MOONLIGHT shines over The Custard Factory

MOONLIGHT is a coming-of-age story in three acts, chronicling the life of a young man, Chiron, from childhood to adulthood, in a rough Miami neighbourhood across the late 80’s and early 90’s.  Anchored by extraordinary performances across a tremendous ensemble cast, MOONLIGHT follows Chiron’s relationship with his drug-addict mother and the life-changing relationships he forms along the way. MOONLIGHT is a ground breaking and universal story about who you choose to be, versus who you are.

The specially commissioned MOONLIGHT is created by David Brown AKA Panda from GraffitiArtist.com and is based on a triptych image of Chiron across the three stages of his life as depicted in the film.




People can find out Birmingham screening info via www.moonlight.film

Pre-Order Moonlight here:

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SLUMDOG AND THE FEELGOOD FACTOR

Slumdog._V1_One of the key selling points of romantic comedies is the guaranteed ‘feel-good’ factor that the audience is going to experience come the end. Romantic Comedies tend to be crushingly formulaic wherein a couple meet, get together and break-up only to realise their true feelings and unite just before the closing credits.

More often than not, these things tend to happen to well-to-do good looking people. Many British romantic comedies have detailed love stories between professional tennis players, a human rights lawyer and a T.V. presenter, a bookshop owner and an actual film star and that’s before we’ve even got to the cast of Love Actually or Four Weddings and a Funeral. Across the pond we often find attractive characters with impossibly big New York apartments who have a seemingly interesting job working for a magazine yet find themselves looking for love.

In spite of the fact that characters in such films tend to be good-looking, rich and with decent jobs, we still find ourselves routing for them to find love and get the feeling that come the end their lives are complete, they’re completely happy and we’re happy for them. Some films succeed more than others at this and it often depends on how likeable the characters are (often a contrast is made with a repulsive character such as a Daniel Cleaver to emphasise this). Yet it could be argued that the ‘feel-good’ endings these films often promote are not really earned. The films tell us life is incomplete without love but this can be deemed a falsity. Things might turn out alright in the end but often they were pretty good to start with. Without feeling true despair, how can we feel truly happy when things work out?

One film that plays the real notion of ‘feel-good’ is Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Is it a romantic comedy? It’s up for debate, but it does have a central romance and is at times very funny. The film however had what was, some would argue, a mis-leading marketing campaign. An image of a smiling Dev Patel and Freida Pinto smiling amidst a shower of ticker-tape while a dominating critic quote proclaimed it to be ‘The feel-good film of the decade’ adorned cinema hallways and the sides of buses during the films release. Some audiences were then shocked when they encountered many of the film’s harsher elements. During the screening in which myself and fellow Outward collaborator Matthew Simmonds watched the film, there was a telling moment in the cinema after the horrendous ‘blinding’ scene. The audience had collectively winced and a lady sat just behind us turned to her husband and stated ‘I thought you said this was a nice film…’

It most certainly isn’t a ‘nice’ film in many ways but does that stop it being feel-good? Absolutely not. In fact, quite the opposite. Lest we forget that SPOLIER WARNING Jamal wins the television show fortune and subsequently manages to reunite with Latika. It all ends with a Bollywood inspired dance number and we’re happy for the central couple who are now rich in money and love.

Yet what sets Slumdog Millionaire above the ‘feel-good’ films we’re more accustomed to is that it truly earns its happy ending. The film takes us to the very brink of despair and before bringing us back to an uplifting conclusion. To that end it takes its structure from the greatest ‘feel-good’ film of all time – It’s a Wonderful Life.

Frank Capra’s masterpiece is guaranteed to give you a lift come its final, iconic ending. Yet it goes to some very dark places. In one episode of Friends Monica gives Phoebe is shocked to learn that not all films end happily (Rocky loses, Old Yeller is shot, E.T. leaves) and so Monica gives her a copy of the James Stewart starring masterpiece  to cheer her up, only for it to actually drive her further down. ‘ I don’t know if I was happier when George Bailey destroyed the family business or Donna Reid cried, or when the mean pharmacist made his ear bleed’  she sarcastically tells her friend. ‘Didn’t you think the ending was pretty special?’ Monica retorts to which Phoebe confesses ‘I didn’t get to the end, I was too depressed. It just kept getting worse and worse!’




