An abnormal activity

I watched a weird movie yesterday night. For the sake of halloween, we set up the athmosphere, bought a movie about which we heard a lot  and got ready to be scared. Having seen quite a lot of disturbing ones throughout my life, I am familiar with the genre. So it is only natural that it wasn’t the movie that shocked me.  I was more surprised when I read about the story of the movie, namely Paranormal Activity…

First of all, I must say that word of mouth is an incredible marketing tool, especially when it is online. Otherwise it would be impossible for me to hear about a homemade movie from the other end of the world. The reason why I am attracted with the story of this movie is a special trailer not showing anything about the film, rather filming the audience and their scary faces while watching it in the theater. I know the trailer has been travelling in the net for some time but not shown in elsewhere. It is obvious for everyone that the net is a magical tool for such a communication.

After watching the movie, I wasn’t scared at all and didn’t get what I expected, I was rather disappointed. But I must admit that I respect the clever choice of the marketing strategy. It is a good example for a photographer-to-be student like me and I got my lesson how to use the new media in promoting your work.

Paranormal Activity

The abnormal activity of the movie: First-time director of the movie, Oren Peli, spent just $15,000 for the film, which has so far grossed more than $65 million in the US and Canada. That’s a record-breaking rate of return of more than 433,000 percent. How could it be possible?  Here is the story from the Los Angeles Times.

It was early 2008, and the director’s DreamWorks studio was trying to decide whether it wanted to be a part of the micro-budgeted supernatural thriller. As the story goes, Spielberg had taken a “Paranormal Activity” DVD to his home and not long after he watched the first half, the door to his empty bedroom inexplicably locked from the inside and made him scared and immediately stop watching.  He brought the movie back to DreamWorks and shared his studio’s enthusiasm for director Oren Peli’s haunting story about the demonic invasion of a couple’s suburban house.
“Paranormal Activity” was hardly a typical studio production. Peli, an Israeli-born video game designer who had no formal film training, shot the $15,000 movie in a week in 2006 with a no-name cast, a crew of several San Diego friends and a hand-held video camera in his own house.
But as Spielberg and the DreamWorks team believed, the movie held a special appeal – it was original and scary.
It was also supported by one of the more unusual marketing and distribution strategies via the net. Now it’s up to the film (and Paramount) to translate Internet buzz into a “Blair Witch Project”-style phenomenon.

“Once every five years, a guy makes a movie for a nickel that can cross over to a broad audience,” says “Paranormal Activity” producer Jason Blum, who, as a senior executive at Miramax Films, had a producing credit on “The Reader” and acquired the supernatural thriller “The Others.” “And there are about 3,000 of these movies made every year, so this film is about one in 15,000.”

In late 2007, Blum’s producing partner Steven Schneider came across “Paranormal Activity,” which follows a young couple who videotape themselves (including their nocturnal activities) to figure out who -or what – is tormenting them at night. An assistant at the Creative Artists Agency had seen Peli’s movie in 2007’s Screamfest Film Festival, which signed Peli, sent out DVDs to anyone who would take one, looking for a theatrical distributor for the film and future jobs for Peli as a director. No one stepped up to distribute the movie, but Schneider and Blum thought Peli’s first feature was so compelling that it deserved better. Peli had grown up fearing phantoms and channeled that fear into a relatively simple story about a young couple (Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston play the man and woman, also named Micah and Katie) who hear some very strange bumps in the night. Determined to discover the source of the disturbance, Micah starts videotaping everything, taunting the demon to show itself – which it ultimately does (in a manner of speaking). The acting is intentionally unpolished, as is the herky-jerky camera work.
Blum worked with Peli to trim “Paranormal Activity” and tried to place it with the Sundance Film Festival. Sundance passed, but the nearby Slamdance Festival accepted the film. Still, no one stepped up to release it.

Ashley Brooks, a production executive at DreamWorks, was one of the only studio types who believed in “Paranormal Activity,” and continually pestered her boss, production chief Adam Goodman, to watch the movie. Goodman finally did, and on his and studio chief Stacey Snider’s recommendation, so did Spielberg. “It’s what you don’t see that scares you,” Goodman says. “What’s really scary in the movie is a door closing half an inch.”

The setup and premise of the movie are pretty simple. Katie and Micah, played by newcomers Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, move into a suburban home and begin experiencing what appears to be a haunting. Compiled of “found” footage, the film chronicles several days in the life of the couple who buys a video camera to record unexplained phenomena around their home. Much to her discomfort, Katie explains that since her earliest childhood, something has always seemed to follow her around, and her family was constantly beset by strange occurrences. Micah is perhaps typically skeptical, but after a few nights of filming, he captures some odd, convincing footage, and becomes determined to document more concrete proof of the spirit’s existence, if not also hopefully get rid of it. But as the unseen force grows in power and makes it known that it wants Katie for itself, the couple slowly begins to lose control of their experiment, and decides to get out of the house before it’s too late for either of them to escape its powerful grasp.

Paranormal Activity

Interesting subject, but is it enough for such a record breaking return for a movie. Of course not. The unusual communication of the movie with the audience is one of the most important consequences that brought success.  The studio’s expectation is realized and the word-of-mouth is built.
The movie’s actors, as well as its writer-director, are not a part of the film’s initial marketing effort. “The less people know about ‘Paranormal Activity,’ the more they enjoy it,” the 39-year-old Peli says. “I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by putting the filmmakers and the cast in front.”
The filmmaker, who has since left his video game company, says he’s relieved that after nearly two years of waiting his movie finally will have its shot.
While it’s highly unlikely “Paranormal Activity” can come close to the success of 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” (a $35,000 production that grossed almost $250 million worldwide), Peli and Blum hope the film can teach the old dogs of Hollywood a new trick. “It really demonstrates,” says Blum, “how to do more with less.”

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One Response to “An abnormal activity”

  1. Very extraordinary website.
    The info here is really important.

    I will invite my friends.

    Cheers

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