Every year or so the "Death of Hollywood" is announced. Again. But then, in defiance, it keeps on chugging along, as "dead" as it never was. Something comes along and revitalizes it in a way that spurs on the next thing. And what exactly is that next thing? It is always one of the standard options: Prequel, Sequel, Remake, Adaption or sometimes, if we're lucky, it's a crazy thing called an Original Idea.
But why all the retreading? Why do studios seem to shy away from the Original Ideas?
Lot's of reasons. One well-grounded belief is that too many Studio Suits have moved up from marketing departments, or are highly/overly marketing conscious, and for those types, the biggest hold-back for new original concepts is Marketability. "If I can't see the marketing in my head, how can I sell it? If it's too different how do I describe it? I have nothing to compare it to." It's all about risk. To start over the Spider-Man film series (as crazy as that sounds so soon after the last round with Rami/Maguire) is less risky than John Carter. Fact. And we all know how John Carter went this year don't we? And that was a well known book. It's a big money game and you can't blame studios for being nervous, sadly though, it's a mindset that actually slows the influx of "new".
A studio can only produce so much in a year and if half of that is reprocessing preexisting material, with another chunk dedicated to jumping on last years trend, plus the slice lingering in Development Hell, well it's a wonder anything new and different gets through at all. If only there was a way to quantify that risk, a way to show studios what we were most eager to see. What if we the consumer, could tell them what we wanted.
Louis Plamondon had very this idea. In this day and age there should be a website where upcoming movies could be voted on, to reflect it's popularity, interest and the eagerness of the audience to see it. It could be a yardstick for studios in that regard, basically making "Buzz" tangible. But there was no such site.
So, Louis created The SleepySkunk.com
It is a place designed to inform Hollywood exactly how we would spend our money. Movies in all phases of development are listed, some are not even in development, yet, just ideas or concepts, waiting for attention. The trial run has been going strong and a 2.0 upgrade is looming, but this week Louis is making headlines and even the front page of Variety - but not for the bold website that looks to revolutionize Hollywood, no, no. See, you should know that Louis also makes Mash-ups time to time. Very good ones, too. So it was no surprise to me, when what started as a half-joking idea on his Facebook page turned into a viral sensation.
I guess now's a good time to mention that I've been a "follower" of the Skunk's page for a while and saw firsthand-ish, the gestation that lead to him creating a 25 minute preview mash of all publicly released clips and trailers for The Amazing Spider-Man. The "Super-Preview" as he titled it, is a somewhat condensed version of the film regardless of a remaining 110 minutes still available only in theaters. Well, it went viral as you might imagine and in the process was taken down a few times. It's garnered him a slice of notoriety plus hate email and the fact that such a chunk was even available, has pushed to the front the reoccurring debate of "how much is too much?" So there are a few questions we'd like to ask him… I mean, what kind of madman thinks he can take on Hollywood, anyway?
Maybe we should just ask Louis....
WT: What sort of madman thinks he can change Hollywood?
Louis: I think the times are changing above all else. Industries of all kinds have to hire Social Media managers and find themselves scrambling their brains to understand how to make the most out of the internet these days. What they might not realize is that the internet isn't a traditional window of advertising where they speak and we either pay attention or we don't. What it is, is the complete opposite right now actually. It's a medium that allows US, the people, to speak to them and see whether they pay attention or they don't. Things haven't really kicked into high gear because the demographic who spends the most (Adults 30-45) didn't grow up with a smart phone. But they will at some point, and that is when "changing Hollywood" is only going to be the tip of the iceberg.
WT: So, when this next generation kids grows up, you see their voice and opinions having more importance, because technology will have made it easier to have that voice?
Louis: Yes, but mostly because technology will be the language they speak and the one their kids speak and they will have spent their lives updating their Facebook page and tweeting at the dinner table. That will become society at that point. You'll have to visit a retirement home to hear stories about how a radio or television ad or print newspaper ad made you want to buy something. There is a big shift coming. And I am trying to be part of it within the one industry that I am passionate about: the movies.
WT: Speaking of movies... What's your earliest movie-going experience - what set you off on the trail that has lead you here?
Louis: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"
WT: A classic for sure.
Louis: It's a cartoon that very much appeals to an older crowd. Which at the time was unusual to say the least.
WT: I was pissed as a kid when it didn't win the oscar. Stupid kid... So the site was created to give voice to the people, But after the launch, when things settled and users really got into working the site, making choices of what they would like to see, what did all this raw data show you? People groan about the endless waves of sequels and prequels but was that reflected in the metrics you were seeing?
|The SleepySkunk Motto|
WT: So then, these Mash-Up videos are not necessarily a marketing thing, it's more like a hobby that spun out of control?
Louis: Exactly. It's something I wanted to try. So I tried it, I liked it, became better at it, and people were noticing. Not much thinking went into that. When you are willing to sacrifice hundreds of hours in your life on something that doesn't pay you a red cent and ruins your social life, there's a good chance that you will become pretty skilled at doing said thing.
WT: The superhero one set Weezer is really good. You we're working on a sports based one when you got an idea for a new one... So you were going through Spider-Man clips because you were bored?
Louis: I don't know how or when I decided to do which. The Sports one is about half-completed and will be released along with the Olympics so it feels timely and websites have an opportunity to spin a story out of it, not just randomly post a Sports mashup. Looking back at my Facebook page, I decided to do the Spidey mash on May 22nd and never looked back until it was done. The Sports one could wait.
