The epic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons has added two new combatants—Paramount Pictures, the studio releasing Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and the film’s director, Michael Bay.
Bay fired the first shot in May by sending a scathing email to Paramount executives, blasting them for mishandling the marketing and advertising campaign for the blockbuster movie, which opens in North America this weekend.
Bay critisized the spending on newspaper advertising, especially in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times.
“Am I missing something?” Bay wrote. “I’ve been locked away editing for six months, but I have been waiting, and waiting for the ‘anticipation’ of an ‘event movie’ to make it into the ‘public zeitgeist.’”
He also complained about the marketing of the film during the MTV Video Awards, saying that having the film’s two lead actors giving an award and showing a clip was not enough to blow viewers away.
“Is there some clever idea why we are not spending?” Bay asked in the memo. “I’m not sure. I’m sure, though, the movie will do fine, but not to your internal expectations because right now we are fooling ourselves by being cocky.”
Bay also blasted the trailer that was released in foreign markets, saying it did not properly feature the return of the character Megatron, a major plot point that would lure Transformer fans into theaters.
A month later, Bay did a complete turnaround, praising Paramount for “busting your butts and bringing your ‘A game’ for the release of Transformers.”
Bay’s outbursts are unfair and reveal the sometimes shaky relationship between studio marketing departments and filmmakers, said Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5W Public Relations.
“It’s really not fair,” he said. “Marketing people work very hard and they get none of the recognition when it does well. If it doesn’t, they get all the blame.”
Torossian acknowledged that directors, actors and others involved on the creative side have a legitimate concern when their months of work are turned over to a marketers who must fashion trailers, posters, print ads and other materials to pump up interest in the film.
But both sides should realize they are partners in the effort, not adversaries. Torossian said Bay’s time would have been better spent meeting with journalists to build buzz for the film instead of blasting the studio.
Bay’s comments also ignore the fact that the studio has invested millions of dollars in the production of the film and millions more in marketing it. The studio and its investors likely stand to lose more if the film tanks than Bay does.
“Clearly, Paramount has a financial vested interest in this,” he says. “I wonder how much of a diva this guy is.”
Bay isn’t the only one to blast a film’s marketing campaign.
Last year, comedian Dane Cook went public with complaints he had about the poster for his film My Best Friend’s Girl. Cook praised the movie on his MySpace page, but said the poster, which pictures him with co-stars Kate Hudson and Jason Biggs, fell short.
“The left side of my face seems to be melting off of my skull,” Cook wrote. “I guess I am looking directly into the Ark of the Covenant?”
Also last year, George Lopez called the trailer for his Beverly Hills Chihuahua, “annoying.”
Expressing misgivings privately is one thing. But going public, especially in the digital age where e-mails and MySpace posts last forever, can cause permanent rifts that could damage future projects, said Matt Eventoff of Princeton Public Speaking.
“Very simple, in our hyper-connected word, everything has a much longer shelf life then it once did - what you say can haunt you tomorrow and lot more easily than it could have ten years ago,” Eventoff siad. “Think before you speak or hit send.”