2. Case Study – Monsters (2010)
• G322 Key Media Concepts (TV Drama)
• Section B: Institutions and Audiences
1. AUDIENCE - UK film aimed at a international audience
2. PRODUCTION – Very low budget production – produced by Vertigo
Films – untypical independent UK film funding – traditional film genre –
guerrilla style filming
3. DISTRIBUTION – Vertigo Films (UK) - Magnet Releasing (US)
4. MARKETING - Interesting use film festivals to gain an international
audience – interesting use of foursquare social networking
5. EXHIBITION – Exhibitors helped with localised marketing of the film
6. DIGITAL – use of digital cameras to film – guerrilla style filming feasible
as cameras very light -
3. Case Study - Monsters
• Six years ago previously, a NASA probe returning
to earth with samples of an alien life form,
crashed over Central America. Soon after, new life
forms began to appear, and half of Mexico was
quarantined as an INFECTED ZONE. Today, the
American and Mexican military still struggle to
contain "the creatures"... The story begins when
a US journalist agrees to escort a shaken
American tourist through the infected zone in
Mexico to the safety of the US border.
5. • PRODUCTION
• The film was devised, storyboarded and directed by Gareth
Edwards, who also worked as the visual effects artist.
• Allan Niblo and James Richardson of Vertigo Films work as
producers on the production.
• The filming equipment cost approximately $15,000, with the budget
coming in at under $500,000.
• USE OF DIGITAL - The film was able to be made on such a low
budget due to the use of prosumer (Professional grade/Consumer
cost) cameras to capture digital video rather than more expensive
• Any settings featured in the film were real locations often used
without permission and the extras were just people who happened
to be there at the time.
Case Study - Monsters
6. • PRODUCTION – GUERRILLA FILMMAKING
• “We really set out to try and take a different
approach with making this film. It’s all shot very
guerrilla-style, and apart from our main actors,
everyone else is just ‘real people’ going about
their real lives, with the crazy sci-fi elements
added later in the computer. The final effect is
something very subtle that I’m really proud of,
but it’s hard to explain to people who haven’t
Case Study - Monsters
7. • INDEPENDENT, LOW-BUDGET PRODUCTION IS EASIER
• “When you have a big crew, it becomes a bit restrictive. Shooting
everything guerrilla-style means you can go with the flow and have
ideas on the spot. The best, most realistic stuff in the film came
from moments that happened by accident as we were shooting.
Because of my background in digital effects, I could just roll with it,
knowing I’d be able to manipulate scenes later in the computer to
better fit our sci-fi/horror genre.”
• THE TYPICAL BIG-BUDGET MOVIE
• "Sometimes you'd have 100 people on the set and you'd ask, 'Can
we do this? Can we do that?' And they'd say, 'No, we can't, because
we'd have to move all these people. It's too expensive and it would
take too long.' That felt very back to front: to be told you can't do
something because you're spending too much money. Shouldn't it
be the other way round?"
Case Study - Monsters
8. Case Study - Monsters
• The film was shot in Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa
Rica and Texas over three weeks.
• For about 90% of the filming the crew comprised seven
people transported in one van: Ian Maclagan (sound
operator), Jim Spencer (line producer), Verity Oswin,
the Mexican 'fixer', the director, a driver, and Able and
McNairy, the stars.
• As the low-budget production didn't run to a camera
dolly, Edwards made do by sticking the camera out of
the van window, cushioned on some bundled-up
9. Case Study - Monsters
• Most of the extras were non-actors who were persuaded to
be in the film.
• "As a result of all this random behaviour, the idea of
scripting the film went out of the window. Instead I had a
loose paragraph describing the scene with just the main
points that had to be hit; how the actors carried this out
was left up to them."
• Each night during the shooting period, the editor Colin
Goudie and his assistant Justin Hall would download the
day's footage so the memory sticks could be cleared and
ready for the next day's filming.
• While new footage was being captured, the previously
captured footage was being edited back at the hotel in
which the production team was staying.
10. • SWSX FILM FESTIVAL PREMIERE
• “I’m a massive fanboy myself, and genuinely
can’t think of a better audience to premiere
this film to. I don’t believe our film really
hangs on a particular detail or piece of
information; it’s a lot more about the
atmosphere and journey of following these
characters through this crazy situation.”
Case Study - Monsters
11. • WHAT IS THE SXSW FILM FESTIVAL
• The first South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival
(SXSW) was held in 1987 in Austin, Texas. The music event
has grown from 700 registrants in 1987 to over 16,000
registrants. As Austin has grown and diversified, film
companies and high-tech companies have played a major
role in the Austin and the Texas economies.
• In 1994, SXSW added a film and interactive component to
accommodate these growth industries. SXSW's original goal
was to create an event that would act as a tool for creative
people and the companies they work with to develop their
careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet
and share ideas. That continues to be the goal today
whether it is music, film or the internet.
