A look into the Marketing and Advertising ploys used in the entertainment industry today.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Experience with Writing 340

As a Critical Studies major in the school of Cinematic Arts, I was a bit wiry about taking this class. My Writing 140 class was not all that great and having to essentially take it again did not thrill me in the least. I was nervous when I saw the syllabus and found that everything was online. I had never worked with a blog before so I thought I was going to dislike this class. However, as I learned more about blogging and the technology that the internet can provide, I learned to really appreciate and respect this class and my professor. The assignments were those that I was able to enjoy. Professor Middlebrook gave us so much freedom on picking a topic within the guidelines of the papers that I was able to take my love of film and incorporate it into this writing class.

With our first full essay it allowed me to look critically at a website, something I look at everyday but never think about in terms of design and structure. I had to use a new skill which really opened my mind to the world that is the internet. I had never heard of Web Awards before, and because of this class I have been opened up to new medium, one that relates to my field of study. Our second full essay, although challenging at times, was also fun just to write. I think that by allowing us to take a topic and then relate it to our interests is what made this class so enjoyable. Getting to write a paper on George Clooney is quit fun, and I never thought I would say writing was fun. As someone who considers herself to be lacking in the writing department, I usually hate classes like this. However, I feel as though, because I was allowed to write on topics I am truly interested in, it not only made the writing process fun, but strengthened my writing. I think that there are always mistakes made and improvements to be added, but I feel as though my writing evolved with this class. I found myself able to write more efficiently in my other classes and I think the progress I have made is a valuable one.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

George Clooney: Honorary Degree Nominee

Come graduation time, universities all over the country award honorary degrees to people they feel have stood out in their field. These are people who have contributed and made a substantial difference within their area of knowledge. As stated by James Freedman in his book, Liberal Education and the Public Interest, “In bestowing an honorary degree, a university makes an explicit statement to its students and the world about the qualities of character and attainment it admires most. It is a practice rich in opportunity as well as ripe for abuse” (117). The honorary degree not only allows influential people to be rewarded for their work, but it can also give credibility to a university. The degree shows the public the type of person the university admires and the type of people they wish their students to become.

At the University of Southern California there have been many well deserving people who have received the degrees, with our rich alumni and people that have influenced our community many great people have been given this award. When thinking about who deserves this award there are many things to consider, besides the integrity of the person. According to the USC honorary degree criteria, the degree is given, “ to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public," and "to recognize exceptional acts of philanthropy to the university and/or on the national or world scene" and "to elevate the university in the eyes of the world by honoring individuals who are widely known and highly regarded for achievements in their respective fields of endeavor.” For the spring of 2007 at the University of Southern California, George Clooney is the most well deserving person in the field fine arts to receive the honorary doctoral degree. Although at first it seems like an unconventional choice, through his use of film and his ability to speak publicly about world issues, he has become more than just actor, he has become a humanitarian. Being that the honorary recipient is supposed to encompass these qualities, George Clooney would be a perfect fit. With his humanitarian work he has become an enriched citizen who has taken his abilities and used them in an effort to help others.

In his book, Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professional Ethics, Mike Martin claims "A life is more than outward events, and we understand persons only when we grasp the value commitments embedded in their motives, character, and worldview" (16). To Martin there are three components to attaining professional success, craft, compensation and moral concern. All three if these criteria are event in George Clooney. When it comes to moral concern, Mr. Clooney is very aware of others around him and the kind of power that he holds. Just recently Mr. Clooney has become increasingly involved with the genocide in Darfur and is helping to raise awareness in America, with his organization Save Darfur. When speaking on the issues, reported by ABC News, he states, “We can all talk about this and make speeches and say this is horrible and we have to do something. But every day we don't do something, and every day this goes on, thousands of people are dying and dying horrific deaths." He later goes on to say, “This is genocide, and if everybody just got up right now out of their chair and picked up a phone and called their congressman, or called the number that registered with the president, it makes a difference. It always has." He is not just asking for our troops to go over there and take over, he is simply asking for people to realize that there are greater issues going on in the world then who one the Oscar. He truly cares about the people and is trying to make our society aware of worldy events, knowing fully well that if the people start to speak up, action will occur. He cares more about the lives of others than his million dollar salaries, being that his past two films he helped finance, and took pay cuts.

