Let’s Talk!


My interview with my new best buddy Bruce MacDonald, director of minimalist apocalypse movie PONTYPOOL, can now be read over at The Auteurs’ Notebook. Here.

Ideally you should see the movie first — while we avoid heavy spoilers, this is a movie which is hugely enjoyable when viewed in total ignorance.

15 Responses to “Let’s Talk!”

  1. Tony Williams Says:

    So David, is this actually set in south Wales? I’ve always thought it would be ideal territory for a CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE or THE HILLS HAVE EYES scenario that could open credits to the sound of Sir Harry Secombe singing “We’ lll keep a welcome in the hillside.”

  2. No, it’s Pontypool, Ontario, I’m afraid. A Welsh horror could be really good, with references to The Old Dark House (“Even Welsh ought not to sound like that”) and maybe a plum role for Sir Anthony Hopkins.

    Canada, of course, has a fine horror heritage. Pontypool’s stills photographer was the daughter of David Cronenberg, who actually offered advice on an earlt draft of the script.

  3. Tony Williams Says:

    Oh well. It looks like I’ll have to write my own screenplay with the old Port Talbot ham himself playing the head of a North Wales family taking revenge on yuppie Brits buying up property in the area.

    Any resemblance to films by Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven is, of course, purely acidental.

  4. It’s but a short step from burning down cottages to LONG PIG.

  5. Okay, I’m game. I wanna see this. Where can I download it?

    Oh, I can’t.

    Alright. I usually love such movies. Let’s buy the DVD then.

    Oh, it’s not on Amazon.

    Um… Why the fuck would someone promote a movie on the fucking internets when people reading about it can’t even give the filmmakers money to see it? That’s moronic on so many levels, it makes my brain hurt.

    Hey, I made an awesome movie! People love it! I want you to go out and… and… well, you can’t buy it! And you can’t see it! And by the time you can buy it, you’ll have fucking forgotten about it! And then I’ll bitch and whine about piracy and low profits and other shit I don’t understand, because I’m a huge fucking moron who doesn’t understand the first fucking thing about marketing. Whoop-de-fucking-do.

  6. Um… the movie is playing film festivals because its not yet widely released. festivals don’t play films which are on general release, because it defeats the point of having a premier. It’s had a small release in NYC and been out in Canada and opens in Korea soon and in the UK in October.

    The film festival circuit is a way to generate buzz, and the festival itself brought the director out and he was kind enough to give an interview. You’ll hear a lot more from him when the film opens wider, but with a limited marketing budget he’d be crazy not to use every opportunity to talk up his movie. Which hopefully you’ll remember to look for again a little later. And hopefully there’ll be official publicity to remind you. Think of this as a first taster.

  7. See, the problem with this approach is that in the world we know today, it does not work.

    The guy has the biggest marketing opportunity in the whole wide world staring him in the face. And it’s free. And it’s called the internet. To be more exact, it’s the social nature of the internet that is of concern to us in this particular matter.

    I, a frequent reader of your blog, respect your opinion when it comes to movies. When you like something, I’m quite likely to like it too. You have published an interview with the author of a movie you love and recommend, so I’m thinking: “I gotta grab that movie!” I’m thinking: “I gotta watch it right now, because I’ll have forgotten about it next week already, because I’m constantly being bombarded with new information.”

    And I’m also thinking: “If it’s any good, I’ll recommend it to my friends, many of whom will enjoy it and recommend it to their friends and so on.”

    That’s how you do marketing today. You make a product. You tell people about it. If people love it, they’ll take care of the rest. Congrats, you’re now a millionaire.

    This person, as talented a filmmaker as he might be, has made a (hopefully) great product. He has told people about it. But he has not made it available. He is, essentially, wasting his time. And mine. By telling me about something I have no access to.

    I could understand if the product was a physical good. Like a stick of crazy awesome butter. And he didn’t have the retail network set up for me to get it at my local supermarket. I could understand if the product was a place. “Hey, come check out this island we have! It’s got women with naked tits walking about! Here are some pictures!”

    This film is a series of bits. That I could download to my computer in less than half an hour and we’re talking HD quality here.

    There’s absolutely zero excuse for the author of this film not to make it available on the internet for a low price. Or, hell, even as a DVD that I could order from Amazon and get to my doorstep in a week or two.

