musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life, by David Reich
Reich Communications, Inc.
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I'm not a horror movie buff, although I may have seen Craven'siconic "Nightmare on Elm Street." But I had a connection to Wes Craven that goes back before he was Wes Craven.
Early in his career, Craven taught humanities at Clarkson College, where I went to school. I never had him for class, but one day between classes he approached me. I was doing a jazz show on radio two nights a week, and he asked if he could co-host with me one night a week.
Craven was maybe 28 at the time...cool, good-looking with a hot wife.
I said of course, and for almost 2 semesters, we co-hosted The Jazz Scene on the college FM station. I liked him, although I was a bit intimidated by his smarts and his caustic wit.
He had good taste and he opened my ears to some musicians I hadn't been familiar with. We had patter on air between cuts, and he often slipped in some funny cracks, probably half of which went over my head. But we had fun listening and sharing music we loved with unseen listeners on campus and beyond in New York's North Country. Sometimes his wife Bonnie would stop in at the studio.
Summer came and went. We returned to school to hear the hot gossip that Prof. Craven had left to go to Hollywood to make films. I lost track of him.
I heard about "Nightmare on Elm Street" and his other Freddy Kruger films, but since I had no interest in those films, I had no clue of who directed them.
It wasn't until his film "Scream" came out in 1996 that I realized it was Wes Craven, my co-host from Clarkson College radio. One of the news shows was doing a piece on the new film and they were interviewing Wes Craven. I was in the other room, but I heard his name mentioned. I ran over to the TV and,sure enough, it was Prof. Craven... nearly 30 years older, but Prof. Craven for sure.
I tried contacting him through his agent, to no avail. But I was saddened to learn of his death at 76 ... too young.
Others have his films to remember him, but I have something really unique. Up in my attack are several reel-to-reel tapes of the shows we did together on radio.
Now if only I could get that old tape recorder working again.
"We pay more money and attention to our stars and athletes than anyone else in this country, while people in nobler roles and professions struggle for funding, income, and recognition. No public relations campaign in the world could motivate millions of Americans to watch an awards show for them. Perhaps we should pause to think about where our societal priorities lie, or at least ponder the question of why we give so much greater value to our celebrities and their achievements than to anyone else."
That's the closing paragraph from a blog a friend just told me about. The writer is Jeff Morosoff, an assistant professor and director of the graduate program in public relations at Hofstra University, and his blog is "Public Relations Nation."
As millions of us tune in to watch The Oscars tonight, Jeff's words are worth considering, to put the awards -- with all their glitz and glamour -- into proper perspective.
From TV Week online today...Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony has sparked a political backlash, with the complaints focused mainly on one element of the show: the appearance by Michelle Obama.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that conservative media members are complaining about the first lady’s announcement of “Argo” as winner of the Oscar for best picture during the ABC telecast.
“Talk radio hosts took to the airwaves, largely taking the position that the Oscars should have been an Obama-free zone. The gist: Hollywood’s reputation for liberalism is well known, so why rub it in the faces of GOP moviegoers?” THR reports. “The segment had Jack Nicholson introducing the first lady, who appeared live from the White House on a giant screen at the Dolby Theatre. Behind her were U.S. military personnel.”
Rush Limbaugh compared Obama’s appearance to the 1984 television commercial for the Apple Macintosh computer, which used "Big Brother"-like imagery.
Oh, come on. It's the biggest night in Hollywood, an industry that often represents the U.S. around the world. Michelle Obama's appearance simply gives more credibility to the importance of movies. It's not going to get the President re-elected, nor will it solve the budget impasse.
You can be a Hollywood mogul.
Well, maybe not a mogul, but here's a chance to help a Hollywood "newcomer" who's been in the film business for more than 10 years break through to the next step.
My son Michael spent several years creating and directing music videos for some top bands …Brazilian Girls, The 88, The Shins, and many more. His music video reel shows a wide variety of video styles ranging from slick to funky underground. And he often injects a sly sense of humor into his work.
He formed a production company a year ago with a few friends, and his Normal TV has been keeping busy on a variety of projects including filming and post-production for a cable reality series. He's also developing a TV series, with the personal input and assistance of an Oscar-winning actress whose name you'd know.
His longtime goal, however, has been to write and direct a feature film. He wrote a screenplay for a feature a few years ago and now he's scraped up around $35,000 -- enough money to get it started. He needs around $15,000 more to get the project done the way he envisions it, and he went to Kickstarter – a site that many film- makers, artists, musicians and entrepreneurs use to crowdsource funding.
His Kickstarter page is shown below, and on it Michael tells about his film, where the inspiration came from and how you can help him get it made.
He just learned, by the way, that a shorter version of the film, which he made a while back, has been selected for screening at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin next month. That's a big deal.
Please, check out Michael's Kickstarter page and give whatever you can. Payments can be made by credit card through Amazon, which is a safe and secure site.
For as little as five bucks, you can be part of Hollywood cinema history. (Or, at least, you can help a struggling young filmmaker realize his dream.)
