Words, Words, Words: The World Of Blurbs

September 22, 2008

It’s festival time in Melbourne. Actually, it’s always festival time in Melbourne. Arts, Film, Comedy, Fashion, Writers, Design, Stencil, Cycling, Jazz, Brass, Animation, Fringe, Moomba, Tap, Travel Writing, Italian, Scarf, Funk… and that’s just the first five pages of Google results. Melbourne has a festival for everything. But how do you decide which film to see? Which comedy show? Which travel writer? Which scarf?

In most cases your guide will be the festival program, and the description of each event. 150 words need to convince you to commit your time and money, to get off the couch and turn off those old tapes of Chances – “The best kabuki puppet western you’ll see all year!” “I laughed so hard I mislaid my socks!” “Gong Li is the most beautiful woman on Earth!”

Anne-Marie Peard wrote about the launch of the Melbourne Fringe Festival program a couple of weeks ago, and we talked about blurbs during the Melbourne International Film Festival. But what makes a good blurb? What needs to be in that magic paragraph to pull in the punters and let the sun shine in?

The Outland Institute assembled a panel of experts to address this deeply important issue…

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

John’s MIFF blog – House Of Blurbs

July 25, 2008

One of the thrills of the Melbourne International Film Festival is Program Day. You wake up so early, just as the sun is starting to peek into the window. On tippy-toe you creep down the stairs, clad in your pyjamas and Wong Kar-Wai slippers, to find that special package under the Festival Tree. You undo the ribbon, gently unwrap the layers of gaily-coloured tissue paper, and finally – there it is. The Festival Program. Now the circling can begin…

Film, fringe and comedy festivals all follow much the same template when it comes to their programs. Only a single photo and a short blurb help you to decide what’s Hot, and what’s Book Of Revelation. For MIFF there’s roughly 150 words in a standard description. A generic blurb looks something like this:

FILM TITLE

“Fulsome but uselessly vague praise!’ – International Newspaper

Character X, a (vending machine repairman/factory worker/university lecturer) in (Taipei/Seattle/Bucharest) is drawn into a web of despair in this new film from Director Y. Like (an unwieldy and confusing metaphorical reference, possibly involving World War I or Iraq), FILM TITLE is a (harrowing/hauntingly beautiful) insight into (the pain of a middle-class couple in crisis/child prostitution/zombies). An exceptional work, FILM TITLE further explores the themes of Director Y‘s FILM YOU DIDN’T SEE (MIFF 2005).

D/S Director Y S Grace Park, Julianne Moore L Esperanto w/English subtitles 35m/2007/193 mins

And honestly, that’s often enough to give you an idea whether you want to see it or not. You may just need to know the director, the subject matter or the genre to make your mind up. But sometimes it’s too vague, especially if the film is extremely complex or falls between categories. Sometimes the descriptions themselves cause confusion, leading the audience to believe the film is something that it’s not (the blurb for 2006’s Flanders led many to expect a World War I drama, rather than the modern-day piece it actually was).

As with most things in life, the internet has changed things for the better. Oh internet, is there anything you can’t do?

Read the rest of this entry »