Episode 120 - Movie Social!!
Published November 6, 2014
SPECIAL GUEST: Eva Vanis. Social media isn't just reshaping our personal relationships, it's also changing the way that movies and other entertainment is made and marketed. We're joined by long-time listener and movie lover Eva Vanis to take a dive into how social media and websites, like Twitter, YouTube, Rotten Tomatoes, Kickstarter, and many others are changing the face of entertainment. Recorded 11/1/2014.
You can download the episode here.
Mike & Matt's Recommended Reading:
Eva on Twitter
Schmoes Know site
Schmoes Know podcast
Screen Junkies podcast
AMC Indpendent podcast
Jeremy Jahns on YouTube
Chris Stuckmann on YouTube
Rotten Tomatoes site
Alpha: Welcome to another episode of Robot Overlordz, episode #120. On the show, we take a look at how society is changing, everything from pop culture reviews to political commentary, technology trends to social norms, all in under 30 minutes, every Tuesday and Thursday.
Mike Johnston: I’m Mike Johnston.
Matt Bolton: And I’m Matt Bolton.
MJ: And joining us today is long time listener, Eva Vanis. Eva, thanks for joining us.
Eva Vanis: Thank you so much for having me.
MJ: So, what have you got for us to talk about today?
EV: I thought it would be a good topic to talk about how social media is affecting the film industry.
MJ: That is a good one. It’s definitely something both Matt and I are interested in.
EV: I know you’ve talked about this, or aspects of this, in other podcasts but you could do a two, three hour show on this. There’s so many different areas where this affecting the face of Hollywood, basically.
MJ: I think it’s pretty amazing how Twitter is being used by a lot of productions to engage directly with their fans. That’s obviously one of the bigger social media channels for brands to communicate.
EV: Absolutely. Actually, I was able to find the information -- it was actually the Russo brothers, I believe in either an interview or a tweet, they mentioned how they had worked tirelessly on cutting Captain America: Winter Soldier so it would be Honest Trailer-proof. I thought that was so interesting because that’s something that Twitter -- if your fans don’t like something, you will find out immediately through Twitter. If they like something you will find out immediately through Twitter. So, it’s such a great platform for movie fans like myself to stay connected to that world. And it’s instantaneous. We don’t have to wait around.
MJ: Well, it’s also -- in some of my communications classes in college, we used to use these terms, “time-binding” and “space-binding,” and Twitter is both. It binds together time and space, really. More space somewhat than time, just because it’s such a firehose of information that the tweets fly by really quickly. But there are tweets that can surface sometimes months or even years later.
EV: Yes, and speaking to the instantaneous tweets, recently this past week, with Marvel and DC announcements, I actually stayed home; I made a date to stay home so that I could have up-to-the-second information on the Marvel reveals and what they were talking about to the press because I couldn’t be there. So, I use Twitter and social media, it’s my link to that world that I’m so interested in, and it’s something that I can go back to any time. Like I said, I found that one -- actually, I’m sure there were dozens and hundreds of tweets about it, but that one article about making Captain America: Winter Soldier Honest Trailer-proof, I thought it was so cool. Everything is there. You just have to know where to look.
MB: I think with Twitter, like you said, when you get that instant gratification and you can find out instantly if a movie, not just the critics, but if a movie is worth your time and your money, I think that helps a lot. The other site that I go to a lot is Rotten Tomatoes because they have a really, really active and avid message board that people are constantly on, and even a message board for amateur filmmakers and things.
EV: Absolutely. I actually wanted to bring up Rotten Tomatoes too, because Rotten Tomatoes -- as you both know, one of my favorite movie reviewers on YouTube are the Schmoes Know from the Schmoes Know Network, and they were the first YouTube critics to be certified on Rotten Tomatoes because before them, they really weren’t putting a lot of stock into the online group of some, I don’t even want to call them critics really, they’re more film reviewers or movie reviews. But Rotten Tomatoes is such a great site for that information. But before that, before I had all this wealth of knowledge of where I could go and find my movie news and my reviews and all of that, I would go see these movies and be like “I cannot believe that I just spent $10, $12, sometimes depending on the movie, $15 to see something that was just horrible.” I hated the feeling of walking out of a movie like I actually supported something that bad because I didn’t know. Now I have this group of reviewers, and most of them are on YouTube, but I also do a lot of other online media sources, where I can see a general reaction to a movie and I can make my own decision based on that. I feel like I save so much money because of it. I’m also seeing movies that I would have not actually thought to see because they’re not in the genre that I’m interested in, but I’m really enjoying the experience because I’m being exposed to more independent films and films that are out of my norm.
