Sunday, 5 December 2010

Slumdog and Audience

Discuss the issues raised by the institution’s need to target specific audiences with a media industry you have studied

i.e. using the production of Slumdog Millionaire as your primary example.

Low budget compared with many average Hollywood film of $30-35m; approx $21m.

Production practices which allow for specific audiences – Original source material Vikas Swarup’s Q&A – written in a way to appeal to the largest audience possible – global standard English; look at the way the novel was altered and streamlined by Simon Beaufoy in the adaptation, increasing its appeal to a global audience;

Appeal to Indian audiences in India and in the West– setting and subject matter; some cast members are well-know in India - two of the cast were major Indian character actors – Amil Kaur and Irrfan Khan. Boyle worked with Tabrez Noorani - Line Producer who had worked in India and who had worked with Loveleen Tanda, who is credited as co-director (India) and Casting Director and who had worked with director Mira Nair to get a feel for the place and people. One third of film is in Hindi. When released in India, dubbed into regional languages to aid its reception.
Visual style - Danny Boyle studied examples of Indian cinema, including Mira Saiir’s Salaam Bombay! And was influenced by Ram Gopal Varma’s Company (2002), with its thrusting wide angles, overhead shots, and jump cuts.

Music - Boyle sent a rough cut on DVD to A. R. Rahman, major composer on the World Music scene who has scored many Indian films of varying styles and who has a huge fan base in India, so he could write a soundtrack – another selling point for the film. Rahman teamed up with M.I.A. for two tracks, thus adding to the movie’s appeal to an audience interested in World music. One track, Paper Planes, was nominated for a Grammy for Song of the Year.

Appeal to UK audience – several points of reference – things it would be familiar with – cricket, the conversation about Eastenders, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the call centre, Dev Patel – a known face on UK TV – appeals to 15-25 audience who are familiar with Skins. Danny Boyle is a name director and has had hits with Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, for example; 2/3 of the film is in English.

Universal appeal – Millionaire – a hit around the world, including the USA, the largest market; the love story, which was foregrounded by writer Simon Beaufoy; age of average cinemagoer in the west between 15-25 – film features a young cast, with the present day characters within that age range, allowing the audience to relate to them; Boyle has an international reputation; writer Simon Beaufoy is known for The Full Monty, formerly the most successful British film in the world; 2/3 of the film is in English

Universal style: Boyle’s flashy style - lots of moving camera shots, slow-mo, sped up shots, tilted camera, atmospheric lighting – has a lot in common with current American action films and TV – will appeal to Western audiences. Despite the fact that Boyle studied some Indian cinema, critic and theorist David Bordwell pointed out on his blog that although it’s set in India and filmed with an Indian crew (apart from Heads of depts) and a largely Indian cast, style is a hybrid of various styles common to many forms of cinema and television throughout the world. Bordwell claims Indian popular films have long been hybrids, borrowing from European and American cinema on many levels. Their mixture of local and international elements has helped the films travel overseas and become objects of adoration to many westerners.

Distribution and marketing strategies to raise audience awareness of specific products or types of products

How distributed – look at your notes to see how the film came to be marketed by the French company, Pathé (in Europe and the UK), and Warners in North America, until cutbacks meant the film might only hve been released on DVD in the USA, which would have had a drastic effect on their finances – then Warners allowed Coulson (from Celador) and Ross (from Film4) to show film to Fox Searchlight, which distributed much of Boyle’s earlier work, and an agreement was reached that left Warners with a stake but allowed Fox Searchlight distribution rights for North America.

Successful screening at film festivals – positive media and audience response, especially at Toronto Film Festival where it won the audience award– which garnered much positive publicity to help the film’s launch in North America - platform release in US and Canada – started in 10 screens on Nov 16; by Christmas week – 589 screens; 1500 by late January. 2900 in March after Oscar success. Big Indian population in several North American cities, especially in the northeast, helped its popularity – and, indeed, journalists catering for South Asian communities were invited to press screenings a month before the film’s release so they could do stories and raise awareness. Trailers were released in the US that weren’t accompanied by Indian music, in case some sections of the potential audience found that off-putting. Intensive media campaign throughout the US – TV, Print and online interviews (e.g one between Boyle and Oprah Winfrey) to promote the film – particularly on the Fox network; Fox website – trailers, interviews etc.