His work with Darfur does not stop just at speaking with the senate, he also took it upon himself to travel to the boarder of Chad and Darfur with his father, to get first hand knowledge of the atrocities that are happening over there. With video footage from the trip, he only hopes that people will soon begin to realizes the horror that is occurring. Most people with his status can easily write checks to charities and use their name to make themselves look good to the public. However, with Clooney he takes it upon himself to try and make a change. He does not have to take time out of his schedule to travel to Sudan, he could easily write another check, like most celebrities. By using his own time and money, he complements Martin's component of compensation. According to Martin, "Compensation motives are not exclusively self-interested. They may be linked to desires to support one's family or philanthropic desires to obtain resources in order to help others" (23). This is what makes him stand out from the rest. He has become a true humanitarian who is able to look beyond his fame and personal problems and see that the world needs help, and just by speaking up, he can make a difference.

George Clooney’s humanitarian work does not begin or stop with Darfur. He is also an avid supporter on the ONE campaign that is working to stop global AIDS and poverty. "ONE believes that allocating an additional ONE percent of the U.S. budget toward providing basic needs like health, education, clean water and food would transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation in the world's poorest countries." Through this campaign Clooney, along with many other high profile celebrities, hope to use their power to help others that are less fortunate then citizens of the United States. On top of these two large scale works his is also involved with United Way. “United Way is a national network of more than 1,300 locally governed organizations that work to create lasting positive changes in communities and people’s lives.” He is not only concerned with global issues, but problems that are right here in our country. So many communities are lacking the proper needs to help the growth of the younger generations to become respectable citizens. Through United Way these communities are getting help. Although Clooney is not involved in many organizations, the ones he is involved in he takes great time and effort to achieve success and make a difference. By being invloved with these types of organizations, he adhears to the USC standards. In the Role and Mission Statement of USC it states, “The central mission of the University of Southern California is the development of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit. The principal means by which our mission is accomplished are teaching, research, artistic creation, professional practice and selected forms of public service.” He does not take these things lightly, he truly cares about getting information out to the public so that we can help him and take a stand.

In his past two films, Syriana and Good Night and Good Luck, he has dealt with social issues to bring awareness to the public. Although neither of them blatantly speaking up against our government, it is their underlying message that makes people think and question our own society. Continuing with Martin's criteria, Mr. Clooney has mastered his craft, and taken it to the next level. According to Martin the meaning of one's craft, "involves connecting our lives with wider unities" (Martin, 22). Mr. Clooney has gone from using films as just a source of entertainment to a way of expressing his issues and struggles that we are facing in today’s society. Being that he wrote and directed Good Night and Good Luck, it gives him more creditability as an influential person in the entertainment industry. Although it is a story of the McCarthy era and the courage of one man, Edward R. Murrow, the story is still relevant today. In a time where journalists are much more reserved in what they say for fear of repercussions from their larger agencies, this film shows that it just takes one person to speak up for change to occur. This is something that Clooney is trying to accomplish. Though he is just one man, he has a lot of power in the media, when he speaks, people listen. Through this film he has been able to send the message that even though, you are one person, sometimes that is all it takes, and that if you feel strongly about something, you should pursue it.

With the film Syriana, a story also based on one man, it shows a side of our government and the world that as spectators we are not allowed to see in full detail. As stated from the film's website, "Syriana, a political thriller that unfolds against the intrigues and corruption of the global oil industry. From the players brokering back-room deals in Washington to the men toiling in the oil fields of the Pursian Gulf, the film's multiple storylines weave together to illuminate the human consequences of the fierce pursuit of wealth and power." This film opens the eyes of the people even more by taking us into an event where we are able to see both sides. In a time where as a nation we are battling terrorism and war, this film is allows us to open our eyes to what the government is really doing. As citizens of the United States, there as been a lot of miss communication within our government, which is the type of story Syriana is trying to reveal. The fact that the film revolves around the buying and selling of foreign oil, hits home even harder with our current involvement in Iraq. It would have been easy for Clooney to continue is career as a highly paid movie star who only cares about entertaining the public with one dimensional films. However, his involvement with films such as these shows that he cares about global and national issues and is trying to get the public to care as well.