MB: I think too the other thing Rotten Tomatoes has done, and it’s been awhile, but before Rotten Tomatoes or whatever, pretty much the only thing you had to rely on was either your local newspaper or Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, some kind of movie review show. Otherwise, you really didn’t have any way of knowing if a movie was going to be good or not. There are a lot of movies that I love that I disagree with Siskel and Ebert on or whatever. So, now you’ve got hundreds of movie reviewers and you can see there’s always going to be that very rarely do you either get a 100% or 0%, there’s always a -- but you can kind of tell something is, with a fresh tomato, you can kind of see. The other site is IMDb, because there you have non-professional movie reviewers, you just have other filmgoers just like you, where you can see their reviews.
MJ: Or even Amazon really, because Amazon does that too.
MB: Or even Facebook. Really, if you want to get down to it, there are people who will post “Hey, I’m going to see John Wick this weekend,” and you can “Hey, I saw you went and saw John Wick. What did you think?” or whatever movie you’re going to see.
EV: Real quick, I think it’s great that you touched on Roger Ebert, and back in the day, that was actually when I first got really, really interested in movie reviewers, was because I would watch the little TV show with them and listen to the reviews. And you’re right, I did not always agree, but it made me interested to see or know more about a particular movie. I think this is what’s so great about social media, is it opens up this whole new world to people that -- like I said, indie films, I’ve never been a fan. I just realized why, because I wasn’t seeing the right indie films. I’m seeing films now that I’m just blown away by and I’m like “I would not have known about this movie had I not seen it on social media or had been recommended by YouTubers,” or something like that. Then to your point, to IMDb and Amazon, some of these pages or some of these sites can be biased sometimes because they have other pressures from other areas, but for the most part -- it’s like when we talk about news. If you’re getting your information from different sources, you can pretty much form your own opinion, whether or not you want to see a film like John Wick. John Wick is a great example of a film that I had seen a poster for it, I believe online I saw somebody posted it, and it really didn’t do anything for me. But then somebody tweeted out that they saw the trailer, it was great. Of course I immediately found the link, watched the trailer, I was blown away. So, I started sending it out, tweeting it or posting it, sharing it on YouTube. It’s amazing. This is a movie that probably would not have opened as big as it did. I was surprised that it actually did not make #1 at the box office, but, you know, it lost to Ouija, which I can’t believe people see those things. But immediately after I saw the movie I tweeted out and I said “#JohnWick,” saying “I hope this is the next great action franchise,” because, believe it or not, those tweets are being read. They’re being counted, they’re being measured and movie studios, directors and writers -- they’re paying attention.
MJ: I think that also a little bit ties into how independent creators are using things like Kickstarter, because really, Kickstarter is also social media. You look on some of the projects that have built good followings, they usually also have a good Twitter following, they have a good Facebook following. All of that kind of feeds into funding those projects. Like Matt and I talked about in our episode where we talked about Kickstarter, there’s an incredible diversity of projects out there and some of them are easily just as good as, if not better than, quality.
EV: You are correct, it’s sometimes better, yes. One of the points that I had jotted down to talk about was the writer and director of Dear White People, Justin Simien, this is such an interesting story to me. So, this writer/director, which at the time I believe was a film student, he wrote this film script and he decided to make a little teaser trailer, I don’t know if it was a full-length or not, posted it on YouTube and it went viral. So, he started his Indiegogo campaign. He wanted to make I believe something like $20,000 to make the movie. It’s nothing, really, in movie money terms. He made double of what he wanted; he made the movie. The movie opened at I think it was like 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. He’s actually already received awards for it, it’s a movie that’s on my list to see, and this would not have gotten made if it wasn’t for the video going viral on social media. And yet, you have movies out there like, and I just brought it up, Ouija -- unoriginal, product placement… Let’s go back to one of the worst this year, Transformers 4. Movies that are being shoved in your face that are just there to grab your money and make money from product placement and overseas, because unfortunately these movies do make a lot of money overseas. But actually I think moviegoers forget how much their money speaks to what is being made. I think that’s something that we’ve discussed in the past personally. I will not give my money to anything unless I know that it’s something that I am going to at least get some value out of it, whatever that value is. It could just be shock value, I don’t care. It has to have something for me to actually give my hard-earned $10, $12, $15 to because I don’t want to support that trend of unoriginality.