And you'll have my sincere appreciation.
Update Feb. 22... Michael's project is now fully funded, thanks to the generosity of so many of my friends and readers. I appreciate your confidence and your support of his project so very much.
Michael begins shooting on March 4th. I'll be sure to keep you updated. Thanks again.
Paul Simon titled a song after it in 1973. Millions of new parents in the 70's and 80's reiied on it to document our growing families. Professional photographers swore by it for the rich tones it brought to their pictures.
Kodachrome -- one of the best-known products of its time, in its distinctive Kodak-yellow packaging.
But it's no surprise that, as reported in today's New York Times, Kodak is ending production of the once ubiquitous film, which was introduced in 1935. The company reports the once-mighty Kodachrome now accounts for less than 1% of its traditional film sales.
For many of us boomers, who led the charge into digital cameras 15 years ago, the Kodachrome name will stick with us even after you can't find the film in camera stores anymore. The refrain from the Paul Simon hit is one reason. And many of us have, tucked away in closets or attics, thousands of Kodachrome slides of our early married years, our kids growing up, and shots of our parents when they were (OMG!) the age we now find ourselves at. I bet many, like me, haven't looked at those Kodachromes for years because their Kodak Carousel slide projectors are long gone or, if we still have them, the bulbs have burned out and we can't get replacements.
But those boxes and Carousel trays filled with Kodachrome memories are still there.
Sadly, however, the time has come for Kodak to take my Kodachrome away.
My mother taught me as a child to always say thank you when someone does something for me or gives me something. My parents had a retail store -- children's clothing -- and they trained me to say thank you whenever a customer paid me. To this day, the habit sticks and when a cashier or store clerk gives me change, I still say Thank You.
Showing your appreciation by saying thank you is more than common courtesy. It's good business, good customer relations and, in some cases, good public relations.
Stuart Elliott, in his weekly New York Times e-column, writes about one example of saying thanks. The N.Y. City Mayor's Office of Film and Broadcasting earlier this month unveiled a public service campaign to thank New Yorkers for hosting film and TV production in their neighborhoods. "Hosting" is a polite way to put it, because in many ways we New Yorkers "tolerate" the inconvenience of having streets or sidewalks closed off while location shooting takes place.
I must admit -- I often used to get an attitude when some kid with a walkie-talkie would politely ask me to wait or cross the street while a scene was being filmed. I used to feel, "who the hell are these people to take over an area and inconvenience all the rest of us working people."
And then, several years ago, a film crew took over my neighborhood at home as Penny Marshall was filming the Drew Barrymore-Brittany Murphy feature "Riding in Cars with Boys." The crew people were so nice and polite and genuinely thankful for being allowed to come into our neighborhood to film. My neighbor, whose house was used for several exterior and interior shots, got more than $30,000 for the inconvenience, along with new shrubs and wallpaper. We let them use our home as a "green room," so we got $2,500 along with an open invitation to eat at the craft truck. We also got to meet a nice bunch of crew people and actress Brittany Murphy, who fell in love with our dog, who was just a puppy then. They even hired our son to assist with traffic control.
Our son later got a degree in filmmaking from Emerson College and now directs music videos. We've seen him doing location shoots, and it reinforced our realization that the film crews are, for the most part, a nice group of (mainly) young people trying to earn a living from their craft. They don't assume that because they have a film permit they can run rampant through people's neighborhoods. The vast majority of the crews are very appreciative of the public's tolerance.
So it's a smart move -- both good public relations and good business -- for the New
York City Film & TV Office to run a campaign that thanks New Yorkers for their
understanding and, in the process, makes them aware of the amount of revenue film and TV bring to the city.
More than 100,000 New Yorkers, including many of my son's friends and classmates who now work in film here, are employed by the industry. More than $5 billion is pumped into the New York City economy every year by film and TV.
So the city is trying to remind us with a PSA campaign. Hopefully, it will make more of us a bit more understanding the next time we're inconvenienced by a location shoot.
We New Yorkers benefit in many ways. Film and TV work helps the city's economy. And it's fun to see neighborhoods we know on TV or the big screen. It makes us appreciate and love our city even more.
I don't know about the rest of the country, but here in New York, it seems we've all had sex on our minds.
Media here have been hyping the opening of the Sex and the City film. Stories in the papers and on TV have been talking about women who plan to go, in groups, to see the film, and then have parties or even do the town in Carrie Bradshaw style, going to the trendy spots and downing cosmopolitans. I was clearly in the minority last night when I went to see the film with my wife and another couple. My friend Bernie and I were among a total of nine or ten men in the theater packed with 250 or so women. And this wasn't in Manhattan; this was in the quiet suburbs of Bronxville/Mount Vernon, just north of the city.
I used to watch Sex and the City when it was on HBO and I liked it. I'm not sure I would choose to have such shallow and materialistic women as my close friends, but that doesn't mean I couldn't enjoy a weekly glimpse into their lives. Similarly, I don't think I'd want good fellows like Tony Soprano and his crew as close friends, but I loved getting to know them through the distance of TV every week.
