There is a cliche that no publicity is bad publicity in the movie business.
A 3.5 million dollar film by Premise Media – Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed made for proponents of Intelligent Design in the US got a lot of online publicity ( added: BlogPulse Nielsen Metrics 25-03/08) this past weekend when a US biologist who had appeared in it was turned away from a screening.

The film opens in the US April 18th.
Premise Media has to re-coup it’s 3.5 million dollar production costs.
Bad publicity is publicity, but this may come back to bite more of the people involved than is worth it.
Why?

Because the internet is not a medium that can be easily manipulated.
People who are interested in creationism/evolution, politics/religion, movies/economics can respond as fast as they can key in.

There are reviews and recommendations on the internet which are true and original and that which cannot be manipulated by any other person and when comes to trading when such comments about the crypto code are detailed, it is sure to be genuine. Further information about this trading software can be obtained from the official website.

Open blogs permit comments and linking and are easier to find than forums.

The human events surrounding the marketing of this movie from months ago to last week can come back to bite Premise Media, PR guru Mark Mathis, various employees of the company and the ID Institute.
Ask Dan Rather.

Expelled producer Mark Mathis, a former broadcaster and owner of Mathis Media (check out his client list!) is willing to lie, play people for fools, play the fool, spin, trash and do whatever he needs to do to get this movie into the public spotlight and get this paid for. He is quite open about his rules of engagement.*

The expulsion of Dr. PZ Myers at a Minneapolis screening blew up on blogs like a breaking news scroller at the bottom of CNN.
Myers, who has been highly critical of the movie and the pretenses he and a couple of scientists were interviewed for it, has not taken being manipulated lightly.
More attention occurred when Dr. Richard Dawkins published his account of the screening.

An eye-witness account of what occurred in the lobby of the theatre appeared at Christianity Today Liveblog after it appeared on CT’s movie critic blog.
How a student saw what occurred versus what Dr. Myers experienced, differs.
It was framed as the good guys versus the bad guys, feeds the tensions nicely.
Internet readers and bloggers noticed.
You can’t pay for this kind of publicity, you really can’t.
This is faster than church, classroom or coffee shop gossip.

Instant opinion can translate into a lot of dollars for those needing to make those dollars.
The conservative religious community meets the scientific community meets the movie community, meets the political community in a unique series of events. How does the marketing division respond?

One question I am asking myself is why a reputable production house would risk such a bad publicity backlash?
Open manipulation of proponents and critics took place from day one.
Few noticed.
Last week there was blowback.
The production company deals with the bottom line, and while it’s not news, how interested and disinterested consumers see that goal being met has started to change.
Are all branches of potential ticket buyers comfortable with open versus covert string pulling and manipulation?

Mark Mathis is a producer for the film, the author of Feeding the Beast: An Easy Recipe for Great Publicity,* head of his own PR communications firm and he has been the front-man who has been pulling the strings of action and reaction for this film.

Here is what he told the NYT Friday (end of a news cycle)

But Walt Ruloff, a partner in Premise Media, the film’s producer, said the screening was one of a series the producers have organized for the film, which opens April 18, in hopes of building favorable word-of-mouth among people likely to be sympathetic to its message. People like Dr. Myers and Dr. Dawkins would not have been invited, he said.

Mark Mathis, a producer of the film who attended the screening, said that “of course” he had recognized Dr. Dawkins, but allowed him to attend because “he has handled himself fairly honorably, he is a guest in our country and I had to presume he had flown a long way to see the film.”

Oh.
Dr. Myers expulsion spread quickly past the online science community at the speed of blogs and the ability of readers to provide links. Chatter which had been limited in the past year spread to not just proponents and critics, but to a wider pools such Jeffrey Overstreet, movie critic for Christianity Today.
Overstreet’s job is to keep an eye on the buzz.
He did his job.
Kevin Miller, the screen writer for Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed found himself doing a fair bit of updating at his blog over the holiday, speculating along with everyone else and and eventually apologizing to Dr. Myers. That wasn’t part of the script.

