Scared of social media? Follow Batman's lead

batman One of my favorite movies is Batman Begins. Near the beginning of the film is a scene in which a young Bruce Wayne goes to see crime boss Carmine Falcone. As their conversation comes to a close, Falcone says:

This is a world you’ll never understand. And you always fear what you don’t understand.

I love this quote and often think of it when I come across an organization that seems to have trouble with social media (or citizen journalism, if you prefer). Pushback against social media, whether it’s against blogging, social networking, photography, Twitter, or something else, is almost always the result of fear caused by lack of understanding. Social media is a disruptive force, so if you don’t understand how it can be beneficial, it’s not surprising that it may at first seem scary.

The other reason I love this quote is that Falcone is wrong, of course – Bruce Wayne does eventually come to understand the crime world. It wasn’t easy, and it caused him to question himself and the way he perceived the world, but he became a better person because of it – he became Batman.

Getting over your fear of social media is simple:

  1. Admit that you don’t understand social media.
  2. Set out to rectify that.

In short, just follow Batman’s lead.

The natural result of completing those two steps is that you’ll be able to embrace social media and benefit from it.

Here are a couple of examples where local organizations didn’t follow Batman’s lead. Instead, they pushed back.

Century Hospitality’s Hundred: Everyone is a reviewer!

hundred bar kitchen Last Thursday, Sharon and I went to Edmonton’s new resto-pub downtown, called Hundred. It’s the latest member of the Century Hospitality family. As you may know, Sharon and I have been to dozens and dozens of restaurants in the last few years, and we’ve taken pictures of and reviewed all of them. So I was definitely surprised to find myself being questioned about taking photos at Hundred.

We follow a few simple guidelines when photographing our restaurant experience. First, we try to get pictures of both our dishes and the interior of the restaurant (sometimes the exterior too). Second, we do our best to avoid disrupting other guests – that’s why we never use the flash. We bought little tripods and have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get decent photos in low-light areas.

We were following both of these rules at Hundred when I was approached by the manager, Dean. He asked if he could help me, and I said no, just taking some photos. He then told me that I couldn’t just take photos without getting permission first. When I asked him why, he stumbled a bit and then said he had no way of knowing whether I was from a competitor or not. He asked what the photos were for, and I said a review on a blog. That seemed to confuse him, and he asked again. I gave him the URL for Sharon’s blog, and sensing that it wasn’t going anywhere, asked him for a card and promised to send him the link.

I think that Dean simply felt that he had lost control somehow. When he learned that I wasn’t from the Journal, Vue Weekly or another conventional publication, he immediately got defensive about my activity. That suggests to me a lack of understanding about social media. For an organization that tries so hard to be hip and trendy, I find this a bit disappointing.

Dean – what you need to remember is that it’s not just the mainstream press that will be talking about your restaurant. Real people will have conversations about it too. Social media enables these conversations to be written down and shared, and that can be scary at first. The correct response is not to try and prevent them from happening, but to learn about social media and figure out how you can participate. Learn how to track mentions of your restaurant online, and comment on reviews and photos when you find them. I’ll help you get started – here is Sharon’s review, and here are my photos.

The Edmonton Oilers: I’m blogging this!

edmonton oilers logoDave Berry is an editor at Vue Weekly, and was also one of the main contributors to the Covered In Oil blog. That makes him one of the unique few that have a foot in both the old and new media worlds. On Sunday, October 12th when the Oilers played the Avalanche, Dave was in the press box and with some time on his hands, decided to liveblog the game. He was approached by the Oilers’ press guy, and was told that blogging wasn’t an acceptable use of the press pass. He was told to stop and delete the post, and that if he didn’t he’d be ejected from the building.

You can read Dave’s account here. And via Battle of Alberta, here’s a cached version of the post Dave was writing.

Maybe Dave got in trouble because of his witty writing, or maybe he got in trouble because he failed to read the fine print on his press pass, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the Oilers press team wasted an opportunity to improve, an opportunity to understand social media and use it to their benefit.

Instead of threatening to kick Dave out of the box, they should have stopped and tried to learn more about what he was doing. Obviously they can’t issue press passes to everyone, but I’m pretty sure that Dave didn’t need a press pass to live blog the game. He could have done that from anywhere. The Oilers need to figure out how to work with bloggers, not against them.

