NASCAR as an Immersive Experience

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A few weeks ago I went to the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race in Charlotte. I never understood NASCAR and I still don’t get it, but with 140,000 people in attendance (twice as many as the average football stadium), plus the millions that watched on TV, it’s a force to be reckoned with.

But actually going to a NASCAR race I can better understand why 140k people would go too – they make it an event and experience that you can’t replicate by watching it on TV. And that’s why I’m writing about NASCAR – because like a film screening, it’s all about adding something that you can’t get by watching at home.

Merchandise – Outside of the track each driver had their own mobile 18-wheeler gift shop. Everyone’s their own brand.

Follow Your Driver – And not just on Twitter. You can rent or buy a radio scanner and tune in to the radio chat between your driver and the pit crew, to get a more immersive experience while watching the race (I assume they say more than, “Turn left! Go fast! Keep turning left!”). Sprint goes one step further with FanView, which is a scanner and wireless TV, so you can listen in, watch the TV feed, or watch your driver’s in-car camera while pulling up stats.

Visit the Pit Area – This was by far my favorite. With a special ticket, you can go down to the pit area a few hours before the race and check everything out, take some photos, chat it up.

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To get to the pit area you walk across the track. It’s pretty cool to be down there and feel the angle of the track and how massive it is.

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The pit area.

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You can also get a picture in the Winner’s Circle (or have one of the Fan Photographers take one for you, which of course you can purchase later).

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Of course nerdy me noticed a RED camera team and this one with a Phantom V2 high-speed camera.

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What other event lets you bring your own couch to the sidelines?

For some cross-promotion action, before the race started The A-Team van drove out on the track to bring the starting flag. But once it did start it was pretty much what I expected – cars driving around in circles. I saw a lot of people with scanners, some pointing at their car, telling them to go faster (they can’t hear you, dude). And of course there’s the obvious draw that I kind of left out – an excuse to drink as much as you want.

There is something to be said to feel the intensity of 40 high speed cars driving past you, but that wears off in about five minutes.

Jon Reiss Interview – Think Outside The Box Office [Podcast]

Jon Reiss Interview

Jon Reiss (@Jon_Reiss) has become one of the main voices on DIY and alternative distribution (along with Ted Hope). He’s a filmmaker and the author of the book Think Outside the Box Office, an invaluable resource for anyone who’s made or (more preferably) is thinking about making a film.

In the podcast we talk about different distribution options, alternative screening venues, building an audience, the closing of B-Side Entertainment, Tribeca’s VOD announcement, and more.

Check out Jon’s blog at www.jonreiss.com/blog

And get the book at www.thinkoutsidetheboxoffice.com

If you happen to be in Miami on Saturday, Jon will be on a panel on DIY Distribution that’s part of the Miami International Film Festival. More info here.

Remember to subscribe in iTunes.

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45365 – Final Day to Watch it for Free

45365 is a documentary that was at Full Frame but I never got a chance to watch it. This week it’s been on Hulu for free, which I’m very excited about (but today is the last day so watch it now). But for the film itself, I thought it was great. It’s very Cinema Verite, so I can understand why some people didn’t like it. There’s no narration, no formal interviews; just an amazing portrait capturing an entire small town (45365 is the zip code of Sydney, OH).

Now for the business side of the film being on Hulu. As I said, this makes me very excited. SnagFilms, a video sharing site designed soley for documentaries, has their watermark on the whole film. I’m glad to see they’re growing, and I’m also glad to see they’ve joined with Hulu. I watched a film on SnagFilms once and their player wanted to make me gouge my eyes out, it was the worst thing ever. The ads would play and then send you to a different point in the movie, and then you couldn’t go back to where you were without watching more ads. So painful. I hope they’ve done some serious changes to it. But at least this is on Hulu, which on the opposite end I think is one of the best online players, even better than Netflix.

So I’m curious as to what the distribution deal is, because it was on Hulu for a week. SnagFilms says it’s part of a series to watch a film a week for free before it goes to TV of Theater (I’m guessing TV). I’m glad Hulu has been embracing documentaries (Crawford premiered on Hulu a few months ago). 45365 has been in the top banner all week. It’s gotten hundreds of comments and I’m sure thousands of views. This is a film that probably wouldn’t have worked too well in a theater, but now it’s online for free and ad supported (most of the ads were for a Honda documentary series) and tons of people are seeing it who probably would have never heard of it had it not been for SnagFilms, Hulu, and of course this new-fangled internet distribution model.

Art & Copy – Minds Behind the Greatest Ads

I’m somewhat familiar with the world of advertising, though admittedly most of that knowledge comes from watching Mad Men. Either way I love advertising (well, advertising done well), so I was excited to see that Art & Copy was at Full Frame.

Art & Copy features some of the most influential art directors and copywriters behind some of the most famous ads of all time. These are the ads that have shaped pop culture – Apple’s 1984, Budweiser frogs, Nike’s ‘Just Do It.’

People scoff at advertising. Like, literally – when a factoid popped up in the film that said the average city dweller is exposed to 5000 ads a day, peopled scoffed. But advertising is what makes the entertainment system work; it’s what puts TV on the air and magazines on shelves. This isn’t really a surprise – publications are folding or downsizing all over the place because advertising revenue is down. This is even flooding over into online news media.

