This Week on Cinematic Slant

Girls Trip got a fun, sexually-empowered campaign about a group of friends having in fun in New Orleans. Dunkirk’s campaign, by contrast, was super-serious and steeped in history. The marketing of Landline was fun but sad as it sold a story of a family’s disillusionment. Finally, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ marketing made the case for an original, imaginative sci-fi adventure.

I also took a twopart look back at the last 10 years of movie marketing winners and losers at San Diego Comic-Con. And both Nolan and I reviewed War For The Planet Of The Apes, notably through the lens of having just watched the previous two installments.

6 Tips For Clearing Your Head

I’m notorious for gripping the bat too tight when it comes to work things. I’ll sit here and turn a problem over and over in my head. I won’t allow myself to turn away until I crack the issue. I’ll get so deep into something that I can no longer see the forest for the trees or really see anything else. The creativity just won’t flow. Everything outside of that problem is a distraction, nothing is turning out right and the frustration levels are pretty damn high.

Over the years I’ve developed a few tactics for getting out of my own head on a specific issue and trying to get some perspective on things. That kind of perspective is essential and has often led to one of a few outcomes: 1) I have a breakthrough and finally arrive upon an approach that will deal with what needs dealing with or 2) I finally let go of my pride and ask for help, calling in reinforcements to provide the kind of outside thinking that’s sometimes necessary. Here are some of the ways I try to break out of a funk that’s too often of my own making.

Writing Something Else

Here’s a little truism about writers: We don’t always have fresh and interesting perspectives on every topic under the sun on-demand. Often I’m asked to weigh in on a topic that I want to opine on but am unsure what I want to say. Or I’m working on a client project and the angle just isn’t coming to me, no matter how many ways I turn things over in my mind. The best thing I’ve done in situations like this is to write about something else. Anything else. Movies, music, a personal journal…whatever. Just get words flowing in some manner on another topic, find the groove and let it play itself out. It’s often in the middle of this kind of distraction that I have an “Oh…that’s the key” moment, but I’ll write that down somewhere on the side and then come back to it when I’ve finished whatever it is I’ve started.

Take a Walk

I work at a standing desk arrangement so it’s not as if I’m sitting hunched over the computer all day to begin with. Still, sometimes the best remedy for loosening my grip is to stretch my legs a bit and go get some fresh air. I’ll have my phone with me, of course, but usually I don’t bring any headphones so I’m not listening to music or podcasts or anything while I’m doing so. Instead I’m more in the moment outdoors, taking in the sounds of the cars going by, the train passing a block over, someone cutting their grass, the squirrel running in the tree above me and more. This sort of giving myself over to the real world is essential sometimes and I’ll come back at least feeling like I’ve given myself a break from staring at the monitor and have used not only some different physical muscles but opened up some fresh neural pathways as well.

Do Some Physical Labor

Similarly, doing something that’s not writing has proven to be a valuable distraction. Maybe I’ll go pull some weeds or clean something dirty or move things around in the garage. This is more about redirecting my mind not on something that’s just a distraction but actually solving a new problem. Again, that sort of change will help loosen things up a bit and take my mind off the work-related issue, pushing it to my subconscious, which is often better at arriving at solutions than the conscious mind.

Read a Book

Sometimes the best solution is not an active alternative but a passive one. Reading a book means you’re sitting back and letting someone else take you on a journey, not actively foraging ahead on your own. That’s a much different experience than most of what I’ve already discussed. When I read I let myself be transported to that other world (especially with fiction) and being more passive about my distraction. Note that I don’t lump “watching a movie” in with this since for me, especially if I’m on my own, it’s hard not to pick up my phone or laptop when I’m watching a movie at home. I’ll eventually be fidgeting and looking to check Twitter or keep up on RSS or something. If I’m reading, I’m just reading. I can’t be poking around on Facebook *and* reading. It’s a much fuller distraction.

