Tuesday, October 11, 2011

To Mislead, or Not to Mislead: Surviving Georgia Producer Speaks Out

Last week Stale Popcorn broke the story (for once the word "EXCLUSIVE!" could be hailed about a news item I posted) of the Aussie film with the misleading marketing. If you recall, the trailer and poster hailed a four-star quote from "The Guardian", which was actually nothing of the sort. Rather, it was an anonymous user comment on the film's Guardian website that hailed the low budget Australian feature as a film that "....touches the heart and leaves you with a smile", whilst attributing a 4 star rating a whole four months ahead of it's local debut. Well after we wrote about it here, the story caught on with discussions continuing on Twitter, Facebook and websites Crikey and Cinema Quest.

Well, now producer/actor/distributor Spencer McLaren has spoken to Encore Magazine about the issue and... well, take a look. It's a doozy.
When Encore suggested that attributing the quote to a publication such as The Guardian was deceptive to the public, McLaren claimed: “It was not The Guardian, but Guardian.co.uk. But we contacted The Guardian to let them know. I think, what’s occurred, is it’s been accredited wrong. We’ve had different marketing people at different times. Ultimately it’s our fault as producers to cross-reference, that’s where the responsibility lies.”
He also claims that the initial furor (McLaren only cites Luke Buckmaster - what am I? No good? Oh woe is me!) as "some Machiavellian plot to mislead the public" and that “We’ve now got plenty of great reviews. So it’s not like we need it.” It's this latter quote that strikes me as both dismissively insulting, but also incredibly stupid. If they thought they had a great product that was capable of garnering plaudits from critics then why wasn't Surviving Georgia shown to them any earlier than two weeks before release (the earliest Melbourne media screening was held on 29 September). Why weren't the producers and distributors using grass roots techniques to get word of mouth going? Sending screeners to potentially influential critics and writers in order to get words online? I suspect it's because they knew their film wasn't good enough, that's why. These so called "great reviews" amount to some nice comments at Citysearch and this from Buzz Magazine.

Meanwhile, there has been no mention whatsoever of the issue on the film's official Twitter and Facebook pages, but the offending quote has indeed been removed from the official website and replaced with a simple 3-star review from Empire without an attached quote. Lastly, I went to the Yarraville Sun yesterday to see a movie and what should I see hanging up in several locations? The poster featuring the same four-star review discussed.



Anonymous said...

This is actually hilarious. Saying that it was "Guardian.co.uk", not "The Guardian" is a laughable excuse. They knew exactly what they were doing - and that anyone who saw the citation wouldn't know the difference between the two.

Furthermore, passing the buck back to the reviewers as some kind of machiavellian scheme is deflecting any sense of responsibility. Own it guys - you have a dud film, you created your own review on the Guardian website to give it some legitimacy and you were caught out.

This isn't even delving into the hilarious "user review" on imdb too... what kind of audience member comes out of a film and writes glowingly that they saw a film that "knows its market"???

Also, one out of those 2 good reviews you quote above is written by a friend of Spencer McLaren's (the citysearch one).

The film is a lemon.

Anonymous said...

C'mon Glenn. I agree the attributing of the quote to Guardian.co.uk was likely to mislead. However a quick google revealed that the film screened at the London Barbican Film Festival on May 6th prior to the anonymous comment on the Guardian's website. So I can't see how your comment "a whole four months ahead of it's local debut" has anything to do with it.

And while you seem to dismiss the Citysearch and Buzz magazine reviews to help your case, I see Filmink has also done a review and Urbancinefile reviewed it after a screening at Dungog in 2010 a whole year and a half before local release (google is my friend again, although I couldn't find the Empire one). Why didn't you mention these reviews also?

Finally, do you think a small film has the money to reprint all their advertising this close to release (the Nova website has it opening this Thursday) as you seem to suggest at the bottom of your post? I mean, if the film doesn't make money because it's shit then fair enough. But don't you think small features, Aussie or otherwise, have enough hurdles to overcome? Shouldn't we support film? Of course, ideally we should support good film and better yet great cinema rather than supporting it for it's own sake or simply because it's Australian. As for me, I wish I had the time to see more Australian films because while unfortunately some are rubbish, some are genuinely good but disappear due to insufficient marketing smarts or budget, or public apathy. By all means put the boot in if the film stinks, but I note you don't intend to see the film anyway.

