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Sunday, July 08, 2007

A new contract with the audience is needed

A couple of guys came down from Bristol Uni to interview me last week - Louis and Joe. They are making a documentary on product placement and were interested in the Circumference way of working as a possible future direction. In my mind I don't see Circumference as using product placement but I can see their angle. Just to be clear...

I don't like product placement.

That seems an odd statement from someone whose new film business model is about integrating adverts into the plot of a film. But the difference is small - yet massive. It is about honesty.

We are very clear with the potential audience for Circumference. "It's a free film. It's free because it contains some adverts. But don't worry - we're convinced they are good fun and that you'll enjoy them. Does that sound like a fair deal? Then please watch it."

Contrast that with the product placement way... "It's just a movie, please pay £10 to watch it." but really "and look at that BMW because they gave us some cash. Look hard enough to notice but not hard enough that you think its an advert. What? No. You still have to have paid £10. Er, can I go now?"

In fact, if we add to that the fact that we know cinemas make more profit from food than from ticket sales AND the fact that we know that a cinema release is really a giant advert for the DVD release (which makes 3 times the money) then you wonder if it hasn't just all gone wrong.

What we need is a new contract with the audience. So they know where they stand and don't feel both ripped off and told off (don't pirate this movie etc). The way the film business works has moved on - but the deal with the audience hasn't. That can't work long term.

Photo from the Director's Cut competition
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jonx said...

All very worthy and artsy...
in a kind of 'student filmmaker' way.

To be pedantic... one's contract is invariably with the independent production company rather than with the broadcaster.
The idea of a contract with the audience is pretentious and whimsical. Instead of said contract, you just need to have morals or an ethic... call it what you will.

In my opinion... it is unethical to make films (art) and dabble in advertising (commerce) at the same time. *That's* immoral. Think about it.
You're no better than the worst sort of little corporate whore...
branding your work with the dirty print of commerce. Uuuugh!

Tim Clague said...

Strong words from Jonx.

I agree that the 'contract' idea is based around morals and ethics - I'm fine with it being called that. And both those words are in short supply at the moment - and perhaps even more whimsical looking at the current situation.

But art and commerce. Some would say that films are an industry. It is an odd middle ground between art and commerce. Is Transformers art?

But in fact Circumference is much more in the 'art' section.

And it's a strange story of the inspiration for this funding model. (and it is just a one-off funding experiment - not a recommendation for the entire industry) The story was I was looking for a modern update to how the renaissance artists made a living - via patrons and commissions from the nobility. I wondered what the modern equavilent would be. This funding experiment is one possible answer - it is similar to a rich patron funding a work of art. But the patron is now a company.

In a way the branding idea is becoming part of the art.

Its my answer to how artists might deal with this issue as we move into a new era.

The new era is... the audience doesn't like to pay to see films anymore.

If I don't do something - I can't make a living anymore.

jonx said...

Honestly chum - It's all very easy.
Take this 'fairly' recent example.
Chris Offili; Lauded for his Elephant-Shit Madonna, among other
fine works of art. Just as he hits his peak, he goes and uses his very original and engaging painterly methods to advertise vodka. What a greedy little shit he is. Completely compromises his art. He's now off the artist's register in my book. Every piece that he produces now has that stench of commerce to it. As Bill Hicks so rightly said - 'I don't care if he shits Mona Lisas before breakfast - he's ceased to be an artist.'

Please don't get me started on those who actually maintain that producing adverts is 'art'.

Why on earth would a talented filmmaker want to be associated with 'product'? A true artist wouldn't buy in to commerce. Integrity immediately compromised.
The stain will never wash.

Tim Clague said...

I actually think there is a quite a bit of fun to be had with this whole art / commerce / product debate. I don't call advertising art - no way. As you know, I'm very clear on things being honest. That way people can decide if they want to watch or not.

But our debate is only the start of it. This is going to be a hot topic.

You are clear on where you stand. I am not clear about this debate. I want to try some things and experiment with it. That's what I do.

Any film maker who has to get money from a distributor and ITV has already 'sold out' really.

If it turns out that in this debate the audience / public generally decides that they want a commerce free art then that would great. You sound like you would like that as well. But they have to get used to a £15 to £20 cinema ticket. And it would probably be worth it as a society.

jonx said...

Ideally - I would like a commerce-free *everything*.
Everything we try to do, everywhere we turn has a commercial dollar sign attached to it.

Working for commercial broadcasting companies a sell-out?
I guess so.... just a question of *degrees*.

I'm kind of reluctant to say this... but I really don't give a shiny shit about the audience. I only care about whether I am happy about the things that I produce - that they are honest, entertaining and (heaven forbid) informative.

There. I said it.

Tim Clague said...

Good on yer Jonxy! I think you may not be alone in your view - but at least you have the damn guts to say it instead of pretending.

More power to you man.

Do you have a blog yourself?