Turn On Different Music

When I’m working I’m usually listening to either music or podcasts. But sometimes what I’ve selected just isn’t working, it’s not conducive to giving myself over to the flow and it’s helping get any ideas started. So I’ll switch over from podcasts to music or vice versa. Or I’ll realize this album I’m listening to isn’t working and try something else. Just like Baby in Baby Driver had that one killer track that was his go-to when he needed to up the adrenaline and make the magic happen I have a few reliable options that will get me pumped up, which usually accompanies a spike in creativity. They act like the needle Vincent Vega jabs in Mia Wallace’s chest in Pulp Fiction and jumpstarts things.

Be Annoying On The Internet

This is going to sound a bit juvenile, but being kind of annoying has also helped me break out of a funk more than a few times. Sometimes I’ll go on Twitter and let loose with a tirade on one topic or another or just crack a few jokes I’ve been wordsmithing for a while. Or lately I might go on Slack and join a few conversations. Whatever the outlet, this has occasionally freed up some space in my mind and all of a sudden I come back to the project I’m working on and can come up with the fun, creative idea that I’ve been grasping for.

How about you? Are there tactics you’ve developed to make sure you can get things going when you feel like the creativity or insights just aren’t there? Share in the comments below.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

This Week on Cinematic Slant

Both Nolan and myself reviewed Spider-Man: Homecoming, which we both liked very various reasons.

I reviewed the marketing campaigns for Lady Macbeth and War For The Planet Of The Apes and flashed back 25 years to the campaign for Cool World and 75 years to the campaign for The Magnificent Ambersons.

On the newsier front, here’s what studios are bringing upcoming movies to San Diego Comic-Con and I’m surprised Quentin Tarantino wants to be constrained by telling a true-life story.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Event Hashtags

This time next week San Diego Comic-Con will be in full swing, opening to the public after Wednesday’s Preview Night events. I’ve written before about how I attended five years’ worth of SDCCs, from 2011 to 2015, on behalf of Voce client DC Entertainment.

The first year I did so I had to swallow a pretty big pill. Namely, I had to accept the fact that I was going to use a hashtag for the posts that made up that coverage.

My attitude toward hashtags was, for a good long while, pretty antagonistic. I didn’t like them, felt they were being used poorly by people to intrude on other conversations with inappropriate material and were just ugly in how they cluttered up the feed, particularly on Twitter. Over the years I’ve slowly come to a level of neutral acceptance toward them. I still don’t like the form factor involved. While hashtags are pretty popular on Twitter and Instagram, they’re dead-on-arrival on Facebook and LinkedIn, with almost no one using them.

I get, though, that they do form some sort of taxonomy for the social web. Back in the day we used to have tags that were added to blog posts (we still do, of course) and that you could search Technorati for. Now we have Twitter Search as well as other enterprise-level tools like Union Metrics, SimplyMeasured and others that will tell you how many times that hashtag has been used, what the impressions for Tweets including the hashtag were and more important numbers.

That’s largely what prompted me to reconsider my position and embrace the hashtag: Metrics.

One of the goals of most event coverage by a brand – including media companies – is to focus fan/attendee conversation in a way that most directly benefits the brand. The best way, I’ll argue, to do that in a disintermediated media world is through the use of hashtags that are unique to both the event and the brand.

Let’s the event in question is Big Time Convention. The event organizers might encourage people to use #BigTimeCon17. That’s great and any brand participating in and updating from the event should definitely use that. But when the social media team gets home at the end of the week they’re going to be asked to report on how many people were specifically talking about their news.

That’s where something new needs to come into usage. If AB Company is publishing from the event and wants people to be talking about their news announcements, it could encourage people to use #ABBigTime17. So a Tweet from AB might look like this:

We just announced our new Gizmo 7000 and people are anxious to hear more about it! See pics from our #BigTimeCon17 event. #ABBigTime17

That update not only respects the wishes of the organizer but also helps focus the conversation around the company and its news specifically.