I won't spoil it for anyone by giving details, but the Sex and the City film was, in my opinion, a perfect way to bring closure to the long-running HBO show. It was interesting to see how these women we had come to know were getting on with their lives a few years after the show had ended. The film has the same wit and glitz as the TV show, and it gave even more dimension to the lead characters and to the men in their lives.
If you were a fan of the show when it was on TV, definitely go see the movie. If you never watched the show, I think you'll still enjoy it. It's light entertainment, with a nice message about the importance of friendship -- which is something even the few men in the audience can appreciate. (For the macho guys who go only to keep their wives or girlfriends happy, there are a few nude scenes to keep you awake.)
Next... Will there be a Sopranos feature film? F*ckin' A!
The Oscars -- red carpet, glitz and glam, Hollywood stars.
Here's another look at the scene around the Kodak Center in Hollywood on Oscar day. I found this on an independent music site called Videothing.com, which profiles the alternate music scene in L.A. (and sometimes beyond.)
After you click here, look for the screen that says "Holy Sh*t After the Oscars" and click on it. The first half is a fun look at "the other" Oscar scene; the rest is footage of of a band called Holy Sh*t, which you may or may not like.
The Oscar scene is one you won't see on TV, that's for sure.
Videothing.com is an ongoing project by a young filmmaker named
Michael Reich. He does this for fun between the music videos and
corporate videos he directs. Videothing has been written up in some
music magazines, and will soon be profiled in Fader.
What is Daft Punk and why would a 60-year old blogger know about them? And how and why would that blogger be among a crowd of 20-somethings last night at the New York premiere of their new feature film Electroma?
Until a year ago, I had no idea who or what Daft Punk was. That's when my son Michael, 26. who directs music videos in L.A. called to say he'd be in the California desert for a few days working on a feature film. But instead of being behind the camera, he would be a lead actor in a film by Daft Punk. A British punk band, I figured. But actually, I learned, they're a French music duo and their music isn't punk -- it's electronic new wave chill music. (I know. Huh?)
Daft Punk, it turns out, is Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. Since around 1997, they've been making music that mixes house music, disco and distorted vocals. They've sold 6 million records. They're pretty big in Europe, I'm told, and becoming an underground phenomenon here in the U.S. When they perform, they dress as robots.
Back to the California dessert... So my son was dressed as a robot in Electroma, Daft Punk's feature film about two robots in a robot world who try to become human but fail. He spent days filming, in a hot costume in the desert heat. He was even set on fire for the final scene. He had the good sense not to tell me and my wife about that scene until after it was safely completed.
That's Michael on the right...
Daft Punk flew Michael to Paris for the film's screening at the Cannes Film Festival, where he said he partied on Samuel L. Jackson's yacht and was hounded by paparazzi who were actually after the girlfriend of one of the Daft Punk guys -- she's evidently a hot French actress celeb.
The film got picked up for the Scion (the car) music/art/film series, and Michael is now going to premiere showings of Electroma is several cities, where he does a Q&A with the audience following the screening. He made us proud, the way he handled the audience of about 300 with poise and humor. And I did like the film, although I warn you it's definitely not for mainstream audiences, with endlessly long shots and slow action. (There's a scene of the robots walking in the desert sun -- just them walking -- that must run 4 or 5 minutes.) You won't see this in the multiplex at your local mall. It'll be on pay-per-view next year.
Someone last night likened the film to the way people (in my generation) used to watch The Beatles' Yellow Submarine film 35 years ago: chill, maybe have a few puffs and let the film transport you to another place. That's probably the idea behind Electroma. Even without puffing, the film lulls you into another state, with the long shots, no spoken dialogue, and a variety of music that gently slips in and out.
As a p.r. person who's done many special events, I was at first surprised by the extreme low-key approach taken by the sponsor. There were no blaring Scion banners on-site. On the front door of the theater was a hand-scrawled sign announcing the Scion event. Scion was mentioned casually at the start and end of the program, and my son told everyone to buy a Scion on their way out. (His sense of humor. I know he wasn't asked to mention the sponsor.) In the lobby area, along with tons of other flyers, were copies of a very low-tech looking newsletter called The Skinny, with a small Scion logo on it. No slick ads for Scion it it, although there was a small article about a rally the southern California Scion Owners Club had in the fall.
My first reaction was -- the sponsor certainly underplayed this. But as I think about it, it may be a brilliant bit of marketing. Scion is evidently trying to reach hip twenty-somethings who might ignore or rebel against blatant in-your-face promotion. Glitzy sponsorship might not have played well to this crowd in this setting.
So much for my visit to the world of robots, house music, 20-somethings and low-key promotions. It was fun.
View a sampling of Michael's music videos at http://www.drawpictures.co.uk/promo-directors/micheal.go. He also has a site with performance clips and interviews with indie and punk bands. Check it out at www.videothing.com.