Part of the comedy in this instance comes from the idea that anyone could be depressed after watching It’s a Wonderful Life but this is a reminder that it does go to some dark places.

And Phoebe doesn’t even mention the worst part – that George Bailey actually gets to the point of suicide. He’s not just feeling a bit down, but is ready to throw himself off a bridge leaving his wife a widow, his young children fatherless and a crippling amount of debt behind. It takes us to the very brink of human despair before bringing us back. The night is darkest just before the dawn.

Much like Slumdog Millionaire it has a wonderful, feel-good ending and the reason both films work so well is because they earn it, by taking their characters to the darker recesses of humanity. Where the two films perhaps differ is that for some characters in Slumdog they don’t come back such dark places – notably the aforementioned blinded boy and Jamal’s brother who winds up being gunned down by a slum gang.

Yet this doesn’t stop the film ending on a wonderful feel-good note which actually refutes the claim that the famous advert was ‘mis-leading’. It is an uplifting, feel-good film and the claim that it was the ‘feel-good film of the decade’ is a fair one. It’s just somewhat odd that some don’t feel this way, simply because the sentiment and the joy is something the filmmakers actually worked hard to achieve.

Words: Phil Slatter

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Love in Film

Below are some films we think really capture the nature of love that encompasses both the good and bad aspects of life.

MULHOLLAND DRIVE

Patrick Fischler Mulholland Drive

Applying a generic genre to a film is rendered both redundant and unnecessary when entering a world where dreams become the story of our innermost desires. And David Lynch’s ferociously intense vision fuels the fundamental element that makes this magnificent masterpiece work so wonderfully; love. Love here shows all its faces: this is no syrupy rom-com territory. Here are all the sides of love we don’t want to admit to: the burning jealousy, the unrequited lust, the need to possess the essence of the person we most desire. Through Naomi Watts’ conflicted actress and Laura Harring’s seductive amnesiac, Lynch captures the polarised nature of the heart that can ultimately lead to our total destruction. Yet even amidst this dark and sinister mystery (and love is the ultimate dark mystery) there is a lyrical beauty of emotions in thrall as well: sexual chemistry, shared humour and the realisation one person has found a path to your very core. The sensations love brings are as honest and true here as any film that pretends to know the romantic genre by explicitly box-ticking. In other words, Betty and Rita feel like true love; in all its facets.

 

ANNIE HALL

Annie Hall

The perfect romantic-comedy from Woody Allen’s golden period, this has the blend of comedy, pathos and truth that has proved the litmus test for all romantic comedies since. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton may not appear the most likely couple on paper but their delightful and unique chemistry capture something very real, with their verbal sparring the crux of the film’s enduring joy. The film is absolutely hilarious from start to finish (an achievement in itself) with great gags and one-liners abundant. Allen’s Alvy Singer is caustic and narcissistic and Keaton’s Annie Hall is flighty and awkward but both characters remain immensely endearing and the film itself is very sweet in many respects. But it has a hard edge that often escapes the rom-com and, particularly in the concluding scenes, there’s a stark reminder that we don’t always end up with the person we want and even most love. This is a film about how love is subject to our own caprices, failings and errors in judgement. We all should remember to keep the shark moving.

 



BLUE VALENTINE

Blue-Valentine

One word can be used to sum up Derek Cianfrances 2010 drama, that word is raw. This is an examination of love from an unlikely perspective, this is the love that lingers once a relationship is about to meet an end.  Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play the couple in love, we see them find joy, optimism and eventually misery in this unforgiving cautionary tale of how love can leave you feeling two very different emotions. Blue Valentine is not easy viewing and I can see why most would choose not to watch with a loved one. But there’s a measure of love within this that’s rare, by showing the severe emotional strain this break-up has on Gosling and Williams you also highlight just how much love these two people had invested in each other. At times you have to see the dark to appreciate just how involved you are with another person; love can make us behave in ways that’s completely alien and cold. Blue Valentine is the perfect manifestation of a love that’s clinging onto every last hope of survival.