Don't get me wrong. I agree the quote doesn't look good at all. You could have a killer article on your hands here, and you've certainly generated plenty of Twitter traffic, but it didn't take me long to find the other reviews and the Barbican screening so, ironically, given the title of your post, I find your post a little misleading.

Genuinely, keep up the good work though

Glenn Dunks said...

Anon 2

I take your point re the film's screening at this film festival, but it still all seems a bit fishy.

As for the reviews, I didn't dismiss them (I happen to know Tim Hunter of Citysearch, he's a great bloke), merely that one review and a discussion on the romantic comedy genre don't really account to many great reviews, and those were the ones the Facebook page is touting. Why not use that Urban Cinefile review as their quote? Why use this one from the Guardian website? It makes no sense.

I don't expect all the posters to be taken down and altered, it's just annoying seeing the poster in the cinema and know people will be mislead.

As for supporting Australian film. You obviously don't read my site enough because I am actually one of the biggest champions of local film. I don't know too many websites that write about Australian cinema as much as I do.

Anonymous said...

I noticed on Screen Hub yesterday there was a reference to a "storm in a teacup" or somesuch language over the film.

I'm with Glenn all the way on this topic. To brush aside such a cynical action as "mix-up" or whatever the words used is nonsense. It's gross misrepresentation of a credible journal's name to promote a product that would never get a mention in said journal.

Sure, don't re-print posters as you're on a very small budget, but at least cop to the bust, and have a friend cover up the false quote in some way - takes 5 minutes.

And as anonymous # 1 said, a faked up "friend" review on IMDB, or anywhere really, stands out like dog's balls. I'd be asking friends not to do it at all, cause professionals can see through that stuff in a flash. Or, if you're going to do it, at least study the style of a writer who really does post reviews cause they actually care.

Via Collins

Anonymous said...

I saw at a Q&A with some of the cast, the two people that directed the film and the producer. The mediator made a point that, although marketed as a romantic comedy, it's not really funny. The writer said that she thought it was funny. I think she's delusional.

Questions focused on the plot holes, which the writer struggled to answer. They didn't even seem to care. "It's a cute little film", one of them said. Their apathy to this film is clearly demonstrated with this melodramatic, uneven, terribly acted and awfully scripted feature length episode of Neighbours, that sends the Australian film industry back decades.

The fact that you can see the end coming a mile away doesn't matter, because the plot is so uneven and structured so frantically that it's easier to give up completely on the narrative (inexplicable walk-out by a mother from her two daughters, told in a quick 5 minute opening, the lack of explanation covered up as "deliberately ambiguous" by the writer) and focus on the acting and the dialogue. "You gotta be bloody kiddin' me?" - Holly Vallance couldn't act on Neighbours and she hasn't improved at all since then. Pia Miranda is OK, but the script keeps telling her to interrupt character's when they're talking ("I need you to just let me just read this, OK?") and say lines like "the hole in my heart has been fixed".

The trailer for Surviving Georgia is like a microcosm of the film itself. It's scattered all over the place. A sappy melodramatic score, then quirky fun music. In one scene, Holly Valance is hiding under a table in a scene that attempts at humour, but then the next scene completely changes pace, and aims to be a sad, emotional one. Then there was a bizarre suicide attempt?!

The audio sounded dubbed - when the camera is inside a room, looking out a window at character's talking outside, it's OK to make the audio a bit muffled because that's what it would sound like. It doesn't have to sound like the camera is outside with them! Things like that remind you that you're watching a movie.

Outside on a balcony, Holly Vallance and Pia Miranda are talking, and upstairs, the little kid kind of acts like he's having fun outside, or that he's gonna jump or, I don't know, it's not clear - and Holly goes, "we're not birds!". A few of us kind of looked around and thought - wtf? Is it sloppy writing, or are the writer's just effing with us and seeing who will notice the anomalous dialogue?

I'll mention the cinematography is pretty amazing, and I thought to myself that the guy filming this must hate that he was surrounded by such talentless hacks.

People are really struggling for funding from Film Victoria and the other Aussie film funding bodies, and the fact that they gave money to this travesty is infuriating - real, creative, thought-provoking and ENTERTAINING films are forced to sit in the minds of up and coming, struggling filmmakers, and the real trash like this gets put on the big screen, it's a very sad time for the Australian film industry.