By choosing and using an event-specific hashtag, reporting can be done after the fact. As I stated earlier, metrics tools will let you pull the number of people who used that hashtag, how many impressions all those tweets accumulated and more, all of which can (hopefully) be used to prove how your recommended strategy and tactics were successful. And as I did so repeatedly for multiple clients, I was able to build Storify collections recapping not only my own updates from an event but also including those from fans in attendance.

While I still think hashtags are ugly and that the overall user experience involving them could be vastly improved, I’ve come to understand and accept they have some utilitarian value. I’ve even begun (gulp) using them for my own purposes to make my Tweets more discoverable to anyone searching for popular industry-specific topics like #contentmarketing and more.

I realize that, to some extent, my push-back on them was the result of being a big stick in the mud. They were, after all, not that different from the tags used on blogs that help expose them to search results more efficiently. It’s just that, unlike on blogs, social media has no native taxonomy associated with it. So this tacked-on tool has always struck me as a bit wonky.

Despite that, I see the utility, especially when it comes to organizing people around something big. They may still be ugly, but they work.

We Haven’t Moved Beyond “Fanboys?”

So here’s how the news Atomic Blonde would screen for select attendees at San Diego Comic-Con was presented to readers of Deadline.

I had to shake my head when I saw the headline. “Fanboys?” Really? Are we still on this? Are we still of the opinion that SDCC and other geek culture events are dominated by lonely males in the throes of arrested development who just like to shitpost about movies they don’t like for the lulz? I thought we were past this.

As someone who’s been to Comic-Con five times in the last seven years (I was covering it for work, of course) I can tell the audience is infinitely more diverse than the stereotypical “fanboy.” Not everyone there is trying to tear down remakes of their childhood favorite franchises. There are comics fans, there are movie fans, there are anime fans, there are horror fans. Not just men but women of all ages, all there engaging in the fun, whether that means attending panels, showing off their Batgirl cosplay or anything else.

This is a rich, multifaceted community that I was honored to engage with for a number of years. Sure, you’ll find some people who seem to be the real life incarnation of Comic Book Guy from “The Simpsons,” but in my experience that’s not even the majority of attendees.

If you’re still using “fanboys” as your shorthand for the kind of people who go to San Diego or any other geek gathering, you need to update your style guide. Not only is it outdated and derogatory toward passionate fans but it’s also obviously more than a little sexist. Not everyone there is pulled from the set of “The Big Bang Theory.” Let’s just do better next time.

Find Me On the New Fiverr Pro

Several weeks ago I was contacted by a representative of Fiverr, a freelancer marketplace, to see if I’d be interested in being part of an upcoming launch of a premium platform it was prepping. Always anxious to help get my name out there a bit more – and subsequently bring in a bit more work – I agreed.

fiverr pro

Today the wraps are finally being taken off with the reveal of Fiverr Pro. This enhanced level of membership is meant to but the minds of potential buyers/clients at ease by essentially offering verified contractors, people with the experience and reliability to take on bigger projects.

You can find me on Fiverr here and contact me for any copywriting or content management needs you might have. I’ll be adding more “gigs,” as they’re called, over time that include more of the areas I have experience in.

Introducing The World of Status On Patreon

As I said before I’ve been writing more fiction recently. It’s a creative itch that’s been fun to scratch and actually has become a sort of mediation for me, taking me out of the mindset I’ve been in where writing has to have a point, an argument that’s made that needs to clearly convey a very specific bit of information of point of view. It’s similar to how my former boss Mike Manuel recently described drawing, as a way to let the mind blank out on the world by focusing on something very specific and outside the world I usually live in.

patreon-logo-e1495085041531I’ve published a bit of short fiction here and have a novel that’s being written on a bunch of legal pads that are sitting on my desk, but there was something I wanted to do that was different. That’s why I started a Patreon page.

