Friday, October 29, 2010
Price Checking Free Speech
Posted by Courtney Small
Recently on the Puck Daddy Radio Show there was an interesting discussion on whether or not bloggers should put up a $10,000 bond to be allowed to cover professional sports. Globe and Mail writer Bruce Dowbiggin wrote a thought provoking piece regarding the fact that bloggers should face the same level of scrutiny, when it comes to things like slander, that journalist do. Currently bloggers can write whatever they want with very little repercussions, further more they often want to be treated like just regular journalist. What does this have to do with movies? A lot actually.
The movie industry is still trying to figure out how to handle the whole blogger situation. In many ways bloggers are the cockroaches to the industry’s messy house. There is no way to get rid of the bloggers and they seem to be expanding at an alarming rate. Worst of all, Hollywood still cannot figure out how bloggers help their bottom line financially. This past summer the one film that seemed to be on every bloggers tongue was Scott Pilgrim vs the World. The studio released a strong viral marketing campaign that was designed to attract both fans of the book and bloggers. Upon the film’s release it was unanimously well received from both critics and bloggers alike. Yet the film only managed to take the 5th spot in its opening weekend. Opening in 2,818 theatres Scott Pilgrim pulled in a disappointing $10,609,795. Clearly focusing on the bloggers did not payoff in the long run for the studio. Yet this is not the first time Hollywood has tried to appeal to the carnivorous blogging community.
When Snakes on a Plane was in production, bloggers had a field day ripping apart the “leaked” version of the script. Online chatter got so bad that the makers of the film decided to tailor the film more to the bloggers liking by playing up the camp factor. The blogging world was soon a buzz with positive anticipation to the point that mainstream media took noticed. Many where expecting Snakes on a Plane to be the first internet driven blockbuster but it bombed once it hit theatres. While the film opened in the number one spot, it made a mere $13,806,311 despite being in 3,555 theatres. At the end of its theatrical run, Snakes on a Plane barely made back its 33 million dollar production budget.
After all the fuss and discussions, most bloggers opted to wait for the film to hit video. Would the outcome of the film have been different if bloggers had waited for the final product to be released in its original form before passing judgment? Should the studio have the right to sue bloggers for loss of revenue due to the slanderous things that were being written about their film? Especially since there was no basis for the comments as Snakes on a Plane was still in the production stages?
Ever since the rise of websites like Ain’t It Cool News there has been an increased obsession with knowing every little detail about a film before it is even made. Just the mention of a possible casting will shoot the film to the top of some bloggers Oscar nomination discussions. The problem with the need to know culture is that certain bloggers feel that a sense of entitlement seems to come with it. Some bloggers believe it is their duty to break the news on everything from conceptual designs for costumes to script excerpts before the directors has even made his/her final decision. Again should bloggers be accountable for their actions? Should the film industry there be a crackdown on reckless blogging the way they are attempting to crackdown on pirated movies? It would be tough to do but if they really wanted to institute some sort of policing policy they could.
Now before the freedom of speech picket signs are hoisted in the air. Let me say I am not advocating that the film industry should go to these extremes. Yet keep in mind that most film critics and journalist have standards to which they must adhere. As most blogs tend to take a journalistic approach, whether it is general film coverage or criticism, bloggers need to be mindful that they are not immune to repercussions for their words, podcasts, etc. While bloggers tend to be more harm than good for the mainstream film industry, the one area where bloggers can do the most good is when it comes to film festivals. Not necessarily the behemoths like Cannes, TIFF, etc., put the smaller local festivals that play in certain communities. A lot of these independent festivals need bloggers to spread the word about the films and filmmakers. Even in these circumstances, heck especially in these circumstances, bloggers need to be careful not to resort to slander as they never know when it may come back to haunt them at least from a legal standpoint.