DON’T MUG ME OFF…
As you probably know by now, I’m a limey Brit scumbag, delivering my posts from across the Atlantic and occasionally the odd bit of slang slips in from these fair shores. We Brits seem to have a capacity for linguistic creativity that puts other anglophone nations to shame. We did invent if after all. If you really want to know what creativity is put down your DSLR and come hang out in South East London for a couple of days. Language is a bit like anti-viral medication, use it too much and it loses its power. The C word is nowhere near as offensive as it used to be now, simply because we hear it so much more. Slang exists because regular language just won’t do, but because its effect is derived from power above and beyond the meaning, it is quickly exhausted and must find new paths elsewhere. Fortunately, anything can be slang and we’re in no danger of there ever being a shortage of words to pervert into new and bizarre meanings. ‘Don’t mug me off…’ – it’s an English slang expression meaning ‘Are you deliberately insulting me?’
WARNING: the above clip contains some seriously bad language. Really bad language.
Despite what you might think, this is not a post about writing dialogue. This is actually a post about ill-conceived marketing. Bear with me.
Enter stage left a titan of the DSLR community, a man whose films have consistently left people gasping for air over the last two years: Mr Tom Lowe, 2010 Astronomy Photographer of the Year. Little snippets from the TimeScapes film have been trickling down to us with visions of galactic awesomeness all captured robotically on custom built rigs. Pretty stuff. I’ll be honest, it’s not really my cup of tea, I’m a narrative guy but I can appreciate the artistry. You’ll be pleased to know the TimeScapes film is due to be released soon and you can pre-order it now. Actually that’s not fair. You can order one of nine versions of the same film. Nine versions. Let’s dig deeper.
There’s a DVD (standard edition), Blu-ray (standard edition), HD download (standard edition) – so far so good, but I think charging the same for a download as a hard copy is pretty rough.
Next we have this:
Yes, for an extra $15 you get a behind the scenes video and your name in the ‘thank you’ section of the credits! For an extra $30 over the normal blu-ray price you get a blu-ray with a behind the scenes film and your name in the ‘thank you’ section of the credits! The download is even better value, retailing at just $39.95 for a digital file with your name in an easy-to-find section at the end of the film!
But wait, timelapse tommies, my hyperspeed nature-loving chums, there’s more! What? More ways to splosh dosh on tosh? Yes! I couldn’t believe it either!
Waltzing onto the red carpet in a blinged out hyperwagon limo, bespoke tux reflecting the flashbulb glitter of at least tens of adoring fans, meet the Platinum Edition:
‘As a special limited time offer for our biggest fans, your pre-order package includes:
An ‘Associate producer’ credit on the movie, and your name in the IMDB.’
Say what? Of course I’m doing Tom a disservice, you do get exclusive behind the scenes footage (wait didn’t we get that with the special edition…?) and an extra feature: Tom’s guide to shooting Timelapse (which needs a capital T by the way, never forget that). And would you believe it the whole package is only $299.95 and the BluRay, DVD and downloads are all the same price, so there’s absolutely no dilemma about which one to pick!
Don’t mug me off, mate. Seriously, don’t mug me off.
There’s so much to dislike about this whole business I’m kind of struggling to know where to begin. I understand that this is a niche product. I understand that pricing should reflect that. But this is a joke. A behind the scenes featurette is standard on DVDs, asking for $20 extra to have it on blu-ray, plus a miserable little thank you on the credits, well, that’s a bit much. Imagine the scene, ‘Hey look, I’m in the credits, no seriously, there I am!’, ‘Ooh, amazing!’ ‘But wait let’s watch the behind the scenes, oh yes, they’re sitting around doing nothing while the camera does the work’ ‘Awesome!’.
But the Special Edition still vaguely makes sense to me. The Platinum Edition boggles the mind. For $300 I should get every version of the film, and a sit down meal with the director. It’s the ‘Associate Producer’ credit on the film that really bugs me. This is like buying a knighthood. There’s already a credit for those who contribute financially to movies, Executive Producer. Associate Producer is another kind of slightly BS title, implying someone who supports the producer, sort of. Giving someone an Associate Producer credit is kind of saying, well you’re not really that important, but, you know, well done (now go away). It’s a timelapse film for god’s sake. If it were a major piece of drama, then maybe I might buy the concept, but I’ll say it again: Don’t mug me off. If I’m going to fork out $299 for the Platinum edition then you’re going to have to seriously kiss my ass.
Timelapse filmmaking is a relatively cost-effective exercise. Compare the mountains that need moving for drama and shooting some moving mountains really doesn’t stand the comparison. This pricing is ill-conceived, it’s wrong and, worst of all, it feels like a cynical attempt to milk the goodwill of a community. I don’t agree with that. I’m not a fan, but I know many many are and for them Tom’s work is inspiring and astonishing. I’m sure I’ve upset a few people by even daring to question the great man, but this, to me, is another example of power over meaning, like our friend slang. I’ve always felt the DSLR craze had a bit of the slang about it, incredibly powerful for a while but then slowly losing its impact. Same with timelapse photography… where next? I’m all for filmmakers being innovative, I’ve crowdfunded my own project but you have to be incredibly respectful of your audience and you have to be generous. This demonstrates neither of those two qualities.