IFP Industry Connect: Publicity & Viral Marketing & Building Audiences (original post 2/16/06)
This panel discussion was particularly gratifying, as I am a member of the IFP Marketing & Publicity Committee that helped to put it together, along with Kevin Jarvis and Jonathan Russo.
If you attended this or any of the panel discussions mentioned in my blog, please leave any of your own notes that I may have missed in the 'comments' section. If you didn't attend, and are not sure how to comment, please feel free to leave any constructive feedback for me, so I can try to make improvements.
The Film Panel Notetaker's Notes From…
IFP Industry Connect:
Publicity & Viral Marketing & Building Audiences
February 13, 2006
About the Panel
Learn how viral marketing strategies can help your film get noticed in the marketplace, how you can use the same tactics for self-distribution, and when and why you really need a publicist—and what you can expect from that relationship.
Reid Rosefelt [RR]
- Reid Rosefelt has been a publicist in the specialty film industry for thirty years, representing everything from Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise" to Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." He has had long-time collaborations with directors like Jarmusch, Errol Morris, Pedro Almodovar, David Mamet, Werner Herzog, Michael Almeryeda and Fred Schepisi. He has also worked with Todd Solondz, Lisa Cholodenko, Susan Seidelman, Tom DiCillio, Jen-Luc Godard, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Andre Tarkovsky, Jeanne Moreau, Paul Schrader, John Boorman, Ridley Scott, Francis Coppola and Peter Weir, among many others. Rosefelt's company was hired by Miramax for the release of its first foreign film, and was invited by Robert Redford to be a consultant for the Sundance Institute. He has represented actors like Ally Sheedy, Harvey Keitel and Cynthia Nixon. Since closing his company, Magic Lantern, Inc., in 2003, he has begun making his own films and is in pre-production on his first feature.
Joseph Craig [JC]
- Joseph Craig has worked in market research for the past 13 years at Nielsen Entertainment's National Research Group (NRG), and eight years prior to that at Paramount Pictures. He is currently the Senior Vice President and General Manager of NRGi, the independent film division of NRG. NRGi provides the independent film market with Nielsen's research services including customized data collection and analysis, art house tracking, online tests of commercials and trailers, screenings, focus groups and more. Independent film tracking includes specialized psychographics, pop polls, diagnostic testing, advertising strategies, specialized quantitative and qualitative studies and in-theater surveys.
Jonathan Russo [Moderator]
Jonathan Russo is the Membership Systems Coordinator for IFP
Questions from the Moderator
1. When should independent filmmakers hire publicists, or begin their film marketing campaigns?
[RR]—There are two times an indie filmmaker needs a publicist:
1. At the time you get accepted into a festival, especially for Sundance, Toronto, etc. Get a good publicist for sizable film festivals where there's a lot of press. Research publicists and schedule meetings with them.
2. When self-distributing a film
It's a rule of thumb "not" to promote your film while shooting. A low-key approach is always good.
When you're an independent filmmaker, try to make the best film ever. It's the studio's job to make you think like a marketer. The rule is if you show your film to people, and they like it, it can be marketed. It's just a question of how it's marketed.
Position your film—Your goal at a festival is to get your film sold. Try to focus toward your goal, things you need to do to get your film sold, like finding a good producer's rep or sales agent.
[JC]—It's never too early for marketing. Start thinking about marketing after you've got the script written. Determine who your audience is. Who's going to like your movie? Be realistic. How are you going to start reaching that audience? Don't turn off your core audience too early in the process. NRGi helps filmmakers hone in on who their audience is.
2. NRGi has developed several research methodologies to test audiences' reactions to films before they are releases. Explain how this is accomplished.
[JC]- NRGi gets involved with a film just as its about to be greenlit. Try to figure out what appeal the film will have to audiences, what drives interest. Will it see a return on investment? Can money be made?
Screen films for independent filmmakers in theaters all the time. Have done screenings for as little as 30 people. At screenings, NRGi hands out questionnaires, followed by a more in-depth focus group, and finally they write up a report. Try to get real movie goers to come to get the best, unbiased results. Doesn't allow the same people to attend screenings more than once in a four- to six-month period.
NRGi has to be impartial to show the reality of what the movie is, where it's going, what it's competition is.
3. What are some filmmaker "do's" and "don'ts" when they reach out to publicists/marketers?
[JC]—A lot of filmmakers don't like the marketing research process. For example, Clint Eastwood won't do test screenings, and Robert Altman hates the process. They think it's about how to change their movies, and it is not. It's about the best way of how to position their movies. NRGi never tells filmmakers what scenes to cut or to change their movie in any way. The title of the movie can make a huge difference in positioning a film.
The playability of a film has nothing to do with its marketability. Most independent films get a slow roll out in theaters, which helps build word of mouth. Sometimes, companies will hide what their film is really about. That's a mistake. They should embrace what they're about, which will help it reach out to its core audience.
[RR]—Filmmakers must make sure they get the best still photography during production. This almost never happens. There's nothing more vital. Stills make people want to see your film. Figure out what your signature images are. If you don't have a big stills budget, just try to take the best posed shots. Example of good stills on "The Last Seduction." They only gave out stills of Linda Fiorentino, which helped to promote the femme fatale concept of the film.
Try to make press materials as short as possible. The press won't have time to read everything, as they see four or more films per day.
Questions from the Audience
1. Can a publicist get you into a festival?
[RR]—Some reps will deny it, but they can have a voice. The key is to submit your films as early as possible in the process for a better chance of getting in.
2. What are some publicity or marketing strategies for documentaries?
[RR]—Worked with Errol Morris for seven years. Didn't want to call his films documentaries, but nowadays it's different. People will go see films or documentaries as long as they are really good.
[JC]—Reality television has opened up the doors for documentaries. Reality TV is free and entertaining. Nowadays, audiences look at documentaries as entertainment, not just something that's good for them. NRGi doesn't treat documentaries different from any other movie. They just try to figure out the best possible way to position them.
3. What are the fees involved with hiring NRGi?
[JC]—NRGi is extremely affordable. The average studio will pay between $10,000-$11,000 per screening. For independent films, NRGi charges between $1,800-$8,200 for everything. This price includes the concept, recruiters to fill seats, hand out passes, develop questionnaires, theater staff, collecting surveys, moderating focus groups, writing reports based on data collected, consulting with the filmmaker. They can also do it piecemeal, if you only want to do a focus group, or a reduced questionnaire.
NRGi needs to cover its basic costs, because it is expensive. They ask filmmakers what they need. NRGi will turn down work if they think a movie is not ready to be screened.
4. How do you get press at smaller festivals?
[RR]—Try to get a list of press in advance of the festival. You can go to the festival press office for these lists. Find out which press matters the most, and contact them. Put your press materials in the press office mailboxes. Hand out postcards and bring friends to help you.