One of the main things to consider when thinking about issuing this award, is the type of speech this person will give to the students at commencement. There are many people who could potentially deserve this award, but being able to address the students and leave them with a feeling of contentment, it is a hard thing to do. The honorary degree recipient should be able to deliver a message, one that is representative of the university. Come time for the commencement speech, Mr. Clooney would excel. Being that he is an actor, he is used to speaking in front of people. He has incredible charisma which would shine in a setting such as a commencement address. In his speech there would be jokes and stories about him and his career, but there would also be incredible inspiration. Following from the Role and Mission statement " USC is pluralistic, welcoming outstanding men and women of every race, creed and background." Talking to the young people who will soon be running the country, Clooney would probably speak about making the world a better place, for us to be aware of other countries and their struggles. His speech would be one of many messages. Because he is an actor, it would be entertaining and engaging, and because he is a humanitarian it would be worldly and stimulate the minds of the newly graduated.

As years go by and the quest for a honorary recipient continues, there are times that the person chosen is unqualified, to those in the past. “The original purpose of honoring distinguished personal achievement has widely been modified - some would say blighted - by institutional desires to flatter generous donors and prospective benefactors to whom more relaxed standards (typically pecuniary) are typically applied” (Freedman, 126). Many people may feel this way about honoring George Clooney. At a first glance he is not the typical honoree which may cause people to second guess his achievements that cause him to deserve this award. There are many people who will think that this movie star bachelor is undeserving. When you think of George Clooney the first thing that comes to mind, for women at least, is that he is handsome. The next thing are his films, most of them not awarding winning masterpieces, rather films of pure entertainment, with exception to his most recent. They will not see his other humanitarian side, or they will disagree with his politics. Although these are all qualities that a university must consider when choosing an honoree, what one must look at is that he is first and for most an actor, that is his profession. He has taken upon himself to use his celebrity status for good. Being that he is able to easily get in the public eye, he has used this authority to open the eyes of many people and shown them that the world has many problems. He has been able to use his status to show the country to look outside of the American bubble to the horrendous problems that millions of people are facing everyday. When looking back at our past honorees, there are of course the noble prize winners and the distinguished members of the community, but there are also the Steven Spielbergs and the John Williams who have made great contributions to the film industry. Clooney has not only done this, but has taken it one step further and has become an influential humanitarian.

The Spring of 2007 is the year of George Clooney. It is apparent that he deserves this award. He truly encompasses the qualities that the University of Southern California hold true to their ethics, “A commitment to discharging our obligations to others in a fair and honest manner, and a commitment to respecting the rights and dignity of all persons.” He is not the shallow Hollywood star who basks in his millions and throws money away. He is a respectable citizen, not only of the United States, but of the global community. His fight to help others is pure and his only goal is to make these issues of genocide and poverty aware to the general public so that we will then speak up and help. He is not asking for more fame and fortune, rather a world that can come together as one and help with these global issues.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Crash: The Award Winning Site

Last year there was really no surprise when Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Academy Award for best actor, or when Reese Witherspoon won for best actress. They fit the typical mold for Academy Award winners. They took on roles playing real people who have impacted our society in one way or the other, whether it be literary or musically. Their films were praised with multiple nominations and by winning the Golden Globe they were on the path to winning the Oscar. However, last year'’s Oscars did not go shock free. Crash, the highly praised yet underdog film, went home with best picture of the year. Being that it is an ensemble piece, many people were surprised by this outcome, with films such as Brokeback Mountain, Capote and Good Night and Good Luck, Crash, although it did have a very good chance at winning, was not expected to. In an industry where spectacle and star power control the product, this low budget, ensemble cast took home the best picture Oscar. With a win such as this it shows that people do care about social issues in our country today. It gives hope that perhaps the film industry can once again be a mode of intellectual entertainment rather than just projects made to make money. This film is able to reach out to it'’s audience of all different races and religions through the content as well as other media outlets.

