Variety’s donation to Inner-City Arts in my name

By Joy A. Kennelly

Finally picked up my mail the other day and one of the nice cards I received was from “Everyone in the Features Department” of Variety. I don’t know everyone there, but thank you for thinking of me!

It was especially gratifying to see that a donation to Inner-City Arts had been made in my name. Here’s the description from their web site:

Inner-City Arts offers opportunities for children to build artistic self-expression, enhancing their ability to perform both creatively and academically in challenging environments. Our children learn to communicate feelings and ideas in the universal language of art, and are empowered to apply the skills they have learned to their regular academic programs. Most importantly, children are able to see themselves as valuable, worthy and capable of reaching goals.

We believe that the arts are vital for personal and cultural development and they connect the individual to their community and to the larger world. Our philosophy is that by validating the creative impulses and uniqueness of each student, we provide a bridge between the artistic experience and the development of the whole child and increased academic achievement.”

Variety was very thoughtful to choose a charity that I personally can recommend because of the art influence. Now perhaps when other artists, philanthropists, business people, and others read this blog they will be inspired to get involved in some small way.

Thanks Variety Features Department!

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Jeffrey Godsick, President of Marketing Fox/Walden – Marketing to Children

By Joy A. Kennelly

Listening to President of Marketing for Fox/Walden, Jeffrey Godsick, speak last week, I thought it very funny that although the Internet is hugely popular and only becoming more so, he hated it and didn’t want to know about it, just hired people who knew it and let them run with it. That always makes me chuckle.

When I attended the Online Media, Marketing and Advertising Conference this past year, it was amazing to me how behind a lot of the major studios are in regards to internet marketing. Makes it obvious why the Writer’s Strike had to happen and why it’s taking so long to get resolved. If you don’t understand something, wouldn’t you stall too?

However, that’s a story for another day. Today I want to discuss Godsick’s conversation (during the Entertainment Public Relations class I have been taking over at UCLA Extension lead by Julian Myers) because he’s quite knowledgeable overall and very generous with his wisdom.

Running a new division, his goal is to produce and market five-seven films a year in the near future. Currently, they produce about two to three. What I found interesting with their development process is that eight people from all areas of this company – marketing, finance, production, and others sit in on the development process and have a say in what gets green lit and what doesn’t.

Maybe that happens in other studios too, but when I was working for FOX in Creative Development years back with Stu Smiley and Nena Rodrigue, that department seemed very separate from the rest of the departments. I doubt marketing had any say in anything until the TV show was in the can.

Maybe it’s different in film and maybe my memory fails me, but I thought Fox/Walden had a very unique business style they’ve incorporated in their 20 person division. Asking the question, “Who are you making the film for?” seems rudimentary, but so often people just slap something together hoping they’ll find their audience.

To start out with that basic premise seems extremely savvy which I believe has helped them become successful so quickly.

The other aspect I found very interesting, having enjoyed Walden Media’s film, The Chronicles of Narnia, is that Walden has their own book publishing entity. They may not publish very many books now, but the potential is huge. Especially since they can turn the book into a film immediately and have ancillary products to market simultaneously.

I find that rather brilliant.

When asked why certain films weren’t dumped when it was discovered they would tank in the box office, Jeffrey explained that films are the only product that are made without testing. If you dump it, then you lose the threshold sales and prevent DVD recognition and then you really don’t make your money back. Makes sense to me.

He thought the shortened window between the film being in the theaters and now out on DVD was insane. His desire was that the movie experience be extended to three to five months or longer. I agree.

One of the unusual tactics they employed with their recent Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium film starring Dustin Hoffman was to cut their TV promo’s to 7.5 seconds to allow for each special effect moment to have it’s own “magical” presentation. On some it worked, but others were cut short due to mechanical restrictions when aired.

Although Jeffrey has difficulty with the Internet he does embrace Digital as the future of how we’ll view films. I agree, but we’ve all been saying that for years! I believe it will take a few more years to really make that turn-over in the actual theaters a reality. Apparently the new Landmark Theater over on Pico and Overland is digital. Now I really must check it out!

Overall, he was extremely informative and gave a broad overview of many different areas of publicity and marketing. He was very enjoyable to listen to and learn from. I wouldn’t mind working at his company!

Dawn Allen, Director, Film & TV of Variety speaks at UCLA Extension Entertainment Publicity Class

By Joy A. Kennelly

Director of Film & TV for Variety Magazine, Dawn Allen, came bearing gifts for Julian Myer’s entire Entertainment Publicity UCLA Extension Class the other night. Realizing you need to build your audience when they’re starting out, she gave us all t-shirts, caps, pens, magazines, and press kits to impress upon us the value of advertising in Variety.

Rapidly quoting prices of what a cover, an inside cover, a back cover, and inserts would cost, Dawn Allen explained how advertising works for the entertainment industry from her perspective which was very comprehensive given her tenure in the business.

At one point I was prompted to ask if anyone from Variety’s Board of Directors was involved in the Academy Oscars decision making because she and her company definitely benefit from all the restrictions the Oscars place on how people receive copies of films during awards season.

Due to the fact everyone must only send out plain, simple black encased copies of their films as screeners on their own, everyone can go crazy with visuals and creative ways of getting their movies and soundtracks noticed by 40,000 key decision makers in the entertainment industry when they advertise in Variety.

Granted it costs much more to advertise in Variety vs. doing a mass mailing, but which direct mail piece do you think will be read and remembered come Oscar time? Exactly. Variety, hands down.

According to Dawn, an Oscar has a financial impact on the film for the entire life of the film which is why people are willing to pay upwards to 3 million for a 3 month campaign. When I hear numbers like that I can only think of how many charities and good causes that money would help, but it’s not my budget, so it’s none of my business. Right now Dawn thinks that Juno might be the next Little Miss Sunshine.