Rest of the world – released later. If it’s a success in the USA, other countries take notice. Wide release elsewhere – 324 screens in UK on Jan 9, building on success in US and Canada. Increased box office takings in first three weeks – number of screens increased as did takings – due to word of mouth and promotion on TV, radio, press.

Release in India on Jan 23rd – English language prints (still with 1/3 of the film in Hindi) in multiplexes in city centres; Hindi-dubbed prints in traditional cinemas in suburbs and in the country. English language version more popular and Hindi-version has been listed as an ‘average’ box-office performer – though this is quite an achievement as many Bollywood films are ‘flops’ or ‘disasters’.

The use of new technology to facilitate targeting of specific audiences

A variety of ways: - creation of standalone studio-sponsored per-film websites such as "" – which will include trailers, teasers, competitions, infiormation, stills, short excerpts, music etc
Viral marketing: free distribution of trailers on movie-oriented websites and video user-generated-content websites (e.g Youtube), and rapid dissemination of links to this content by email and blogs. Includes alleged leakage of supposed "rushes" and "early trailers" of film scenes.e.g.- a remixed viral trailer for the UK release of the Oscar-tipped Danny Boyle film Slumdog Millionaire, using only images and sounds from the film was produced by audiovisual artists Addictive TV. Addictive TV was approached by French film company Pathé and Boyle to create a mash-up video for Slumdog Millionaire to market it through online video sharing sites.The video can also be accessed in as a high quality version on YouTube.
The mobile phone is the ultimate platform for targeted advertising – trailers etc. How do you market a film these days? Billboards, newspapers and TV channels are everywhere. But none of them are right in front of your face all day; you don’t constantly check them. The same is not true of your mobile. It’s your most personal device, your conduit to the outside world. It’s a marketer’s dream location. e.g. Watchmen application for iPhones. There are superb visuals to work with from the graphic novel. Its main screen features one character watching a bank of TVs (the icons on the phone screen) - one of the recurring points in the graphic novel - and is scrollable. Clicking on those TVs releases further content, and when you return to the main screen, more TVs are available to click. Content available includes: trailers, “motion comics” that were developed from the original novel, photos, which are saveable to the Photo Library, character profiles, video journals, links which open up Safari (the internet).
Clearly, film studios want closer customer engagement. Marketing to your mobile is about as direct as they will get. But they have to make it worth our while. These apps will need to offer a genuinely interesting glimpse into the movie to come; and even so, they are likely to only have a short lifespan on our devices. The content needs to be accessible anywhere - not dependent on connectivity - is important. If I’m stuck in a mobile dead zone, and this promo app gives me nothing, that’s clearly no good; also, at the moment, you don’t see these sorts of apps on other mobile platforms - it’s only on the iPhone.

Other new technology - ads for films can be placed on social networking sites – targeted at specific age groups and gender based on information gathered on users’ profiles. What gave Slumdog so much momentum was word of mouth – supported by new technology – twitter, email, social networking sites, blogs. Mostly positive - so, everyone relevant (and not so relevant) had an opinion, and in today’s highly networked world, the buzz spread so fast.

Audience strategies in facilitating or challenging institutional practices
In the past, studios tended to control film publicity, allowing interviews and sending out press releases. Now, in the era of mass popular access to the internet, people express their views on films on blogs, social network sites etc and some have become well established enough to be accesses and referenced in newspaper reviews e.g. Ain’t It Cool News (; negative comments about Slumdog Millionaire were written by the Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan on his blog (stating that a film set in an Indian slum directed by an Indian wouldn’t get that much attention and pointing out that the deprivation shown in the film exists in cities in developed nations too) and then picked up by The Guardian in the UK, then commented on in their blogs, allowing more people to respond (although Bachchan later denied he had intended to be critical of the film), then referred to by film scholars like Roy Stafford and David Bordwell on their blogs.

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