Promoting Yourself? PLEASE Don’t Do This

This goes out to all the artists and to their fans. Whether you’re promoting your own product or something that you just really like, don’t do this. This comment was posted to a popular news site on an article about Mystery Science Theater’s recent release of episodes to Vimeo at a bargain price. The article asked, “Are you willing to pony up $10 to own the future episodes, which still comprise the bulk of the series, or will you stick to these 80 and your old VHS recordings?

I’ve edited out the troupe’s name because, If it’s just an overzealous fan, then the artists behind that troupe don’t deserve the blame for it.

I understand. We’ve grown up in a world surrounded by cutthroat competition where shaming and degrading your competition is part of the game. Burger King hates McDonalds, PlayStation hates XBox, iPhone hates Android. But the arts don’t have to be like this. There are plenty of audiences to go around. We can all do our thing and get found out there without actively discouraging investment in other peoples’ things.

In fact, we can help each other. Strange but true. I see no profit in disparaging Joe Konrath or Hugh Howey to drive up my sales, but I do see that everybody does better when everybody does better. That’s why my Amazon carousel on my site is for “Books by Glen and Friends,” because I want other authors to be successful, too. 

And it’s especially heinous to encourage people to pirate (or depend on pirated copies of) your competition so that they have more money to spend on your own (or just your favorite) thing. Yes, MST3k encouraged circulating the tapes. But saying, “Hey, now that it’s commercially available, don’t spend money on it — buy this thing instead!" is disrespectful and downright rude.

On top of which — it makes me wonder why I should support a new group that is clearly not as fan-friendly as the old.

So Much Good Will!

Whenever somebody says or writes, “Marvel better not screw up [character very few people actually care about]! All of their accumulated good will is riding on this!” I imagine this scenario:

Executive: Okay, people, good run! Pack it all up. They’ve got to film an infomercial in this studio tomorrow.

Creative: Wait, what? But… but we were already renewed!

Executive: No, the fans have spoken. We screwed up Deathlok and it’s all over now.

Creative: So, just like that, “Agents of SHIELD” is off the—

Executive: Weren’t you listening? We screwed up Deathlok. It’s all over. The films and everything.

Creative: What? We’ve grossed over two billion dollars! The cinematic Nick Fury and Iron Man are so popular, Marvel has actually retooled the comics characters to be more like them! We’ve parlayed our film success into groundbreaking deals for television and internet content! And you’re saying it’s all over because of one occasionally-recurring chracter?

Executive: Yes, but then we went and made a version of one character who didn’t line up exactly with a small cabal of internet fanboys’ expectations, and we ruined everything.

Creative: Then I imagine we’ll be rebooting soon.

Executive: Nope. We just sold all the film rights we had to The Asylum for $500 and autographs from Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. They think they might be able to get a few SyFy original pictures out of the characters.

Yeah. Still doesn’t seem plausible.

Less Rent! More Shelf Space!

Desfile Star Wars en Santiago de CompostelaI know I’ve covered this ground before, but it bears repeating. When you entrust corporation with control of your culture, it isn’t long before they decide that empty shelf space is worth more.

In another story with a happy ending, Black Angel has been found and restored.

The 1980 short film was created to accompany The Empire Strikes Back in theaters. It was the directorial debut of Star Wars’ pioneering set decorator Roger Christian and a special request by the big man himself, George Lucas. After it screened in cinemas, it suddenly vanished.

"Suddenly vanished" is a gross oversimplification, but it’s pretty close to what happened — except that it makes the film’s near-loss sound like a tragic accident instead of the very real negligence it actually was on the part of its distributor. The film, shot on a budget of £25,000, released in parts of Europe and Australia with The Empire Strikes Back (the U.S. never saw it because the U.S. theatres had stopped showing short subjects by then). Christian had a personal copy of it, but was stored at Boss Film Studios. He was out of town when Boss went bankrupt, and all of his materials stored there were disposed of.

As for 20th Century Fox’s copies (since they were the distributors, after all), Fox threw them out when their London storage facility closed down.

The film has only managed to be found thanks to a copy surfacing in the archives of Universal Studios. The kicker is that nobody knows how Universal wound up with a copy of the film. They didn’t produce it, they didn’t distribute it — at no point was Universal involved in the movie in any way.

At the corporate level, the short was considered commercially valueless after its initial release — and it was treated as such. As a result, it was very nearly lost forever.

And this is a film that was made in 1980.

Atlas Mugged: The Threequel

So let me get this straight.

Atlas Shrugged: Part I BOMBED at the box office. It was both a critical and a commercial failure. Not even an active campaign by the at-the-time-popular Tea Party movement to put butts in theatre seats succeeded in selling enough tickets for the film to turn a profit. Then a botched release of the film on DVD and blu-ray had to be recalled because the producers were offended that the back cover blurb referred to film as a story of “self-sacrifice.”

Could you see the invisible hand of the market flipping the bird as hard as it could in the producers’ directions? Don’t be silly — of course you couldn’t. It’s invisible.

But rest assured — it was doing it. 

And they came back for more. Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike recast every single role with fresh actors — although, as the second part of a planned trilogy, it still picked up where the first part left off. Again, it was a critical failure. Again, it was a commercial bomb. Only this time around, it CRATERED hard enough that the dinosaurs rolled over in their graves and muttered, “Oh, not this crap again.”

That loud CRACK you might have heard around that time was the sound of the market keeping its invisible pimp hand strong right across the producers’ chops.

And after the market has spoken — twice — that people don’t want this story (or, at least, they don’t want this version of it), the producers are back for a third helping and they’re spreading around plenty of blame for why the first two failed. They’re blaming the directors, the actors, the designers — everybody but themselves. They’ve recast every role yet again and they want everybody to know that this movie (which is still the third movie in the trilogy) is “a very different motion picture than the first two. You can’t even compare them.”

Huh. Arrogant producers run the little people into the ground and ruin others’ careers while preaching free market fundamentalism and blaming everybody else for their failures. Meanwhile, they continue blithely on their path of destruction, safely cushioned by a ridiculous amount of money.

I’m certain that could be a metaphor for something.

Oscars Thoughts

I watched last night’s Oscars on ABC. It was fun, but not quite as rich in material as other award shows have been lately (as anyone watching my twitter feed probably noticed). I thought it was awesome when Angelina Jolie’s thigh threatened to take over the whole theatre, and I couldn’t help but wonder when Billy Crystal was replaced by his own Lipton Brisk commercial puppet.

And there was that. Let’s not forget about that.

Aside from that, a few thoughts about last night’s telecast in no random order.

Oscars 2012: The Red Carpet

  • In any contest between a tribute to silent films and an actual silent film, the silent film wins.
  • The secret to a movie like The Muppets working is that everybody who worked on the film is somebody who either has been there from the start or who grew up wanting to be part of the show.
  • The producers can go so far as to completely eliminate performances of the nominated songs, and still go over on time. I’m starting to think you have bigger problems than the Best Original Song category, guys.
  • Just let Tina Fey host, already.
  • Christopher Plummer should give lessons on how to give acceptance speeches.
  • The entire ceremony is capable of being upstaged by the Muppets rocking out to “Under Pressure” in a commercial.
  • The acronym title for ABC’s new series, GCB, stands for “Good Christian Bitches.” And that third word is apparently one that must never be uttered in a commercial.
  • Also, the lengths to which ABC will go to make certain that you know what the word is without having to actually say the word are hilarious, just not in the way ABC expected.
  • Despite the above two facts, ABC is also launching its new sitcom, Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23, also with its own hilarious attempts to avoid saying the word in the commercials.

And, again, this: 

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