Tuesday 10 July 2012

Not So Hunky Dory - How I Managed To Make Life Just A Little Bit Harder For A Small Welsh Film

What do you get when you cross one inquisitive film blogger, one of the world's best known film magazines and a small Minnie Driver starring Welsh independent musical-comedy with an erroneous quote on its DVD cover? This whole debacle...

Now, I'm not normally one to blow my own trumpet, but sometimes I spot things that others don't. Regular readers of my weekly DVD round-up, The Good, the Bad and the Blu-rays (I know you're out there), will have noticed my recent confusion over the DVD cover Amazon UK had listed for the Minnie Driver starring musical-comedy Hunky Dory. I'll admit that I hadn't seen the film (and still haven't), but found the central quote from Empire, "Dazed and Confused meets Gavin and Stacey", and the 5 star rating a little bit of a stretch.

Acting as an agent of truth and justice I did a little bit of 'research', and discovered that not only did Empire never conjure up such a terrifying hybrid as "Dazed and Confused meets Gavin and Stacey", but they didn't give the film 5 stars either. Their actual review went more along the lines of "the story drifts along without offering much that we haven't seen before" and was capped off by a rather more apt sounding 2 stars. My question at this point was, why did the distributors feel the need to use a fake quote on the cover? Perhaps the most confusing thing about this move was that Hunky Dory wasn't even getting bad reviews for the most part. Currently sitting pretty with a 67% score on Rotten Tomatoes, plenty of reviewers had handed out 4 stars for this coming of age tale in 1970's Wales, with the worst write-up arguably coming from Empire.

After a quick trip to HMV it became apparent that they hadn't had the nerve to actually publish their fake quote on the real DVD cover, opting for the perfectly acceptable "charming" from the Sunday Mirror. So why was this incorrect cover being used by online retailers? I'm not so hot on the inner workings of most marketing departments, but I wouldn't be surprised if they had this DVD cover ready before the film had arrived in cinemas or before the reviews had come in. Indeed, the film's star Aneurin Barnard tweeted an image of the DVD cover (complete with fake Empire quote) on April 21st, not long after the film's theatrical release of March 2nd, so that's definitely a possibility. The fact that they've arbitrarily given the film a 12 certificate on the cover when the BBFC actually passed it as a 15 makes me think I might be onto something there. Even so, if they were going to make up 'placeholder' quotes and then use them on early promotional materials, it's poor show to attribute them to an outlet without their permission.

I've seen this done before, most notably on the cover of the Luke Goss starring Pressed. Not only did they steal a photo of Colin Farrell from the cover of London Boulevard, but they littered their cover with fake positive quotes. At least they had the good sense to label them properly as 'FAKE'.

Of course, I was quite interested in what the good folks at Empire thought of all this Hunky Dory business, so being all 21st century and all that, I tagged them in a tweet about the subject...

Soon to be met with a reply of...

At this point I imagine Chris Hewitt and the rest of the Empire newsroom leapt into action with numerous phone calls being placed to lawyers and film distributors and Minnie Driver's people (or maybe just one quick call to Amazon), and it wasn't long until the old cover image disappeared from Amazon and other online retailers, to be replaced by the real Sunday Mirror quoted cover.

I've always took box quotes with a pinch of salt and understand that out of the thousands of words that are written about every film (particularly in the internet age), it's quite easy to pick out a short snippet of positivity that can be used to sell your film. This isn't a major offence and could quite possibly be just an unfortunate oversight, certainly not ranking alongside the case of Guy Ritchie's Revolver, a film so utterly terrible that it had to piece together a positive quote ("Brilliant... Guy Ritchie back to his best") from a Sun page 3 girl who was in the film and a copywriter who was plugging an exclusive review on a different section of the website.

And there-in lies the rub. Not only does this whole episode say something about the desires of PR/marketing departments, but the power of what a quote from either the UK's leading film magazine or a tabloid newspaper could do for business. Personally, I'd love to see a cinema poster with a quote from Slacker Cinema on it (I know that's not so likely anytime soon), but even if I was to give a film the highest praise I could, I know it'd be bypassed in favour of a less flattering quote from a more reputable source.

Even in the internet age print media still gets top priority on film quotes, unless it's some low budget horror that's either terrible or has only screened at small festivals that haven't been attended by the big guns. I'd like to say that if there's a lesson to be learnt from all this, it's stick to using genuine positive quotes even if they're not from as high profile a source as you'd like, but I know that's not going to happen any time soon.

So there you go. It's hard to tell whether I actually had any influence over this whole matter, but I'd like to think that thanks to a little bit of research and nosiness I've accidentally managed to make the promotion of a small little Welsh indie film that little bit harder.

You're welcome, Welsh film industry. Next time, make sure your quotes are Hunky Dory.

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