Slumdog Millionaire

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Slide 1

How was “Slumdog Millionaire” devised to appeal to as wide an audience as possible?

Slide 2

ORIGINS and first moves The film was based on hope, survival and redemption to appeal to appeal to a wide audience. Beaufoy is a known ‘name’ in the business, a writer with a successful track record – he was needed to secure more funding, but because of him being ‘known’ in the industry, it would appeal to other companies etc. to fund. Q&A is a book comprising various narrative strands and Beaufoy saw the need for as strong narrative – visited Mumbai for research – decided on the idea of explaining the story through the answers the boy gives – which is in the book – but got rid of many of the subplots and extra stories to trim the narrative, making it streamlined to fit the Hollywood model and make it more filmable and, of course, widen its appeal. There was a stronger focus on romantic elements at Danny Boyle’s request, as was the structural change that saw Jamal arrested BEFORE the final question, thus adding suspense and tension. Beaufoy also introduced some elements to appeal to the UK audience – the call centre scenes and the way the staff have to soak up elements of British culture, but overall he remains faithful to the spirit of the novel. Also the novel is BRITISH, this is more of a deliberate attempt to write a novel that would be popular, using a recognisable ‘global standard modern English’ The writing assumes an understanding of global culture rather than specific Indian culture – increase its appeal overseas – something reflected in the film itself.

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FUNDING CRISIS Film 4, the Channel Four film unit has only 11 staff and a budget of £10m; Tessa Ross had to find partners to help fund the film. Key decision – took the film to head of Celador Films – Christian Coulson. Experienced producer with several important credits (Dirty Pretty Things (2002), The Descent (2005) and Eden Lake (2008)). More than that, Celador International owned the rights to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Ross wanted the rights to use Millionaire – think of how the film would be an advert for the quiz worldwide – it’s an excellent example of cross promotion – people who are familiar with the quiz (and it is known worldwide) may be more likely to se the film; people who see the film may be more likely to watch the quiz.

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Danny boyle and British cinema in India Boyle himself guarantees box office success, with his past work including: Trainspotting (1996), The Beach (2000), 28 Days Later (2002), Sunshine (2007). Two of the cast were major Indian character actors – Amil Kaur and Irrfan Khan, obviously attracting an Indian audience, as they would recognise the actors. Style is obviously European/American – lots of moving camera shots, slow-mo, sped up shots, tilted camera, atmospheric lighting (it could, I suppose, be argued that he makes the slums look photogenic, even the bit when the boy is covered in shit). Music was also produced by to A. R. Rahman, a major composer on the World Music scene who has scored many Indian films of varying styles and who has a huge fan base in India, so he could write a soundtrack – another selling point for the film. Rahman teamed up with M.I.A. for two tracks, thus adding to the movie’s appeal to an audience interested in World music. One track, Paper Planes, was nominated for a Grammy for Song of the Year.

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Festivals, RELEASE PATTERNS & DISTRIBUTION Warner allowed Coulson and Ross to show film to Fox Searchlight, which distributed much of Boyle’s earlier work, and an agreement was reached that left Warners with a stake but allowed Fox Searchlight distribution rights for North America. Fox deal just in time for Toronto Film Festival – a major international festival and one which is crucial for the success of non-Hollywood studio films in North America. Fox had a history of recent success with the American indie film Juno in 2007 and this became a platform for its Oscar campaign. Slumdog won audience award – a sign of how popular it would become. Shrewd move because Toronto has a large Asian population. Coulson sells film negative pickup rights to two distributors – Warner International (for distribution rights in North America) and Pathé International (a French company) for the rest of the world. These deals accrued $13m which covered the budget and the equity costs of the producers.

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SUCCESS Most British films that have done well abroad have been made by companies with direct Hollywood studio connections – like the films made by Working Title which is owned by Paramount; Slumdog looks set to be the most commercially successful British independent film of all time – earned approx $300m at the box office so far. Won eight Oscars and nominated for two more; won seven BAFTAs and nominated for another four; plus a host of other awards in the USA and around the world. Success in the USA. Many of the same reasons (including Millionaire, which is a hit there too) – the rags to riches story resonates with the idea of the American Dream where anyone can make it as a success, no matter your background. However, flashy as the camera work and editing are, there are none of the explosions or special effects that are normally associated with big box office hits in the US (though there is the romance), nor are there any actors the bulk of the audience would be familiar with.

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