A year or so ago I had the idea for an alternate society where your societal status is literal currency. It’s not just like our world where your social strata largely defines who you are and what opportunities you have access to. Instead of being something intangible (though still very real), in the world of Status that standing is very literal currency. It’s the key to unlock everything, from what schools you go to to what doctors you can see to where you’re allowed to shop. Status has been codified and assigned and defines who you are and what you can do in a concrete way.

One of the things, though, is that I’ve been interested in this world and the characters that live in it but haven’t been able to crack the connective tissue. So a bigger story that would form the basis of a novel has eluded me. Instead I’ve just found smaller stories – vignettes, really – that I’ve been wanting to tell.

That’s the story I’m going to publish on Patreon.

My plan right now is to publish new vignettes every week. As support increases I might increase that, but that’s a bridge I’ll jump off when I come to it.

If you have the means and are interested in reading more from the world of Status, consider becoming one of my Patreon supporters today. It would mean a ton to me. I’m excited to finally get these stories out of my head and into the world, especially if it’s something people signal a financial willingness to support and see more of.

I Don’t Need to Outrun The Bear…

That old saw about the requirements to survive a bear attack (it ends with “…I just need to outrun the guy next to me.”) keeps running through my head as I both read about how The Mummy couldn’t make it past Wonder Woman at last week’s box-office and how early reviews of Cars 3 seem to say “Well, at least it’s better than Cars 2.”

The critical drubbing The Mummy received seems to have awakened a new appreciation for the 1999 movie of the same name starring Brendan Frasier, which I remember as alright but certainly nothing I thought about even a year later, much less 18. Writers of hot takes seem to think that this Tom Cruise version needed to or should have been better than that one and the fact that it’s not is a knock against it. Similarly, the comparison of the third Cars entry to the second is natural. Both of these are inconsequential, though, in the hard calculus of actual ticket sales.

The Mummy (2017) didn’t need to be better than The Mummy (1999) or The Mummy (1932). Each can and should have their own value as movies, judged on their own terms by critics. Those movies are, to use the opening joke as an analogy, the bear and that’s not what needed to be outrun or beaten.

No, each week you don’t need to beat the bear, you just need to outrun the guy next to you. In the case of The Mummy, that meant Wonder Woman, Captain Underpants, Pirates of the Caribbean and now Cars 3 and other new releases.

When Cars 3 underperforms this weekend (at least that’s my guess based on the very strange marketing campaign for this second sequel) there will be plenty of analyses that compare it to the previous two movies in the franchise. But that’s the wrong measuring stick to use.

That’s why I don’t get why more people aren’t paying more attention to how these movies are sold on a regular basis. If you want to look at why one movie did or didn’t succeed, I don’t think it’s because audiences were comparing it to other films that came out 20 years ago or whatever. It’s because the trailer didn’t make a compelling case for them to choose that over another entertainment option. It’s because the word-of-mouth for this movie is so strong it’s become the default topic at work or on Facebook among friends. Not that those contextual factors critics and others focus on aren’t relevant, it’s just that they don’t tell the whole story. More accurately, those perspectives leave out a wide variety of inputs and variables that have had just as much, if not more, impact on the decision making of the audience.

I’m all for putting movies in historical context when analyzing their box-office fate. But they also need to be put in their immediate, timely context as well.

Jimmy Kimmel’s Is Just One Story of Our Healthcare System

You can’t help but be moved by Jimmy Kimmel’s recent revelation that his son was born with congenital heart issues and required surgery within 24 hours of birth to address the problem. Praise God for attentive nurses, talented doctors and the other factors that all came into play to save this child’s life and good on Kimmel for using his very public platform to not only recount the story but also point out that access to healthcare is so vital. That message seems particularly important as lawmakers in Washington, D.C. seem bent on finding new and increasingly cruel ways to limit that kind of access to anyone who can’t afford it or who has the bad fortune of just getting sick.

