from The Luxe Chronicles.
“Product placement is perverse and corrupt and has no place in film making.” That statement is a direct quote from director Alexander Payne in answer to my question about product placement in movies. The Academy Award winning filmmaker and Cannes jury member was taking part in the East Meets West conversation sponsored by Louis XIII de Rémy Martin in association with The Film Foundation. The sentiment is one shared by Hong Kong-based director Stanley Kwan. Although the latter’s answer to my question was expressed in slightly more muted terms, he essentially agreed with Alexander Payne that product placement has little or no place in filmmaking.
While I appreciate their position on the subject (and the bluntness of Mr. Payne’s response to my question), I’m not sure I entirely agree with them. We live in an increasingly consumer-driven society and brand awareness manifests itself increasingly early as even young children seem well-versed in the language of brands and logos. Whether we like it or not, brands form an integral part of our lives. Under the circumstances, is it realistic to watch a film depicting contemporary life and not see branded products?
I’m also not insensitive to the plight of independent filmmakers who routinely struggle to secure financing for their films. In fact, further into the conversation, Alexander Payne eventually qualified his answer admitting that he had featured Hawaiian Airlines in one scene of his movie The Descendants after the airline graciously ferried cast and crew between LA and Hawaii where the movie was shot. He pointed out however that the story unfolded in Hawaii and the story called for an airplane scene. Fair enough. In this respect, Payne’s qualification hints at the real issue regarding product placement for filmmakers and brands alike: How does the branded product impact upon the story and characters?
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