BRIEF ENCOUNTER

Brief Encounter

Very similar but also very different to Blue Valentine is David Leans Brief Encounter. Not only does this film provide one of the most iconic shots in modern film history but it also has the depth to explore the repression women felt in a post war Britain. On the surface the film explores the notion of meeting the perfect stranger and wondering what could be. The subtext however is riveting, there’s passion, austerity and morality. The film builds to a finale that even though you know the relationship between Laura and Alec cannot extend to adultery you believe something good could come from this brief encounter. It might be brief but the weight of love can be felt from the first scene to the last.




SHAME

Shame - Directed by Steve McQueen

You wouldn’t initially think of Steve McQueen’s Shame as a love story in any way shape or form. It’s the tale of Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a good-looking man with a decent job who has no problem meeting women. However, his life is somewhat in-complete and he’s trying to find someone with whom he can save a meaningful relationship. While in some ways this is the set up for many romantic comedies set in New York,Shame is a much darker and disturbing film. For Brandon has a secret – he is a sex addict. It’s not something that is openly discussed (the word ‘sex’ is only actually used once in the entire film) but is the guilt to which the film’s very title refers. Yet Shame does have at its heart a love story. It might appear that this will come via the relationship between Brandon and Marianne (Nicole Beharie), the women with whom Brandon actually connects on a level other than sex but subsequently she is the only woman with whom he is not able to sexually perform. The love story actually comes through his relationship with his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan). She clearly has her own psychological issues but unknowingly the two characters find and rescue one another amidst their turbulent lives. McQueen uses music as a way of drawing the audience in to their relationship which seems on the surface to be volatile and argumentative. Yet when Sissy sings ‘New York, New York’, it reduces Brandon to an emotional level, a rare glimpse of him letting his guard down and unveiling the true sadness in his life. As the film progresses, the non-diegetic  music comes into prominence. During a scene when Brandon sleeps with two prostitutes there is a pain etched on his face while Harry Escott’s high-pitched score makes a passionate sex scene a repulsive and off-putting thing to watch. This is quite brilliantly juxtaposed with the films climax in which Brandon finds Sissy in his bathroom, wrists slashed and blood everywhere. There is a different type of pain on Brandon’s face this time, one of fear that he might lose the one person that could get through to him and the soft piano music turns a horrifying situation into an almost tender scene. Brandon cradles his sister, hoping, wishing and praying that she might pull through. It’s this central love story that brings Shame through to its ending that is both happy and sad, tragic yet optimistic. Sissy and Brandon might just be ok if they can iron out their differences and stick together. After all, as Sissy says to her brother before her suicide attempt, they’re not bad people, they just come from a bad place.

AMOUR

Amour - Dir Micheal Haneke

 

Micahel Haneke paints a sad tale in many ways yet uplifting in others, in this story of an elderly man looking after his wife following a stroke. It’s a true representation of the marital vow ‘in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, till death us do part’. With little cutting and only diagetic music, the screenplay and two leads portray a simple yet poignant tale, rich in detail  and theme and profoundly moving. It’s a tale we can all relate to, some more directly than others and it is pitched at absolutely the right level. It’s a real film about love and commitment and to this end is quite uplifting when you think about it (which you will do, for a long time). A shining light of a film in a world full of appalling rom-coms that think they’re about love, when they’re actually about 2 rich people that fancy each other and get together at the end to manipulate the audience into thinking they’re feeling something about life. It’s stripped of all this nonsense and it is an absolute masterpiece.




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Films Seen By Outward




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Social Media, Film Promotion and You

The Blair Witch Project

One of the greatest examples of film promotion (and perhaps the greatest) in history is The Blair Witch Project (1999).

