People ask 'What do you do? Isn't film marketing just making a poster or trailer. I can do that.'
Yes perhaps. Question is - who are you making it for?
Or the audience?
Who is the audience?
For corporate clients - hard core film businesses - film marketing goals are generally much clearer. "We want to achieve this or do that." Objectives are set, a strategy is devised and implemented. Normally job done.
However working primarily with European film producers, film institutes and distributors film marketing goals for these sectors are often more open.
Some want festival selection and respectable admissions, others seek critical acclaim or significant box-office attendance.
Often however there are discrepancies between what people ideally want. That is wishful thinking of what they want (or need) the film to make at the box office is often rationalised by a number of factors: 1- being too close to the project, 2- few people being honest about the market potential, 3- basing today's box-office estimates or talent appeal from previous years films.
If film marketing is an orchestra those people leading and perhaps deciding the final 'film message' are the conductors. Our goal - our vision - is to get everyone (producers, directors, those working on the press, poster, trailer, social media, advertising and promotion strategy) to be on the same page, everyone working their best to give us a sum greater than the individual parts and giving us something special and unique. Every time.
Film marketing requires diplomacy, energy, vision and a thick skin.
We must deal with our 'orchestra members' each with their own interests, own ego and their own wish to shine. We must balance sensitive film directors, producer expectations, distributors with many films to release and exhibitors who can choose from dozens of films to programme due to a very over-crowded market place and digitalisation of cinemas allowing for instantaneous programme changes.
We must direct, steer, cajole and most importantly empower fellow collaborators such as graphic designers, trailer makers, press and promotional people and social media content managers and allow time for them to do their job for us. We must also ensure all along the way that the film message being created - i.e. what we want the audience to know about the film - is consistent, clear and resonates with our target audiences.
We must acknowledge that consumption of films has and is changing - cinemas are often polarising with big blockbuster and event films or specialised critically acclaimed 'niche' films. Social media and Internet, binge box-set viewing is here to stay - at least for the time being. But one thing remains the same - 24 hours in a day. The middle films - the good to very good - but without the 5 star reviews, the big names (i.e. 90% of European films) are the trickiest ones to release.
Film marketing (at least for this company) really comes down to one thing. To get the target viewer to see your film - at a festival world premiere, an early press screening, a promotional screening, market screening or theatrical release - the objective is the same - inform and motivate people to see (and eventually pay) for your film.
This is not to say every film has to be a box-office smash in the cinema. In today's market place this is unrealistic.
Strategic Film Marketing’s manifesto is to give every film its realistic chance at the box-office . Admissions are relative to the film, genre, culture and country of release. With box-office historical analysis we assess with producers and distributors and set these targets - which can be 5,000 to 10,000 admissions for a documentary, 50,000 or 150,000 or more for a mainstream film.
This is the starting point by which we collaborate with all parties - especially producers and distributors.
What is the same today as for the last 30 years is that releasing European films in Europe is a combination of a boxing contest and David versus Goliath. It is tough, it is competitive, there are bigger films, with more money, with more star power.
But we can win too - provided we think more carefully who our films are for, how we are going to attract them, move smarter and quicker than our competitors we can have our own relative successes.
So back to what do you do?
Well - it is many things including making a poster and a trailer.and the best way to answer this of course is from a film.
Million Dollar Baby - Morgan Freeman says to Hillary Swank talking about Frank (Clint Eastwood) 'he's a good man to have in the corner.' (PS - it's in the trailer too).
Frank's rule was 'protect yourself at all times'. Never take your eye off your competitor.
Film marketing is a mixture of collaboration and marathon. Like a good coach, mentor, trainer - the process is to help you to set realistic goals, develop and implement a strategy, and train hard for the big day (the release day).
We have to understand a film's strengths (and know its weaknesses).
We are preparing to go up against the big boys when the film is released in cinemas. It is tough.
There are unknowns and we must be realistic. Who is really our target audience? Why should they come? What message must we send?
Never assume a past film's success or a director's name will guarantee their current film's success. Times have changed and Internet and social media have changed the rules of releasing a film forever. We must be aware - we must adapt.
So like Frank in Million Dollar Baby - and like any good cornerman in a boxing - my job is work with you, prepare for all eventualities for the big fight and not get your head knocked off in the first round.
So besides posters and trailers I'm your Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby - your guy in the corner. The job is to protect you, protect your film so when we go out in the ring - we have the best chance not just to keep our heads - but to win.
In Million Dollar Baby, Hilary Swank didn't listen to Frank - but that's another story.