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in Filmmaking
on Jul 17, 2004


When I read about filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn (My Architect) and producer Callum Greene’s film about M. Night Shamalayan for the Sci-Fi Channel running into trouble over Night’s refusal to cooperate once the documenatarians discovered a “buried secret” in his past, I meant to check it out by making a call to Greene. We recently covered his last produced feature Homework in the magazine. But today I was reminded that this had slipped off my “to-do” list by this piece on In it, Sci-Fi Channel president Bonnie Hammer described the news leak as a “guerilla marketing campaign” that went too far. Previously, the Sci-Fi Channel issued a release calling the finished doc a “disturbing expose,” and AP and various other news outlets picked up the story.

Night, it seems, was in on the hoax and was interested in blurring the boundaries between doc and fiction in his biographical portrait. But after reading the article linked above, it’s a little unclear what prompted the apology. After all, there was hardly a groundswell of rampant speculation following the original story. (In today’s tabloid-saturated times, it is a little dicey to put it out there that you have a “buried secret” in your past.) Could this admission, timed just before the broadcast of the documentary, be yet another marketing ploy to draw attention to the film?

No, it seems as if the ballsiness required to execute a guerilla marketing campaign may simply be too much for the Sci-Fi Channel’s corporate owner. The CNN story comes with a disclaimer from its parent company: “This marketing strategy is not consistent with our policy at NBC,” said Rebecca Marks, NBC entertainment spokeswoman. “We would never intend to offend the public or the press and value our relationship with both.”

The piece ends with its “smoking gun”: “Greene, a producer of Lost in Translation, shares an agent with Shyamalan.”

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