The Studio Mentality, by Tyler Smith
So, yesterday, my wife and I bought a DVD copy of Once. For those who haven’t seen it, Once is a touching film about two kindred spirits whose love of music bring them together. Those who have seen it know that these two people do not wind up together, nor is there really much more than a whisper that they will. This movie is not a love story. One could make the argument that it actually strives to be something higher than a love story. Much like “Lost in Translation” before it, Once is about two lonely people finding a connection. It’s not a romantic connection, just an awareness that you’ve just met somebody who is in the same place as you, just when you thought you were the only one.
It truly is a wonderful film. And, for those that don’t remember the poster, it was a very simple shot of these two characters walking down a street in Ireland. The DVD cover looks very much the same. However, upon closer inspection, I found that the studio had photo shopped the original poster.
Now, the two main characters are holding hands.
So, it would appear that the sheer stupidity that is the studio mentality has reared its head yet again. Once was made on a shoestring budget, with no stars, and yet, through word of mouth, it went on to wide popularity, becoming a modest hit. It even won the Academy Award for Best Song; one of the more memorable Oscar moments of the last ten years or so. But, of course, that’s just not good enough for the studio releasing it.
“Sure, it has quite a following, but will it rent? Just to make sure, we’d better play up the romance angle.”
“Uh, sir, there really isn’t much of a romance angle.”
“Who cares? We just need convince people that there is. Long enough for them to rent the DVD, anyway. Just change the cover. Nobody’ll know the difference.”
“Uh, sir, doesn’t that kind of undercut the story of the film?”
“How should I know? I haven’t even seen the thing. Just change that cover!”
I guess I kind of understand if a studio isn’t quite sure how to market a movie. I mean, I really liked The Matador, but it’s not an easy movie to classify. It’s funny, dramatic, suspenseful. I can forgive the studio playing up the action aspect of the film. But, in the case of Once, the film already had an audience! And word of mouth! It didn’t need any tweaking from the marketing department!
But, I suppose I can’t complain. In the long history of studio interference in the creative process, this ranks pretty low. The film itself remains intact, even though it isn’t what the studio would like it to be.