I’ve seen a film but I’m not allowed to talk about it

Obeying a film company embargo, because Andrew is nice like that

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Media embargoes are more and more common. If you see a preview film screening that’s far in advance of its release date, film companies often ask journalists to sign a form that binds them not to talk, or write, or even tweet about the film until the week before release. 

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It’s understandable. With the internet, the speed at which what used to be called “word of mouth” can spread is instantaneous. If you’re planning the marketing around a release date, you don’t want early reviews to queer your pitch. (Once the film’s in cinemas, you’re at the mercy of the free market of opinion.)

In the past week, I have seen two films that have not yet been released, and both are big releases. One is We Need to Talk about Kevin, which is set for release in October. The other is…well, I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s released on 19 August, just a couple of weeks away. 

I signed no embargo for the former, so could, if I wanted to, bang on about what I thought of it. I won’t, because what’s the point? Nobody else can see it for months. I would just be showing off.

The other film is almost upon us. But I’m not allowed to write about it. So I’m not going to. Nor am I allowed to tell you that I’ve been to see a preview of it. I signed a form that said that I wasn’t to “post/share any news informing your followers of your basic attendance at the screening.” This is new.

So I’m not telling you what the film was. Seriously. I am not telling you. By the time I can tell you, you’ll be able to go and see it and decide for yourself! That’s far more important than what I think. To be honest, I don’t see why I’m not allowed to tell you I’ve seen a film, but I’m not. This is a brave new world.

I remember a time when films came out and we didn’t know that much about them before we saw them. One that sticks in my mind from my youth is Blade Runner. I went to see that in 1982 at the cinema and had literally no clue what it was about. From the poster image I could tell it was set in the future, and Harrison Ford was in it, but that was the extent of my foreknowledge. How exciting it was to see it, and have it unfold before my eyes.

This never happens any more. With the explosion of media over the last couple of decades, advance buzz is everything. We see pictures taken on set in our newspapers, often a year before the release, and trailers are strategically drip-fed to boost early hype. Stars and directors are made to do “junkets”, where they talk up a forthcoming film to an army of journalists so that acres of press will appear the week before release. 

Because of the competition between publications, one will inevitably publish early, and then the others will follow. Hence the occasional embargo. Although frankly, there’s not much a film company can do about it, other than, I don’t know, ban a publication from future screenings, which would be self-defeating.

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So. That was a blog entry about a film that I cannot tell you about, nor name. On 17 August, I’ll tell you what it is. Can you wait?