Case Study – Monsters (2010)• G322 Key Media Concepts (TV Drama)• Section B: Institutions and Audiences1. AUDIENCE - UK film aimed at a international audience2. PRODUCTION – Very low budget production – produced by VertigoFilms – untypical independent UK film funding – traditional film genre –guerrilla style filming3. DISTRIBUTION – Vertigo Films (UK) - Magnet Releasing (US)4. MARKETING - Interesting use film festivals to gain an internationalaudience – interesting use of foursquare social networking5. EXHIBITION – Exhibitors helped with localised marketing of the film6. DIGITAL – use of digital cameras to film – guerrilla style filming feasibleas cameras very light -
Case Study - Monsters• STORYLINE• Six years ago previously, a NASA probe returningto earth with samples of an alien life form,crashed over Central America. Soon after, new lifeforms began to appear, and half of Mexico wasquarantined as an INFECTED ZONE. Today, theAmerican and Mexican military still struggle tocontain "the creatures"... The story begins whena US journalist agrees to escort a shakenAmerican tourist through the infected zone inMexico to the safety of the US border.
• PRODUCTION• The film was devised, storyboarded and directed by GarethEdwards, who also worked as the visual effects artist.• Allan Niblo and James Richardson of Vertigo Films work asproducers on the production.• The filming equipment cost approximately $15,000, with the budgetcoming in at under $500,000.• USE OF DIGITAL - The film was able to be made on such a lowbudget due to the use of prosumer (Professional grade/Consumercost) cameras to capture digital video rather than more expensive35mm film.• Any settings featured in the film were real locations often usedwithout permission and the extras were just people who happenedto be there at the time.Case Study - Monsters
• PRODUCTION – GUERRILLA FILMMAKING• “We really set out to try and take a differentapproach with making this film. It’s all shot veryguerrilla-style, and apart from our main actors,everyone else is just ‘real people’ going abouttheir real lives, with the crazy sci-fi elementsadded later in the computer. The final effect issomething very subtle that I’m really proud of,but it’s hard to explain to people who haven’tseen it...”Case Study - Monsters
• INDEPENDENT, LOW-BUDGET PRODUCTION IS EASIER• “When you have a big crew, it becomes a bit restrictive. Shootingeverything guerrilla-style means you can go with the flow and haveideas on the spot. The best, most realistic stuff in the film camefrom moments that happened by accident as we were shooting.Because of my background in digital effects, I could just roll with it,knowing I’d be able to manipulate scenes later in the computer tobetter fit our sci-fi/horror genre.”• THE TYPICAL BIG-BUDGET MOVIE• "Sometimes youd have 100 people on the set and youd ask, Canwe do this? Can we do that? And theyd say, No, we cant, becausewed have to move all these people. Its too expensive and it wouldtake too long. That felt very back to front: to be told you cant dosomething because youre spending too much money. Shouldnt itbe the other way round?"Case Study - Monsters
Case Study - Monsters• PRODUCTION• The film was shot in Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, CostaRica and Texas over three weeks.• For about 90% of the filming the crew comprised sevenpeople transported in one van: Ian Maclagan (soundoperator), Jim Spencer (line producer), Verity Oswin,the Mexican fixer, the director, a driver, and Able andMcNairy, the stars.• As the low-budget production didnt run to a cameradolly, Edwards made do by sticking the camera out ofthe van window, cushioned on some bundled-upclothing.
Case Study - Monsters• PRODUCTION• Most of the extras were non-actors who were persuaded tobe in the film.• "As a result of all this random behaviour, the idea ofscripting the film went out of the window. Instead I had aloose paragraph describing the scene with just the mainpoints that had to be hit; how the actors carried this outwas left up to them."• Each night during the shooting period, the editor ColinGoudie and his assistant Justin Hall would download thedays footage so the memory sticks could be cleared andready for the next days filming.• While new footage was being captured, the previouslycaptured footage was being edited back at the hotel inwhich the production team was staying.
• SWSX FILM FESTIVAL PREMIERE• “I’m a massive fanboy myself, and genuinelycan’t think of a better audience to premierethis film to. I don’t believe our film reallyhangs on a particular detail or piece ofinformation; it’s a lot more about theatmosphere and journey of following thesecharacters through this crazy situation.”Case Study - Monsters
• WHAT IS THE SXSW FILM FESTIVAL• The first South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival(SXSW) was held in 1987 in Austin, Texas. The music eventhas grown from 700 registrants in 1987 to over 16,000registrants. As Austin has grown and diversified, filmcompanies and high-tech companies have played a majorrole in the Austin and the Texas economies.• In 1994, SXSW added a film and interactive component toaccommodate these growth industries. SXSWs original goalwas to create an event that would act as a tool for creativepeople and the companies they work with to develop theircareers, to bring together people from a wide area to meetand share ideas. That continues to be the goal todaywhether it is music, film or the internet.Case Study - Monsters
Case Study - Monsters• HOW THE FILM GOT AN AMERICAN DISTRIBUTOR• Within hours of its world premiere at SXSW Film Festival -Monsters was sold to the Wagner/Cuban Companys MagnetReleasing (genre arm of Magnolia Pictures) for North Americaand Mexico.• "We were blown away by Monsters - I cant think of a moreexciting addition to the Magnet slate. Gareth Edwards is anextraordinary talent and were thrilled to bring his vision toAmerican audiences."• Producers Allan Niblo and James Richardson commented:"Having kept the film a secret for so long, Vertigo is thrilled tohave Magnet not only discover it at this years SXSW butimmediately become our US partner on this groundbreakingmovie. We are all looking forward to releasing Monsterstogether onto an unsuspecting world."
