Yesterday in Variety, a bunch of clueless morons calling themselves The Colonial Fan Force ran a full-page, color advertisement clamoring for a “Battlestar Galactica” movie starring the original cast.
Millions of fans still dream of seeing the Battlestar Galactica roam the heavens once more in a big screen continuations of the epic story that began in 1978 with the original cast and characters leading a new generation of warriors
Yeah, right… there are millions, no TENS of millions, of fans clamoring for the return of Herb Jefferson, Laurette Sprang, Dirk Benedict, and Richard Hatch (who is not nearly as powerful an actor as the nude guy of the same name on “Survivor”… nor as successful). I suspect the real audience is about 100 fat guys in their 40s, who at this very moment are busily duping all their Heather Thomas videos onto DVD…
That said, I am always amused by the losers who spend their comic book money on pointless ads like this (or, worse, the ones who publish a synopsis of, or excerpt from, their unsold screenplays). The advertising guys at Variety and the Hollywood Reporter must laugh themselves silly with glee every time one of these suckers comes in.
In the case of the “Battlestar Galactica,” the folks at “The Colonial Fan Force” urge the readers of Variety (most of whom are entertainment industry professionals) to write writer/producer Glen A. Larson and Tom DeSanto, a guy who once tried to launch a movie version of the TV show. This shows just how little the people who paid for this ad understand about how the business works…and even sillier when you consider the SciFi Channel is already in the midst of shooting a new “Battlestar Galactica” TV series from NBC/Universal Studios with an all-new cast led by Edward James Olmos.
I suppose we have Gene Roddenberry to blame for this, ever since he cleverly engineered the so-called “viewer campaign” to save “Star Trek” from cancellation. So now we get ads demanding the return of dull supporting characters axed from TV shows (the “Save Marina” campaign on “The L Word” comes to mind) and from the millions of fans still crying over the demise of “Manimal.” I’m looking forward to the “Bring Gloria Reuben back to MISSING” ads… maybe the Colonial Fan Force can take up the cause.
I’m sorry, I shouldn’t joke. This “Battlestar Galactica” stuff is serious business, as is clear from the Colonial Fan Force website:
We’ve got to buckle down, and get to work. It’s going to be up to each member of fandom to make sure our efforts come to fruition. The CFF and its leadership will remain active in coordinating fan efforts as much as possible, but everyone reading this page has got to accept individual responsibility for making sure that we, as a group, rise together and speak with one voice. None of us can afford to think that “someone else will do it.” We’ve all got to find some time (and some stamps), and make it happen. We’ve got to make some collective noise.
This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Think of all the truly worthy causes that could benefit from the same time, effort and money these morons are devoting with such earnestness to this idiotic pursuit…
As you can see, the above post listed many comments, prompting me to explain the reasoning behind my opinion about the advertisement in more detail. For the benefit of those who don’t feel like slogging through all the comments to find that post, here it is:
You’ll notice that, with the exception of the STAR TREK and NAKED GUN movies, that none of the many other movies-based-on-TV series that have followed have starred the original cast, nor have any that have been announced for development
But that’s not the issue that makes the VARIETY ad so stupid or the people behind it so…how to put this nicely?…naive and wrong-headed.
These theatrical remakings of TV series are basically trading on the name identification of a hit series to create a new movie franchise, which is why they keep the name but cast movie stars in the roles. The original franchise is the selling point, not the actors. (Which is why I SPY didn’t have Bill Cosby, it had Eddie Murphy, and why WILD WILD WEST had Will Smith and not Robert Conrad. And why the new MIAMI VICE isn’t going to star Don Johnson or Philip Michael Thomas…but Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, instead).
These movies are intended to be blockbusters. And the blockbuster imperative doesn’t extend to nostalgia-friendly casting, with the exception of cameos (ie Patrick MacNee as invisible ghost in AVENGERS or Mark Goddard with one line in LOST IN SPACE) as a sop to the fans.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA has been done…as miniseries. The franchise value is already being mined. And it’s highly doubtful that people will flock to the theatres just to see Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict and company.
On a whole different level, the ad itself was wronghead, directed at an audience of writers, producers, directors, and studio heads who aren’t about to write letters to Glen Larson or Tom DeSanto.
The fans threw $12,000 away on an ad targeted at the wrong audience for their message (the message itself was wrong-headed, but I will get to that later, too). They humiliated their cause in the eyes of the very Industry that the fans were hoping to impress. Industry professionals who see ads like that in Variety aren’t impressed (any more than they are buy the struggling screenwriter who spends the money on a full-page ad to reprint pages of his unsold screenplay). The ad simply reinforced every preconception Hollywood has about fandom. It certainly did for me.
(On a side note, even if Glen Larson was dying to do a BSG movie, he does not have the clout to get a $100 million feature off the ground. You will notice he is only tangentially involved in the features in works based on his other TV series. So writing letters to him isn’t going to persuade a studio to dump money into the revival of a franchise that is already being mined on television, if in a “re-imagined version).
The ad in Cinescape, however, was also money poorly spent, though less obviously so. I’ll get to the reasons why in a moment.
You want to revive BSG? I think it’s a lost cause, especially since the valuable aspect of the franchise is already being mined on TV, but here’s some constructive advice:
Investing money in trade ads is useless. It’s better to use that money to organize a grass-roots campaign to make people aware of the BSG DVD and get them to buy it. On your website, make it look more businesslike and less fannish.
The trick is not to convince the powers that be that there are 100,000 absolute diehard fans who will do anything to get BSG back as a feature. You need to convince them there are actually tens of millions who have at least a passing interest in seeing BSG brought back. You want to spend money? Spend it on raising awareness among non-devotees of BSG. Get a groundswell of interest in the show itself. Try to push the DVD on people who aren’t familiar with the series. This is how it worked with THE NAKED GUN (on video) and later THE FAMILY GUY and FIREFLY, which were revived after cancellation because a lot of people saw the shows on home video and fell in love with them. Those video sales convinced the studios there was a lucrative market still out there.
The only thing that will convince a studio (or financiers) to make a movie is to be persuaded by hard facts and hard cash that there is still MORE money to be made Slavish devotion by a handful of fans… even if there are 100,000 of them… won’t bring in nearly enough money to justify a film.
Bottom line: Expose people to the show, not to your fandom. Expose studios to sales, not examples that some diehard devotees exist.
Which brings me to the website the advertisement directs readers to. The design and writing on the website only serves to confirm every Industry professional and non-fan’s immediate assumptions from the ad: This isn’t about the quality and merits of a TV show… it’s about a handful of diehard fans who can’t let go and have no real-world perspective.
The more you can do to NOT make this about the fans— and about THE SHOW, the better chance your campaign has of succeeding. But you’ve sabotaged yourself, and your campaign, from the outset… by crafting the wrong message and sending that wrong message to the wrong people. You need to rethink your image (the name “Colonial Fan Force,” for example), your message, and the best way to present it to the people you need to reach…
Which isn’t the studios.
It’s the viewers.