(Side note, the Director, Jason Reitman, was part of my Short Pictures International Film Festival – SPIFF, and won an award even back then. I found him recently on Myspace and he remembered winning at my film festival which was nice. He’s extremely talented and I wish him much success.)

She also explained the various ways people can be persuaded to advertise giving Will Smith‘s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as an example. She contacted his Business Manager, his Agent, and anyone else connected to him to see if they’d like to place an ad congratulating their client – who’s going to say no?

I think she’s extremely talented at figuring out the best way to market a film and if the entire Variety advertising revenue stream is $60 million dollars, I can only imagine her salary since she’s been with the company for so long.

But again, that’s none of my business, right?

The Two Major Shifts in Entertainment Publicity according to Cheryl Boone Isaacs & John De Simeo

By Joy A. Kennelly

Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Cheryl Boone Isaacs, “a governor representing the public relations branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on its board,” speak in Julian Myers’ Entertainment Public Relations UCLA Extension class.

We had worked together on The Ghost and The Darkness back when she was the head of Paramount Pictures Publicity and I was working at Sony Pictures Imageworks promoting the visual effects team of the film and their behind-the-scenes work.

It was nice to see her again and to have her remember me even though it was so long ago. She shared with the class that there were two major shifts in film publicity from studios to films and celebrities, with celebrities dominating publicity now. Fellow panelist, John De Simeo, agreed.

The stars are now blamed for the failure of a film and they referenced Tom Cruise‘s involvement in the recent Lions for Lambs despite Robert Redford and Meryl Streep both being in it as well. American Gangster was referenced as a great film which Ridley Scott approached perfectly due to time and space.

The other shift both speakers saw was how technological advances affect how the public receives information on films explaining it’s akin to being a good ballerina now and needing to keep on your toes, or being a fireman where you’re constantly putting out fires in an attempt to control the publicity.

Wrapping up the hour-long conversation, Boone-Isaacs asked the class how we received our entertainment information and TMZ came out on top surprisingly enough.

Blogs that were highlighted included Nikki Finke’s blog, Deadline Hollywood Daily, and Box Office Mojo, where you can learn all about box office stats, and Young, Black and Fabulous, one of the hottest black celebrity gossip sites on the net.

Product Placement/Integration/Embedded Brand Exposure by Brad Brown of Brown Entertainment Group

By Joy A. Kennelly

Brad Brown of Brown Entertainment Group has a long history of branding Pepsi in films and TV shows and was another recent guest speaker in Julian Myer’s Entertainment Publicity UCLA Extension Class.

I had previously met Brad at an informative technology salon that Ken Rutowski used to host. Brad has faithfully attended every UCLA class to assist Julian, but this particular evening he presented his “Guidelines for Product Placement” which was very informative.

Here are some of his secrets. The first step is to read the script and then learn everything you can about the film – who is in the cast, the crew and the budget. What I found interesting is that he suggested finding out the tensions on the set. I don’t remember why, but I did notate it in my notes.

He also suggested trying to see the film early, follow the reviews of the film and track the opening weekend box office. Production resources determine what goes where. He also suggested being cautious of negative or extreme scenes, any nudity, and don’t place your products with any bad guys to avoid your product receiving negative publicity.

The main objective of product placement is 1.) to receive positive setting in the film, 2.) at a pivotal story point, 3.) with a verbal mention. He shared a sizzle reel with numerous examples from all the films he had strategically placed Pepsi in over the years which was fascinating since many were familiar to everyone.

Who knew while watching a film in its entirety that someone was behind-the-scenes ensuring that Pepsi, or any number of products, was strategically placed where it just seems natural to see the product, and when the scene and the product is seen individually, out of context it’s a blatant commercial. Very interesting.

For such a quiet, polite gentleman, Brad Brown is a very dynamic behind-the-scenes man.

The Marketing of American Gangster as told by Publicist Roz Stevenson

By Joy A. Kennelly

American Gangster has become the iconic film to discuss at every Julian MyersEntertainment Public Relations UCLA Extension Class this semester. We were privileged to hear African-American Publicist for the film, Roz Stevenson of Roz Stevenson PR, share how she approached the public relations campaign for such a potentially controversial film.

She has enjoyed an amazing career representing numerous African-American and Studio-driven films over the years for all the major studios. Just this year alone, her firm has publicized such titles as:

American Gangster, Universal; The Kingdom, Universal; Who’s Your Caddy, Weinstein; Transformers, Paramount; Talk to Me, Universal Focus; Evan Almighty, Universal; Knocked Up, Universal; Grindhouse, Weinstein; Are We Done Yet, Sony; I Think I Love My Wife, Fox Searchlight; Norbit, Paramount; Breach, Universal; Smokin’ Aces, Universal; and Alpha Dog, Universal to name a few.

“The firm’s goal is to provide special handling of and create a greater awareness of films in the African-American community by providing coverage in appropriate magazines and newspapers, on radio and television shows, as well as web sites,” according to her official web-site.

The evening she spoke to us, she shared all the unique avenues she pursued to spread the word on American Gangster including the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the HipHop Summit, the Congressional Black Caucus, National Black Arts Festival, Gospel Music Workshop, Toronto Film Festival, syndicated radio outlets including Doug Banks, Steve Harvey and Tom Leykis’ shows, and over 200 weekly black newspapers.

I bet you didn’t know the African-American media was so strong did you? Well it is and Roz has over 20 years experience promoting films to this market. She is the one to call when your film focuses on this demographic.

Very delightful, humble woman.