a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Harold and Kumar Go To Del Taco

So a friend of mine was chatting with an agent the other day, and the agent told him that there is a new emphasis on finding/developing scripts with corporate tie-ins plugging products, to help not only finance the film but for some advertising synergy as well.

Recent examples include the Harrison Ford film "Firewall", in which most of the TV commercials seemed to be plugging the idea that the car was the co-star, rather than Paul Bettany or Virginia Madson.

(To show how ineffective it was, I have no idea what model of car it actually was).

On deck is "The Benchwarmers", which apparently is partly financed by Pizza Hut. So in the movie, the guys hang out at Pizza Hut. A lot. Happily.

This is really nothing new. For a long time, opportunities for product placement in movies have gone out to the highest bidder.

But it's one thing if you are taking something that is in the script anyway, and taking the opportunity to take a little cash for making it a specific item. It's when the script is in the design stage, and you are trying to work in corporate tie-ins, that it all starts feeling really, really dicey.

On TV, it's getting horrible. I mean, shows like "The Price Is Right" have been shilling stuff during the show forever. But now top-rated shows like "American Idol" have the judges constantly drinking beverages out of cups marked Coke (whether they are actually drinking Coke is doubtful) while the contestants regularly have in-show music videos that are really just commercials for Ford.

"The Apprentice" has become a joke, in the way that every single episode hypes some corporate product. Last episode, the teams were even writing commercial jingles.

Of course, TV is dealing with the shake-out about Tivo and fast-forwarding through commercials, so some of this stuff is inevitable, and is still going to get worse.

Films seem like they should be a different animal. But then again, it's all about money.

The good thing, though, is that quality is still going to be important. I guarantee the car people weren't happy with the performance of "Firewall". Having your brand in an underperforming, unsatisfying movie isn't going to do anyone any good.

Subtlety is also going to be important. It's one thing to watch a sweet scene in which Elliot lays out a line of Reese's Pieces for E.T. to follow. Knowing that they were paid a lot to put that candy in there? Suddenly the scene isn't so sweet.

Ultimately, I think this is very bad for movies. But beware -- it's out there, and apparently it is gaining speed.


At 3:11 PM, Blogger William said...

Interesting and revolting at the same time. Bottom line is maybe all this commerce will just make everyone so sick they won't even bother to see films that have a higher chance of product placement but I highly doubt it. I think a lot of people go into bigger budgeted movies with an attitude that says, "yeah whatever, sell me the car, sell me the chocolate bar, whatever."

I mean are you NOT going to see Superman Returns because there are a dozen products prominently placed?

The bigger question is does it even work?

At 3:22 PM, Blogger taZ said...

Does the prod-company make like a list of what things/products they are gonna use in the movie?

Like "in ET we need a car a bike and candy. Make a bidwar!!"

At 3:29 PM, Blogger deepstructure said...

i got disgusted at this when i used to try and watch 'alias' with my girlfriend. although she loved it, i gave up because i thought it was ridiculous.

but i couldn't even stay in the room when they started saying things like "we'll take the ford explorer" and focusing prominently on the ford logo on the car as it sped by in a high-velocity chase.

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Brett said...

Is there a website where I can post my logline and synopsis for potential product placers to get on-baord?

"OPERATION BUTTKICK-- (action) A retired Navy Seal works in corporate counter-terrorism for [major oil company] traveling the world in his customized [upscale vehicle] while fighting bad-doers, drinking [beverage] and making catchy remarks about his favorite [fast-food restaurant]."

Promotional opportunities abound. Serious inquiries welcome."

Why not.
next wave B

At 5:59 PM, Blogger Whaledawg said...

Actually I think it's pretty appropriate on
The Apprentice
. What was more disturbing was when Medium did an episode where the mentioned Memoirs of a Geisha like 3 times. Seriously, they said they were going to see the movie, they were in line for the movie and then they met someone on their way out and told them what movie they saw. It was weird.

By the way has anyone seen The Making of...And God Spoke? It's a mocumentary about some producers making a film about Jesus that get's it's budget through product placement. Like, Jesus drinking a Pepsi kind of product placement. It's actually a neat little film.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

Yeah, it's lame all around. And the Apprenice is just lame, period.

I remember seeing the Firewall/car ads in some magazines. what kind was it? No clue. I certainly wouldn't be inspired to go and buy whatever Harry Ford's snooze-inducing epic was pushing.

EW had an article about an Everwood scene where 2 chicks on the show were talking about a new car one of them just got. It's not a problem for me to have some product placement, but in this case, and I saw the scene they were talking about, their dialogue was just plain awkward and out of place for their characters.

Yes, I watch Everwood.

At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Along with the Everwood episode that was mentioned, I've noticed shows like 'Smallville' have gone out of their way to incorporate product tie-ins.

The part that's annoying isn't that they drive a Ford car or whatever, it's that it's being made so obvious that it's a corporate tie-in. It's like they stop the show down for an in-episode commercial, often including the sponsor's slogan or tagline (e.g. the Accu-view bit on the vigilante episode of Smallville a few episodes back).

When it's so bad that it takes you out of the story, it's too much.

At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, it was a Chrysler 300 in Firewall.

Just so you don't wrack your brains trying to remember or anything. :-)

At 10:48 PM, Anonymous George said...

Facts are facts. Stats are stats. As appalling as this all sounds to writers it is a reality. Advertising works. Plan and simple. The worst ad is a good ad. You may forget what model car was featured, but everyone seems to recall it was a Chrysler in Firewall.

Marketing is all about impressions. For every X million impressions there will be Y thousands in sales. Writing for Hollywood is not about art. It is a business. Always has been. Screenwriters that write material that gets sold AND produced (you know, successful ones) aren't writing little plays to be photographed by their pals. They are writing business plans which put millions and millions of dollars at stake. If the story you're working on for Hollywood to produce can't be sold, packaged and marketed to the largest possible audience then stop. Stop typing this instant! You're not ready for the big leagues.

Put on a play instead with your friends and family. Oh, and if you can't even afford the theater rental or sets maybe you can raise the funds by letting your local vendors' advertise on your actors costumes. Hey, it works for little league.

At 10:50 PM, Anonymous kristen said...

Everwood's a good show. Have no shame, Rodio.

I just read that EW article today myself.

I'm looking forward to the day when the Gilmore Girls start raving about Playtex. My mom and I talk about tampons all the day long.

At 12:14 AM, Blogger Chesher Cat said...

I started writing screenplays partly because I was sick of designing advertising materials to make bad movies look good.

Now I have to write advertising into my movies.

Is there no escape?

At 12:52 PM, Blogger deepstructure said...

george, you need help. if you think designing edifices on which to hang advertisements is the sole objective of making films, even in hollywood, then you have no idea what reality is.

just so you know - it doesn't sound appalling only to writers. folks from all walks of life have noticed and are not happy with product placements.

and this has got to be one of the most asinine things i've seen in a long time:

"If the story you're working on for Hollywood to produce can't be sold, packaged and marketed to the largest possible audience then stop."

At 5:36 PM, Anonymous George said...

deepstructure, like I said a fact is a fact. Please review every single film produced by Hollywood last year then tell us which ones where made solely artistic reasons. And when I say Hollywood I mean Hollywood, not indies.

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Stephen Benson said...

i am a lifelong musician who has allowed his career to degenerate into shameless whoring in jingles. it pays well, not much else, but it pays well. so about all i have to say to anyone concerned with art v. commerce hahahahahahahahahhahaha!


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