One way this reaches out to the audience is through it’'s website. Last year Crash went home with yet another award, the Best Movie Website award given out by Web Marketing Association's WebAward. Just by visiting this site it is easy to see why it won this award. In a society where the internet influences the minds of many people, it is key to have a great website that markets one's product. In an industry where marketing and advertising makes or breaks a film, the internet has become a key resource of getting public attention to films. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, "Seventy-three percent of American adults use the internet. That currently represents about 147 million people."
Out of this percentage, seventy -seven percent of the people on line are looking up information on a hobby or interest and fifty-six percent of the people are watching a video clip or listening to an audio clip. By having an interactive film website that has video clips and audio, it gains the interest of the viewer. It draws the viewer in and grasps their attention.

When first looking at the site it grabs one'’s attention just by the visual design of the home page. If someone has never seen the film, the colors, images and words that are on the screen allows the person to get a feel of the film and what is it about. Although this site was given the award through WebAwards, The Webby Awards judging criteria, another web-based award system, is much more useful when explaining the reasons why this is a good website. According to the Webby Awards, "
Good visual design is high quality, appropriate, and relevant for the audience and the message it is supporting
." The use of the blues and black create a somber mood, which is apparent throughout the film. These colors create the tone of the site and work as medium to help the viewer get a better understanding of what this site is trying to convey. The image of the father holding his little girl or the man and woman embracing one another, implies a loss. Whether that refers to a loss of life, a loss of closeness, or a loss of self, is unclear to someone who has not seen the film, but all three of these are characteristics of the film, showing up as reoccurring themes. The sayings written on top of the page are also all phrases that help describe the movie. It is interesting to note that the positive sayings are the only ones that light up, where the negative ones do not. This use of accentuating the positive symbolizes what the film is about. It is about looking for the good in people no matter how different they may be.

Going beyond the initial viewing of the home page, this site, with it’'s use of sound and video really encompasses the essence of the film. When first entering the site a voiceover is heard, "“It'’s the sense of touch, any real city you walk, you know, you brush past people, people bump into you. In LA nobody touches you, we'’re always behind this metal and glass."” This one quote alone describes the film. The message is about the loss of contact with people. In Los Angeles the city is divided by race and culture causing people to become so out of touch with others, that they begin to lose their sense of understanding, creating chaos and turmoil. Along with this voiceover there is also a musical underscoring of the entire site. The music is not lyrical or even heavily instrumental, rather it is a soft electronic sound that undertones the film'’s mood. With the use of this music it once again gets the viewer into the mood of the film and expresses the tone that is being set.

When going more in-depth into the site not only are there other video and sound clips, but they are interactive. Of course there is the trailer of the film, but there is also a link entitled Experience the Film where clips are available to watch. After the clip is finished it becomes extremely interactive where you put three words on the screen that you feel describe the clip. Once finished, artwork appears that expresses the words chosen. With this extra link, one is able to become involved with the film on a much more emotional level. According the the Webby Awards judging criteria, "
Good interactivity is more than a rollover or choosing what to click on next; it allows you, as a user, to give and receive. It insists that you participate, not spectate
." This interaction gets the viewer to have a personal attachment to the film and the site. In an industry and even larger a country, that does not like to talk about race and discrimination, this film and it's website allow people to recognize our social problems and if nothing else, at least become aware of them. By watching these clips it makes one look at themself and think about their views, which is something that is not asked for on a daily basis.