The Blair Witch Project spent an estimated $20,000 to shoot. After the rights to the film were bought out for $1 million, the creators decided to use their website as the focus of their marketing campaign, slowly adding to it with now-famous found footage clips, newspaper clippings and photos in the run up to its release. In total, the Blair Witch Project reeled in over $248 million, packed out screens and created uncertainty, was this real or not?

Now that was a long time ago and social media has evolved, you’re not just plugging a website for a film anymore, you’re plugging a Facebook, a Twitter, an Instagram and any other platform that’s in vogue.

Marketing a film the same way as Blair Witch would be fairly hard to replicate and in most cases today, with the sheer abundance of imitation marketing campaigns out there, would go down like a lead balloon. There are however a few core ideals that still hold true.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that originality is key. Work from a unique angle and put all of your efforts into the channels that are engaging. Evoke strong emotions from people and you’re more likely to engage them, keeping them interested in the future marketing and eventually, the film itself.

74% of people in the age group of 18 – 65 are on some form of social media, giving marketers (or more importantly, you!) a huge spectrum of avenues that could potentially be promoted through.

Social media marketing is a juggernaut that refuses to slow down and it’s effects can be seen everywhere, from the biggest companies in the world all the way down to the relatively unknown blogger going viral from their bedroom. In short, it’s something you need to be considering.

So where does this leave you? What about when it comes to promoting your project on social media?

Social media is a crowded place and to get heard, it’s important to understand what links effective film marketing and the social posts that get the big numbers.

In both cases, you’re looking at exciting content, strong visuals and a lasting impact. Don’t forget about the emotional connection with your audience. If you can get them to stop scrolling through their timeline on the commute home and watch a 30 second teaser or read your latest announcement post, you’ve already won half the battle. The other half is just getting them to come back later.

Consider the channels that you’re posting on. Vary the content between each so your die hard fans don’t see the same thing on each platform. Once you’ve got a nice collection of marketing built up, rotate it throughout your available platforms and check the data. If you have behind-the-scenes shots that are performing on Instagram, post more frequently and optimise your strategy from there.

Also look at the time you’re posting, there’s reams of data out there explaining the optimal times for posting on each platform but generally consider this, more views/clicks will probably occur in the morning, when people are checking their social media feeds on the commute. Looking for shares and comments? You want the evening crowd that have the time to put in a response.
When it comes to your content, you’re going to want to keep it balanced and engaging at all times. Photos and videos generally do 40x better on social media according to experts, so the more visually inclined promotional material you have the better.




Free Fire

I don’t have any ties to this film it’s just a seriously beautiful poster.

Furthermore, while self-promotion is obviously the aim of the game, try not to be 100% ‘all about me’. Share interesting content where possible, maybe look at sharing the process of your project or some insider knowledge and watch your engagement rise.

Involve your audience. Ask questions and start conversations with your followers, particularly on topics related more to you and your project. Social media users love to feel more inclusive and you want to encourage that trend.

Stay communicative and update people on your progress, tease release dates and try to build up as much interest as possible. This may sound like pretty simple advice but it’s something that in practice is much harder to keep up with. The trick is to be persistent.

Think about what you want to see, share and follow when it comes to your favourite content. If you’re halfway through editing a teaser trailer and you realise you probably wouldn’t engage with it, move on. That’s the best thing about visual promotion, whether it’s for films, games or any other medium, you usually have a ton of content to hand, it’s just picking the best bits at the right time.

And while we’re on the subject of timing, unfortunately that’s where luck comes into it. Effective marketing isn’t a complete science, there’s always a bit of luck involved and you never know when something might explode and become a hashtag next week. What you can learn from this however is a few good practices to take with you into your own social media marketing.

Just remember, be ambitious and don’t worry too much about having a big marketing budget, Blair Witch did it with a few handheld cameras.

Words by Tom Hodson

@_TomWM

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