 28 March 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #73: Respect The Geek

I've written earlier about the controversy over Harvey Weinstein's so-called "improvement" of the film Fanboys, and how it sparked outrage on the part of the film's core fans. This outrage has led to threats of boycotts on one side, lawsuits on the other, and it ensures one thing: Another turkey for the Weinstein Company money pit.

Why is the film guaranteed to fail?

Because Harvey Weinstein did not follow Commandment #8 of my 13 Hollywood Commandments:


I use comic book/SF/Fantasy geeks as my model, but these common sense lessons can be used when marketing any film from romantic comedies to art-house indie films.

Any genre or style of film has its "geeks" or to be more scientific its core audience. These are the people who go to the opening night, post their reviews on the internet, and rent &/or buy
the DVDs and buy the merchandise. And in this age of instant communication the geeks can make or break a film before it gets out of previews.

That's because the excitement generated by a core audience can spread to the general public. It's called buzz, it used to be created and managed by Hollywood's bloated publicity machine, but, li
ke the understanding your DVD player's user manual, that power has been usurped by the geeks of the internet.

So, since I spent a post talking about how not to handle the core audience, I'd like to offer Hollywood some pointers how to properly deal with the core audience.

1. Don't insult them: Like I've said in dozens of my earlier posts: contempt for the audience is killing Hollywood. No one wants to go to the movies to be insulted, look at the box-office performance of all the recent "political" films, and geeks especially, are not just going to take the crap that's being spoon-fed them by Hollywood lately. What would happen to a studio exec if his company was releasing a romantic comedy and he declared: "Those stupid chicks are going to love this shit because they're morons." That exec would be fired, and that movie would fail.

2. Be thematically faithful: This is especially important when adapting comic books, novels, or any other pre-existing material. Especially now since the classic "fanboy" geek has become much more critical of Hollywood and the quality of its product. Comic book geeks aren't expecting you to re-create word for word issue #1 of their favourite comic book, some tweaking is to be expected when taking things from the page to the screen. However, they are expecting your film to jive with the themes inherent in the source material, the first two X-Men films are perfect examples of this. But you must keep in mind the next rule...

3. Don't "re-imagine" the material too much: Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer did pretty well in opening ticket sales, but it was a disappointment and didn't recoup its combined production and promotion costs. Why did it disappoint? Because they made Galactus, an all powerful villain/force of the universe, in the comic books, and made him a glowing cloud. Essentially, the main villain was a cosmic fart tossed in at the end as an afterthought when they rehashed everything from the first movie. Sure, you might be able to land a good opening weekend, but if you lose the goodwill of the geek, the buzz they generate dies, and with it the film.

4. Get the geeks involved: Look around at what the geeks are saying about your project. It's all over the internet, find out what they will pay money to see, and use that. They know the source material, and they know what they want. Then when the film is being made, leak little tidbits to get some excitement going, there's no way you can be completely secretive, but letting them have a little taste is good, especially if it's something they want. Go to conventions and interact with the fans, you won't get nerd-cooties from them, and they will appreciate it after years of being treated with disdain.

I hope this little piece of advice helps Hollywood. All I ask is 5% of the gross revenues of all productions that use this advice. I'm not greedy.

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