Do you want your site to be thought of for something it did in the past?
It’s a tough question, and one you want to answer both ways. Sure, that exposure Michael Keaton received enabled him to do everything that came after, but it also pigeon-holed him in many people’s minds, even though he did a great job of avoiding type-casting.
And yet it still hinders you, when you’re known for something above all else, no matter what you may try to do differently in the future.
Let’s take a look at some 1980s Michael Keaton movies and see how going a bit off-the-wall can really help you make a big splash quickly, but also set you up for disappointments later.
Night Shift (1982)
There wasn’t much memorable about it, although critics did enjoy it and did single out Keaton’s performance. Still, to many it was a Henry Winkler film, you know, “the Fonz.”
It made $23.6 million at the box office after opening on June 30 and ensured Keaton was seen as a viable film option.
Perhaps your site needs to get its name out there as well, even if it’s through a vehicle that many might forget later on.
That’s right, not too many remember Night Shift, and not too many will remember your first blog posts, guest posts, or even sites.
Yeah, you might have to go through a few doozies before you find something that works.
Mr. Mom (1983)
In fact, it was a National Lampoon article he’d written during the time that got the attention of a down and out producer named Lauren Shuler.
She managed to get his idea of a stay-at-home dad turned into a film option and next suggested Keaton would be wonderful for the film’s lead character, Jack Butler. After a screen test and a peek at his earlier film Night Shift, studio execs agreed and Mr. Mom was green-lit.
The film was released on July 22 in 126 theatres and made it to #13 for the weekend, not even breaking $1 million. By the time the end of the year had rolled around, however, the film had taken in $64.7 million.
Perhaps most importantly, the film’s huge success on such a limited budget convinced studio execs that John Hughes just might be worth something. They inked a three-picture deal with him, which ensured Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off would be made.
Your lesson here is how important your first work can be. While Keaton may have gotten Mr. Mom based on his ‘funniness’ alone, it sure helped that he’d had that previous film to point back to.
Your portfolio is important as well. Whether it’s that sidebar filled with popular posts, those links showing how many months your blog’s been active, or the number of guest posts you can point to, you need to show off your work when the time comes.
And even if that second job of yours – that second opportunity to shine – isn’t that sunny, well, suck it up and make the best of it!
Keaton’s character didn’t want to lose the race to his wife’s boss, Martin Mull, but he did. He got the job done, winning the admiration of his wife. He also wearied his opponent, dulling him into a false sense of security that would only breed complacency later.
Yes, when the time came, Jack Butler was ready. Your site will be as well.
Gung Ho (1986)
The film opened on March 14 in 1,150 theatres, making more than $7 million. By the end of the year it’d climbed to $36.6 million. Considering it was made on an $18 million budget, this wasn’t anything to ‘hoorah’ about.
So what can this movie teach us about SEO and content marketing? Well, in the film we’ve got an American company trying to work with a Japanese company. As you can imagine, nothing goes right. But by working hard, recognizing their differences, and eventually overcoming them, we see the two companies succeed together where they couldn’t have alone.
This is what your site needs to do – collaborate with others, especially overseas companies that are doing the same thing as you.
It’s all about audience. In the film the Japanese wanted to sell more cars in America. It only made sense from a marketing perspective to label those cars as ‘made in America.’ And to do that production would have to be shipped overseas.
Thankfully you’re not making cars, but content. Their delivery costs are substantially lower, if they even exist at all. The production times are reduced considerably and you probably won’t have as many cultural hang-ups.
But you will introduce yourself to a whole new audience, create a wider market for your goods, and perhaps even put forth some goodwill. Yeah, in Gung Ho the film was all about cultural differences and coming to understand them.
Your site should be doing the same so that you and your new international friends can make a lot more money.
The reason is simple – director Tim Burton was bored, tired of the same old same old he was seeing in Hollywood, and wanted to go out on a limb. When he was shown the script for the film he jumped at it, had some rewrites done, and began casting.
He knew nothing about Michael Keaton at the time, but after seeing his previous movies he knew he had his man. Winona Ryder and Catherine O’Hara also joined on, but every other cast member approached was apprehensive. The movie was just too-out-there, didn’t make sense, and seemed destined to flop.
The budget for the film was just $15 million, and of that, $1 million was for special effects. It’s good that Burton wanted to film a B-quality movie, for he didn’t have the money for anything else.
The film was released on April Fool’s Day in a thousand theatres and made $8 million, reaching the #1 spot. For the year it’d make $73.7 million, pushing it to the #10 spot. Perhaps if there weren’t so many good comedies that year – like Coming to America, Big, and The Naked Gun – the picture would’ve done even better.
Or it could have just been that the studio had no idea how to market the thing.