Case Study - Monsters• WHO ARE THE AMERICAN DISTRIBUTORS?• Magnolia Pictures (www.magpictures.com) is thetheatrical and home entertainment distribution armof the Wagner/Cuban Companies, a vertically-integrated group of media properties co-owned byTodd Wagner and Mark Cuban that also includes theLandmark Theatres chain, and the high definitioncable network HDNet.• Magnolias releases include Lars Von TriersMelancholia, Blackthorn starring Sam Shepard, JoNesbos Headhunters, Marley the documentary,BAFTA winning Man on Wire, Bel Ami, etc.• What kinds of films do they release?
Case Study - Monsters• US Box Office - $237,301• UK Box Office - $1,442,663• International Box Office - $2,668,337• Shown in 25 screens in US… !• Cost $500,000 to make – have they made aprofit?• What revenue can they add to InternationalBox Office?
Case Study - Monsters• WHO WAS THE UK DISTRIBUTOR?• Vertigo Films is a UK Media company founded in 2002 to create anddistribute commercially driven independent cinema. 2010 was asensational year for Vertigo with Europes first 3D live action movie,STREETDANCE 3D, entering the UK Box Office charts at No.1 beatingDisneys Prince of Persia and becoming one of the most successfulUK independent films of all time.• In addition, Vertigos co-production MONSTERS receivedexceptional buzz, acclaim and a host of awards including threeBritish Independent Film Awards.• Films in production in 2011 include a big screen adaptation of themuch anticipated THE SWEENEY, written and directed by Nick Loveand starring Ray Winstone and Plan B as the infamous Regan andCarter. And STREETDANCE 2 from the same team that brought youthe original with glitzy European locations and the best dancers inthe world.
Case Study - Monsters• PRODUCTION – HOW DIGITAL WILL CHANGE THINGS!• “The history of cinema has always been anindustrial process where you neededhundreds of people to make a movie, andthats just not true any more. Now you canjust do it with a handful.”
Case Study - Monsters• PRODUCTION & DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY• “Theres more processing power in a decentPC now than it took to make Jurassic Park.Monsters was made using Adobes AfterEffects software, a widely available cousin ofPhotoshop. Finding no plug-in for aliententacles, I adapted a program that modelsrope. The CGI planes and cars you see were allbought off the internet.”
Case Study - Monsters• WHAT DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY OFFERS• “Anyone who says they know whats going to happen infilm-making is lying, but its definitely changing. Itreminds me of that era when people like Spielberg andScorsese turned up, when the studios didntunderstand this new young audience and all thosepeople got a chance to play and make artistic films. Noones too sure what the futures going to be, so if youcan grab a camera and tell a story, theres a goodchance you can do something. In the chaos, theresalways opportunity.”
Case Study - Monsters• PRODUCTION – THINGS ARE CHANGING…• Right now, there are a number of companieschasing the success of last years ParanormalActivity and District 9, realizing that the idea ofwhat you can do on film and how much you canmake certain films for has changed.• Paramounts got a new division that wants tomake ten movies for a total of a million dollars.• This is what independent filmmaking in the 21stcentury is going to look like.
Case Study - Monsters• DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY - CGI• Once the film was locked, Edwards had fivemonths to create all 250 visual effects shots, aprocess he undertook in his bedroom.• "[I was] churning out about two shots a day,which was fine until I got to the first creatureshot. Then suddenly two months went by and Istill hadnt finished a single creature shot; itturned out to be the hardest part of the wholeprocess."
Case Study - Monsters• EXHIBITION• Monsters premiered at the South by Southwest FilmFestival on 13 March 2010.• On 17 March, Magnet Releasing acquired the rights for theNorth American distribution.• In May, the film was screened at the Cannes Film Market.• Monsters had its UK premiere as part of the 64th EdinburghInternational Film Festival, on 18 June 2010.• The films theatrical release took place in Russia on 30September, distributed by Volgafilm and was released inthe UK on the 3rd December.• Magnolia Pictures released Monsters in U.S. theatres on 29October 2010.
