Friday, April 16, 2010

Failed Marketing

High Fidelity is a good movie. There are a lot of layers to it. It isn't the deepest story I've ever seen, but it goes beyond the average—especially within its category. It is fair to call it a comedy. It is also fair to say it has a love story in it—perhaps it's even "romantic." However, it is not a "romantic comedy!" Why then, does the trailer make it look like one?

Fight Club is a good movie. Like High Fidelity, it connects with something deeper—and in this case, darker—in a man's soul. Fight Club is very violent, but it also possesses a humorous edge. The main character's struggle to find himself, is something that resonates with men trying to do the same. It is a cathartic home, if not a pathway to healing. It is especially valuable for a person seeking a solution use as a platform for discussion with a mentor. It is not, therefore, a simple action-flick. So why does the trailer make it look like one?

The answer is that there is no way to promote the sophistication of a given story in a short trailer. Never mind the fact that film marketers have little interest in or understanding of story depth, the medium of a trailer is more suited to the delivery of emotion than of rationale. Compounding the problem is the current MPAA rating system, which is a great system for gauging explicit content. It just is not equipped to gauge sophistication.

What I mean is this: a movie's rating is rarely left to chance. If they know what they're doing at all, then the producers have a target audience in mind for the production. If they want a broad audience, they will often plan to make a "PG-13" film. This eliminates the younger crowd, but still maintains a rather tame film (content-wise). However, because the rating allows those who are 13 to attend, the story must be crafted in such a way that 13 year-old can understand. This puts a limit on sophistication.

If a producer wishes to talk about deeper, more adult themes (story-wise), then he must work in several "F-bombs" or perhaps a contrived nude scene in order to achieve an "R" rating. This higher rating would eliminate "kids" from the theatre (supposedly, but that's another subject). However, the "R" rating does not ensure higher sophistication, it merely enables it. Therefore, when a trailer focuses on one-liners and violent images, there is no way to tell whether or not it is a "smart" film.

If the story is good enough, then it will eventually gain fans, win awards, and go mainstream. There is a big difference between violence, language, and nudity that serves the story and those that simply serve "entertainment." However, these smarter films suffer from a sleepy start because no one knows what to expect, and few stop to understand the value long enough to pass it on. I think many gems go needlessly unrewarded as a result.

What I propose is an additional "sophistication" rating. For example, if a person dislikes "R" rated content, but is dissatisfied with the lack of intellectual challenge in "PG-13" movies, that person should be able to select "PG-13" content with an "25+" story. By contrast, if a person has a high tolerance for "R" content, but isn't looking for a challenge, he should be able to select a movie with a "13-17" story.

This system would effectively liberate media creators to cater to either intellect or emotion. The natural flow of the market would prove which is more profitable or sustainable.
High Fidelity - Based on the book by Nick Hornby, this movie tells the story of Rob Gordon, audiophile and record-store owner, whose understanding of women is phenomenally dull. His intense emotions over a recent breakup lead him to examine his life, arriving at a simple yet profound understanding of relationships.
Fight Club - Based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk, this movie follows the meltdown of a frustrated corporate professional, who meets a soap salesman named Tyler. Together, the two found "Fight Club," an underground organization for men of similar ilk to vent their frustrations on one another, and eventually on the corporate world as a whole.

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