Michael Moore, Controversy Is Marketing

Largely unsympathetic article (surprise) re Michael Moore's new polemic in the WSJ. Weinstein is a real putz, but we plan to see SiCKO this summer.

For Michael Moore, Controversy Is Marketing - WSJ.com : Filmmaker Michael Moore says on his Web site that his new documentary, "SiCKO," "will expose the health-care industry's greed and control over America's political processes."
Controversy has become a key ingredient of marketing Mr. Moore's work, and the backers of "SiCKO" hope that the new movie will stir up emotions and help generate the kind of buzz that made his last movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," both a topic of national debate and an unprecedented blockbuster in the documentary genre. "Fahrenheit 9/11" had a budget of $6 million and grossed more than $100 million in the U.S. alone.
Mr. Moore's formula is simple: Pick a divisive topic and goad opponents into a public debate before the movie opens. The question is whether his new film's subject material -- health care and insurance -- will deliver the kind of heat that he generated for "Fahrenheit 9/11," a movie about the Bush administration's actions before and after the Sept. 11th attacks
... To help build buzz for "SiCKO," Mr. Weinstein brought back the "Fahrenheit 9/11" team, including political consultant Chris Lehane. Mr. Lehane is perhaps best known as an ex-adviser to Bill Clinton; he helped the former president navigate such crises as Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky.

As was the case with "Fahrenheit 9/11," the team is overlaying its traditional marketing campaign with an aggressive online outreach, including postings and chat on progressive sites like Daily Kos and screenings for bloggers. But this time it's a broader push, including conservative sites. Says Mr. Lehane: "The film has the potential to appeal to a broader audience because it is not red state versus blue state, but the little guy versus powerful corporations and a broken political system."

In a classic move to heighten the suspense of the project, Mr. Moore has largely kept a lid on the contents of the movie. Still, the drug companies have already started taking the bait. When Mr. Moore was just beginning the documentary, some of them sent out warnings to employees not to speak to the baseball-capped documentarian.

Rumors started circling in the industry after the filmmakers showed the movie to key groups such as the nurses' union and leading health-care experts. The producers of "The Passion of the Christ" employed a similar tactic by screening their movie in advance of the opening for religious groups and stoking interest among Christians. The "SiCKO" team also plans to cross-market premieres of the film with organizations with an interest in the subject. They declined to name the groups.

plus the whole 9/11 firemen treated in Cuba story:

Mr. Moore has mined other sensitivities. Details of a trip to Cuba to film part of the movie have been much discussed in the press in recent weeks. Mr. Moore took a group of 9/11 first-responders suffering from respiratory problems to Cuba, where they received treatment.

That provoked accusations that he used the workers as pawns. The U.S. government also piled in, saying it had launched an investigation into whether Mr. Moore violated a travel ban by filming in Cuba.

Shortly after receiving a letter from the U.S. Treasury Department, Mr. Moore posted a response on his Web site. People involved in the movie say the Cuba scenario has been misreported. Mr. Moore's team declined requests to clarify the details. Mr. Lehane would only say: "People will be very surprised and provoked about the motivations for the trip to Cuba and what transpired on the ground."

Mr. Moore uses his Web site to publicize daily reaction to his movie, including the latest stories on the "controversy." Recent headlines include a news agency story about how Mr. Moore is hiding the copy of his movie from U.S. authorities ahead of the Cannes screening. This week, it also featured a section on former Sen. Fred Thompson, a possible presidential candidate, who jumped into the debate by criticizing Mr. Moore for going to Cuba.

Mr. Moore responded by scolding the Republican from Tennessee, citing a report about his fondness for Cuban cigars and inviting him to debate the subject of health care. In a video response, Mr. Thompson, cigar in hand, declined to meet Mr. Moore and said he should think about a mental hospital, which he claimed was where Cuba locked up one documentary maker.

Michael Moore responds on his blog:

My intention was to keep "Sicko" under wraps and show it to virtually no one before its premiere in Cannes. That is what I have done and, as you may have noticed if you are a recipient of my infrequent Internet letters, I have been very silent about what I've been up to. In part, that's because I was working very hard to complete the film. But my silence was also because I knew that the health care industry -- an industry which makes up more than 15 percent of our GDP -- was not going to like much of what they were going to see in this movie and I thought it best not to upset them any sooner than need be.

Well, going quietly to Cannes, I guess, was not to be. For some strange reason, on May 2nd the Bush administration initiated an action against me over how I obtained some of the content they believe is in my film. As none of them have actually seen the film (or so I hope!), they decided, unlike with "Fahrenheit 9/11," not to wait until the film was out of the gate and too far down the road to begin their attack.

Bush's Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, launched an investigation of a trip I took to Cuba to film scenes for the movie. These scenes involve a group of 9/11 rescue workers who are suffering from illnesses obtained from working down at Ground Zero. They have received little or no help with their health care from the government. I do not want to give away what actually happens in the movie because I don't want to spoil it for you (although I'm sure you'll hear much about it after it unspools Saturday). Plus, our lawyers have advised me to say little at this point, as the film goes somewhere far scarier than "Cuba." Rest assured of one thing: no laws were broken. All I've done is violate the modern-day rule of journalism that says, "ask no questions of those in power or your luncheon privileges will be revoked."

This preemptive action taken by the Bush administration on the eve of the "Sicko" premiere in Cannes led our attorneys to fear for the safety of our film, noting that Secretary Paulson may try to claim that the content of the movie was obtained through a violation of the trade embargo that our country has against Cuba and the travel laws that prohibit average citizens of our free country from traveling to Cuba. (The law does not prohibit anyone from exercising their first amendment right of a free press and documentaries are protected works of journalism.)

I was floored when our lawyers told me this. "Are you saying they might actually confiscate our movie?" "Yes," was the answer. "These days, anything is possible. Even if there is just a 20 percent chance the government would seize our movie before Cannes, does anyone want to take that risk?"

Certainly not. So there we were last week, spiriting a duplicate master negative out of the country just so no one from the government would take it from us. (Seriously, I can't believe I just typed those words! Did I mention that I'm an American, and this is America and NO ONE should ever have to say they had to do such a thing?)

I mean, folks, I have just about had it. Investigating ME because I'm trying to help some 9/11 rescue workers our government has abandoned? Once again, up is down and black is white. There are only two people in need of an investigation and a trial, and the desire for this across America is so widespread you don't even need to see the one's smirk or hear the other's sneer to know who I am talking about.

But no, I'm the one who now has to hire lawyers and sneak my documentary out of the country just so people can see a friggin' movie. I mean, it's just a movie! What on earth could I have placed on celluloid that would require such a nonsensical action against me?

Ok. Scratch that.

Well, I'm on my way to Cannes right now, a copy of the movie in my bag. Don't feel too bad for me, I'll be in the south of France for a week! But then it's back to the U.S. for a number of premieres and benefits and then, finally, a chance for all of you to see this film that I have made. Circle June 29th on your calendar because that's when it opens in theaters everywhere across the country and Canada (for the rest of the world, it opens in the fall).

I can't wait for you to see it.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by swanksalot published on May 18, 2007 9:55 AM.

Anything too stupid to be said is hummed was the previous entry in this blog.

Refiners Rake It In is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.37