|Film Brats - Behind The Screens by Jon Waterman|
Volume 1 Issue 1
Welcome to the new look Behind the Screens. I’ve switched the article from a mostly news reporting stance to an editorial/analytical attitude. I’ll still be writing longer features, but primarily this article will piece together my thoughts on what’s going on in the entertainment industry. It will be a semi-regular thing and I’ll write here as often as I can. As always, if you have any comments/questions/ideas for stories you want me to cover, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s get started.
Michael Moore’s newest film “Fahrenheit 9/11” won the Palme D’Or in Cannes this past weekend. It still has no distributor. Many of you have probably already heard how Michael Eisner is refusing to release the picture so as not to offend any financial backers. Disney also claims that Miramax financed the film through hiding the budget and it was never approved. Miramax says that is impossible due to loan processing procedures at Disney and they knew the money was going to Moore. Miramax heads Bob and Harvey Weinstein are currently in negotiations to buy the rights from Disney so they can find an independent distributor just like they did for “Dogma” and “Kids.” The film berates George W. Bush and his foreign policy regarding the worst attack in America history and links the Bush and Bin Ladin families. According to Moore, attempts have been made by higher-ups in Washington to stop its release if a distributor is found. There’s also talk of filing a suit against Miramax because the film is a “blatant political ad in the guise of a documentary” and as such is in violation of campaign finance laws. An Australian distribution company named Hopscotch Films may have secured rights, but has since been receiving threatening emails from within the US if they release it.
This is going to sound like a cop out, but if this film isn’t released, then they are denying Moore his first amendment right to free speech. Normally a film does not get distributed or made due to financial concerns. The studio must be confident that the project has a chance for profit. If there’s no money to be made, then it’s not worth putting out. This is not the case with Moore’s film. His last movie, “Bowling for Columbine” was the highest grossing documentary of all time. This new film, with the high levels of publicity and critical acclaim is bound to attract sell-out crowds. Eisner is making a big mistake by not releasing the film. Disney desperately needs a hit to start counter-acting their faltering businesses. If “Fahrenheit 9/11” goes on to become a box office hit (as it almost surely will be), Eisner may find himself in deeper water with executives and investors for letting that one go.
On the political side, just because you don’t like what someone has to say doesn’t mean you can deny his or her right to say it. You have to take those opinions you don’t agree with along with those you do. This point is admittedly weak. Moore has other options and avenues from which to voice his opinion and I’m sure he will be given more opportunities considering the current situation. However, blocking a film based solely on its political content is wrong and should not be tolerated. Blocking a film based on any type of content is wrong. If it has explicit nudity or violence, etc., then release the work through the appropriate venues and channels so young children can’t easily find or see it, but don’t prevent the release entirely.
I don’t care if the film gets delayed until after the election, just as long as it gets seen. Obviously, Moore and company are pushing for a summer release (and it could out-gross some of those big blockbusters) with accompanying early November DVD release to get the most political impact from the movie as possible. The Republicans must think there’s something awfully damaging in there if they’re making so much trouble to keep the film at bay.
Don’t think that I’m favoring the Democrat side over the Republican. That’s not the case or the issue. I’d feel the same if it was a film criticizing Kerry, or Clinton, or Lincoln or even myself (who is not a presidential candidate). Let the movie come out, and then submit an appropriate rebuttal. If it does come out in summer, that would give the Republican party plenty of time to refute or disprove any claims made. Republicans aren’t helping their case by trying to squelch it before America can see it. Free “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
LOGO Building Blocks
Speaking of Republicans in an uproar, MTV (part of Viacom Inc.) plans to launch a basic cable channel in early 2005 called LOGO. It will be the first station to target the gay and lesbian community. The already have commitments from Time Warner Cable and Adelphia Communications to broadcast in New York and LA respectively. They are also in talks with Comcast Corp., which is looking positive. All told, that would reach about 10 to 14 million homes. Already, the creators have to defend their decisions since the homosexuality issue is such a heated and divided one.
As for myself, I applaud the station. I think it will end up being a very positive move for television and for acceptance of the gay and lesbian lifestyles. They won’t be showing anything that couldn’t be seen on any other cable channel, so the fuss seems to be overblown. The Traditional Values Coalition already is planning to boycott any businesses that advertise on the network. This goes without saying, but, don’t let that stop you, LOGO.
Think of it this way: You watch network television and you have seen or currently see shows like “Ellen,” (the sitcom and the talk show) “Rosie O’Donnell,” “Will & Grace,” “Queer Eye For the Straight Guy,” etc. These shows are massively popular. Add to it that it seems like there was a period in recent history where a TV show or movie couldn’t be made without some type of homosexual character. They’ve already “infiltrated” the airwaves. What this station will do is build on the acceptance afforded to them by these previous shows and movies. It will hopefully move away from the flamboyant tart stereotypes and show that homosexuals are a normal part of American life and culture. Kudos, MTV.
I Want My Protected Sex
Speaking of MTV, the station has recently announced that they will be manufacturing and selling condoms in Europe. President of MTV Networks International, Bill Roedy says they will be distributed to places that young people tend to shop, such as Virgin Megastores. "The idea is to try and take the embarrassment out of the purchase.” He also states that young girls may be more inclined to purchase them at a record store than in a drugstore.
At first glance, this sounds like a dumb idea. In a way it is. I can see the marketing now. Put the little spaceman on the package and the slogan could be “Don’t Launch Without a Helmet.” By the way, if that gets used, I want royalty checks. Why would anyone buy a condom put out by a television station over a well-known and trusted brand name? In this case, it sounds like a matter of product placement. I can’t imagine kids buying the MTV rubbers to look cool. If anything, I can see the small possibility of this adding more pressure for young people to start having sex. Cool people watch MTV. MTV makes condoms. People who watch MTV must be having sex. You aren’t cool unless you have sex (with an MTV condom). I know that’s a long shot, but hey.
It’s good to see that they want to take a more active role in preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancies. I like the idea of marketing condoms in more youth oriented places or just places that they weren’t available before. Increase the exposure of condoms and hopefully purchase and usage of condoms will increase as well. I hope other manufacturers take note and start looking for new distribution avenues as well. Every little bit helps.
So That’s What Sportscenter Tastes Like
Speaking of cross-industry marketing, ESPN has a sports drink coming
out and, no; it’s not what you think. Gatorade will be releasing
ESPN: The Flavor into stores shortly. As if the sports network hasn’t
already taken over everything else under the sun. We have ESPN the cable
channels -- plural (of course), their own award show, a radio station
or two, original movies, a magazine, restaurants, videogames…am
I forgetting something? First it’s Jordan selling cologne incorporating
grass smells among other things, now this. What could the drink possibly
taste like? Did they vacuum the carpets of the studio, shred some shot
sheets and set pieces and mix it all together? Perhaps a lock from all
the anchors’ hair? The drink will actually have a berry flavor
of some kind. It’s all part of ESPN’s Year of the Fan 25th
Anniversary celebration festivity stuff. I’m sure you’re
going to rush out and get some right now, aren’t you?