Case Study - Monsters
12. Case Study - Monsters
• HOW THE FILM GOT AN AMERICAN DISTRIBUTOR
• Within hours of its world premiere at SXSW Film Festival -
Monsters was sold to the Wagner/Cuban Company's Magnet
Releasing (genre arm of Magnolia Pictures) for North America
• "We were blown away by 'Monsters' - I can't think of a more
exciting addition to the Magnet slate. Gareth Edwards is an
extraordinary talent and we're thrilled to bring his vision to
• Producers Allan Niblo and James Richardson commented:
"Having kept the film a secret for so long, Vertigo is thrilled to
have Magnet not only discover it at this year's SXSW but
immediately become our US partner on this groundbreaking
movie. We are all looking forward to releasing 'Monsters'
together onto an unsuspecting world."
13. Case Study - Monsters
• WHO ARE THE AMERICAN DISTRIBUTORS?
• Magnolia Pictures (www.magpictures.com) is the
theatrical and home entertainment distribution arm
of the Wagner/Cuban Companies, a vertically-
integrated group of media properties co-owned by
Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that also includes the
Landmark Theatres chain, and the high definition
cable network HDNet.
• Magnolia's releases include Lars Von Trier's
Melancholia, Blackthorn starring Sam Shepard, Jo
Nesbo's Headhunters, Marley the documentary,
BAFTA winning Man on Wire, Bel Ami, etc.
• What kinds of films do they release?
14. Case Study - Monsters
• US Box Office - $237,301
• UK Box Office - $1,442,663
• International Box Office - $2,668,337
• Shown in 25 screens in US… !
• Cost $500,000 to make – have they made a
• What revenue can they add to International
15. Case Study - Monsters
• WHO WAS THE UK DISTRIBUTOR?
• Vertigo Films is a UK Media company founded in 2002 to create and
distribute commercially driven independent cinema. 2010 was a
sensational year for Vertigo with Europe's first 3D live action movie,
STREETDANCE 3D, entering the UK Box Office charts at No.1 beating
Disney's Prince of Persia and becoming one of the most successful
UK independent films of all time.
• In addition, Vertigo's co-production MONSTERS received
exceptional buzz, acclaim and a host of awards including three
British Independent Film Awards.
• Films in production in 2011 include a big screen adaptation of the
much anticipated THE SWEENEY, written and directed by Nick Love
and starring Ray Winstone and Plan B as the infamous Regan and
Carter. And STREETDANCE 2 from the same team that brought you
the original with glitzy European locations and the best dancers in
17. Case Study - Monsters
• PRODUCTION – HOW DIGITAL WILL CHANGE THINGS!
• “The history of cinema has always been an
industrial process where you needed
hundreds of people to make a movie, and
that's just not true any more. Now you can
just do it with a handful.”
18. Case Study - Monsters
• PRODUCTION & DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY
• “There's more processing power in a decent
PC now than it took to make Jurassic Park.
Monsters was made using Adobe's After
Effects software, a widely available cousin of
Photoshop. Finding no plug-in for alien
tentacles, I adapted a program that models
rope. The CGI planes and cars you see were all
bought off the internet.”
19. Case Study - Monsters
• WHAT DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY OFFERS
• “Anyone who says they know what's going to happen in
film-making is lying, but it's definitely changing. It
reminds me of that era when people like Spielberg and
Scorsese turned up, when the studios didn't
understand this new young audience and all those
people got a chance to play and make artistic films. No
one's too sure what the future's going to be, so if you
can grab a camera and tell a story, there's a good
chance you can do something. In the chaos, there's
20. Case Study - Monsters
• PRODUCTION – THINGS ARE CHANGING…
• Right now, there are a number of companies
chasing the success of last year's Paranormal
Activity and District 9, realizing that the idea of
what you can do on film and how much you can
make certain films for has changed.
• Paramount's got a new division that wants to
make ten movies for a total of a million dollars.
• This is what independent filmmaking in the 21st
century is going to look like.
21. Case Study - Monsters
• DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY - CGI
• Once the film was locked, Edwards had five
months to create all 250 visual effects shots, a
process he undertook in his bedroom.
• "[I was] churning out about two shots a day,
which was fine until I got to the first creature
shot. Then suddenly two months went by and I
still hadn't finished a single creature shot; it
turned out to be the hardest part of the whole
22. Case Study - Monsters
• Monsters premiered at the South by Southwest Film
Festival on 13 March 2010.
• On 17 March, Magnet Releasing acquired the rights for the
North American distribution.
• In May, the film was screened at the Cannes Film Market.
• Monsters had its UK premiere as part of the 64th Edinburgh
International Film Festival, on 18 June 2010.
• The film's theatrical release took place in Russia on 30
September, distributed by Volgafilm and was released in
the UK on the 3rd December.
• Magnolia Pictures released Monsters in U.S. theatres on 29
23. Case Study - Monsters
• DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY - VIRAL MARKETING
• What is Foursquare?
• Foursquare is a location-based social networking
website (www.foursquare.com) and set of mobile
• The concept is for users with GPS-enabled
smartphones to ‘check-in’ when they are at certain
venues. This allows their friends to see where they are
or have been, and lets people leave tips and reviews
about places they have visited.
