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Monday, August 27, 2007

How equipment was Placed in "The Departed" movie

Anatomy of a Placement

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
An industrial style window, placed high to foil the occupants’ attempts to have a view, let in the spring morning sunshine at a crazy angle. Segmented by horizontal blinds, the light threw stripes of glare and shadow that ran across floor then bent wildly up across the figure behind the desk, striping her blouse and face like masked bad guys in an old Disney cartoon. She looked up at the sound of the knob turning on her closed door; a silhouette was visible through the frosted glass pane with the etched letters, ‘ffoG yllaS’.
A figure in an open, rain-spotted trench coat and Fedora stepped in, a woman with a face that could silence a stereo salesman, hair finer than the strands in a high-end speaker cable and voice like a lunch-box filled w/ toy cars… no, wait….that was the phone….
O.K., so life for Sally Goff, Director of Marketing and P.R. for McIntosh Laboratory may not be as exciting as a Mickey Spillane inspired film noir, but the call was about a detective story…
Jennifer Chalhub, Sr. Account Executive for Warner Bros Pictures had a request. She was currently working on a ‘little’ Film for Warner Brothers, “The Departed”, Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson. Set Decorator Leslie Rollins had requested McIntosh for the set of Matt’s apt, where a scene takes place involving a stereo system. This was not unusual, the timeless, classy look and bright, illuminated meters and faceplates make McIntosh equipment look great on film and a favorite of set designers. Sally assured Jennifer we would be happy to help. Ms Chalhub promised to get back soon with an equipment list.
After a long look at www.mcintoshlabs.com, Departed set decorating personnel went on a field trip to a McIntosh dealer to check out the toys. A month later, they came back with the ‘wish list’, and it was not small. An MX119 Home Theater Preamp, MVP861 DVD Player, MA6500 Integrated Amp, C2200 Tube Preamp, MR85 Tuner, MHT200 Home Theater Receiver, MC207 Multi Channel Amp, MCD1000 CD Transport and five XLS320 Bookshelf speakers.
The Production Resources Agreement arrived from Warner Brothers.
Obviously designed for paid placement, the contract stated that McIntosh agreed to pay the sum of Zero Dollars for placement of the equipment in the movie, there was no guaranty that the equipment would appear and that McIntosh was not obligated to pay the Zero Dollars, should the gear not ‘recognizably appear’ in the final cut of the film. McIntosh does not pay for placements, despite the fact that it shows up in several TV shows and movies each year. With the paperwork completed, the search for the gear began.
2005 was a very busy year for trade shows, dealer events and equipment reviews. Nearly every piece of show stock equipment was spread out around the globe at about 10 different events, including a good size pile of gear down in Florida on the set of “Miami Vice”, so it was time for ‘Plan B’. Usually, McIntosh units used in movies and TV shows simply need to light up and look pretty. McIntosh Service Manager John Messemer had several of the listed models , either untested or yet to be repaired units that lit up just fine, we could simply tape over the inputs on the back, label them “do not use” and be all set.
Just to be sure, Sally flashed off an email to Jennifer Chalhub, would they be expecting the gear to play music or would it be OK if they just ‘lit up’?
“I’m just a little afraid Jack or Matt will want to turn it on and listen to it. I’ll just have to let them know in advance they can not play anything on it.” Ms Chalhub replied. Sally had heard Jack Nicholson liked to play with everything on set and wanted it all to work. They knew Jack was a McIntosh owner and had previously requested McIntosh as set dressing for “As Good as it Gets”. The decision was made; the units would HAVE to work.
Turning a pile of new stock into “B” stock is not a desirable business practice, but it became obvious that at least some of the units would need to come from new stock. Sales and Sales Administration were consulted, they gave the green light to use some new stock and by the first of June, 2005, the shipment was ready to go. A combination new, show and engineering stock provided the 13 units for the departed. More complications arose as time went on, The Departed requested old Mac boxes for set dressing, and in June, 2006, whole scenes needed to be re-shot, so some pieces had to be re-gathered and reshipped, but eventually, it all came home, in excellent shape and perfectly re-packed.
On Fri. Oct 6, 2006 The Departed opened in the U.S., at one point in the film, the big, blue MA6500 VU meter covered more than 60% of the screen, presenting viewers with a 40 foot McIntosh Meter during a tense moment in the film. At the final cut, only 4 of the units and 2 of the speakers were visible in the flick, but they played a visceral part. As the female lead character ran to the Mac stack to turn it on, she makes three obvious turning-on motions, and three loud, poignant ‘clicks’ ring out in the sound track. As the camera pulls back, only two units appear to be on, but a slow motion viewing revealed the editors loved the look of the MA6500 turning on so much, they basically showed it turn on twice, giving the dramatic beat of ‘click’, ‘click’, click’!
By the following Monday morning customers were mentioning in web-site emails and tech calls they had seen the gear, and it was fabulous! In February, 2007, The Departed received four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, the perfect Hollywood ending, or was it?
In preparation for this article, a letter was sent to Jennifer Chalhub, requesting permission to use some stills for it. Jennifer replied she was working on it and, by the way, the set decorator was now working on another Warner Bros. feature, “Get Smart”, starring Steve Carell and “The Rock” and was interested in using a similar system. And so, here we go again!...

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