Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Power of a Poster... And a Trailer... And a...


I've been at this filmmaker thing a while now. So I think its fair to say I know a thing or two.  But as my industry is ever evolving, my education is in need of constant refueling. Thus was the case with our most recent bout of Press Kits, One Sheets and Treatments for our feature film, The Anniversary.

In November I talked about the circus that is the American Film Market. We went as armed to the teeth as we could with our one page treatment, our one sheet that looked like a poster and a list of potential connections we wanted to flesh out. We built our pitch based on the "tips" from the AFM itself and from fellow filmmakers who had previously navigated the gauntlet.

It was pretty successful. We got three face to face meetings, several more email inquiries and some really excellent feedback. Lost of potential, but not much came from it... except new knowledge, the means to a sales agent and the experience to guide us forward to our next pitch.

Well, we now have our film available online, both on IndieFlix (streaming) and on Vimeo on Demand (Rent or Own). And IndieFlix likes our film enough to help us polish the package for pitching to the next market. So here are some tips I've learned from them.

1. Pitch Perfect
You would think that this would be obvious, it's not. Your pitch is your films first voice. It's critical to be aware of how words fall on ears that do NOT belong to your intimate friends or family. You have no more than 3 or 4 sentences to captures your entire film before they get bored. It might even help if you can narrow it down to the length of a Tweet, especially for your log line. Pretend your pitching an unfinished film to a studio executive- it will help you hone your message. Also, be consistent. If your website says one thing and the Press Kit another, it may not be clear they are the same film. Copy-Paste is ok here. When you're in person, go ahead and razzle-dazzle each individual pitch. In the written form be specific, concise and consistent.

2.  Unique Snowflake
Do you have any idea how many independent films were made last year alone? Me neither. But that's sort of the point isn't it? We have a vibrant community that supports itself largely off itself. But for every professional that's spent years perfecting their craft there is a dude with an iPhone convinced he'll be the next Terrence Malick. Maybe he will. The point is this, there is a LOT of noise to break through, and a lot of other filmmakers who have had the exact same idea as you. So figure out what makes your film different. We made a horror film. Every filmmaker makes one at some point. It's just a matter of when. Strike one. We have a cast of unknown actors. Strike two. We have five hot female leads that are real, not plastic. Ok I'm listening. We set it in the 1980's. You have my attention. We have 20 bands signed on for the sound track. Money. Let's do this! While it was something we were proud of during post-production, it didn't occur to us how unique that was until a distributor at AFM said so. Mind, blown.

3. It's in the Network

We've been fortunate enough to garner a fair amount of reviews, interviews and general chatter about our film. One of the best reviews we've received was from Cinema on the Rocks. Quotes from outside sources, even if they are small outlets, say the film has been seen by eyes that are not your mom (love you mom) and they have a firm opinion of your film. It's also nice to see that your film has a greater reach than just your family. In fact, if you haven't spent time building an audience for your film on platforms like Twitter or Facebook make sure you have it in some other form and make sure you can prove it. Buyers want to know they are both the "first" to "discover" your little gem, they also want to make sure it's a sellable product.

4. Product not Art.
I just want to make movies for the art of it. Good for you. But at some point my guess is you have to pay rent. And the landlord doesn't accept "art" as form of payment. Here's the thing, filmmaking IS art. Every part of it. The issue is your buyer doesn't care how many hours you spent building it from the ground up, they want to know they can get an ROI. Buyer want to know if they can re-sell your product to a larger audience.  And truthfully, don't you want that to? You want to know that someone cares about your art. Which means they have to buy it. Recently I've been exposed to this dirty little secret: distributors wont even watch your movie. They bade their purchase off your pitch, poster and or trailer. That's it. So when talking to potential distributors or formulating your pitch remember your also asking them to buy your product, however artistic it may be.

5.  Survival of the Fittest
There is something to be said for perseverance and adaptability... while maintaining that unique voice we talked about earlier.  We had one agent ask us to change the title of our film. After our initial knee-jerk temper-tantrum of "No, no, no!" We asked what his suggestions were. We realized that if it was just our title holding us up and we dug in our heels, it wasn't worth it. A fellow filmmakers title changed 3 times to my count before it was settled on by distributors. When we heard his suggestions, we realized exactly what they were, SEO search words.  Titles that if randomly typed into Google would yield results. We ultimately agreed that none of them suited the film, but we started working on a new poster. Something Eye-catching. Ahem, *cough* ->

Suffice it to saw we've done a lot of work on this film, and we've learned a LOT about marketing it. Sometimes we get advice that while well intended is not helpful, other times... like when IndieFlix coached us on our Press Kit, it changes your whole perspective on how your film might be received. Which means keep learning, keep evolving and never give up.

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