Of all the problems that come with creative and original content, that is one that could disrupt your intentions the most. If someone is so overwhelmingly clueless as to what you’re doing, perhaps because it’s so out-there, original, or one-of-a-kind, then you’re going to run into brick walls of ignorance.
People simply don’t know what to do with you! Tim Burton’s had that problem his entire career, but people and films like that also tend to attract a cult-like audience and following. For Keaton that also meant the risk of type-casting.
The following is what you want, because that kind of audience follows you from one project to another, whether it’s a blog, a site, or a film. Those are fans, and if you can get a little off the wall like this film did, you’ll earn them.
Clean and Sober (1988)
The film was released on August 12, 1988, and opened in 673 theatres. It would go on to make $8.6 million, which was a lot less than the $12 million it cost to produce.
Keaton was quite ‘normal’ for the movie. This was odd, for audiences had grown accustomed to seeing him play zany, outlandish, and…well, off the wall characters for most of the ‘80s. Now all of a sudden their funny-man is taking a dramatic turn. And many felt that was a turn for the worse.
But was it? How did it hurt Keaton? Sure, maybe he spent a lot of time and didn’t make a lot of money, but I bet that job really honed his skills. And when you think of it like that, it’s not a far stretch of the imagination to think that there would have been no Batman without a Clean and Sober, at least not as we know it.
Perhaps that’s what you and your site need to do – get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Keaton did it with this film, and while it wasn’t his most critically-acclaimed or commercially-successful film, it’s still one you’ll see on the shelves today.
Take a risk and watch it – you might be surprised at what you can learn.
The Dream Team (1989)
The film was made on a $15 million budget and opened in 1,316 theatres on April 7, reaching the #2 spot. All in all it took in just $28.8 million that year, not exactly what producers had been hoping for with such a bankable star as Keaton. For the year it only reached up to the #42 spot.
I was about eight years old when The Dream Team came out and my parents took me to the theatre to see it. The place was packed, and I remember them explaining to me that the same person that had been in Beetlejuice was in this. They also made it a point to tell me that this would be a completely different performance, that in this film he’d be more…normal.
I understood very little of the film, at least the cultural references, snide remarks, and low-brow humor, but I did get the overall plot and story.
See, even if you’re an 8-year old you can pick up on the basics, like good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, and funny vs. boring. Perhaps that last point is what your site is struggling with. I mean, the first two are pretty cut and dry. But making people laugh? Golly, that’s work.
Yeah, if you’re going it alone, but you’re not – you’ve got The Dream Team, remember?
Oh, it’s just you. Well, in that case, maybe you need to think of doing what the characters in the film did. Each was completely different, couldn’t stand the others, and was crazy, but they somehow put aside their differences to work together. And that working together ended up saving them.
Who’s your site working with? If you’re working with anyone it’s probably the people you like and get along with…just makes sense. But if you’re going solo, maybe you should try to contact those you can’t stand. See if you can collaborate on something, do a guest post, hell, even put each others’ link up on your sidebar!
The point is, there are many ways you can make your dreams come true if you’ve got the right team in place.
Does that mean you can’t make them come true on your own? No, it’s just that it might take longer.
And when you do get out on your own and travel around by yourself, much like the characters in this film did at one point, you might find the going is a lot harder, especially if you once travelled with others before.
So get a little crazy and work with others in your niche or industry that drives you crazy. Pretty soon it won’t just be chairs you’re throwing through windows, but great content as well.
Take 1989’s Batman. The film ran into all kinds of problems during production, including a Writer’s Guild of America strike. The budget also ballooned from $30 million to $48 million.
Fans had been troubled when it was revealed both Burton and Keaton would be attached to the film. A sense of horror descended on them, the idea that this could be a ‘funny’ film nearly brining them to tears.
To combat this, producers cut scenes into previews that were shown without sound around Christmas, 1988. Anticipation was created as a result, and a slow and steady buzz began to build over the next six months.
The film was released on June 23 in 2,194 theatres. It reached #1, making $40 million that first weekend. For the year it made $251 million in the US and another $160 million overseas, for a total of $411 million.
It was also the first film that managed to make $100 million in just 10 days. Home video sales for the film were also astounding. The film was typically sold for upwards of $100 upon release to video, and that generated another $150 million in revenue.
Nearly half a billion dollars was made from this film, and more has been made since. Films, just like your website, can be gifts that keep on giving.
Michael Keaton is still giving us great content, but he’s slowed down from that creative spurt in the 80s. What’s more, his willingness to go off the wall during that time has him stuck in our minds. Yes, for us Michael Keaton will always be an 80s star, and perhaps nothing more.
Your site might become the same at some point, and if that’s the case you’ll need a backlist of great content to keep carrying you through into your golden years.