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PRODUCT PLACEMENT

GET BRANDED, GET FINANCED, GET IT MADE
Product placement has become a fact of movie and tv life; look at Cast Away (FedEx) and just recently, Evolution (Head & Shoulders shampoo). Here’s a chance for all Australian filmmakers, to get branded, get financed and get it made, says Andrew L. Urban, unveiling the first projects from the Urban Product Placement Unit (UPPU), like Chinatown, NSW.

In Cast Away, the product that is ‘placed’ is FedEx parcel service; the commercial is at the start of the movie, showing us the world of FedEx as Tom Hanks, the travelling executive, goes about making sure the on-screen version of the company lived up to its promise and delivered – on time, anywhere. Rah Rah.

In Evolution (David Duchovny, Julianne Moore) it is a shampoo brand, Head & Shoulders, that kills nasty aliens. The commercial is at the end, and here, it really does look like a tv commercial, with the cast grouping together and holding up the product. It is perhaps meant to suggest that they were so happy with its killability they endorsed it in their movie life. But the effect (especially as the movie is not head and shoulders above anything in its genre) is tragically cumbersome.

“Digitising brand names onto brand-name-less prop products will soon be all the rage”

On US tv, product placement is finally getting up a major head of steam, now that virtuality is here. Instead of offending advertisers who gatecrash the program, the real brand names will appear on everything from foodstuffs to whitegoods – digitally, and varied according to time slot, region and language. So in the afternoon movie, for example, James Bond will not be drinking Smirnoff (Goldfinger) but Cool Drink. Digitising brand names onto brand-name-less prop products will soon be all the rage.

We won’t know if Roseanne, for example, really eats Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, because maybe Kellogg’s just paid for the brand to be digitized onto the box. And in Russia, their branding is replaced by Moskvaflake.

“Forget the FFC, move with the movie times”

But even subtle forms of product placement offer Australian filmmakers great opportunities. Always struggling for finance, Australian filmmakers can no longer ignore this lucrative and easy access to movie finance: the investors are actually advertisers so they don’t expect a return! Forget the FFC, move with the movie times. Now, with UPPU, the marriage of product and movies can blossom; we have a group of trained staff scouting for specifically Australian opportunities.

Our first set of projects is now under way:

Chinatown, NSW
This film stars Bryan Brown as a private eye who uncovers a fraud involving the Sydney City Council and underground streams in Sydney’s Chinatown. In a key scene during which he accidentally stumbles into a secret stream, he stomps out cursing, “My f’ckin’ R. M. Williams!” as he tries to stamp his brown boots dry.

Gone With The Wind-Up Order
An epic story of a wealthy merchant Red Boulder (Russell Crowe), in Colonial NSW who falls in love with Starlet (Meg Ryan), a beautiful, spoilt brat of a girl who in turn falls in love with an officer in the NSW Corps (Guy Pearce). As the Eureka Stockade roars about them, destroying her father’s property, Mandalay Gunipingu, Red finally gives up on her, saying, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn about your Commonwealth Bank Mortgage…” and storms off.

Tighter, Nick
The world’s biggest oil rig is launched, claiming to be unsinkable. A young rigger, Nick (Peter Phelps) and the staff canteen’s waitress, Jill (Lisa McCune), fall in love, against all the rules. As the rig basks in the glow of its first day at sea, Nick and Jill throw off their hardy, industrial denim work gear, make passionate love and then watch the waves far below them, and Joe shouts in high spirits, “I’m King Gee of the world!”

Dirty Scoop Harry
Tough guy copper Harry Callahasnt (Hugh Jackman) finally corners his man, a real bad ass killer. He leans over the guy, dripping and dribbling everywhere, as he licks a large scoop of ice cream. “I know what you're thinking. Being as this is a .44 Magnum Ice Cream in a Sugar Cone, the most powerful hand-held ice cream in the world, and would blow your head clean off with flavour, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel yucky? Well, do ya punk?”

The Godmother (Part 1)
Crime story set in the Sydney of the 40s. The leading crime family is setting up a hit, to take out the corrupt police commissioner who is double crossing them. The Grandmother’s sons are scheming. The older one (Geoffrey Rush) is instructing his henchmen to make sure the hit – at a restaurant where the gun will be planted in the toilet - is well planned, so his younger brother carries it off smoothly. “I want someone good, I mean very good, to plant that gun. I don't want my brother coming out of the bathroom with just his Dick Smith Geosat Mobile in his hands.”

CurserBlanca
In the seedy Queensland port town of Port Douglasfairblancs, Dick Baloney (Steve Bastoni), a netcafe operator, Elsie (Cate Blanchett), a beautiful woman from his past and a sophisticated foreigner (Sam Neill), end up in a love triangle. Threatened by the outbreak of White Cane Toad disease (curse blanca toadium), evacuation plans are made. Dick urges Elsie to leave quickly - without him - and tells her: “I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of Old El Paso Mexe Beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now... Here's looking at you kid.”

Spot the deliberate error:
Margaret’s Wedding
Margaret is a suburban spinster, the ugly duckling who discovers her true self after trying to fake her own wedding. At one point she confesses: “When I lived in Porpoise Spit, I used to sit in my room for hours and listen to Abba songs. But since I've met you and moved to Sydney, I haven't listened to one Abba song. That's because my life is as good as an Abba song. It's as good as Dancing Queen.”

And some placements that didn’t get greenlit:
MANDIBLE
Infamous person eater Professor Harry Lectern digests the news that he’s now free to indulge his passions, after escaping from Clarence Startling (Jodie Foster) the cross-dressing detective on his case. In a phone call from his secret location, he revels in telling Clarence how nice “gently fried Finger Lickin’ Good liver goes well with a nice South Australian Penfold’s Chianti . . .”

CROCODILE DUNDEREE
Mick Dunderee, on a trip to New York, gets attacked by unwitting street trash, who pull a teeny weeny knife on him. Pulling out his half-metre-bladed Steel King, he stabs the first assailant, scowling, “That’s not a knife… this is a Steel King Knife . . . feel the width, scumbag.”

TAXI DRIBBLER
Trevor Becker drives ABC taxis for a living, and has fantasies about dying. Unhinged, dribbbling and dangerous one night, he confronts himself in the O’Briens Glass mirror: “You talking to me? You talkin’ on the Vodaphone to me?”

(With respect and sincere thanks to the creators of the original material which we have subverted. Ed)

Published July 19, 2001

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Kenny


A giant FedEx ad: Cast Away


In Evolution (David Duchovny, Julianne Moore) it is Head & Shoulders that kills nasty aliens







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