MB: There’s a lot of it. I forget what it is, but most movies are made for people between the ages of 15 and 25 or something. That’s pretty much the core; there’s very few movies that are made for people outside of that age range. When you get something that’s intelligent and good, a lot of times they are independent movies. Independent movies are hard to find out about just because you don’t find them, you don’t see commercials for them. You almost have to seek them out. So, I think that’s a lot of where these social media-type things do help out, is word of mouth and articles and things. There was that movie, Pig, that we reviewed several episodes ago.
EV: Which I watched, by the way. I watched that movie. I was blown away, it was great and I could not believe that a movie that original and that well-made did not really make it outside of that little small cult group.
MB: Yeah, and I never would have even heard of the movie had I not -- some obscure website where I read a review on it. It was one of those things where I was like “Now I have to check this movie out.” So, I’ve done everything I can to spread the word about the movie, but people don’t go see movies like that. They go and see crap like Transformers or Ouija or whatever. I think people are missing out. I have friends and things who will be like “Oh, I don’t watch movies if they have subtitles” or “I don’t watch movies if this or that.” You’re missing out. You’re only getting a part of -- most of the movies that come out, major releases, are garbage, so you kind of have to find stuff that’s, you know.
EV: I think that there is a part of the population that wants just to sit there, mindlessly shove popcorn in their mouth and be entertained or just be watching moving pictures on a screen. And that’s okay. But I think there’s a larger percentage of the population that wants some value. Because our economy is not doing great, if you’re spending that money -- if I go see a movie, I go with one of my friends and we share a large popcorn, a couple of sodas. By the end of the movie, we’ve spent $40 and we want to get some value out of that. But I think you brought up a great point about independent film. AMC has done such a great job, and I have to say I support that theater so much more now that I know what they’re doing in the YouTube community and in the social media world of movies. They have their regular AMC podcast, which every day they talk about movies, it’s great. But they just launched a few months ago, not too long ago, AMCi Indie Spotlight, which is AMC Independent; Indie Spotlight I believe is the name of the podcast, and they’re on YouTube. They speak only to indie films. Not only do you get indie films that are being released, and AMC actually has indie releases in their theaters, which is great because you wouldn’t normally be able to see them wherever you live, and sometimes they don’t come out where you live and you actually have to wait or take a little roadtrip to see them. But you get to hear not only about new releases, things that are upcoming, but they also give you this great thing, and I’ve been making a huge list of indie movies from the past that are just movies to watch that have been around for a while, some of them have only been around for a year, some of them have been around for ten years, and it’s such a great resource. What I love about it is you have this little compact show, you watch it, you take your notes or you walk away from it and you have already ideas. So, rather than going to spend your money on the next piece of crap that comes out, you can spend it on something, whether Netflix or downloaded, on a quality film, whatever it is that you like. I like old school horror, action, sci-fi. There is so much out there and there’s so much more being produced, like -- what is that movie Michael, that you sent me the link for the trailer?
MJ: Oh, Ex Machina.
EV: Ex Machina. That looks awesome. Now, I’m not saying it’s going to be a great movie, but already the trailer just looks like a better movie than a lot of movies I’ve seen.
MJ: Well, yeah, you can’t always go by the trailer. I mean, I thought that about Autómata, the Antonio Banderas movie, and to be honest, it was okay but it left something to be desired. But actually that does somewhat bring up a good point about your YouTube channels. I think there’s a lot of material out there for people that don’t really like independent films particularly, that will actually teach you how to appreciate independent film, or just film in general. There’s a lot of good film criticism and film analysis videos. One of my favorites is, and Matt will laugh at this, what Red Letter Media does, their takedowns of the Star Wars prequels and showing what awful, bad, terrible movies those are. And, I mean, I love those.
