Industry Report: Marketing
2010 EAVE Film Marketing Workshop
by Gonzalo Suárez López
During the five-day workshop, participants attended a series of lectures by a panel of experts on the different stages of the marketing process and several private tutorials in which they presented their own projects and asked for expert advice. EAVE also offered a case study of Swedish blockbuster Easy Money [trailer] (Snabba Cash), with its producer, to discuss the film’s domestic marketing strategies and define various, even alternative strategies for its foreign releases.
An introduction to marketing was read by Pim Hermeling (see interview), FMW Head of Studies and Wild Bunch Benelux distributor, and Dutch producer Frans van Gestel. Hermeling put forward the main five elements producers should take into consideration before starting work on a film: target audience, marketing elements, release pattern, positioning and strategy.
The importance of the target audience was highlighted by every panelist. Hermeling posed some questions fundamental to determining a target audience: What is the age group? Where can they be found? What do they wear? What do they do?
Van Gestel – who provided an overview of the Dutch film industry by focusing on two diametrically opposed films, Pizza Mafia, one of his latest projects, and Black Butterflies, in production at the time – discussed a great example of targeting the right audience to make a successful film.
Pizza Mafia was a €4m film targeted at Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands, similar to three previous films of the kind that had garnered between 200,000 and 400,000 admissions. On the other hand, Black Butterflies is a low-budget arthouse film inspired by the life of South African poet Ingrid Jonker, who committed suicide. Strategies for marketing the former are completely different from strategies for selling the latter. While Pizza Mafia should expect a successful domestic theatrical run, Black Butterfiles would only be profitable through international sales, hence financing and marketing become harder. Not only co-production partners but publicists, distributors and broadcasters should also be selected accordingly. Producers must also take into account other features: both films were based on a book, but the creative team of Black Butterflies had to come with a new title because the original Smoking Orphan was not marketable. The target audience of Pizza Mafia is also much clearer, and strategies such as online casting were very successful not only for testing audiences but also for creating awareness.
Posters and trailers are also an essential part of the film marketing process and are highly useful to determining how producers, sales agents and distributors want to market it. Van Gestel displayed a series of Black Butterflies posters, while a famous example of the opportunities offered by trailers was shown by Fraser Bensted (see interview), an expert in audiovisual film marketing and narrative engagement. The example was a fake trailer of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, which sells the film as a feel-good family comedy. Bensted then went on to screen other (real) trailers and promos of popular films, to show how this audiovisual material is made and how important it is as a marketing tool.
The social web is another useful outlet that has become extremely important for marketing films. Expert on interactive marketing Dan Light (see interview) displayed graphics, data and sketches on the media that can potentially participate in the film process, in the content created around a film, and in the online communities that can be reached by means of appropriate online promotion strategies. During his speech, Light emphasised the increasing importance of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and other social media services like Youtube and Dailymotion and popular online applications like Farmville.
All means are good for creating awareness and, according to expert publicist Barbara Van Lombeek, "There is no such thing as bad publicity as long as your film is good". A publicity plan is essential long before principal photography begins. A strong synopsis, powerful still photography, promo photos of directors and stars, B-roll footage and production notes are some essential, additional marketing material, especially when submitting a film to a festival. Producers must choose the right festival for their film and plan their strategy and material accordingly. Good early reviews and a clearly marketable appearance are also fundamental to having a film picked up by an international sales agent and/or local distributor.
Both distributor Pim Hermeling and TrustNordisk's Head of Sales Susan Wendt stated that every film is unique and must be treated as such. Producers often deal with distributors and sales agents in a film’s early stages – when developing marketing strategies, creating marketing material and determining who takes responsibility for every task. Furthermore, sales agents must divide and aim their work at both distributors and producers. Given the importance of their evaluation of a film, their advice during brainstorming and the feedback during and after festivals and markets, producers must make sure they choose the perfect sales agent.
Formal agreements with sales agents and especially with distributors are also very advisable. Entertainment lawyer Joris Van Wijk discussed these types of deals during his talk, and explained where both budgetary and box-office money may go using a standard agreement, while Hermeling and Wendt also provided figures on the budget report of Lars Von Trier's Antichrist [trailer, film focus], its revenue and shares from different windows. Concepts such as minimum guarantees (MGs) and prints and advertising (P&A) costs were explained in detail and analysed on both the US and European markets. The panellists spoke of the corridors, fees and royalties that have come up throughout their years of experience and pointed out that agreements on film packages (both blockbusters and low-profile films impossible to distribute) were more common in recent past.
The Workshop's last presentation was the case study of Easy Money (Snabba Cash), top Swedish box-office hit of the year, directed by Daniel Espinosa and produced by Fredrik Wikström (see interview). The film is based on the best-selling novel by Jens Lapidus and stars Joel Kinnaman in a cast comprising mostly unknown actors. Snabba Cash had a €3m budget and was sold as a thriller, even though it contains some gangster film elements. Wikström explained how they focused on a strong cross-promotional campaign through mobile phones, TV, drinks and supermarkets, using a P&A budget of €500,000.