One other very interactive quality the site possess is a user forum. This allows viewers to discuss the film, the website and any other issues they wish to address regarding the film. Allowing a forum to a site lets people become more involved with the film. Through this people will hopefully become more informed and learn to present opinions of their own concerning the subject matter and social issues that are being addressed. The forum is a place for users to express their thoughts, and with a film that hits on so many different issues it is nice to have this outlet so people may express their feelings if they wish. One user Mikeytikey states, "
Good and kind actions change peoples views and prejudices but there will always be inherently good and bad people from all ethnic/racial backgrounds. We have to choose and take responsibility for our actions. We are Ambassadors for our own racial backgrounds and cultures
." With a film that has an effect on so many, this forum offers an outlet for people who are changed by the film. Whether someone is curious about the racial aspects of the film, or even the thematics of the ending, the forum allows for all types of questioning and opinions.

Looking at the website strictly on structure and navigation, it is very well put together. There is no clutter on the site, it is very straight forward allowing for easy navigation. According to Webby Awards, "
Good navigation gets you where you want to go quickly and offers easy access to the breadth and depth of the site's content
." It is very well organized with clean linear lines that keep the viewer focused, since there is nothing to let their eyes wonder. Unlike some other film websites, there are no promotion deals with other films, it is strictly about Crash. Overall the site has a quality that draws people in. Once there, it is hard not to listen to the music and watch the clips. Because of the tone of the film and the issues that it addresses, it makes the site hard to stop watching and listening to. The site takes on the characteristics of the film, which is what any good movie site should do.

Although this is an informative site with great tie-ins to the film, it could use some updating. One of the links does not work and another one posts theater listings, which are most likely no longer showing Crash. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the film was released last year and the site is no longer updated on a regular basis. If this is the case, then they should remove the link if the material is no longer substantial. This devalues the site and makes it less credible. One other way this site could be improved is the size of the links. Though readable, they are a little small, just one size up would make a difference. The site is so eye catching that the links seem to be a little out of place.

After taking a close look at this website it becomes very clear why it won Best Movie Website. Although it could use some updating, it allows people a place to learn more about the film through interactions with the site and with others. The site does it's job, by visiting the site one gets the urge to watch the film. It represents the film through color, music and video so that after seeing the site it is as though you have experienced part of the film. With a film that deals with social issues that many people do not want to talk about, it does so in a very respected way, which is evident through the website. The main goal for the film and the site is to educate people and open up their minds to these issues that everyone just throws aside. In a world where there are wars and terrorism, genocide and hatred, many people overlook our own societal downfalls. Although the entertainment industry makes a lot of money on very low quality films, we need to recognize that films are being made to help us open our own eyes and look at ourselves. As stated in the website synopsis, "Crash boldly reminds us of the importance of tolerance as it ventures beyond color lines...and uncovers the truth of our shared humanity." A film like Crash should be given these awards, if by no other means, the film and the site educate people about our own society and make us think how we can change as individuals and as a greater whole.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Disney and Apple: The iPod Collaboration

Instead of writing my own blog, this week I decided to take a look at other blogs in my field of interest and comment on their findings. With the entertainment industry changing constantly, there are always new innovations that bring together two forms of entertainment to make a media by-product. Whether it be the creation of TiVo and DVR or something as simple as the VCR, the film industry is in constant collaboration with other forms of media so that they are able to get their movies out to a larger audience. The following two links are both blogs that address the most recent technological collaboration, that of Disney and Apple. Just recently Disney agreed to allow users to download their movies through iTunes, so far they are the only studio to agree with Apple’s terms and conditions. This first blog talks about the deal in more detail and explains exactly what this new iPod will be able to do. The second blog addresses the other studios who have yet to make a deal with Apple. (Due to some technical difficulties my comment for this one is under the user name, avalle). I think this is a very interesting and prominent topic, and one that will definitely have an effect on the industry.



Sunday, September 10, 2006

Advertising: The Hostile Take-over of the Entertainment Industry

With the cost of making and marketing films these days soaring over millions of dollars, advertising commercial products in films and in the movie theater itself have become a way for studios and producers to help cut the costs on their productions. By making deals with car companies, clothing lines, businesses, and more, films are slowing becoming ads for consumer products. With the rise of technology, in particular TiVo and DVR, companies are now going to the movie business to get their products out to the public. Product placement has become a phenomena in film and television, but the question is, when is enough, enough?

