Hello Film Doctor friends.
This Monday Prescription we look at the tricks and tips that can boost the exposure of your film and potentially get that audience flocking through the hallways or internet to see what the fuss is about.
Usually, a successful film marketing/publicity strategy revolves around the presence of a stellar cast or director. So, what tricks in preparing your script, shooting your film and marketing it at the end can you employ?
Here are a few, tried-and-tested, you can adopt:
1. The Cult Scene – This is to do with screenplay and a director’s visualisation. Just think about one of the most cited scenes in film history – “The Shower Scene” in Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho”. Even people who have never seen the movie will know the scene. It has transcended the project and now the film itself is widely associated with and quoted for that particular moment. And this is essentially how successful marketing works: it creates a package with a stand-alone, memorable image or trait, which then sells the product. Filmmakers often include – intentionally or not – scenes that could create film associations (i.e. when you hear the film’s name, you think of that scene): “the overdose / adrenaline shot” scene in “Pulp Fiction”, “running up the Philadelphia Art Museum steps” in “Rocky”, etc. Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be a whole scene but just a shot, that becomes iconic – think e.g. “car plunging from cliff” (Thelma and Louise), “body in swimming pool” (“Sunset Boulevard”)
Note: In order for it to work, your “cult scene” should feel organic to the story and the characters – i.e. you should have it written in as part of the script, rather than a superimposed addition, that screams “obvious attention seeking” – when the audience is left wondering why that scene took place in the first place. Of course, there are in/famous scenes in terrible films too. One scene won’t change the quality of the whole film!
2. The Budget – A producer’s tip, it has become a common marketing tool of recent years where, thanks to more accessible and affordable technologies, filmmakers can make their movies for “super low” budgets. Recent examples include “Colin” (£50), “Tarnation” ($200) or “Monsters”. Make sure to prep/option/buy a location that lends to such a budget though – such as one-location films
Note: For this marketing trick to work, your screenplay and cast need to ‘kick a**s’ – you need sales agents, marketers and journalists to be saying ‘it might be low-budget, but look how thrilling it is! Look at the great performances!’
3. Word of mouth – This remains the best marketing tool, especially now that social media exists. Word of mouth can boost or ‘kill’ a project upon release. Tap into the “influencers” in your targeted audience and you will be sure to reap publicity from them spreading the word. A renowned film critic or blogger recommending your film on Twitter can give just the boost you need to reach wider circles. Target, target, target WELL in advance and when the film’s ready to go, half your work may be done already!
4. The Twist – Script again! What is, for example, “The Sixth Sense” in a nutshell? Well, isn’t that “the film with the massive twist at the end”? “Usual Suspects”? Ditto. If you can design a mind-bending ending for your movie (that makes sense!) then you could be paving your way to film history.
Note: This goes well in combination with No.3 “Word Of Mouth” – spread the word about your film’s super unexpected, yet secret, ending and let everyone else do the publicising for you. Word travels!
5. Killer artwork – Great products come with great ads, right? You wouldn’t trust, e.g. a restaurant, if it had a shabby, badly put-together ad, would you? And although social media marketing seems to be the go-to tool for many filmmakers, print advertising is still king – getting your film’s poster spread out on the tube, local cinema theaters and across town is a major publicity surge. That is, if the poster is good enough. So if you are investing in marketing materials like posters and flyers, make sure they are worthy of competing with the most expensive studio production. And strive for iconic, out-of-the-box artwork, that’s captivating and easily remembered, creating strong associations with your film. Like you would recognise the McDonald’s logo or the PG Tips Monkey even without seeing the full advert or the product itself. It’s ‘the wrapper’ that would sell your ‘candy’.
Note: You will need to put money aside for poster/artwork design AND advertising space. SO MANY indies do NOT do that and then wonder why people are not talking about their film. Of course, a great distribution may cover a portion of the ads but don’t rely on that happening. Prepare, prepare, prepare!