• Along with the social interactions, it also allows users
to interact with venues - who can track the visits, and
also offer incentives for visitors and repeat visits
24. Case Study - Monsters
• DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY - VIRAL MARKETING
• To promote the theatrical release, the film’s distributor,
Vertigo Films, teamed up with the digital agency
Thinkjam to conceive a location-based campaign that
would draw on the film’s central themes.
• The activity was through the location-based social
networking site Foursquare, and was designed to boost
overall visibility of the film and add an element of
something new and exciting to the main, more
traditional PR campaign, which tied in with the
‘infected zones’ elements of the film.
• All activity was intended to drive people to the cinema
on the night of release on December 3rd.
25. Case Study - Monsters
• Key aims were:
• a presence on the latest platform in social
• continuous direct communication with customers
• to raise awareness of cinemas showing the film
and their locations
• to encourage bookings at those cinemas
• to have the option for developing further
promotions for members
• and also encourage new members
26. Case Study - Monsters
• Wider aims included:
1. fuelling debate and discussion around the film
2. highlighting the film’s originality and unique
3. pushing Gareth Edwards as a talented director
4. generating sustained coverage on both
mainstream and niche tastemaker sites
27. Case Study - Monsters
• Campaign Stage 1: Education / teaser
• The teaser press release was sent out to notify
online publications of the Foursquare
initiative. Information remained vague at this
stage, with fans only being made aware of
‘infected zones’ being created in select Vue
and Cineworld venues across the country, as
well as a number of independent zones.
28. Case Study - Monsters
• Campaign Stage 2: Adventure
• Week 2 users were engaging with the
promotion, logging in to infected zones across the
country. Random prizes were awarded to those
who emailed the email address left in all infected
• To reward early adopters, an exclusive clip was
made available through Foursquare. The exclusive
clip also warranted a second press release which
helped entice publications to push to the
Foursquare profile for readers to catch a sneak
29. Case Study - Monsters
• Campaign Stage 3: The Big Reveal
• For the week before release, the 10 swarm
sites that would be giving users the discount
code were revealed. This was done via the full
trade press release as well as a general PR
release which generated further news stories.
30. Case Study - Monsters
• Campaign Stage 4: Swarm!
• For the week of release, the campaign
unleashed limited infected zones that, when
checking in as part of a group or ‘Swarm’ and
unlocking a badge, allowed bulk discount on
tickets. All PR messaging included links and
information of the Foursquare presence. The
activity was covered by select press invited
down to Vue Westfield.
31. Case Study - Monsters
• PROBLEMS WITH THE INNOVATIVE MARKETING
• The key promotion for the release was to run the Foursquare
activity over consecutive weeks and although the end result was
not what Vertigo had hoped for, it still raised awareness, generated
PR coverage and drummed up a wealth of buzz in appropriate
• The campaign required early buy-in from exhibitors, as specific sites
needed to be identified for Foursquare set-up.
• This was a problem as the exhibitors were yet to adopt Foursquare
and the site list was not confirmed with Vertigo until two weeks
prior to release.
• Vertigo found exhibitors sceptical to begin with, but they achieved
buy-in from Vue and Cineworld.
• Despite this, in the end the biggest problem on the release date
was the weather, with up to 10cm of snow causing major transport
issues and low turnouts for films across the board.
32. Case Study - Monsters
• The film’s box office for the opening weekend was just over £1m.
Overall performance of the film was affected by the extreme
weather. For the weekend of release there were no prints in Ireland
or Edinburgh due to courier deliveries being suspended. Vertigo
estimate to have lost 30% of opening Box Office due to the weather.
• Although the night of 3rd December didn’t produce the number of
check-ins to the cinemas that had been anticipated, the overall
coverage it received, and its contribution to the increase in
awareness of the film in the run-up to the release, was a huge
• Vue Westfield was the most successful with 42 check-ins on the
evening, despite very poor weather conditions. There were also
increased check-ins at Vue Leeds, Vue Bristol and Cineworld
33. Case Study - Monsters
• Q. What was it that lead what should've been a big hit, to be just a sleeper hit?
• In short, the film didn't have enough marketing muscle behind it.
• It takes a lot of effort and money to generate awareness and interest for a film,
especially if that film is 1) an original property 2) lacks a major director or stars 3)
has a difficult or uninteresting premise and 4) lacks a natural audience that will see
• The film was fraught with challenges.
• It's a ‘monster movie’ but not really. It's supposed to have monsters but you can't
see any in the marketing materials (e.g. trailer). Lastly, is the film supposed to be
an action movie/road movie/adventure/romantic drama?
• Clearly, the former is the most commercial sell but that goes against what the film
• Generally speaking, if audiences can't grasp what it is you're selling, they will not
vote with their wallet.
• Unless the film is truly great and generates substantial word-of-mouth, a small-
scale film won't remain in cinemas very long because exhibitors will replace it in
favour of something that will make money (thereby sealing its fate).