Confessions of a Horror Film Mogul

By Robert Marich
   Oct 26, 2012-Horror filmmaker Eli Roth is a “brand” that he milks online and in other media. A creative force behind Cabin Fever and Hostel, Roth provided a fascinating tour of the horror film genre in an interview at the Variety Film Marketing Summit last week.
   His big break came as director of Cabin Fever released in 2003, though that low budget film that was a hit with $21 million in domestic box office was a struggle to make. After some filming, the $1.5 million production needed another $700,000 for completion, so arresting production photos were placed on the IMDB movie in a publicity move.
  “That day, we got more hits than Spider-Man,” recalled Roth. “So of course I screen-grabbed it, printed it out and showed it to (potential) investors, telling them that more people are interested in Cabin Fever than Spider-Man. We know that’s not true. But I basically used the medium and manipulated people into investing in the film.”
  He convinced The Weinstein Co. to acquire his latest film Aftershock after presenting a trailer for the unfinished film, which he said showed various potential distributors how they could sell the film to audiences.
  With 183,000 Twitters followers and an array of media initiatives, including a new $10 million horror house attraction in Las Vegas (Eli Roths' Goritorium), Roth is horror juggernaut and something of a “baby mogul” at the tender age of 30. He provided these insights from his vantage of being a familiar front man to the legions of horror fans:
•    He’s dropped off Facebook. He finds that if he doesn’t “friend” fans, they become disgruntled and diss him elsewhere in cyberspace. When he did “friend” fans, some rummaged through his Facebook photos to find out who his friends were in the industry and then pursued them. He likes Twitter instead, with its one-way communications stream.
•    He finds journalists rely on the personal Trivia section of IMDB in personality profiles to prep for interviews. Since users can post Trivia, he simply posted biographical info on his IMDB profile that he wants known.
•    His film The Last Exorcist posted video on video chat site ChatRoulette, and got a viral buzz of reaction shots from people viewing the arresting video on webcams.
•    Roth just learned about online buzz measuring service Klout, which ranks celebrities. “I didn’t know that was something I have to worry about,” he joked.
•    Fame is achieved by some unlikely characters. Roth noted that a talented, chubby Korean singer crooning torch songs in English pulled over 5 million views on YouTube.
   Behind-the-camera celebrity is on the rise as evidenced by the media fame of indie film maverick Quentin Tarantino. Roth was an on-screen actor in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Variety outlined how Saved by the Bell TV star and X Factor judge Mario Lopez fosters a cottage industry around his persona.

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