How not to blog

Ok, give the guy some credit for trying to do right. Tim Story, director of the Fantastic Four sequel has got a blog on his MySpace page on which he’s trying to keep fans up to date on the filming and apparently getting ideas from them. But he’s also demonstrating a cardinal no-no of blogging: not posting. Since September 3rd there’s been one post, about 3 weeks ago. It was brief and apologized for not blogging more often.

I think this is a classic problem. Everyone suspects that blogging might be a good thing to do. Build fan commitment, generate buzz, all that. But blogging takes time and commitment. If you post once a month, people give up on checking in before long. Buzz doesn’t build, it fizzles. Are they better off doing nothing? Well, a regularly updated web site that doesn’t pretend to be a blog might be a better way to go about it. That way the same thing looks like a nice monthly effort to keep in touch instead of a failed effort to create an ongoing person-to-person relationship with fans.

I don’t mean to pick on Story, my point is that this happens all the time and it doesn’t have to if you understand the different expectations and requirements of different online venues, realistically assess what you have the resources to maintain, and pick the right one.

Invent a Character tie-in for Nightmare Before Christmas

Cinematic Happenings Under Development reports on and participates in a fun contest taking advantage of fan creativity in promoting a re-release of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas:

Calling all artists, designers, creative geniuses, film lovers and NIGHTMARE fans! This is your chance to create an original character for Walt Disney Pictures’ holiday classic, TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, making its return to the big screen this month in stunning Disney Digital 3-D. You are free to create the scariest, creepiest, most inspired character you can think of that fits into the world of Tim Burton’s beloved film. Your submission will be judged based on creativity, originality, and the unique features of the character.

We will select one winner from the submissions. Along with the winners from 4 other sites, these five finalists will be judged by the filmmakers of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. One grand prize winner and 4 second-prize winners will be announced on the site during the week of Halloween.

Of course, the winner’s character doesn’t get to appear in the film and the legal boilerplate about you-don’t-own-anything-at-all-about-what-you-submit is long enough to make the head spin, but still, it’s yet another way in which film-makers are reaching out to fans and taking advantage of their talents in ways that can benefit both producers and fans. Better still would be to create a system where people could view one another’s entries instead of the expert judges model — then you could get the whole community thing happening.

Community first, Movie second

Here’s an article about, a site designed to make a movie from the fans up:

Established in 2004, Ckrush started out as a sports promotion company but quickly evolved into an entertainment group, producing three independent feature films in two years. First up is “Beer League,” a raucous baseball comedy starring Artie Lange of “The Howard Stern Show,” which opens today. Second is “National Lampoon’s Pledge This,” featuring celebutante Paris Hilton as a queen bee sorority girl. Third is “TV: The Movie,” another comedy starring the cast of “Jackass.”

The most exciting film project on Ckrush’s slate, however, will go into production at the end of spring 2007. “LiveMansion: The Movie” is the company’s fourth and most highly anticipated feature production because it involves a new and highly innovative model for filmmaking: It will be produced, almost entirely, by members of an online community.

Sorta American Idol meets Soaps On A Plane via MySpace?

If you always wanted to break into film but didn’t know how, it’s not too late to hop on over and sign up…

Quick take on the SoaP backlash

News reports are giddy with glee that SoaP, while opening at #1, didn’t do as well as was anticipated at the box office. I have a few quick takes on this that I want to throw out.

First, I’m struck by a parallel with the way the press treats political blogs. There’s a very ambivalent relationship — blogs are a novel and timely topic to write about in the news. Things like the SoaP phenomenon shaking up Hollywood, or grassroots citizens organizing through blogs in ways that shake up the political establishment, make fun stories and keep everyone feeling appropriately current. But at the same time, if bloggers are really going to start being driving forces in politics, that’s pretty disruptive not just to the political establishment but also to the press. So even as the press goes to bloggers for their stories, they also expend a lot of energy disparaging their value to public discourse. In the same way, fan activity that disrupts Hollywood also disrupts the priviledged position of professional film critics (who were not invited to prescreenings of SoaP). So at the same time it’s great storytelling to build up the Soaps on a Blog thing, if participatory fandom really works well, it can also be a great big threat to the same people who are telling those stories. That’s why I think they’re so happy it’s merely going to be profitable and not a block buster.

Second, I remember back in the 90s everyone was always fretting about how the internet turns everyone into overactive flamers. Turned out there really weren’t all that many people being obnoxiously argumentative and insulting online, but flames were so visible and emotionally salient, it seemed like there were zillions and everyone was doing it (cite: Martin Lea & Russell Spears). I wonder if the visibility and interest-value of the online SoaP phenomenon led people to overestimate the real number of individuals who were involved.

A pair of nice reads on Snakes on a Plane and online fandom

Here is a somewhat-less-hypefilled-than-the-norm look at some of the questions raised by The Snakes on A Plane/Snakes on A Blog phenomenon:

Regardless of how the movie turns out, a line is being crossed here, and it raises questions that don’t have quick answers. Should audiences have a hand in how a movie is made, even an out-and-out crowd-pleaser? At what point does a director become part of the marketing team? Is this a bad thing or does it just rubber-stamp a practice increasingly part of the cost-conscious film industry? Can studios even hope to control the use of the blogosphere as a marketing tool? They’ll certainly try.

“I’ve gotten calls from filmmakers asking how we can do this again,” says‘s Finkelstein.

“I’m sure you’ll see other movies with silly titles. The very smart thing New Line did, though, was to do nothing. No posters, no trailers. They recognised people were attracted to it on their own. And people, online especially, are very aware of what’s organic and what’s false, and if it’s false they shy away.”

For a sharp academic analysis, see Henry Jenkins’s take on how this phenomenon combines fan power, trash-media aesthetics, fan-made media, and a Hollywood that was game to play along.