Kimmel was right to use his venue to make this case, though it can’t be forgotten that there are countless parents across the country who are struggling through similar circumstances. They have a child who requires serious ongoing care and, unlike him, might not have employers who are so supportive of needing to take a week – or more – off work to deal with it. These parents not only may not be able to find the kind of specialists that can address the particular problem but, if they do, that care may be beyond their financial or travel means. And if they, like so many, are working part-time jobs that don’t offer benefits and where they are easily replaced by someone who’s “more reliable” then taking the time to care for their child may just not be an option. There’s rent to pay and food to buy and so they need to work.

Kimmel nails the crux of the issue when he says that no parent should have to face a situation where they can’t afford to save the life of their child. What kind of society are we building when we attach a dollar figure to the life of an infant – or child of any age – and say if the pa rents aren’t able to meet that threshold then their child isn’t with saving. That’s inhuman, not to mention inhumane.

That’s the situation too many people are in, though, and the current proposal working its way through the House of Representatives would go even further in that direction. Under it healthcare would inaccessible to parents of all stripes as well as large swaths of the population in general. “We can’t afford it” would be a conversation that once again massive amounts of people would have. That leads to people who can’t get better and so can’t get back to work and so can’t support their families and so rely on assistance programs of the very kind that the GOP currently in the majority of our federal government want to similarly strip.

It’s all designed to create a permanent underclass. If you get sick it must be, according to those in charge, because you prioritized that new iPhone or bought a 12-pack of Coke when you should have been saving for cancer treatments. Never mind how that iPhone might be the only way you can access the internet and look for jobs or connect with friends and family. Or how that pack of Coke might be the one treat you’ve been able to give your kids after weeks of going without anything but the bare essentials.

Here’s another scenario to consider, though: Imagine if expectant parents were told their child had a congenital heart defect or other issue that was discovered before he or she was even born. The doctor gives them the choice to abort the pregnancy now or let the baby be born, but with the knowledge it will need a lifetime of medical care. The beliefs and values of the parents may want the baby to be born and they will deal with things as they come up. But with finances a factor in the decision as well the calculous changes to one that is more pragmatic to use a cold, callous word. “My job won’t allow for the kind of time to take this child to all the appointments it will need,” they might say to themselves.

It comes down to the fact that in a progressive, enlightened society these are the kind of conversations that never need to happen. We should be beyond that. There are those, though, that want to use healthcare and more as tools to deny people any chance at advancement. You can’t move up the social ladder, no matter how motivated you are, if you can’t get medicine to keep a transplanted organ functional. You can’t unlock your full potential without access to a quality education. You can’t be who you really are if you’re drinking water from a source polluted by a company who recently had regulations rolled back and breathing air that’s filthy from nearby factories that have no emissions standards. Oh, and all those things will add to the likelihood future children are born with health problems that can be denied by insurance companies as “preexisting conditions.”

Thank God Kimmel’s child is doing well and we all pray that continues, just as we pray for the continued health of all children who need help and daily or otherwise regular treatment. But just like thoughts and prayers won’t stop a bullet fired from the gun of a disgruntled husband who gets into a school, they alone won’t heal a child. Only access to the God-given talents of healthcare providers can do that. It’s exactly that kind of access we need to consider a basic human right, both in this country and elsewhere.


So I might have started a little thing when I was just trying to be funny/annoying on Twitter today…

Kickstarted by Chicago writer Chris Thilk and spread through local media Twitter and now well beyond, people on Thursday started sharing other potential prerequisites that a despotically inclined city official might just mandate, using the hashtag #OtherRahmRequirements. Sample the spectacular snark below and take a minute to pitch your own. ‘Cause this kind of flip-the-bird-in-the-face-of-the-abyss instinct is one of the things that make us love this city so.

Source: #OtherRahmRequirements Is Here To Hilariously Humiliate The Mayor’s Education Plan: Chicagoist