Meeting Celine Dion - Well played, Breaker Upperers

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Spinning gold from a piece of fluff, The Breaker Upperers harness social media to give their film another boost of publicity two weeks after its Oz release.
Meeting Celine Dion - Well played, Breaker Upperers

Image: Fan-girling like mad, The Breaker Upperers' Jackie Van Beek and Madeleine Sami flank singer Celine Dion before her Melbourne concert.

A little film can be made or broken by the power of a big name and an even bigger voice. And what mightier lungs exist than those belonging to Quebecois crooner Celine Dion? It was something of a coup then, when the Kiwi comedy duo behind The Breaker Upperers managed to get a few moments and a photo with the singer before she went on stage for her concert in Melbourne on Tuesday night. 

Of course the photo has gone out over all social media channels, and was even provided to us by the NIXco, the publicists handling the Madman film, which released in Australian cinemas a fortnight ago on 26 July. Hitching its cute wagon to a couple of other big names, the press release also thanks Russell Crowe and Air New Zealand for their help in making it happen, while also acknowledging the 'borderline stalking' involved.

Exactly how this photo got to be staged is an interesting story in itself, and instructive in the way social media campaigns can fixate on a bit of fluff and spin it into something as bright and shiny as Celine's golden pantsuit.

Writer-director-actors Jackie Van Beek and Madeleine Sami have long been fans of Dion, and a hammy karaoke version of her song 'It's all coming back to me' plays a central role in their 'womantic comedy' about two female friends who run a business breaking up unhappy couples. It was a natural fit for them to use their Australian publicity campaign to call out to Dion in advance of her Australian concerts. Sami appeared on Channel Ten's The Project wearing her Celine T-shirt and waxing lyrical about her 'full blown love affair' with the singer. The appearance then featured in a YouTube video released 24 July publicly inviting the singer to see The Breaker Upperers

A hashtag was created for the campaign: #TBU4Celine.

Then fellow Kiwi Russell Crowe, who is well known for his enthusiastic re-tweeting, got on board calling out to Dion in front of his 2.7m Twitter followers:  

Hey @celinedion , remember that time we met in the elevator at the @FourSeasons in LA? 
Yeah. Me too.
Anyway, please see below .
The way Canadians are polite , New Zealanders are sincere .
These girls have a lot of love for you .
They made a movie.
Would you see it?
Regards,
RC https://t.co/sIO6UuxCvn

— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) July 25, 2018

Executive producer of The Breaker Upperers, Taika Waititi, already a social media star in his own right, lent his support too, and so did Air New Zealand and cinema chain Hoyts.

Here at Screenhub we rang up publicist Courtney Mayhew of NIXco to check out the story. Apparently 'Team Celine' saw the social media campaign and invited van Beek and Sami to come meet the singer before the show. Mayhew was there when it happened, and says although Dion has not seen the film yet, she enjoyed their chat, had a lot of laughs and asked the filmmakers to let her know if they ever make 'another one of your little films'. Sami apparently gave Dion a gift of a New Zealand tea towel and some chocolate 'kiwi poop.'

How sweet and oddly fitting.

Made on the cheap - and sometimes it shows - The Breaker Upperers is indeed a little film, but it's vulgar, daring and loads of fun. It was rated number #11 on the Rotten Tomatoes list of 50 Best Comedies made in 2018 and is still going strong, but could do with a few more ticket sales having racked up about $1.6m on 227 screens. Go see it if you want a laugh. Or if you love the daggy magnificence of Celine.

About the author

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a journalist for Screenhub. She is a writer, film critic and cultural commentator with a PhD in Australian cinema. She is now the the co-host of Australia's longest running film podcast 'Hell is for Hyphenates'. She has written a memoir, Fallen, published by Affirm Press. You can follow her musings on Australian film and television on Twitter @Milan2Pinsk.