WT: The Sider-Man video has gotten some attention. How crazy has the reaction been? And were you ready for that? I mean, you knew it would go viral, right?
Louis: I knew it was going to make a statement and shake the monkey cage a little bit but not the front page feature of Variety. By now, I have so many prominent blogs and publications who covered it that I scramble to remember them all. The video was not brilliantly edited. I regret some parts of it which I wish I could have polished a bit more. But that doesn't matter since there was such a huge craving out there to see something like that be created. Lots of moviegoers felt exactly like I felt about marketing departments going too far apparently.
WT: To be honest, I was surprised this hadn't been done before...
Louis: Many were, but it takes a hundred hours. Someone had to invest into making it. That was the hard part.
|The current top 10 at SleepySkunk.com|
WT: There's irony in people calling it "Spoiler heavy". It's true, but - that's Marketing's choice.
Louis: I respect those who decided not to watch it. So many comments came in the likes of "I can't keep watching this" or "I had to stop after 4 minutes". If felt like I directed a horror short.
WT: How much hate mail have you gotten?
Louis: A little bit, a dozen or something? Some were respectful, others not so much.
WT: So, how much preview material is too much? Let's say, because of your video or for any reason, studios decide to put a cap on released preview content, what's a good number? Ten Minutes? More? Less?
Louis: Good question. I think the key is not so much how much is shown but what is shown. In the case of Spider-man, all the key elements of the movie were online so I was able to reconstruct it into a full story with leaving very little aside. Some movies have gotten away with releasing tons of footage but keeping the surprises and the best scenes under wraps. When they go ahead and show you the key scenes, it leaves very little for our imaginations to fill the gap. When audiences go into a movie knowing everything that they are going to see, it becomes impossibly hard to impress them. We often find ourselves in situations where those who were oblivious to any marketing think a movie is great and others who followed everything closely think it was disappointing or okay. It shouldn't be that way. We should all enjoy movies at the same degree.
WT: Is that what happened with John Carter? Too much promo stuff and the audience felt like they had seen it already?
Louis: Hmm, I think John Carter was just source material that people were not familiar with and didn't get excited about. Too much marketing leads to more ticket sales, which is why they are doing this. Otherwise it wouldn't happen right? My perspective on it is that too much marketing also means more people who are less happy with your actual movie (the part they didn't see) and less word-of-mouth. Think of the movies that had incredible word-of-mouth in the last 20 years. Jurassic Park, The Matrix, Inception. You had to go see it in order to find out what they were all about as opposed to "don't bother, all the good parts were in the trailers".
WT: Is it safe to say that the scads of money The Avengers made this summer insures that Superhero movies are here to stay? Some said it was about to die out...
Louis: I would think that the genre has reached a certain peak when you have both The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises in the same Summer which both have been anticipated for a good four years. Creating a mashup of superhero movies has made me realize that the genre never really went away since 1989's Batman. We just forgot the lesser heroes who came out in the nineties but once you research it a little, you realize that every year had it's heroes for over twenty years now. The key is to tell new stories within that genre though, not redo the exact same thing that was already done and expect audiences to keep paying their hard earned money to see that.
|Would you pay to see this movie? Let Hollywood know!|
WT: Well, there's talk that Warner Bros. is already trying to figure out how to reboot Batman after Nolan wraps this run. Perhaps they're waiting to see what happens with the Spidey reboot.
Louis: I'm not sure what they want to do. If anything, Warner Bros. proved that the same studio can both give us the best and the worst adaptation of a singular character within a 10 year window. There will likely be a Justice League movie at some point as well. They need to be very strategic about this.
WT: Shifting gears...What's this "Capture The Frame Contest" thing about?
Louis: Hahaha. It's a very simple concept, and I would never be pretentious enough to claim I started it or anything. I take a snapshot of a movie trailer on YouTube, post it on social platforms and the first film fan to guess it right WINS! (nothing, bragging rights I guess). It's just a way to keep your followers engaged so they don't forget about you. Fun, simple, takes 10 minutes of my day. Twice a day. I recommend anyone who runs a film site or blog to do something like that if they want more traffic on their Facebook page.
WT: To be totally honest, your page actually spurred me to create something similar for WickedTheory, it's a 24hr Caption Contest where the prizes are imaginary, it's pulled in a few likes.
Louis: Good! You should!
WT: You used Facebook to build up a following before the SleepySkunk site opened for beta. Recently FB made some... interesting... changes to "Pages", I'm a bit enraged by it. Do you have any thoughts about these recent changes?
Louis: Hmm, I don't have much of an opinion on that (to be honest). The people who have a genuine interest in your Facebook page still see all your posts. It's those who liked your page but forgot about it completely that aren't being reached. I always focus on my core base, that's what keeps the page alive and fun.
WT: Before we wrap this up, what can people expect from SleepySkunk 2.0? Care to tease?
Louis: Sure. Better interface is the first thing to expect and original content on the front page that runs like a blog. I have selected three movie fanatics who will start running some opinion pieces about the movie business at the end of the Summer. Also mobile integration and an overall better, easier way to register and navigate. Every year, it seems that I keep getting closer to my goal. Let's keep chipping at it slowly but surely. Help some people along the way, make fun of others as well. That's the beauty of the internet right?
Get involved! Follow SleepySkunk on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and of course, watch The Amazing Spider-Man Super Prieview below!