Almost 15 years after Borat became a much beloved comedy, Sacha Baron Cohen returned to our screens in Borat 2, which virtually no one knew was happening. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was a huge success when it debuted on Amazon Prime Video. Although this is not the first time filmmakers have decided to withhold information while working on a film, it still feels like quite the feat to pull off.
There are multiple approaches to releasing a film on your own terms and avoiding spoilers, from secret code names to hiding things from the actors. When I got the opportunity to sit down with Monica Levinson, one of the producers on both Borat films, for an interview with CinemaBlend, I had to know what this was like from her perspective. She expanded on the stressful yet necessary process of filming in secret, saying:
It’s super stressful. I produced Borat and Bruno you know, way back when, so I had practice in filming in secret. When your friends ask you what you're doing, you have to make up a story or just say, ‘Oh, just this little thing,’ and you kind of brush over it and you don't talk about it. I don't think I said the word ‘Borat’ until gosh, way after the trailer was out because it was just, it scares me. I mean we are so trained not to say the character’s name and we don't make mistakes. If you say the character's name in practice in any way, shape or form, or in any pages that we receive or any outlines it's more likely that you will slip up at some point. And the reality is that if we don't film in secret, the movie is not going to be successful or get made successfully because then if people know what's happening, then it's nearly impossible to make it.
Talk about stress! Imagine not being able to discuss your job. And yes, I know there are various lines of work where this is a regular thing for people, but I think the majority of us would struggle with this. With her vast array of experience, it sounds like Monica Levinson is a pro, and it all worked out because Borat 2 was very successful, which cannot be said for all 2020 releases. The movie premiered in over 240 countries across the globe, drawing tens of millions of viewers in the U.S. alone and making it one of 2020's top feature streaming debuts.
As Monica Levinson stated, at the end of the day the goal is for the film to get made successfully. Ultimately that success will be determined by the filmmakers and the weight that each person involved places on box office results, critical reception, creating something they’re proud of, etc. Sometimes that will require sacrifices from the cast and crew, like not being able to say the movie title. The reward is everything coming together for another fantastic movie experience.