People want everything free and uninterrupted. I like free stuff (and I believe news should always be free), so I think giving 30 seconds of my attention is a fair trade off to watching The Daily Show online for free. It’s pretty simple – you don’t watch ads, advertisers stop spending money because no one’s watching them, and then studios don’t have money to make shows.

Of course part of this is to blame on advertisers. If all ads were great and entertaining, we’d be just as excited to watch the ads than the program, like the Super Bowl (though now that the Super Bowl ads are all online I just gained four hours one Sunday a year).

For every car dealership who puts their screaming kid in a commercial, or Billy Mays yelling at me about how my detergent sucks, there’s a fair balance of mediocre commercials as well as those few gems, and I’m okay with that. I’ll put up with it for good, free TV.

If you get one thing from Art & Copy it’s that advertising is hard and good ideas are rare. “Oh, it’s only 30 seconds, how hard is that?” Well, in that 30 seconds you need to cram a beginning, middle, end, send out your message, create a scene, create characters, emotionally connect with the audience and, oh, sell your shit. And after reading this paragraph, your time is up.

And for print ads, as you just read above 5000 ads are competing with each other a day. Talk about trying to stand out.


ART & COPY trailer from Baldwin& on Vimeo.

One very cool story in Art & Copy was the idea of bringing the Art Director and Copywriter into the same room (thus, Art & Copy). The Art Director is mainly responsible for the visuals while the Copywriter handles the copy, or text. Having the two work together is standard practice today, and you’d think that should just be common sense – they’re producing one final product, the visuals and text should work harmoniously together, but no, which is why a lot of old ads are sketches of happy family with big blocks of text under it. The revolutionary firm that did put the two together was new, scoffed at by the old, large firms (lots of scoffing), and, of course, they kicked ass (Think Small).

Art & Copy is on the festival circuit now. Catch it if you can.

Post script – found this behind the scenes footage from Apple’s 1984 commercial:

Art and Copy Still Copyright © 2009 The One Club for Art and Copy

Miami Film Festival

So I’m back from Haiti. Amazing trip, photos will be coming (I snapped over 2400).

Sadly most of the Miami International Film Festival was going on during my adventures, but I managed to get a press pass to catch the last few days.

I just got back from a press/filmmaker meet and greet. Felt a little like Hugh Grant when he worked for Horse and Hound, but I ended up meeting Vero Bollow, director of The Wind and The Water.

It’s the first fictional feature to come from Panama, and though the theater is not near where I’m at and I wasn’t planning on going, Vero was really cool and the film sounds really interesting (she pitched it well), so I’m going to make a mad rush after another film and check it out.

Also, I’m very excited that the very, very last film the festival is screening is Tokyo!

Being Hollywood and Fake Interviews

First off, Oscars. Slumdog – woo! Though no surprise there. It is sad, though, that for a film that swept the Oscars it hasn’t even broken the $100 million mark, which means most people haven’t seen it.

I thought the actual Oscars program was well done. Hugh Jackman was great and it was nice that he played to his talents. My favorite moment had to be the little bit of Cloverfield that was snuck in. I forgot which award it was but instead of playing the movie’s theme (probably didn’t have one) they played Roar!, that awesome (and only composed song) during the end credits of Cloverfield. Yes, I know, I’m a film geek.

And here’s a video that explains what Ben Stiller was up to (via Leo Laporte on Twitter).

But back to what I originally intended to blog about.

So two weeks ago I did the Hollywood thing. I flew from Miami to LA in the morning, went to a screening, then hoped on a plane the next day and went right back.

Each year the Film School puts on a screening in LA of some of the best films that came out of the school the previous year. I happened to produce one of those films, so I thought it would be worth it to go.

WGA Theater

That and it was a good excuse to see all my friends who are now out in LA. It was a lot of fun and great to see everyone, but at the same time it was a hard dose of reality. All of my friends are interning at production companies 8-10 hours a day. Even if I did stay longer we couldn’t really have done anything since they had to go to work.

So basically I came, I saw, I went. But before I went, I stopped at the Starbucks near my friends’ place (they live in Burbank). As I was walking in this cute girl asks if she could interview me for Extras. Sure.

They wanted to get my thoughts on the octomom. Oh, and just to clear something up – by ‘interview’ I mean they told me everything to say.

“So what do you think about the mother with the octuplets? You’re outraged, right? That’s going to cost a lot of tax dollars to raise those kids. So just say how it’s going to cost a lot of our money to support those kids.”

I give the best performance I can muster, but if you want to imagine my acting style think of Patrick Warburton.

“Great, great. Let’s do that again, but with more energy.”

I was on Extras that night, two Wednesdays ago. They also had me read for a Valentine’s Day segment they were producing, which was by far my favorite.

“Okay, I need you to look in the camera and ask, ‘I’ve been in a relationship for a long time. What can I do with my girlfriend to mix things up?’ (BTW, I have no girlfriend).

Unfortunately this didn’t air, but at least it made my favorite story of the week. I went and got my Espresso Truffle, and when I came back out they were interviewing two women from Idaho. I guess they rely on tourists to be suckered into doing this.

Once their interview was done we all ended up talking afterwards. Then I left, saying I had to go see my fake girlfriend.

To cap off the trip, I finally got to use a Dyson AirBlade at LAX. It’s the coolest hand-dryer ever, ranking (in my hand-dryer rating system) just above the Xlerator. What can I say, I like dry hands.

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