Friday, September 26, 2014

Wrapping Your Brain Around Marketing

Let's paint a scenario...

You've been working endlessly on your newest film for the past two years. The shots look fantastic, your audio was mixed by a serious professional, and your actors nailed their performance. Through all the blood, sweat, and tears (also known as pre-production, production, and post-production) you finally have a beautiful film that you're especially proud of.


But now what?

You just spent thousands of dollars putting this thing together. But how are you going to make that money back? And if you're lucky enough, make a profit?
Well, this is where marketing comes in. That's right, marketing... that thing you thought only business and IMC majors had to worry about. And unlike the normal three-step production process, marketing and sales is something that spans the entire filmmaking process. Here's a helpful diagram to illustrate:
(sorry for the eye-squinting sized text)

In case you can't read it, the diagram suggests that the moment the development process starts, it's time to start thinking about how the film will be marketed. In other words:

WHO is going to watch your film?
HOW will you make them remember it?

A recent article on highlighted six points that were stressed as part of a panel at IFP Week entitled "Wrapping Your Brain Around Marketing". These points (which I've summed up into four) can help insure your film is a success when you're finally ready for it to be viewed by the public.

1. Stay on Topic

It's important to remember that your film is not just a singular product but more like a brand. With every piece of production material, there has to be a sense unity between it all. In their article they use the example of the the "Super-Size Me" poster:

Other good examples of posters that exemplify their film include "Her" and "Pulp Fiction".

Even without knowing any concepts of design you can tell these posters give an accurate, and most importantly memorable, depiction of their film. But it's not just about having a poster. Which brings me to their next point:

2. Pictures, Pictures, Pictures

From wide shots to production stills, having additional content can save you that sinking feeling when you're deep in editing and realize you don't have enough content in terms of coverage. They also recommend having a professional photographer on set for at least a few days to capture behind the scenes material which can be used for promotion and possibly even poster ideas. Once you have all of those extra pictures though... be careful with them. If your lucky enough to have your film featured in a magazine, they will want exclusive photos. Having professional, exclusive content can make or break the promotion of a film. 

3. Distribution

So you've got your great film and pretty poster but now it's time to move on to the serious part. Interestingly enough though, they don't ramble on about how hard it is for your film to be shown at a festival or featured in a movie theater. Instead they mention the rapidly growing market of video-on-demand (VOD) for documentary filmmakers. 

Films that people don't want to go see in movie theaters are the very ones they want to watch at home on their Mac, Kindle, Xbox, or whatever they use to watch films at home these days. Watching epic films at the movie theater will never loose it's charm, but for indie and doc filmmakers VOD might be the way of the future. 

4. Funding

Let be real. Having professional posters, pictures, and a distribution plan is great, but how the hell are you going to afford that? Money does not come from thin air, and I doubt you have enough money in your pocket to create that dream project. Thankfully though, raising money is easier today then it ever was!

These crowd-sourcing fundraiser websites have paved the way for thousands of independent films. They stress in the article that a filmmaker has to take advantage of every resource available to them – that includes the "old-fashioned" email list and yes, even that cold hard phone call.   

The main point... (tl;dr) is that marketing is not an extra task started after the film is created but part of the entire filmmaking process. It starts in the earliest parts of the development process, and finishes well after the film is released. 

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