I don’t know enough about the way the system works to comment beyond that. I think the Oilers may be restricted by the league in how they can engage with the media both offline and online, at least to a certain extent. I fully expect to hear from either the Oilers or the NHL one of these days, due to my creation and updating of the Edmonton Oilers account on Twitter. When asked if the NHL would try to protect Twitter accounts as intellectual property, Michael DiLorenzo, the NHL’s Director of Corporate Communications, simply said “not yet”. I’m hopeful for a positive outcome – after all, Michael himself is on Twitter.

Social Media is here to stay

The question is not whether bloggers, photographers, and others who publish things online should be ignored or treated like the mainstream media. The question is simply, what’s the best way to work with them?

I think it’s simple. Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know, and then find someone to help you. Stop being afraid of social media, and start embracing it. Follow Batman’s lead.

The Dark Knight

There’s no question that the must-see movie of 2008 is Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. It took in over $150 million in its opening weekend, breaking the records for the opening day and opening weekend, and also the opening weekend for an IMAX film. It has a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 9.6 out of 10 rating at IMDB. The Dark Knight is pretty much the only thing people are taking about lately when it comes to entertainment.

the dark knight

I’ve seen the film twice now. I saw it in IMAX at midnight on Thursday the 17th (technically the 18th) and again at 10pm in the normal theatre on Friday. I had advance tickets for both, but of course still lined up three hours ahead of show time to ensure good seats. As most of my friends know, I had been looking forward to The Dark Knight for months. I tend to have one movie a year that I really want to see, and this year that was The Dark Knight. So I had high expectations going in, and thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.

Yes, Heath Ledger is fantastic. His performance will be talked about for years to come, even if he doesn’t win an Oscar for it. Yes, Christian Bale once again proves he can play both the troubled caped crusader and the billionaire playboy at the same time. Aaron Eckhart surprised me with his performance as Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman are all spectacular as you’d expect. And even Maggie Gyllenhaal was pretty good, though I agree with Sharon that almost anyone could play the role of Rachel Dawes.

The action sequences in the film are amazing. Even the second time I couldn’t believe my eyes! There are car chases, explosions, daring stunts, and much more. And a main character dies. There’s a definite wow factor in the movie.

I think there are a few things that take The Dark Knight from great to superb. One is the cinematography. Nolan and his team always seem to pick the most interesting perspective for the shot, and the lighting is appropriately eerie. Another thing is the pacing – neither time did it feel like I had been sitting for two and a half hours. The cuts seemed natural and appropriate. A third thing is what I’m going to call “attention to detail”. Everything looks so great in the film! I think Nolan’s desire to avoid CGI and go for the realest shot possible definitely made a difference.

As for IMAX versus regular screens, I have to say that the IMAX does indeed make a difference. It felt like we were going over the edge of the building when the camera did, and the sound and vibrations from Batman’s Tumbler were definitely impressive. If you can, see The Dark Knight in IMAX.

In the theatre on Thursday, a group in front of us started talking about the Batman movies of the 90s. One girl asked how the story in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight fits in with the previous movies. Her friend stood up, and very strongly said “as far as you’re concerned, the first Batman movie ever made was Batman Begins. Forget about the rest of them.” I couldn’t agree more. Nolan has definitely created something special.

Can’t wait for the third installment now!

Selling seats to an experience: The Dark Knight in IMAX

After reading some early reviews of The Dark Knight today, I started thinking about the movie business again. I also came across this Techdirt post, which reiterates that the movie business is not selling movies, but selling seats to an experience. Here are some of the things I’ve read about the film:

“The haunting and visionary Dark Knight soars on the wings of untamed imagination. It’s full of surprises you don’t see coming. And just try to get it out of your dreams.”
– Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“I have been given the go ahead to review The Dark Knight, but this is the type of film that I need to see at least two or three times before attempting such a task. The film is so very expansive, so incredibly epic…If you don’t see this movie in IMAX than you haven’t seen the movie.”
– Peter Sciretta, /Film

“‘Batman Begins’ follow-up is a faster-paced ride that will have you wanting to buy a ticket for the next showing when you leave the theater…Do yourself a favor and see it in IMAX.”
– Larry Carroll, MTV News

Most articles I’ve read say the the film really should be seen in IMAX. Christopher Nolan went to great lengths to make everything in the film as real as possible, and “is the first Hollywood director to shoot key sequences of a major feature in IMAX” according to Wired. So today I bought two tickets to the midnight IMAX showing.

I happily paid $30 today for the IMAX tickets, because I am looking forward to the experience. Yes I think the movie is going to be awesome, but it’s the better experience that really has me excited. And I’m really just talking about the screen and sound in this case…imagine if the entire moviegoing experience was better! Too bad Hollywood hasn’t yet figured this out. I hope Nolan rubs off on his peers.

