domingo, 22 de marzo de 2009

Going All the Way: Plan Early to Promote & Market Your Project

Meeting with a prospective client about promotion of a feature film, I was shocked to learn that there was no key art – and that the film wrapped the previous summer without a single publicity photo being taken. In a great articlea couple of years ago, Ken Karn listed the deliverables necessary to sell a film to a distributor – without those materials, you might wind up owing the distributor money.

What is the lesson of these two anecdotes? For successful film or video promotion, you must start early. The minute you have principals attached, start building your promotional materials. To avoid problems later, develop your list of materials before you start shooting, so you’ll have time and money available to complete them.

How do you know what to put on that list? You could start by searching online for press materials, media kits, and other promotional material from your favorite films. Every studio movie has its own website these days, so you can glean clues there. You can also call a friend who has done it before – or someone who teaches at a local school. You can pick up materials from other filmmakers at the next festival you attend. By putting in a bit of sweat equity, you’ll get great rewards later.

Your materials should stay consistent during the life of your project, so choose paper and ink colors early and avoid changing them. Hire a graphic artist (or art student) to help you match the ‘look’ of your materials to your film’s genre and theme. Use red/white/black, for instance, for a shocker or horror film (creepy monster: toxic green). For a military story, khaki/tan/green suggest the army or marines, and blue/grey suggest the navy (air force: sea-green/blue).

Your Media Kit
Every successful project uses a Media Kit. Your needs will change, and the following elements are the building blocks and template for all kits: investor’s or distributor’s kits, press kits, EPKs (electronic press kits). Fit each item to a single page, with logo and contact information. Add longer Feature material later.

Some elements will change, depending on use, but the basics are: Title, Tagline, Logo, Company Background, Story Synopsis (one page), Photos, Bios (Writer, Director, Producers, Actors, DP, Production Designer), Crewlist, and Features (including Production Notes, Historical Data, and other items of interest).

The Title
Determine your film’s title early; use it consistently – make it short and catchy, giving clues about the film. Adding your tagline creates a full picture for the audience. Consider how some titles relate to action and theme:
Saving Private Ryan
The End of the Affair
To Have and To Have Not
The Jagged Edge
My Beautiful Launderette
Million Dollar Baby
Farewell, My Lovely
House of Sand & Fog

Some titles are catchy and seductive; others are simple and straightforward. Simpler titles generally rely on the tagline or visuals for impact. Consider how the press will use your tagline – for instance, ‘A Sinking Boat’ could become this review headline: ‘A Sinking Movie’ (don’t provide a weapon to ridicule your film).

The Tagline
A short phrase communicating an essential story quality, the tagline is similar to the title, but distinct. The tagline should be a phrase or sentence, though sometimes the title serves as a tagline.

Unfortunately taglines are often overlooked in marketing. Your tagline should contain just a few words to strike the target audience on an emotional level. Determine your tagline early, then use it consistently on everything dedicated to a particular market or segment – perhaps on all printed pieces.

Some examples* are:
“A story as explosive as his blazing automatics!”
“Where Evil Lives.”
“Nobody ever grows up quite like they imagined.”
“He's having the worst day of his life... over, and over...”
“Five Criminals. One Line Up. No Coincidence.”
“He has the power to make anyone's dream come true... except his own.”
“He Rode the Fast Lane on the Road to Nowhere!”

The Logo
Not every film has a logo, but if you choose one make it simple, recognizable and related to the film. It can be incorporated into poster design, or use it as a sticker (add your website’s url to create buzz about your film).

Company Background
Keep this to a paragraph or two, giving company history simply: where and when you started, where your principals worked previously, and what motivated you to make this film, form the partnership, or start your company. List all principals involved, but avoid duplicating bio material – keep things short and sweet.

Remember: you’ll be using this element a long time (perhaps to raise funds for your next project), so make references– your hometown, your ‘adopted city,’ your college or university – that may be useful as ‘hooks’ for later stories, such as ‘Hometown Girl Makes Good.’

Bios should be short and to-the-point, giving interesting data without revealing private information. Mention hometowns but not schools (nobody cares about the school’s name anyway – they’re more interested that your star was a cheerleader or fullback). Be careful: bios live forever, and if your principals become famous you don’t want stalkers camped outside their parents’ homes.

