I’m writing from Berlin, scratching my head about film marketing. I’m sitting in my hotel room after a hectic first day of the European Film Market. I’ve spent the day on the busy trading floors of the Martin Gropius Bau and the crowded hotel lobbies of the Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton and the Marriot.
Here’s the common misconception emerging screenwriters and filmmakers entertain: that the film industry is a filmmaking industry when in fact it is a film marketing industry.
The films that sell successfully use five basic film marketing essentials. If you want to attend a film market and sell your film, try and understand and then master these film marketing essentials:
1) The power of genre in film marketing
Film Sales professionals can’t sell drama movies. It’s as simple as this: all movies are dramas. The word ‘drama’ is too general. You need to be more specific so that distributors know what kind of film you are presenting. To clarify the message of your film use the tool of genre.
For example, you would never walk into an estate agency and ask them to find you a home. They wouldn’t know if you wanted a one, two or three bedroom place, in the centre or out in the suburbs. Price, location and number of bedrooms are, if you like, the genre of property.
In film we have dozens of different genres like crime, thriller and detective; horror, rom-com and so on.
2) Create film marketing materials
No estate agent would dream of selling a property without creating good strong marketing materials: a folder of photographs, a floor plan and a virtual tour of the property.
So too, a filmmaker needs to understand the basics of how to write a press release, create a press kit and make a good trailer or sizzle reel for their film. You also need excellent stills. Without these assets, you will find it almost impossible to get people to look at your film.
Here at the European Film Market, film after film is promoted using nothing more than a one-sheet.
3) Start creating hype
With your marketing materials in hand, now you need to start to get people talking about your film. Entering your film into film festivals is one way. Another way is to get as many people as possible engaged in your social media. By the time your film reaches a film market there should be a wave of anticipation.
4) Build relationships
If you’re like me, you’re more likely to lend a favourable ear to a friend as opposed to a stranger. As a filmmaker, you need to become a networker, whether you are an introvert or not. Become the expert networker. Expand your circle of influence. Increase the number of people aware of your film and of your filmmaking career arc.
To build your contacts, attend as many film events as possible: film festivals, networking events, film markets, screenings. Keep an eye on Film London’s regularly updated calendar of industry events. If you or a friend has a membership for one of the private members’ clubs for people working in the creative industries, these can also be great places to meet the right people.
5) Make an entertaining film
It goes without saying that the ultimate responsibility for the commercial success of your film rests with you and your ability to tell a compelling story which maximises the visual medium. It’s easier said than done of course.
Here is what we tell our postgraduate film degree students: Experiment. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Cut your first films on inexpensive light cameras and/or your cell phone.
In my weekend Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking class I tell the story of Sir Henry Moore, the most famous British sculptor of all time. When I was a studio assistant way back, I was sent to deliver a message to his house at breakfast time. There he was, sketching pebbles and bones he’d collected from the stream that ran through his meadow (there was an abattoir upstream). I was stunned. I asked him what a world renowned sculptor known and revered throughout the world as a creator of monumental works in stone, wood and bronze, why he was sketching such bits of bone and stone.
He replied with words equally relevant to filmmakers and all who work in the creative industries:
I’m building up my vocabulary of shapes
Sir Henry Moore