Thursday, 19 December 2013

Digression: Marketing Advice for Artists from 'Christmas Magic,' a Made-for-TV Xmas Movie

   Made-for-TV Xmas movies are the best, not least because they're so unflappably (and arguably pathologically) optimistic about the redemption that each and every Special Season ushers in—for individuals, families, and entire municipalities!!

   Christmas Magic effortlessly reflects the genre's manic, chirpy disposition. Oakville, Ontario's own Lindy Booth (Relic Hunter, Warehouse 13) stars in Hallmark Channel's pop-Christian heartwarmer, directed by Stratford's own John Bradshaw (of Christmas Star, Mistletoe Over Manhattan, The Town Christmas Forgot, Cancel Christmas...and Pegasus Vs. Chimera fame). 
   It's an "original movie" in the sense that a Hallmark greeting card represents "original art."

   Booth plays Carrie Bishop, who is killed in the opening five minutes. 

   No angel (yet), she's a conniver, a backstabbing event planner who steals clients from her former boss and mentor using hinted-at but never fully disclosed feminine wiles...
   Carrie can't resist gloating, of course, and decides to make a cellphone call to her ex-boss while driving. In the middle of her villainous boasts, she's hit by an oncoming vehicle. Apparently, God doesn't always move in mysterious ways.
   Dazed, Carrie appears to wake up in the next scene. She's outdoors; there are white Christmas lights and a wide set of stairs, but otherwise she's all alone and confused. A man in a military uniform, who'd warned her just minutes before about talking on the cellphone while driving, approaches her and says, "I warned you about driving and using the cellphone." (Besides mapping redemption in various forms, TV Xmas flicks are always irrepressible, even evangelical, Message Movies, uncomplicated parables for the Age of Television).
   The stranger also informs her that she's Tot, as the Germans say. And that since she was such a nasty careerist hag in real life (these aren't his exact words), she's got one chance to make amends—all by midnight on Christmas Eve!
   Naturally, this stranger in military clothing is a guardian angel who will oversee her Heavenly Assignment of helping a befuddled sad-sack widower fix his life and dowdy restaurant, which serves terribly unfashionable and paradoxically bland Chicken Piquante (the tell-tale sign of the restaurant's imminent bankruptcy). 
   Carrie'll burn in eternal hellfire if she fails—that's implied, not stated—but can float to her own fluffy cloud in Heaven if she succeeds. By Godly omnipotence she's whisked off to a picturesque small town (Ontario's own Hamilton, in fact).

   And so begins the renovation of Carrie Bishops corroded soul. 

   I stopped watching soon after, so I don't know for sure how her journey ends. My guess is the legendary pearly gates (re: the Book of Revelation 12:21—"The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.")
   Along the way, newly non-conniving Carrie stops by a gallery, where a nervous artist is hanging paintings for his first solo show. 
   He's pacing, sweating, and wringing his hands. He could use a Quaalude. This being a Christmas movie, a genre philosophically opposed to pharmacology, the anxious artist gets helpful advice instead—from Carrie (who is, after all, an event planner from New York City). Grateful, he bows to her metropolitan expertise.
   She scans the four white walls of the small square of a room and then asks him, "So, what's your catch phrase?"
   "Huh? Catch phrase?" He's bewildered.
   "Yeah, a catch phrase. So that everyone will remember what to say about your show the next day."
   She returns to scanning the walls, which feature the artist's brightly-coloured depictions of Americana West iconography in a Pop Art style. 
   "I've got it," Carrie announces. "New American Classics."
   Guess what? The next day, the phase "New American Classics" is falling out of gallery-goers' mouths. It's a Christmas miracle!

   Fellow artists, you have a novel coming out, a short story collection, some poetry, perhaps your first solo show, and you've reminded friends of the fact, made attempts to befriend and/or ingratiate yourself with arts section newspaper/magazine/online literary site editors, and made efforts to simultaneously (a) increase the scope of your socializing and (b) mentally substitute hazy, unproductive "socializing" with entrepreneurial, go-for-the-throat "networking." You're willing to kiss ass, shake hands, kiss babies. 

   Good for you. You are a brand, and this brand is a business enterprise within a competitive capitalist environment. The brand must grow. Stagnation is not an option.
   But have you brainstormed about your catch phrase yet? Is it clever? Accurate? Memorable? 
   You must assure that your catch phrase trips off the tongues of well-heeled consumers. You want Michiko Kakutani, Adam Begley, and James Wood to be singing "[insert your catch phrase here]" as they wander from bookstore to launch to publishing industry insiders' party and have other women and men of influence ask, "So what's that catchy tune?" They'll reply, "[insert your catch phrase here]." Before they walk off, they'll add, "Trust me, it's sure to be a hit."    
   Trust literally angelic Carrie; she knows a thing or two.

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