Playing the Market Game

Film Folk!

Feel you’re too focused on the creative challenges of filmmaking and not clued up enough about what happens after?

Well this ‘Prescription’ focuses on the importance of embracing your project as a business venture (provided you do want to have a commercially successful project and you’re not just shooting films for your own artistic pleasure).

This requires development, packaging, marketing and distribution. All stuff Film Doctor suggest you do BEFORE making your film, not after!


Film Doctor Film Marketing


What is marketing?

A clever way of selling something, using a mixture of tools – adverts, social media, events, etc. So, surely marketing applies to films as well – if you’d like to sell your project and/or have any kind of distribution. Now, this might sound obvious, but it is astonishing how many filmmakers forget about the marketing part – focusing too much on the creative idea and not enough on the means to get that released idea any further than a couple of DVDs for cast & crew.

Marketing starts with writing the script. Say, you have more than one idea for a script and, ideally, in different genres. Before you even get near the notepad/typewriter/laptop we would advise you to do a bit of  market research (it is in the name, research what is on the market). Market research and, consequently, product/brand positioning, is what helps marketing people determine the best way (and the tools to use) of launching and selling a given product or service. In the case of someone planning to make a film, the market research would consist of finding out a). what currently (can also look at the past 2 years, but not older!) sells best in general, and b). is there anything similar to what you are planning to write/make.

Visit your nearest DVD stores and film rental places, browse the cinema listings, study available box office figures. It will help establish a picture of what are the most commercially successful genres. You might also see a repetition pattern in some of the names attached – this will show you who are the current ‘A’ and ‘B’-listers in the game.

Producers/directors can also benefit from market research – it will help them assess the script that has landed in their hands and decide   whether to proceed with crewing up and packaging for investment or not. In her book The Insiders Guide to Independent Film Distribution (2007), Stacey Parks gives a wonderful example of the aforementioned:

“I was working with some filmmakers who wanted to make a romantic comedy to go straight to video and cable […] were very attached to their story and did some basic market research before even writing the script. They started by taking a trip to several video stores to see if there were any independent romantic comedies on the shelves that hadn’t already had a U.S. theatrical release. There weren’t. […] made a target list of twenty cable networks where their movie might air […] scrutinized their programming schedules. […] Last thing they did in the market-research process was visit the American Film Market (AFM) […] visit the booths of foreign sales agents and distribution companies to see what was being sold there…”

(NOTE: Stacey Parks writes about the US film industry, so you need to bear in mind any existing differences between the US and UK market)

Producers, little tip – when doing your market research, pay attention to the names of distributors and production houses attached to a given project. This will help you establish whom you can potentially approach later on with a screener of your film.

Once you’ve done the research and established where your project fits amongst existing films, you can start developing a suitable strategy for it. In the marketing world there is a golden rule of 4 ‘Ps’ – Product, Price, Promotion, Place. Put it simply, in the filmmakers world the 4 ‘Ps’ are:

  • Product – your film
  • Price – all the costs and financial figures involved, from the film’s budget to the asking price of sales agents
  • Promotion – all the methods of communication used to raise the profile of your film
  • Place – distribution of your film

Having a marketing strategy helps attach the most suitable cast – names that could help you obtain a). production investment, b). distribution. Having a marketing strategy also helps select the best channels for promotion, once the film is completed (and creating a ‘buzz’ during production) – festival submissions, private screenings, newspaper reviews, blogging, Twitter/Facebook, flyers, etc.

One more note, playing the market game is possible only after establishing your goals and plans for the project (FD Monday Prescription No.2) – where you’d like to see your film go. Whether the answer is not further than the living room of your friends’ house or premiering in Cannes, tailor your marketing strategy accordingly.


FD Monday Prescription No.4 – Use the 4 ‘Ps’ of Marketing (Product, Price, Promotion, Place) When Working on Your Film Projects


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The Film Doctor Team
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