There are sincere well meaning none political creationists being used and they know they are being used. They are getting a picture of how they are being used and I wonder what that feels like. Many hold passionately to do unto others, and they are getting done to.

Dr. Richard Dawkins published his written account of his experience in the lobby of the theatre.
His site kept crashing over the weekend as traffic mounted.
The remainder of pre-screenings for the film were in-explicitly yanked from the web.
Update: The sign-up is now TBO. 25/-3/08
Too many astute readers and bloggers pointed out the misconception some screenings were private invitation only.

Does this make a semi-interested movie goer hungry to pay to see what the fuss is about? Does it harm core ticket buyers for this production – conservative religious people who have bused their Christian school kids to private screenings?

Blog posts and comments blossomed as people weighed in on what happened, prior history became forefront, posts and discussion became overlapping sets of different dramas and stories about who the good guys or the bad guys were, who was lying or telling the truth.
Communities already polarized are polarizing even more.
But I doubt the marketer has strayed off message and I doubt Premise Media cares which communities fracture or polarize.

Mark Mathis came out with another blurb this Monday, not through traditional media but through a Canadian creationist blog and Inside Higher Education.
Mathis email to Canadian Denyse O’Leary at Post-Darwinist blog:

You should know that I invited Michael shermer to a screening at NRB in Nashville. He came and is writing a review for scientific American. I banned pz because I want him to pay to see it. Nothing more. “

From the review at Inside Higher Education:

“Yes, I turned Mr. Myers away. He was not an invited guest of Premise Media. This was a private screening of an unfinished film. I could have let him in, just as I invited Michael Shermer to a screening in Nashville. Shermer is in the film as well. But, in light of Myers’ untruthful blogging about Expelled I decided it was better to have him wait until April 18 and pay to see the film. Others, notable others, were permitted to see the film. At a private screening it’s my call.

“Unlike the Darwinist establishment, we expell no one.”

The Intelligent Design (creationist) bloggers at Uncommon Descent were also speculating about what occurred. These are the Slashdotters of the creationism war.
Are their readers comfortable with people being trashed and being used?

As this noise burst out of a relatively closed community into wider blog circles, media, and attention in the UK and Canada, how much free publicity is this adding up to?
At what cost to whom?

Mathis has one job. Get attention, recoup costs, make money for Premise Media.
Again, look at his client list, why should he care about honesty, hypocrisy, dignity or what potential viewers on any side of debates think about being exploited?

Michael Shermer is a scientist who appeared in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed with Drs. Myers and Dawkins. His review will be in Scientific American.**
Mark Mathis has to take calculated risks, the film company knows Shermer is going to publish that review in Scientific American. Mathis probably knows this also:

I’ve seen Shermer’s review — I can’t say much about it, since it hasn’t been published yet, but if Mathis expects a friendly, supportive, conciliatory review…he has miscalculated.

Posted by: PZ Myers | March 24, 2008 12:37 PM

The New Scientist review is one of those unexpected internet moments that may not be merely ignored and may have to be trashed and spun. The now infamous Thursday night screening is the story.

He (Mathis) began calling on others in the crowd, who asked friendlier questions. But Maggie and I quickly realised that we’d seen some of these people before – earlier that evening, in fact, working at the movie’s registration table. These friendly audience members worked for the film? Had Mathis planted questioners?

People asked what they could do to help the film succeed, and a young woman in the front row inquired: “How can I pray for you and for the movie?” Mathis grew excited. “We need to start a grass roots movement!” he said, encouraging people to tell their “networks” about the movie and to get as many people as they could to go on opening weekend.

The grass roots of the internet could wind up dividing and alienating friendly audiences from this movie for no other reason that it’s going to be increasingly difficult for friendly parties and grass roots not to notice the lies, notice the careful wording, notice the politics and economics and come to the bald realization it’s just about selling and the golden rule be damned.
The big question I’m left with is will the potential audience care?

