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Cat Toys are the Key

USC students visit Post No BillsToday’s class involved a field trip to the offices of Post No Bills, which is a creative agency that generates imaginative promotions for clients including movies like Shrek, Disturbia, National Treasure 2, and Madagascar.  It’s inspiring to know such inventive campaigns are born right here in South Carolina.  Our tour of their building was like walking through a toy store for grownups with all of their nifty promotional knickknacks on display.

Doreen Sullivan, the owner of PNB, spoke with the students about how she started the business and explained the types of things they do for clients using plenty of fun show-and-tell examples.  She stressed the importance of presenting an intriguing package in promotional mailings, even down to the container.  She also talked about identifying the taste makers and targeting them, since those are the folks other people listen to. 

When we told Doreen our movie had a cat in it, she started firing off ideas about promotional items and campaigns almost faster than we could write them down – catnip, lint brushes, cat food, collars with bells, even a catwalk with models wearing cat ears – and this was all off the top of her head.  She mentioned how important it is to involve as many of the senses as possible and suggested we go to a pet store to immerse ourselves in the cat aisle to see what ideas it sparked.  So many fun things to think about!

Doreen did point out that our title might be too much of a downer, and that some people might be turned off because it sounds like a sad movie from the start.  She suggested we change it to something more catchy or intriguing.  Brian’s latest idea is Kitty Killed My Granny.  So what do you think?  Keep Saying Goodbye or go for something else?  Any suggestions for a new one?

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What’s the Plan, Man?

Jennifer Warren on marketing a filmBusiness plans and marketing plans and strategic alliances, oh my!  Today we attended a workshop by Jennifer Warren who is a New York based film consultant for independent content producers and media companies.  The SC Film Commission has brought her on board to help us with marketing and distribution strategies for Saying Goodbye.  She came to class yesterday to speak with the students specifically about our film, and then today she gave a general presentation on marketing and strategy to filmmakers from around the state.

Jennifer’s talk was chock full information, such as: identifying goals for your film, researching your target audience, creating a business summery, and devising action plans for advertising and promotion.  And that was all before lunch!  The most daunting thing we learned?  All this should have been done before shooting the film.  Oops!  On the positive side, even though we hadn’t typed up formal reports, we had at least discussed most these things and had them in mind while filming. 

After lunch, Jennifer conducted three different Skype sessions with filmmakers: Sally Rubin and Jen Gilomen (Deep Down), Clay Liford (My Mom Smokes Weed), and Thomas Woodrow (Bass Ackwards).  They talked about their experiences making their films and getting them out there for people to see.  It was extremely helpful to see the similarities and differences between the three experiences and hear what had and hadn’t worked for them.  A big thank you to the filmmakers who answered audience questions and so generously shared what they learned the hard way.

Jennifer got our brains buzzing about all kinds of different things we can do to promote our film and different audiences we can target with various marketing spins.  And she was so fun and easygoing that we can’t wait to work with her more as we get ready to put some of these strategy and distribution plans into place. 

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Saying Goodbye to LOST

Lost PromoWe've been fans of LOST since the beginning, so when we found out about a promo contest for their final episode, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to participate. We promise we're not procrastinating - we're practicing for making the Saying Goodbye trailer.

As part of the contest, ABC uploaded a bunch of clips from LOST which could be used to make the 35 second promo. After looking at all the clips (about 100 times), the perfect idea popped into Jocelyn's head... Saying Goodbye. It's a subtle way to cross promote our film and a great title for what we are sure will be the prize winning promo.

Although voting doesn't count until the next round of competition, we wanted everyone to get a first look at our promo. So click the link below and "practice" giving us 5 Stars. We'll keep you posted if (I mean when) we make it to the finals!



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Oscar Buzz Heats Up Again

SNL Death CatThe Academy Awards are just a few days away, so speculation about who’s winning an Oscar is running rampant.  We aren’t in contention this year, but look out 2011 Academy Awards!  In the meantime, we are far more interested in a different Oscar discussion. 

Dr. David Dosa, who introduced the world to Oscar the death-predicting cat in his essay for The New England Journal of Medicine in 2007, has now written a book called “Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat.” With the release of the book, the media is fascinated with Oscar all over again, and he’s been showing up everywhere: morning shows, Reader’s Digest, People Magazine, USA Today, and Seth Meyers even mentioned “the death cat” on SNL's Weekend Update.

When we first read the articles about Oscar, his streak was around 26, but now he is at over 50 accurate predictions.  The best part of reading these articles is seeing all the comments left by people who have similar stories about other cats and even dogs that are sensitive to when a person is near the end of life.  Animals truly are amazing. 

