MOVIE MARKETING FOR DUMMIES

How did you get into filmmaking?
You know, the usual – punk kid finds his dad’s Super 8 film camera and never looks back. The hard part was getting through the teen years – trying to convince my stoner buddies that I wasn’t a geek. I went through all the requisite phases – making gross-out gore films, gothic cemetery-based flicks and even dabbled in animation. It all changed when a friend and I made a semi-narrative Super 8 movie of our spring break trip –sort of the original The Real Cancun. Anyhow, I dug the audience reaction when we screened it at parties and started planning a career in film at that point. If only all my viewers were stoned…

What did you learn from making “Killer Nerd”?
Timing is everything. The right promotion can make or break you. And following genre conventions doesn’t hurt, either. We finished “Killer Nerd” right at the end of the go-go video days, when video stores were still hot to buy anything they could get their hands on. That, coupled with the outrageous publicity stunt we pulled at the premiere (several actors dressed as part of Harvard’s real-life Geek and Nerd Society picketed the movie’s violent portrayal of nerds) landed the low-budget film on CNN, Entertainment Tonight, MTV and a ton of regional affiliate newscasts. Finally, even at the earliest stages of the movie, the flick was created with marketing in mind. The most obvious aspect – the title. Two words that completely tell the story. We came up with that and wrote the script around those two words.

What about your latest film “Pig”?
Timing is everything. The right promotion can make or break you. And following genre conventions doesn’t hurt, either. Seriously. Those same topics are very applicable, and sometimes lessons learned in an earlier project don’t always get referenced when working on a more “prestigious” project. But it all comes down to having something the market wants, when they want it. “Pig” was tougher to market because of its less than clear target audience, and approach. On retrospect, we should have gone balls out and shown hardcore violence through a graphic, first-person point-of-view.

What inspired you to write a book about movie marketing of all things?
I wanted to create a book that I wish was available to me when I was going through the process. Michael Wiese’s “The Independent Film and Videomaker’s Guide” was like a bible to me in my early days (and I’m not just stroking him because he’s my publisher – it’s really an awesome book) – but I knew there was more to explore, especially with regard to the tedious and frustrating task of locating and soliciting distributors. I wanted to let all the other working indie filmmakers out there know that we’re all going through the same process. Sometimes it feels like you’re the only schmuck getting the run-around – but we all suffer through it, and I hoped my book would lessen these tough times.

Why is marketing so important for independent filmmakers?
Marketing is the ONLY way an independent film is going to get noticed. Regardless if you are searching for a distributor, media review or audience – you have to market your product in some manner. Yes – I said product. Independent films are products and have to be thought of as such to successfully market them to their respective audiences. Without knowing things like the demographics of a target audience, it’s impossible to clearly define who wants your movie, making it even tougher to define how to promote your film. If you cannot promote your film correctly, you’ll never get noticed. There’s just too much competition and too many so-called Hollywood independents taking up slots once reserved for the true indie filmmaker to skimp on marketing.

What is the one thing about movie marketing that filmmakers must know?
Start marketing your movie the day you decide to make a movie. Really – tell everyone you know about what you are going to do. Print up business cards with the movie title and your name and pass them around. Start planning the poster, tagline, audience description, concept capsule, media kit, distributor hit list, website, media coverage and sales letter as early as possible.

What is the most common mistake made by filmmakers with regard to marketing?
Treating it as part of post-production, or worse, as a contingency. Too many filmmakers take the mindset that all funds must be “on the screen.” That’s a good approach, but some funds must be allocated to a marketing plan. And by that, I don’t mean if a couple of bucks are left buy some postcards. Marketing is as intricate a process as making the film itself. There must be a substantial amount of time and thought dedicated to the marketing of a film, because that often leads to changes in the film itself (especially once audience considerations become a focal point). If too small of a target audience is identified, it doesn’t make sense to move forward with production, unless you have a lot of money to waste.

The interview continues in part three of MOVIE MARKETING FOR DUMMIES>>>




Posted on May 29, 2003 in Interviews by
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