ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

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

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Michael Bay: "I'm Not a Whore"

So this past week, Michael Bay came out and said that he wasn't a whore, just because GM was allowed to pay $3 million so that the Transformers would transform into GM vehicles.

(I tried to remember where I saw this, so I could dig up the exact quote, but I couldn't find the article. Then I googled "Michael Bay whore" and got 659,000 hits. Which says something.)

Bay's spin seemed to be that the $3 million allowed him to expand the budget and make the film even better, though when your budget is over $150 million it's hard to see how this might matter all that much.

The obvious problem though is this: are we getting closer to the point in which corporate advertising is going to increasingly impact creative decisions in films?

Of course we are. It's already happening.

If someone wants to pay a film company to position their product favorability in a movie, in most instances, cash will change hands, and the script will be reworked. Will the script be better? Ummm... probably not. And product placement will continue to infect films.

It's already running rampant on TV, where all the networks are afraid of Tivo making people skip commercials, as if people hadn't been skipping commercials for years by simply flipping over to another channel for 3 minutes. It isn't Tivo that killed the commercial, it was the remote control.

The Apprentice has become the biggest joke of all, with every episode essentially a commercial for some product. It's gotten to the point where an advertising skillset is what one really needs to win that show.

I guarantee that, as soon as someone figures out to mnake the goal seem cool, we're going to see a show in which players compete to be the next great ad exec.

Every week on American Idol, the contestants appear in a music video pimping Fords, while the judges drink out of huge Coke cups, logo spun toward the camera. Survivor has challenges that reward contestants with food, toiletries or cars, their brands prominently mentioned.

Some shows are trying to be a little more subtle. The first film challenge in "On The Lot" had the filmmakers making short films, and the same cell phone popped up in a lot of them with no explanation, though the result was ineffective (not that anyone was watching anyway).

But it's movies that are really coming under fire. When I was a theater manager in the late 80s is when commercials were first shown in front of movies in the theater.

There was real concern that the consumer would be pissed about this, so to ease the consumer in, the theater companies made sure that the initial commercials were all visual, high-quality ones, as well as commercials that one hadn't already seen on TV.

The consumer bought it; though people used to boo when commercials came on before a movie, they don't any more.

And now some theaters show about 15-minutes of pre-show commercials (some masked as mini-documentaries about upcoming TV shows or movies) before the film even starts.

Transformers is the current ultimately example of this: it's a movie about a toy, designed to sell toys, and tickets, and videogames, and ultimately the DVD, and GM cars. All studio movies are commercial entities, though few are quite as blatant as this.

There has been product placement forever, and there probably always will be, so it's hard to know what to do about it. But in an age where corporations are blasting their names on everything (stadiums, college football bowl games, halftime shows) it's not the status quo that worries me.

The line is moving, and who knows where it might eventually reach.

10 Comments:

At 10:54 AM, Blogger RenĂ© said...

Product placement is increasing (and horrible), but commercial imperatives have always affected creative decisions.

Studio execs do the same thing. ("Cast Paris Hilton!" "Can the killer assassin have a monkey for a sidekick?")

While I loathe Michael Bay, and do agree that he's a whore, I don't think having the Transformers morph into GM vehicles is all that terrible. They have to morph into something, right?

 
At 11:49 AM, Blogger Fun Joel said...

To echo Rene, my thought (in this specific case) is was it really whoring out his creativity to make them transform into GM cars instead of BMWs, Aston Martins, Ferraris, Nissans or Fiats?

 
At 9:00 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

I don't really care about product placement all that much, they all gotta sell their products, which is fine by me.

I've used product placement in past films I've made (including names of resturants, etc), so I've got no problem with it.

 
At 8:11 AM, Blogger Dante Kleinberg said...

I don't think Transformers was hurt by it. I certainly didn't care when I was watching, nor did I even know for sure what kind of car each Transformer was.

The only time it pisses me off is when it makes absolutely no sense to the story.

e.g. The Fantasti-Car in the latest FF movie has "a hemmy." That was a groaner.

Another good one is on Lost when they were trying to get a metal briefcase open, and for some reason every person on the island was aware of this particular briefcase's reputation for being impossible to break into. Can you or anyone you know name ANY brand of metal briefcase?

 
At 9:02 AM, Blogger Dave Olden said...

Hey Scott,

I found this article at theage.com.au.

That should be Page 2. So, 5th paragraph down ...

"I had a good relationship with them (GM). They gave me $3 million worth of cars, which cuts $3 million out of my budget, which means I can put more up on the screen. So I don't think it's whoring out the movie. It was a good compromise."

:)

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger James Moen said...

I didn't mind the GMCs in the movie. Since Autobots have to be cars, I don't see the harm.

However, those GMC ads that pretend to be a commecial for the Transformer movie are truly cringe worthy. They have plastic looking Autobots transform into GMCs usual line of ugly sedans and trucks. It doesn't make me want to buy the car and has discouraged me from seeing the movie a second time.

 
At 12:14 AM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

I'm with Patrick J. Rodio, product placement in a film doesn't bother me much. Wasn't it "Judge Dredd" that had Taco Bell winning the war of the fast foods. In that instance product placement actually made me laugh.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

 
At 10:05 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

Say what you will, but "Get Shorty" is better with the Oldsmobile Silhouette product placements than it would've been without it.

In some instances, it can be more distracting when characters use products that don't exist in the real world.

Sports movies especially come across as odd when they feature fake teams/logos.

"Wasn't it "Judge Dredd" that had Taco Bell winning the war of the fast foods."

That was actually "Demolition Man", which was a far better movie than "Judge Dredd", in my opinion.

 
At 7:54 AM, Blogger Spot 1980 said...

It's not just movies. A recent issue of Marvel's Irredemiable Ant-Man had something like seven different panels where Old Spice was somewhere in the background.

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger Christian M. Howell said...

Oh my god. This means I'm a product whore. My first feature prominently displays Coke cans throughout.

You wouldn't happen to have the number for Coca-Cola would you?

 

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