Jocelyn Rish's picture

Shopping Queen

Mary Elizabeth PowertballThe other day I had the TV on in the background when I heard a voice I thought I recognized.  I looked up just in time to see a familiar redhead doing a spastic dance of joy around a store.  It was a commercial for the SC Lottery featuring our Mary Elizabeth Cobb as a shopper who is SUPER excited about buying her first Powerball ticket.  I’ve seen the entire commercial several times since then, and I giggle every time Mary Elizabeth takes off on her crazy dance of celebration.

Mary Elizabeth on One Tree HillWhen I asked Mary Elizabeth about it, she also told me about another recent gig where she played a shopper.  It was the February 8th episode of One Tree Hill called “My Attendance Is Bad But My Intentions Are Good.”  While I will embarrassedly admit to having watched the first season of OTH, I dropped it once it went over the top on the ridiculous scale.  But since I am a fan of Mary Elizabeth, I forced myself to watch the entire episode on the CW website. Mary Elizabeth did a great job as a condescending customer, completely different from sweet, sensitive Kathy.

Brian Rish's picture

Snowy Death Cat

Snowy Death CatSouth Carolina received a small taste of Snowmagedon 2010 with the Valentine’s weekend snow storm. So I seized the rare opportunity of getting seven inches of southern snow to make my very own Death Cat Snowman.

Sadly, he is now a slushy lump of grass and leaves, but I am sure he will be back again someday… thumpetty thump thump, thumpetty thump thump, look at Death Cat go!

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Focus on Saying Goodbye

With the second cut of “Saying Goodbye” burned to a DVD, it was time to put it in front of a real audience. That’s right, the dreaded focus group.

We entered the room with butterflies in our stomachs and nervous smiles plastered across our faces. After a quick prayer to the film gods that the audience would not become an unruly “Saying Goodbye” hating mob, we pushed the play button.

Things were going great until about five minutes in when the film pixilated and froze cold. After many failed attempts to get past the digital hang-up, we decided to bust out Cliff’s laptop and play the movie directly from the edited file… luckily it worked! We hope that will be our first and last screening glitch - better now than at Sundance, right?

When the movie was over, an eerie silence filled the room… no clapping, no excited chatter, not even a sob or a sniffle! Where was the standing ovation, the throwing of flowers, the request for an encore?

…And then applause. Phew!

The open and honest discussion that followed was extremely helpful, and it solidified our concerns about some of the rough patches we’d already identified. All in all, the focus group really liked the movie, and they had some great suggestions for making it better. We really appreciate the feedback and thank everyone who participated.

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Make new friends, but keep the old

Students from Spring SemesterToday we met with the students who are in the second semester class for our project.  We have three students from last semester: welcome back Amanda, Fred, and Kasey!  We also have another familiar face joining the class: Dick White one of our brave, brave poker players.  And then we have three new students: Cassie, Karmen, and Matt – we’re happy to have you aboard the team!

The focus of this semester will be on editing and marketing.  These aspects might not be as “glamorous” as the actual filming, but are vital to the success of any movie.  As part of that, we’re running a contest for the students from both this semester and last semester to see who can build the most buzz for our film.  Good luck, y’all!


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Saying Goodbye to Carrie Reeder

Carrie ReederIt is with great sadness that we relay the news of Ms. Carrie M. Reeder’s passing.

Ms. Reeder was a resident at Agape Senior and lived on the hall where we did the majority of our filming. We’ve mentioned before how generous the Agape residents and staff were to us, but none were kinder than Ms. Reeder. Her perpetual smile and cheery attitude made her a joy to be around. She was always eager to show off her own modeling photos from earlier in her life, and the cast and crew enjoyed her stories of a life well lived.

The last time we spoke with Ms. Reeder, she was proudly sporting her SC Film Commission t-shirt.

Ms. Reeder passed away on December 29. She was 89. Our condolences go out to the Reeder family.

Jocelyn Rish's picture

Picky, picky, picky

My day job is working as a quality assurance analyst at a software company, which means I’m paid to nitpick other people’s work.  Add to that the fact I had a very clear picture in my head when I first wrote the short story, and poor Cliff didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he joined our team. 

Today we made another editing pass on Putty Gone Bad, and I came to the session armed with pages of “suggestions” for making the movie even better (keep in mind that I know nothing about editing).  Luckily, Cliff was a patient teacher and walked me through all the items on my list.  In many places, I saw the wisdom of the choices he had made; in other places, he agreed that my suggestion worked better.  In the process, I learned so much about all the things an editor has to be mindful of when fitting the plethora of puzzle pieces together into the prettiest picture.  I actually had fun getting to dip my hands back into the creative part of making the movie, and I hope I didn’t drive Cliff too crazy.