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Home Blog Latest WHERE’S MY PASTRY? (a response to "Films not Freebies")
WHERE’S MY PASTRY? (a response to "Films not Freebies") Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Thursday, 22 November 2012 09:46

Pastries, freebies and film blogging

The other day, that there Craig Skinner wrote about something that's been nagging me for some time: freebies.

I've alluded to it a few times now, from last week's Totoro Blu-ray review to my other recent rant (Best blog post EVER) about hype, but I kept putting off writing a full post on it – it was going to go up next week, in fact. But with Skinner's piece ruffling a few feathers, prompting some calls for him to "lighten up" and others indignantly asserting their integrity, I'm stepping up and saying that I agree with him.


The London Film Festival this year was when this whole thing became silly, with lots of tweets (and a large percentage of blog coverage) of the festival's launch devoted to discussing the croissants on offer rather than the movies.






It brings to mind the image that appeared on Eurogamer recently: a critic sat next to a packet of Doritos and other free crap.


Eurogamer Doritos


Over on this side of the Atlantic we may not have crisps at our advance screenings but we do have pizza. And beer. Sometimes both. Sunday morning press screenings - of family films - usually tend to have "Fun in the Foyer" beforehand for the children. Advertised on the ticket as part of going to see the film, there's photos with standees, face painting, balloon modelling, free cupcakes. The kind of thing that gets a kid talking to all their friends the next day at school.

"Wow!" they say. "You got HOW much candy floss?"

It's the same principle with the adults. Ply them with free shit and watch them tweet about it.

So far, so standard marketing practice. As someone who has, inevitably, taken free pizza (although not beer) at screenings before now, I'm sure that other people's opinions are no more swayed by a few bits of bread and cheese than mine are. (The face painting is obviously another matter entirely.)

Now, my problem isn't with integrity - it's with the fact that some people seem to feel that they should automatically get this stuff.

My Twitter timeline frequently contains bloggers (and some bigger sites) talking about not getting invited to screenings, not being allowed to attend a premiere, not getting any free croissants or not having a Green & Black's chocolate bar in their free London Film Festival bag.

Ok, that’s just Twitter, you might say. A more serious example, then: at last year’s London Film Festival, so-called professionals were shouting (properly shouting) at the box office staff in the Vue West End because they couldn’t blag a last-minute ticket to a film screening because the cinema was following procedure and offering the seats to members of the paying public.

If you make a living off film journalism, some demanding (note: not shouting) is fair enough; access to screenings or events is your livelihood. And if you’re serious about your career, you shouldn’t be there just to be BFFs with as many PR folk as possible. But this general attitude of entitlement is surely encouraged by the freebies that get paraded about. I’ve seen a whole room full of journalists and bloggers crying out for free hats and t-shirts and even ping pong balls ahead of a screening of Project X. Why? Goodness knows.

The other week, UltraCulture (as with the randomly selected tweets above, I’m not holding up these people as the main guilty parties) wrote a piece bemoaning the state of modern cinema. It was, I’m guessing, intended as an incisive rant about the commercialisation of multiplex chains much to the detriment of the film-going experience for the general public. It read, though, like a blogger who was used to getting things for free had paid to go to the cinema like a normal person and was then complaining about it.

Go back several years and I was pitching an article about cinema ticket prices – a lot of people I pitched to were surprised by how much they had increased. How can film writers of any shape or size not stay in touch with everyday cinemagoers? After all, an early morning press screening is nothing like sitting in a packed Screen 8 at Cineworld Enfield. Well, except for the press screenings where people sneak in and have sex on the back row.

Of course, PR companies will continue to lavish reviewers with free stuff – I fear for their towering catering costs but hey, it’s a marketing technique that apparently works. What annoys me is the way that people on my end now seem to expect these freebies as standard, as if they're the most important person in a sea of 50 gazillion movie blogs/reviewers.*

Given a total of about 12 people will probably read this post - and maybe two of you will get this far - I'm in no way deluded about how far down the chain I rank when it comes to this unpaid blogging lark. I'm lucky to see any films in advance at all, let alone have people out there who care what rubbish I have to write about them. And if I get offered a balloon animal on a Sunday morning now and then, I won’t say no, but even if I fight with my seven-year-old nephew over who gets to play with it, I won't be going to the cinema to get a blow-up penguin. I'll be going there to watch a film.

It’s not (I hope) a question of integrity, but Craig’s post is right to get film blogging folk talking and thinking about freebies. Sometimes it pays to put things in pastry. Sorry, perspective. I meant perspective.

* (I may have rounded that to the nearest 50 gazillion.)