This kind of marketing backfired on Left Behind Games Inc. when the gaming and religious communities took exception to being trashed, lied to, preached at, mocked and manipulated.
It remains to be seen how this is going to play out.
More than one marketer has said it’s a win for Premise Media. The human dramas and passions around this production have distracted from content. I wonder if that’s been an intentional part of the marketing strategy.

The film opens in 3 weeks. One good box office weekend, reasonable church DVD sales and Mathis, having successfully used his rules to fed beasts is home free.

I end by addressing fellow Christians.
We are admonished to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.
Is knowing this level of manipulation has been sanctioned worth the price of admission?

Update: A pr from Premise Media about the blog swarm.

*Rules in Feeding the Beast: difference, emotion, simplicity, preparation, easy, repetition, resource, invention, timing, ego, balance, ambush

**Dr. Shermer’s account of being interviewed for Expelled (scroll down it is in the Expelled Overview) 25/03/08

Published 5 months, 4 weeks ago
5 Responses to “Mark Mathis: The Premises of Feeding the Beast and Expelled”
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1Sherm on Mar 25th, 2008 at 7:23 am
sigh.

Kind of makes one fondly remember that game – you know – the one that was supposed to save the world? What was it’s name again?

Oh ya – Left Behind.

Well, it seems like it was left behind on the store shelves, I saw it recently at a major retailer at a bargain price of 9.99. Had to blow the dust off it to read the system requirements.

Not that I would buy it. I don’t pay for my Christianity, nor do I buy Jesus junk.

When are Christians going to wake up and realize they are being duped by money-hungry sheep in wolves clothing, that Christianity isn’t about fighting, politics, or money?

I know I would never make it in that kind of Christian, mega-church, prosperity gospel, one-issue type of believing.

Oh well – blessed are the cracked, for it is they who let in the light…

2Bene D on Mar 27th, 2008 at 11:54 pm
It’s the bald faced lying I want Christians to pay attention to and to vote with their wallets.

The pr for the film is being handled by a company – however assistant producer Mathis says he did not deceive the scientists interviewed for the film. They’ve all refuted that. He says he invited them to participate in good faith and they did accept in good faith.

So why aren’t they invited to pre-screenings as honoured guests in good faith? Two of the scientists have seen the lengths the company has gone to to exclude them. The scientists are the enemy, but Mathis won’t say that in public. So his claim to have them participate in honest discussion is a lie.

He made up stories and when this exploded in the blogosphere and can’t have it both ways.
He either invited their participation in good faith or he didn’t. His recent statements show he most certainly did not.
If he had acknowledged he saw none creation scientists as the enemy at least that would have been honest instead of drawing sincere others in and spinning while he digs himself in deeper.

The excited student amended his suppositions in his account but did not apologize to Dr. Myers and his family and people that read his rushed to publish account. Why not? He is a creationist, possibly a Christian, what is wrong with an honest apology?

Being political, divisive and lying distracts from debate about content. That matters given a law being debated in Florida now.

Mathis got caught lying again saying he wanted Dr. Meyers to feel what it’s like to be expelled, (common ID persecution complex) and rather than acknowledge his extreme dislike of vocal critics he lied some more.

Christian scientists have spoken out in blog comments, expressing their disappointment in the behavior of Mathis, the PR company and Premise Media and their comfortableness in believing in evolutionary theory in junction with their faith. Good for them.

The PR on Business Week is easily checked by what’s in the blogosphere and seeping into media. The lies are open and blatant and are factually dissected by good bloggers in various communities.

It will be interesting to see how stories continue to change and how Expelled in spun up to and after release.

3nerdiah on Mar 28th, 2008 at 9:57 am
Gee. I’m an atheist and I must admit I’ve been enjoying ‘you lot’ shooting yourselves in the foot, but this post almost makes me feel sorry for it.

…. almost >:)

Actually, in all seriousness, I’m happy to see a Christian say this sort of thing. I’ve been stuffing around reading about this for much of the afternoon, and you’re the first one I’ve come across who is not cool with the spin. So, yeah. Good luck with that, or something.