Films, Cars, Product Placement, and People at Chevrolet Film Night

Paramount Studios - New York Street

New York Street, on the Paramount Studio’s Lot.

…Sounds like a (stereo)typical night in Hollywood. 🙂

Last night I attended Chevrolet Film Night, a special event sponsored by Chevrolet and Creative Artists Agency (CAA), “celebrating the film industry and Chevrolet’s unique place within it,” as the evening’s printed program explained.

It was a terrific and informative evening. I met lots of cool people and heard some of the top producers in the business discuss the filmmaking industry. As someone who’s only been in the Los Angeles area for 3 months, I appreciate any opportunity to meet new people, especially industry folks.

Even the product placement was cool. While I understand the necessity of it, I’m often bothered by product placement, especially depending on how obvious and obtrusive it is (the Subway sandwich ads built into the episodes of Chuck leap screamingly to mind). But somehow, with a product like a car, it doesn’t seem as blatant. Characters often need cars to get around, but I don’t always notice the kind of car they’re driving.

For example, I hadn’t realized that the examples in the promotional film they showed last night were Chevys. It was pretty cool. They had clips from old and new movies: Transformers, The Fast and the Furious, Terms of Endearment, Beverly Hills Cop, even Saturday Night Fever; all those films incorporated (and sometimes blew up) Chevy automobiles. And cars, much more than food or drinks for example, can really capture the culture and era of the film they appear in.

The event also included an awards ceremony for the winners of Chevrolet’s Mofilm and Young Creative Chevrolet (YCC) contests. These are both worldwide initiatives that connect filmmaking and branding, where aspiring filmmakers, fashion and visual arts designers, and photographers can compete and have their projects judged by major figures in the business. The winners hailed from all over Europe, including the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Serbia.

Jon Landau, Producer of Titanic

I met Jon Landau, producer of one of my favorite films, Titanic.

Jon Landau, producer of James Cameron’s two biggest hits, Titanic and Avatar, is one of the aforementioned major figures judging the competitions, serving on the advisory board for Mofilm. He joined 3 other filmmakers for a panel discussion last night, moderated by journalist Ari Karpel (who teaches my Freelance Entertainment Journalism course at UCLA-Extension, hence my invitation to the event). Ian Bryce, producer of Transformers, Saving Private Ryan, and the forthcoming World War Z; Rob Cohen, producer and director of The Mummy, The Fast and the Furious, and the new Alex Cross; and F. Gary Gray, director of The Italian Job, Be Cool, and Friday, also served on the panel. (Actor Will Arnett and producer Gale Anne Hurd of The Walking Dead were supposed to attend but canceled at the last minute.)

The four told stories of their lives and work in film, including how they started in Hollywood. Most began in places far removed from the industry; Rob Cohen first worked in an animal hospital, squeezing dogs’ and cats’ swollen anal glands! Their stories inspired, and they further encouraged the contest winners and students (mostly film production, screenwriting, and criticism students) in attendance to chase their dreams into reality through persistence, hard work, saying yes to everything, and learning as much as you can along the way.

Bella's Truck from Twilight

Bella’s 1963 Chevy StepSide C-10 pickup truck.

The opening reception before and the dinner party following the presentation allowed ample time to meet with participants and attendees, as well as enjoy good food, free drinks, and fun music (including many songs that mentioned Chevys). The event took place on the Paramount Studios lot, its New York Street decked out with lounge chairs and tables, mood lighting, and scattered with Chevy cars, some from movie sets. Naturally, my inner teenybopper, whom I take great strides to embrace, screamed for me to take a picture of Bella’s truck from the Twilight movies.

I had a moment to speak with Jon Landau, who was incredibly kind and friendly. He asked if I dye my hair to match my outfit. I just confessed that purple was—obviously—my favorite color. I also told him the huge shocker that one of my all-time favorite movies is Titanic. I’m sure he still hasn’t recovered.

Alas, I wasn’t able to meet the other panelists, but I met so many other great people: many students from UCLA and USC’s film departments, a handful of folks from CAA, a few directors and producers, and two journalists from a German entertainment publication who flew in just for this event. Everyone was so friendly, wonderfully talented, and great fun. It felt like one of those storybook Hollywood events that I’d dreamed of attending, and the reason we made the big move to LA. I hope to attend many more like this in the future.

Special thanks to my teacher, Ari Karpel, and to CAA for extending the invitation.

So readers, have you had an experience like this, something that you dreamed of that turned out just as you imagined? Is there an event you’re looking forward to that could be like that? On the other hand, what do you think of product placement in films or TV? Does it bother you, or do you just consider it a necessary evil (as I often do)? What are some you’ve seen that are particularly egregious, or smoothly unobtrusive?

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