The past decade has seen an escalation of how much information we get about movies before they’re made, while they’re being made, just before they’re released into the wild, and after we see them. Back in 2012 when editor Sleepy Skunk put together a 25-minute, three-act version of The Amazing Spider-Man by splicing together trailers, production featurettes and BTS footage released by Sony, it seemed likely that studios would respond to the mockery-as-criticism by backing off on the overkill. Instead, blockbusters have marketing campaigns bigger and stretched over more time than ever before. Aided and abetted by movie news sites, every tiny kernel of information (from character names to colors of costumes) has become powerful fodder for advertising machines swinging as wildly as possible to be heard in the crowd.
The Spider-Man short film proved that studios were essentially putting the basic structure (from beginning to end) of their movies online in order to get people into theaters. Before letting irony sink in, Sony claimed that they didn’t plan for viewers to watch all of the international trailers – essentially that no one online was meant to see every piece of their advertising. They might have also simply said they didn’t understand how the internet works.
It’s an obsessive beast, perma-hungry for blurry shots of the Batmobile on a surprising set, leaked (and “leaked”) pictures of spandex suits and other tiny reminders that The Next Giant Geeky Thing is being willed into existence as we speak. The Force Awakens, I’m looking at you.
The natural next evolution is for studios to livestream movie productions for fans. Film production, consumption and marketing can finally merge into one.
Probably the closest thing we have to a proto-example of this inevitable paradigm is the consistent stream of updates on the production of Deadpool directly from Ryan Reynolds and Tim Miller. Because Deadpool was born from the screaming hot Fallopian tubes of the internet, fans were involved from the very beginning. They kept the movie alive, and the production obliged by dropping polished shots of Reynolds in costume matching the irreverent tone of the character. These were, at their core, advertisements not for the movie itself, but for the production of it. If you cared enough to pay attention, you could tune into daily updates about the shoot – including public handwringing over the final rating.
X-Men: Days of Future Past and Apocalypse share marketing DNA with Deadpool, too. It’s probably no accident; Fox either has a long leash or a contractual imperative for Bryan Singer and others to share nebulous-yet-titillating shots of the production as it’s happening.
Here’s a door you recognize. Please come see the next movie we make where this door appears (over a year from now).
There’s a correlation here to crowdfunded projects that draw in the most dedicated early on, keeping them engaged with updates and insider incentives in the hopes that word of mouth grows beyond the fan base due specifically to the fan base’s fervor. You feel less like a target and more like part of the family. You’re involved.
There are also blockbuster-based correlations in Peter Jackson’s video production diaries and various “viral” marketing attempts from across the spectrum. So why not go the distance and let us all watch the magic being made in real-time? Your toes are well off the diving board, studios. It’s time to take the plunge.
Imagine it for a second. The first major production to do this would probably fail – offering a clunky, panda-cam version of how truly boring it is to be on a movie set – but just as studios have mastered each new challenge the internet has thrown at them, pretty soon you’d have sleek campaigns designed Truman Show-style where watching the filmmaking process would become an entertaining prospect. It could be a horrific marathon of interviews with every crew head, lengthy discussions of the inspirations for the film, breakdowns of the comic book series (or YA novel) it was based on, events where fans get to come to set to meet the filmmakers, and, of course, a medium for fans to watch the movie they want to watch being made before they can watch it.
Consider it the ultimate Blu-ray Extra, shot and aired as it’s all happening. We won’t have to wait for Ryan Reynolds to tweet a picture announcing that shooting for Deadpool has wrapped minutes (whole minutes!) after it’s wrapped; we’ll know exactly when it wraps because we’ll be watching from home on our computers. Plus, studios could advertise other movies on the livestream page (or sell advertising space to sponsors), drawing attention to other projects and other livestreams of projects while making money crafting an advertising space on the advertising space for the movie.
The livestream would become its own show, so if the feed of Guardians of the Galaxy 2’s lunch break got dull, you could switch over to watch Pixar animators drawing Toy Story 4, click through to watch Vin Diesel run lines for Fast and Furious 8, or you could try that new shampoo you’ve been meaning to check out.
If that weren’t enough, envision the all-out assault this would create on movie blogs. Livestreams of productions would create at least a dozen newsy tidbits a day. “Did you see the Suicide Squad stream? They had the Batmobile on set for 11 hours!” Writers would be on-call, providing TV show recap-like reports on what happened on the Ghost in the Shell set today.
Best of all, we would know everything there is to know, genuinely, before watching the most anticipated movies. The more I think about it, the more surprised I am that studios haven’t yet fully capitalized on the internet’s glue-eyed need to see the sausage shoved into its lining. This is probably where we’re headed, though. Long live the new flesh.