EV: They are hilarious, I have to say. Red Letter Media is an acquired taste. There are some jokes in there that I find I would rather not watch as a woman, but their criticism on those movies is spot on, I have to say. And I know that a lot of people are really hard on the prequels, but me being just an old school Star Wars fan, I can totally understand where they’re coming from. And that brings up another point, is the YouTubers; you’ve got YouTubers like Jeremy Jahns, who has over 600,000 subscribers; Chris Stuckmann, 175,000+; the Schmoes Know, my favorite network, 113,000+. All these YouTubers are reaching audiences from almost every country in the world. The world is getting smaller because of social media and we are sharing ideas, and we’re sharing our love of film with these people. I have conversations with people online all the time from across the pond and everywhere you could possibly imagine, and what’s bringing us all together is our love of film. Now, I have to say, it’s interesting to see the perspectives from other people about movies that are produced in our country versus movies that are produced overseas, and how someone in South Africa or someone in Australia, they grow up watching films with subtitles. In America, up until very recently, I think it was thought of as a hoity-toity thing -- if you liked foreign films, you were a movie snob and you thought you were better than everyone else. That’s not the case. There is a whole ‘nother world of foreign films that you could be experiencing if you just allow yourself to experience them. I think that’s one thing that social media is making, it’s opening up that whole world of possibilities for us and I am just thrilled about it.
MB: Yeah, no, I am too. It’s definitely made it much, much easier to widen my horizons basically as far as movies go. It does, it makes it easier. Before the internet and before all of these things, there was literally no way to find out about those, other than to wander the Blockbuster and you’d basically look at the cases on the weird movies and pick something that looked like it might be good, and then you’d end up getting home and you’d end up watching Deathstalker or something because that was what you…
EV: Right. But there’s also something to be said about the films that you love; I keep going back to Schmoesknow.com and their YouTube channel. They actually built their brand from these two guys doing movie reviews in what looked like a closet, I’m assuming it was a bedroom, but it looked like a closet, to recently they launched this year their network of podcasts. They now have six or seven podcasts and they’re all geared to different things. If you’re interested in learning about how the journalism and scoops in film work, they have a show for that, “Meet the Movie Press.” If you like Star Wars, they have a show for that, they have Jedi Alliance. They have something for everyone. If you like foreign films, you can go on one of their shows and learn about that. You’re not being forced to like something you don’t like, but you have the opportunity to find things that you could potentially like. I think that’s so great and I think that more and more, social media is showing people that there are things out there you just have to want to see.
MJ: I’m intrigued by the experimentation out there. The fact that there’s starting to be films experimenting with releasing themselves digitally, even if they still do a theater release. Actually, Autómata, I saw it on iTunes. I bought it just because it was about the same price as a movie ticket to just buy it on iTunes, versus trying to track down a theater that maybe was playing it, because it was playing in limited release. And there have been a couple like that, some of the movies that Matt and I have talked about before, like I think The Internet’s Own Boy is available online for free. I think Downloaded -- actually, Alex Winters’ Downloaded is about to be on VH1, but that’s been available at a whole bunch of different places.
EV: Well, to that, people like directors or studios, or people like Josh Whedon, he created a movie In Your Eyes I believe, and he decided that was going to be only through his website or I believe it was only going to be available to download, rather than -- it’s Josh Whedon. He can, if he wanted to, release that movie in theaters. He could. He chose to do it that way because he knows where this is going. There are directors out there who know that this is the way, this is a sign of things to come. I feel bad for studios and directors that refuse to change with the times, because as we talked about before, you cannot stand still while everything else changes. You will get mowed down. And movie studios are going the way of the dodo, and unfortunately I love the experience, but I don’t love moviegoers. But that’s a-whole ‘nother podcast.
MJ: Definitely. Well Eva, thanks very much for joining us.
EV: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it. I love your podcast and I really wish that we can get more people to listen because you guys talk about such great topics.
MB: Well thank you very much.
EV: Alright, have a great one.
A: That’s all for this episode of Robot Overlordz. You can find our show notes, including links from this episode, on our website at RobotOverlordz.FM. That’s it for our radio broadcasting. We would love to hear your thoughts on this episode on our forum, or you can review us on iTunes. We’re Robot Overlordz with a Z.
MJ: Thanks everyone for listening.
Image Credit: By Adrian104 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons