Our expectations of some genres of films extend beyond their time on screen. Depending on areas which include the story, we’re looking for integrated products outside of the cinema experience. Much of this comes through merchandising. As a means of extending the life of a film, production can negotiate a merchandising contract. It’s a very lucrative part of the filmmaking process and it includes knowing very well the film’s story and how to develop a narrative beyond the screen. Indeed, presales of film rights can contribute to production costs. It’s said that the licencing rights for ‘The Lord of the Rings (2010)’ contributed 10% to the hundreds of millions of dollars in production costs.
Some genres readily lend themselves to merchandising. In the science fiction/fantasy of the ‘Star Wars’ reboot, controversially there was doubt about the inclusion of black British actor John Boyega. Many on the Twitter-sphere argued that there couldn’t be a black stormtrooper! Such is the success of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and the inclusion of Boyega’s ‘Finn’, he now has his own toy character. This inclusion follows a long line of toy merchandising in the ‘Star Wars’ franchise. Actually, if you still have some of these toys in their original (unopened, untouched) packaging, you could find yourself with a windfall should you choose to sell on the toy market.
In a loop of merchandising, ‘Warcraft (2016)‘, ‘Resident Evil (2002)’, ‘Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2010)’ and the upcoming ‘Assassins Creed (2016)’ are films which began their lives as video games, where video game sales would make the film industry weep.
Children’s film genres can mine a plethora of potentials. A hit film or television show can reap rewards via deals linking breakfast cereals, fast-food, clothing, make-up, toothpaste, not to mention action figures and toys. The romantic/comedy genre doesn’t miss out either. ‘Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)’ is a book, film, lingerie et. al. Whilst not exactly merchandising, ‘Love Actually (2003)’ and its ilk are repackaged for Mothers’ Day and Valentine’s Day alike.
The examples used here are high profile, mainstream, Hollywood tent-poles, but with lateral imagination, independent filmmakers could utilise merchandising to stretch their films beyond screening(s) too. Music is an accessible way. It could prove to be a lucrative bond between the film and musicians where both are new and/or trying to raise profiles. The music could be used as the film’s music score and a resulting CD/digital download forms part of the merchandising. The life of the film (and the musician) can be extended through concerts and gigs. This music/film relationship is most notable in the ‘urban’ genre, think ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2005), or ‘Boyz n the Hood (1991)’. Both had very successful marketable soundtracks. This could easily extend to other genres, think ‘Waiting to Exhale (1995)’. Choose wisely and artists can bring ready-made audiences to your film. Cases in point are long, to include; Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, Ashely Walters, Plan B, Jennifer Hudson, Kano, to name just a few.
CD soundtracks for ‘Shank (2010)’ and ‘Kidulthood (2006)’. ‘Brotherhood (2016)’, the last in the Noel Clarke produced ‘Hood’ trilogy is due for release later this year.
We’ve often heard the notion that films and cinemas are dying out. We’re convinced that this will never be the case – if only because as humans we’re compelled to tell stories. What we see happening with film is that it’s very good at evolving and adapting technological (for example) changes to suit its needs. It’s this adaptation that its practitioners must take on in order to continue weaving the craft. Films, independent films in particular, need to find avenues, which extend beyond the cinematic experience where practical.
A recent example of this is Menelik Shabazz’s ‘Looking for Love (2015)’. The director of ‘Burning an Illusion (1981) has used his latest film as a basis for his ‘Love-A-Lution’ movement. The film documentary takes a candid look at love and relationships in the African Caribbean population in Britain and is now being used as a basis for a movement exploring relationship healing in the diaspora. In its tour, ‘Love-A-Lution’ showcases some of the expert talking heads featured in the film.
Menelik Shabazz’s ‘Looking for Love (2015)’ film-doc and the Love-A-Lution movement.
Selling rights to your film (licensor) to manufacturers (licensees) takes some protracted negotiations between the interested parties. But, with patience and clear communication, you could add a strand to your film branding which provides you with foundations to continue financing your projects.