And yes, I still think simultaneous movie releases could work with an improved moviegoing experience. I’d love to buy a copy of The Dark Knight on my way out of the theatre, thank you very much.

Why July 2008 will be the greatest month ever

Is there any doubt that July is going to be the greatest month ever?

July 2008 will be the greatest month ever!

July 1: A brand new, 6000-square-foot Apple Store opens in West Edmonton Mall.
July 11: The iPhone 3G goes on sale in 22 countries, including Canada.
July 18: The movie I am most looking forward to this year is released: The Dark Knight

Oh yeah. July FTW!

I'm Batman! No, I'm Batman!

Post Image As you may know, I absolutely loved Batman Begins. I walked out of the theatre totally amazed, and I still have no problem watching the film again and again. Not even Katie Holmes could drag the movie down! Needless to say, I am really looking forward to The Dark Knight.

I was less impressed with Superman Returns, but I have to admit it wasn’t so bad the second time I saw it. I think Bryan Singer’s interpretation of Superman threw me for a loop at first, mainly because I’m a huge Smallville fan and was totally immersed in that world at the time. It’s not as high on my list as The Dark Knight is, but I will definitely check out Superman: Man of Steel.

So, I’m a fan of both Batman and Superman. Should be no surprise then that I’m also interested in the Justice League of America movie. That’s right, another big screen flick with Batman and Superman.

  • 2007/2008 – Smallville Season 7
  • 2008/2009 – Smallville Season 8 (possible)
  • July 18th 2008 – The Dark Knight
  • June 2009 – Superman: Man of Steel
  • 2010 – Justice League of America

I think you can see where I’m going with this. Within two or three years, we’ll have two different actors playing Batman, and two different actors playing Superman. Three if you count Tom Welling in Smallville.

Will simultaneous Batman/Superman franchises work? More specifically, simultaneous franchises with different actors and directors?

Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan have created an awesome Batman. Brandon Routh and Bryan Singer have done a pretty good job themselves with Superman. You don’t want to mess with either of those. Now, if the JLA movie was co-directed by Nolan and Singer, perhaps you could have Bale and Routh in the movie. Same characters, same actors. But they aren’t directing the movie – George Miller is. Which means he’ll have his own vision, and will most definitely want his own actors. I think that’s gonna be strange.

I would love to see Batman and Superman together in the same movie a la JLA, but I really hope Warner Brothers rethink their strategy here. If they release JLA so close to the Batman and Superman sequels, audiences may feel overwhelmed. More importantly, it could seriously damage the momentum that Bale and Routh have going with the characters.

Obviously Bale won’t be the last actor to portray Batman and Routh won’t be the last actor to portray Superman. You’d think they could have some time to own their respective roles, however! Introducing two additional actors in the same roles just doesn’t seem fair.

And yes, I realize that Val Kilmer and George Clooney each took on the role of Batman in a period of two years, but that was with the crap Joel Schumacher was peddling. Make no mistake about it – Nolan’s Batman is an entirely different animal.

Maybe all three movies will kick ass, who knows. My guess however is that even if all three are great movies, either Man of Steel or JLA will suffer at the box office.

Batman Begins

Post ImageI finally went and saw Batman Begins last night. I don’t have too much to say, other than if you haven’t seen this movie, you probably should! It was, in a word, amazing. I totally think they should remake every Batman movie ever made.

All of the performances were excellent, with the exception of Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. She just didn’t fit the part, and looked out of place in every scene. I used to think that Michael Keaton was the one and only Batman, but Christian Bale changed my mind about that. He played the character amazingly well, and very convincingly. Morgan Freeman is one of my favorite actors and his character was probably one of the more interesting ones. I was surprised, but I actually liked Liam Neeson as a villain. And finally, probably the best performance in the movie, was Michael Caine as Alfred. Wonderfully cast!

The movie is appropriately dark, and does a nice job of building up the story. In fact, you don’t see any “dark night” action until the second hour of the movie. The Batman gadgetry is pretty cool, even the half-tank, half-Hummer Batmobile (called the “tumbler”). And the city of Gotham finally looks the way it should.

Perhaps the only part of the movie I didn’t like was the very end when a reference is made to The Joker. I would have appreciated a complete and total break from the previous Batman movies a lot more than a 95% break. Though I suppose that is a very small price to pay for such a wonderful movie.

I liked Batman Begins so much, I’d be willing to go see it again!

Read: Batman Begins