Case Study - Monsters• DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY - VIRAL MARKETING• What is Foursquare?• Foursquare is a location-based social networkingwebsite (www.foursquare.com) and set of mobileapplications.• The concept is for users with GPS-enabledsmartphones to ‘check-in’ when they are at certainvenues. This allows their friends to see where they areor have been, and lets people leave tips and reviewsabout places they have visited.• Along with the social interactions, it also allows usersto interact with venues - who can track the visits, andalso offer incentives for visitors and repeat visits
Case Study - Monsters• DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY - VIRAL MARKETING• To promote the theatrical release, the film’s distributor,Vertigo Films, teamed up with the digital agencyThinkjam to conceive a location-based campaign thatwould draw on the film’s central themes.• The activity was through the location-based socialnetworking site Foursquare, and was designed to boostoverall visibility of the film and add an element ofsomething new and exciting to the main, moretraditional PR campaign, which tied in with the‘infected zones’ elements of the film.• All activity was intended to drive people to the cinemaon the night of release on December 3rd.
Case Study - Monsters• Key aims were:• a presence on the latest platform in socialnetworking• continuous direct communication with customers• to raise awareness of cinemas showing the filmand their locations• to encourage bookings at those cinemas• to have the option for developing furtherpromotions for members• and also encourage new members
Case Study - Monsters• Wider aims included:1. fuelling debate and discussion around the film2. highlighting the film’s originality and uniquefilmmaking process3. pushing Gareth Edwards as a talented directorto watch4. generating sustained coverage on bothmainstream and niche tastemaker sites
Case Study - Monsters• Campaign Stage 1: Education / teaser• The teaser press release was sent out to notifyonline publications of the Foursquareinitiative. Information remained vague at thisstage, with fans only being made aware of‘infected zones’ being created in select Vueand Cineworld venues across the country, aswell as a number of independent zones.
Case Study - Monsters• Campaign Stage 2: Adventure• Week 2 users were engaging with thepromotion, logging in to infected zones across thecountry. Random prizes were awarded to thosewho emailed the email address left in all infectedzone tips.• To reward early adopters, an exclusive clip wasmade available through Foursquare. The exclusiveclip also warranted a second press release whichhelped entice publications to push to theFoursquare profile for readers to catch a sneakpeak.
Case Study - Monsters• Campaign Stage 3: The Big Reveal• For the week before release, the 10 swarmsites that would be giving users the discountcode were revealed. This was done via the fulltrade press release as well as a general PRrelease which generated further news stories.
Case Study - Monsters• Campaign Stage 4: Swarm!• For the week of release, the campaignunleashed limited infected zones that, whenchecking in as part of a group or ‘Swarm’ andunlocking a badge, allowed bulk discount ontickets. All PR messaging included links andinformation of the Foursquare presence. Theactivity was covered by select press inviteddown to Vue Westfield.
Case Study - Monsters• PROBLEMS WITH THE INNOVATIVE MARKETING• The key promotion for the release was to run the Foursquareactivity over consecutive weeks and although the end result wasnot what Vertigo had hoped for, it still raised awareness, generatedPR coverage and drummed up a wealth of buzz in appropriateforums.• The campaign required early buy-in from exhibitors, as specific sitesneeded to be identified for Foursquare set-up.• This was a problem as the exhibitors were yet to adopt Foursquareand the site list was not confirmed with Vertigo until two weeksprior to release.• Vertigo found exhibitors sceptical to begin with, but they achievedbuy-in from Vue and Cineworld.• Despite this, in the end the biggest problem on the release datewas the weather, with up to 10cm of snow causing major transportissues and low turnouts for films across the board.
Case Study - Monsters• RESULTS• The film’s box office for the opening weekend was just over £1m.Overall performance of the film was affected by the extremeweather. For the weekend of release there were no prints in Irelandor Edinburgh due to courier deliveries being suspended. Vertigoestimate to have lost 30% of opening Box Office due to the weather.• Although the night of 3rd December didn’t produce the number ofcheck-ins to the cinemas that had been anticipated, the overallcoverage it received, and its contribution to the increase inawareness of the film in the run-up to the release, was a hugesuccess.• Vue Westfield was the most successful with 42 check-ins on theevening, despite very poor weather conditions. There were alsoincreased check-ins at Vue Leeds, Vue Bristol and CineworldEdinburgh.
Case Study - Monsters• Q. What was it that lead what shouldve been a big hit, to be just a sleeper hit?• In short, the film didnt have enough marketing muscle behind it.• It takes a lot of effort and money to generate awareness and interest for a film,especially if that film is 1) an original property 2) lacks a major director or stars 3)has a difficult or uninteresting premise and 4) lacks a natural audience that will seethe film.• The film was fraught with challenges.• Its a ‘monster movie’ but not really. Its supposed to have monsters but you cantsee any in the marketing materials (e.g. trailer). Lastly, is the film supposed to bean action movie/road movie/adventure/romantic drama?• Clearly, the former is the most commercial sell but that goes against what the filmtruly is.• Generally speaking, if audiences cant grasp what it is youre selling, they will notvote with their wallet.• Unless the film is truly great and generates substantial word-of-mouth, a small-scale film wont remain in cinemas very long because exhibitors will replace it infavour of something that will make money (thereby sealing its fate).