As stated in the article, “
Advertising: It's Everywhere”, "The amount of advertising and marketing North Americans are exposed to daily has exploded over the past decade; studies show, that on average we see 3,000 ads per day.” The majority of these ads are shown on television, both commercials and in the shows with growing numbers appearing in film. This use of product placement distracts the viewer from the actual story of the film or television show, making the programming less desirable. Starbucks, one of the leading coffee restaurants in the world, now has it's own entertainment branch, lending the product to appear in more and more films. Now that they are in partnership with Lionsgate Films, they are able to have complete control over the marketing and advertising for their product. As stated in Forbes Magazine by Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman, "We are always looking for innovative ways to surprise and delight our customers, which is why we are so pleased to be working with Lionsgate". This partnership brings product placement and advertising to an entirely different level, one that is going to reshape how the industry's business is handeled.

Not only do we have product placement in films and television shows, there is also a growing age of advertising in the movie theater, before the feature presentation begins. There has always been trailers and previews of up coming films, most of which people tend to enjoy. However, now there are commercials and ads for everyday products that have interrupted the movie going experience, and this problem is only going to grow. According to
Lorenza Munoz, of the Los Angeles Times, just recently Sreenvivion, a New York based cinema advertising company, announced that it will "begin to roll out by year's end its satellite, networking and projection systems designed to deliver advertising, cartoons and sports for viewing before a film starts." Although some of this may be entertaining, it disrupts from the "“movie going"” experience that people have enjoyed for many decades. The movies are supposed to be a place for people to go and forget about their own lives and worries and become engulfed in the story of others. However, with this growing age of advertising, it is beginning to feel as though the movies are just another marketing ploy for consumer products.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Rise of Marketing: Why the Quality of Cinema has Decreased

For the past thirty years there has been a general shift in the entertainment industry towards the power of marketing. Ever since the first blockbuster, Jaws (1975), producers and studio executives have seen the power that merchandise and advertising can do for a film’s success. With this new found tool to make money the question then becomes, how important is a good story and how much influence do stars have these days in making a film successful? Taking Disney as an example, one of the top media conglomerates in the world, it is easy to see that the need for star power is not needed to make a successful film.

In the summer of 2006, as stated by Patrick Goldstein, “the four films generally considered to be this year's most profitable big hits — "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "Ice Age: The Meltdown," "Cars" and "Over the Hedge" — only one has a movie star. In fact, three of the four don't have any actors at all.” Two of these four films, Cars and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, which happen to be Disney films, used marketing as there way of selling the film, even though Pirates has one of the biggest stars, Johnny Depp, as the lead role. By making deals with auto companies for both films, they were able to get the audience involved with the film before they even saw it. As stated by Goldstein, “The mantra is: Don't make a movie you don't know how to sell.” With both of these films Disney knew they were a gold mine. As Pirates as an example, the fact that it is a sequel makes it much easier to market and gain audience attention, due to the fact that people are already familiar with the story and the characters. However, by using other forms of marketing other than just print ads and commercials, like merchandise (toys, games, clothes), it takes away from the story of the film. People have become so enchanted by the marketing tools that studios create that they completely give in to a film even if the story and acting is under par. Although the second installment of Pirates of the Caribbean was every entertaining and had some great effects the acting is not superb and the film was a bit long. However, it is the combination of spectacle both on and off the screen that makes a movie successful now-a-days. The movie going experience is no longer just going to a theater, it starts in the home the first time you see an ad or a trailer for a film.

With this idea that a good marketing campaign makes a good film, the movie business is becoming increasingly more difficult for real cinema to be made, rather than just these consumer products. Although marketing is necessary for a film to reach the public attention, the way it has escalated these past years has made the quality of films decrease. With this extra attention on marketing and making money rather then making a good quality film, the films released by major studios are not made to be cinematic excellence, but ways to make a quick buck.