Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Why Did Ex Machina Succeed At The Box Office?

Ex Machina was directed by Alex Garland born in 1970, who is an English novelist, screenwriter, film producer and director. Previous work by Garland includes, writing the screenplay in 2002 for Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later starring Cillian Murphy, which went on to win best screenplay honor at the 2004 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards. He also wrote the script for the film adaptation of Halo in 2005, and in 2007 he wrote the screenplay for Sunshine. 28 Days Later and Ex Machina both have clear themes running through them, for example, the idea of scientific development (also predominantly seen in Halo) being taken too far and becoming a threat to the world. Also another similarity is that both depict a person/people being removed from their comfort zone in society and being placed into a world of insecurity and being faced with dangerous decisions. Garland also wrote a novel in 1996 called The Beach which is about isolation, which his more recent films are based around. This relates to britishness in the sense that they don't involve continuous action or very little, and also have no clear objective or story established at the start of the film/novel. The film Ex Machina was Garland's directorial debut which was based on his own story and screenplay. It would not of appealed to a large mainstream audience but to film aficionados, as it unlike Hollywood films including very little SFX/CGI, special effects, which means the film has a greater reliance on the script itself to keep the audience's attention. There is also little action/few huge set pieces and slow pace during the film. It also stars very few famous actors, however includes two relatively unknown actors (Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac) the main roles who are set to appear in the new and upcoming Star Wars franchise. It also includes no closed narrative and isn't suitable for PG (rated 15) as it contains full frontal nudity and cannot be four quadrant. However the film is based containing ideas from films like The Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott, 2001 by Stanley Kubrick and 28 Days Later by Danny Boyle.

Ex Machina is a low budget, independent British film which was funded by Film Four and DNA films with a budget of $15 million. It is neither culturally or regionally specific and has parts of both in the film. It made $36.9 million at the box office worldwide (managing to gross $3.8 million in the UK and over $25.4 million in the USA), despite the film only originally being released on four screens in the US, which shows that the film has made a substantial profit. Ex Machina has a thoughtful style of sci-fi thriller whereas mainstream audiences appeal to the big blockbusters such as the Avengers and The Hunger Games, this shows the dominance of the US studios. The film won a Jury Prize at the 2015 Gerardmer Film Festival. The film's lead actress, Alicia Vikander, was nominated for a Best Actress award at the Empire Awards.

Pre Production began from an the foundation which Alex Garland evolved from when he was a child, after he had done some basic coding and experimentation on a computer his parents had bought him and which he sometimes felt had a mind of its own. His later ideas came from years of discussions he had been having with a friend with, who claimed machines could never become sentient. This lead to Garland writing down this idea and coming back to it at a later stage in his life. The film is scientific and incorporates a lot of knowledge about the future of our current word in reality and what it could potentially look like in the future, in terms of robots and science which could be developed, this sparked the interest and excitement of many scientists who found they could relate to the film, which increased the audience appeal.

The production of the film took place over four weeks in 2013 at Pinewood Studios in London and two weeks at Juvet Landscape Hotel in Valldalen, Norway. Most of the shots which were taken were all rather long meaning it was easier for it all to bed edited together in post production. It was filmed in digital at 4K resolution. Ex Machina was shot like ordinary live action using no special effects,green screens or tracking markers, all the effects were later edited on during post-production. To create Eva the robot they filmed both scenes with the actress Alicia Vikander presence and scenes without her they so they could edit in the robotical features in the AI's body. In total the film took 800 VFX shots, of which 350 or near to that were robot shots, this shows that the large proportion of the film only uses post-production CGI to create the robot. 

Post production involved almost no CGI except for the transition point of creating the artificial intelligence from the actress. The film's running time is 1 hour 50 minutes and was originally released on four US screens, and after a few weeks managed to increase to 1200 screens. After The Avengers was released a week later the Film eventually hit 2000 screens, holding popularity for almost six weeks. Very little advertising and marketing was done to push the film before it was released. A app where you could have your face drawn by Eva (the artificial intelligence in the film) was available, also a fake Tinder account was created which pretended to be an attractive 25 year old woman who was actually the actress who was playing the AI (Ava) in the film (Alicia Vikander), and was speaking to men who were then tricked and were directed to an Instagram page which was promoting Ex Machina. This was only done in Austin America which in comparison to other film marketing covers a very small proportion of the US. The films advertising is almost parallel to its content, for example, the way in which fans were 'tricked' by the App symbolises the same process in the film where Caleb is 'tricked' into believing that he has been randomly selected to win a trip to the CEO of the company he works for. Advertising was also very minimalistic and simple but effective, this is the same in relation to the film as it is slow paced and simplistic where action is kept to a minimum, yet Ex Machina is perceived by its fan as unique and a fantastic film, this shows how successful all stages of production and distribution was. The film was distributed by Universal Pictures and was cleverly planned and released in perfect timing allowing it to achieve the profit it did, this was because it was aimed to be released just after the Avengers came out, which triggered the mainstream stereotypical audiences to create general marketing for the film through word of mouth, however while this happened film buffs went to watch Ex Machina and came out talking about it to the mainstream audience, suggesting that they might like Ex Machina as it's a similar film. This caused an effective increase in sales for Ex Machina and left Avengers to slow down in sales.

The success of Ex Machina at the box office was influenced massively by people's perception, but as the director was Alex Garland people were drawn to see what innovative visionary story he has created. Another big part of the success comes down to audience connecting with the material. and automatically self-promoting it giving Ex Machina extra Kudos and a sense of status.

1 comment:

  1. Elliot

    This is a very good first attempt. There is comprehensive coverage of the issues facing the film makers as well as additional detail to that covered in class.



    Begin by reading Edie's response.

    Include more detail about previous work by Alex Garland. Try and link the generic similarities and 'Britishness' of his earlier work to this film.

    Consider how the films controversial marketing is a paralell to the film's content.

    20/25 argument
    22/25 examples