    Not doing this while going around and getting free advertising on the global fucking internets just reeks of stupid.

    And if the reason for why this isn’t available as a DVD or a paid download is that film festivals don’t play films which people can actually buy (see how stupid that sounds?) then fuck em. Who needs a film festival which hinders you from converting regular eyeballs into the kinds of eyeballs which actually go out and make you money by plugging your film on their Facebook or Twitter or blog or whatnot?

    This is the 21st century. It’s time for indie film marketing to join the 21st century.

  8. Well yes but —
    Firstly, although Bruce is his own producer, he’s not his own distributor so he doesn’t have much, if any, say in how the film is marketed and sold and shown.
    As far as festivals go, he has two choices. He can bypass them entirely and just let the distributor open the film mass-market, with whatever publicity it can afford. Or he can use the festivals to drum up more interest. Remember, although many people may find the festival coverage unhelpful because they can’t buy the film yet, it’s completely free coverage. You can’t buy Antichrist yet, but a lot of people are discussing it already thanks to festival screenings.
    Yes, there’s obviously a disadvantage in the festival circuit essentially promoting films before they reach the marketplace, but they WILL NOT promote them afterwards, so what should the poor filmmaker do?
    In addition, festivals sometimes serve as markets where distribution deals are made for unsold territories, so it would be unwise to avoid them totally.
    I think you’re right that the online explosion will change how films are sold and promoted, and to a large extent people are following an old-fashioned model that’s no longer efficient or practical. But (a) that’s not Bruce’s fault, and (b) even if festivals only do a tiny bit of good for promoting films, they do it for free and I don’t see the distributors abandoning that minor outlet.

  9. Well, then the questions are:

    1) Why isn’t he his own distributor?

    2) And how do we beat some sense into the current one? And other distributors for that matter?

  10. jason hyde Says:

    Weird. I’ve been working my way through the Ray Bradbury Theater and have noticed Bruce MacDonald’s name popping up on episodes that turn out to be rather superbly directed. And before I even look to see what he’s been up to since then, I come here and find out that he’s directed a film that I’ve already heard about and am very curious to see. Funny how that works.

  11. 1) Film distribution, traditionally, requires money. So far nobody’s making the kind of money selling downloads that successful movies make by cinema showings, DVD sales, rentals, and TV sales. It’s just harder to make money that way, since a free download offers the same product as one you pay for. With the cinema experience, or with a nice DVD in nice packaging, you at least offer the viewer something he can’t get via broadband.

    2) The problem is a bit more complicated than “beating sense into” anyone, since there ARE certain advantages to rolling out a film in stages: festivals, cinemas, DVD, TV… I think people are beginning to experiment with different models, but nobody’s yet had a huge success breaking the rules.

    Jason, you make me want to see more Ray Bradbury Theater. Bruce has a back catalogue of interesting movies too — maybe Elver can satisfy his curiosity a little by downloading The Tracey Fragments somewhere.

  12. No success story and no model to follow? What about Star Wreck?

  13. Well, Star Wreck was so successful I haven’t actually heard of it. But now that I look it up, it seems like a project made by people at the beginning of their careers who lavished time upon it. They can take their time making a profit on it from cheap downloads.

    Pontypool is a big movie made by people with careers already, and the only way for it to make money is through cinema and DVD sales. It cost probably ten times what Star Wreck cost. Economics dictates that they use every means of promotion (festivals included) and make the big money you can only get from sales upfront.

    The guy who paid for it already has his money back, and is telling his stockbroker pals how good movies are as an investment…

  14. (four months later)
    I just saw PONTYPOOL, and for the rest of the week it will be my life mission to get everyone I know to see it.

    Skimming the conversation above, I agree that realistically, movies with budgets cannot just appear online for free. I also agree that as soon as I first hear about a movie with a budget, I want to see it online, and for free.

  15. It’s a problem, isn’t it? If it were just Hollywood blockbusters getting robbed blind I wouldn’t care, since the fact that audiences don’t respect what they’re getting is a problem which should be addressed. But so many audiences don’t feel they should have to pay anything, ever, to be entertained. And indeed, even an independent filmmaker like Bruce MacDonald is certainly wealthier than I am, so should I feel guilty about stealing a few bucks from him? I should.

    Pontypool is so good I am actually going to have to buy it or I won’t be able to live with myself.

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