Always end the bio with a credit list. Principals have no credits? Use school projects. Remember, brevity is important, so replace hard data with life motivation or interest in making your film. Try to print all bios two or three to a single page.

On the Crewlist, double check: all names spelled flawlessly and all credits listed accurately.

Early on, you won’t need photos in your kit. Collect photos when you’ve signed one or more actors or a well-known director – ‘well-known’ in your city, if not Hollywood or New York. You’ll eventually need key art (pictures of the film’s characters in action – NO equipment in the frame) and production shots (‘backstage,’ composed clearly: director and star, stuntman prepping a fall, etc).

Start with 5x7’s instead of the standard 8x10’s you’ll need later; ‘gang’ two 5x7’s on a single 8x10 to save money. Your pictures should be crisp, ‘contrasty,’ and in focus. Tell your photographer clearly that you want newspaper-quality (60-80 line screens – you don’t want shots requiring 150-180 lines).

Every picture should be properly lit and composed – by a professional. Amateur shots taken with a consumer camera will be useless later. The final pictures must be captioned, preferably with a concise description of action, and all persons in the picture should be identified from left to right. Remember: all names spelled correctly.

The Internet
No filmmaker can ignore the usefulness of a website. Many films succeed only because of the internet, so use it to gain credibility and reach in the marketplace. Have your graphic artist or designer work on the website – whatever you pay is worth it.

Your Media Kit elements, especially if already developed into an EPK, can translate directly to your website – each on a separate page if you want.

~ ~ ~

Principles of Success
Marketing films is essentially no different from other marketing. You’ve determined your film’s specific audience – now it’s your job to reach them, out of millions of movie-goers. Plan your campaign in advance: capture them by keeping your message clear to your audience.

Of course, summer escapist action-adventures are handled differently from intimate character-driven stories – each must be marketed to its respective audience. But in the general marketing campaign, three principles apply for small pictures and huge studio blockbusters.

Many studies reveal the success associated with these vital principles; before starting your project, it’s crucial to understand and agree with them. Successful campaigns require commitment, investment and consistency. Without these, your efforts will be short-lived and you’ll risk failure.

Without a solid commitment, there’s no reason to begin. To succeed, commit to the overall plan and campaign – specific tasks for a set period. Advertising, promotion, and publicity almost never show measurable immediate results. Be willing to stick with the plan whether or not you see definitive results. Without a firm commitment, you might ‘leave the party too early.’

View as investment any money and energy spent on marketing – investment in the future of your film and your career. Investments in the stock market or property don’t accrue large profits – even on paper – quickly. The campaign can be altered to respond to new events, but once you’ve accepted it, stick with the plan. Like growing a business, advancing your career requires realistic and decisive planning, and proper execution. This costs money, so ‘stay in for the long haul.’

Any marketing plan must be consistent with the vision of the director and producer, with prevailing market conditions, with current offerings in the marketplace, and with your ability to deliver a quality product. For a comedy about young marrieds with a new baby, your audience might be new parents – so pick the magazines, TV or radio stations that serves this target audience. Your return on investment won’t justify promoting on a shock-jock show or in the AARP newsletter. Still, there are many innovative ways to reach your audience that are lucrative, if managed correctly.

By determining your level of commitment, investment and consistency, you can devise a more realistic plan than others who ‘jump in and take their chances.’ Your advantages: planning and foresight.

It’s never too late for a great plan in marketing, advertising, PR or promotion. Hire a pro to help you ( Take a long careful look at your film, your company, your career arc – then decide what you want to say about it. Test several Taglines and Titles with friends and colleagues. Decide how to best make your statement. And remember, your success means finding the appropriate audience, discovering their needs and wants, then showing them the value and entertainment that only your film can provide.

# # #

* Taglines from The Maltese Falcon, The House, The Kid, Groundhog Day, The Usual Suspects, The Last Tycoon, Five Easy Pieces.

David Hakim is an assistant director, producer, and publicity expert who developed campaigns for every major Hollywood studio and handled publicity for the Motion Picture Academy. Find him in the Reel Directory online:

All material copyright 2008 David Hakim and may not be duplicated - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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