Film Promotion; No Backward Thing.
There’s a well-worn, clichéd perception that Americans aren’t backwards in coming forwards. Even the newest creatives have their own way of telling anyone who’ll listen, everything about their latest project – and American filmmakers are no different. On a (Feb 2016) visit to the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) very few (bar some overseas and sadly British productions) programmed films didn’t have posters, flyers, business cards and the like introducing some element of the production to audiences.
Fast forward to the Adinkra Arts Collective. Newly formed earlier in 2016, this ensemble delivered a successful ‘Afrikans on Film Festival’. Formally known as Busseywood, it’s beginning to stamp its mark on an increasingly squeezed-out cultural dynamic due to the march of…‘gentrification’. This one-day event at the Bussey Building in south-east London’s Peckham included an Afrikan market-stall floor as well as panel discussions between the sharpest minds in the film industry.
So, back to that backwards, forwards point. An encounter struck tellingly about the planning filmmakers make or don’t make in what should be a holistic overview of their production. After witnessing an obvious labour-of-love onscreen, we asked the filmmaker for a business card and/or flyer – you know, more info about her and her film that we could take away. Her answer was in the negative – nothing to press into eager flesh. We tried to write some info down, but the noise and her needing to be onstage negated that exercise. This meant that even as part of a prominent discussion panel, this filmmaker was unable to easily make audiences aware of a connection beyond the one screening of her film at this festival.
We want the quick, easy way to get what we want. If you make connection hard for people you want to reach, well, you are less likely to reach them, or build a relationship with them after you’ve left each other’s company.
The fact is whether we like it or not, people (yes, us included) are lazy. We want the quick, easy way to get what we want. If you make connection hard for people you want to reach, well, you are less likely to reach them, or build a relationship with them after you’ve left each other’s company. We get it. Making a film is a labour of the deepest passions and often the last thing on directors’ minds is PR, promotion and marketing.
There are many intellectual debates about the reasons for making film and film’s relationship with audiences. But for our argument and looking around at what we culturally engage in, let’s assume to use the commercial model of production. It stands to reason then that the drive of promotional tools is for financial fulfilment – if only so that you can finance making another film, to continue your passion. If filmmakers are looking at their body of work in long terms, promotion must be factored into planning.
Your producer should have a business plan and in this must be a percentage of your budget allocated for promotional purposes – however small. Having such a plan makes good practice for looking at the bigger scope of your endeavours and provides opportunities to adjust accordingly as you grow…you are planning on doing that right?
The blinding fact is that some of the basic elements in keeping your production in people’s minds is very simple – and inexpensive. Contemporarily (given technology), if one is serious, there really are no excuses and the thing is most of you know these techniques already.
So whether for film, music, web series, TV/broadcast, literature here are a few pointers.
Business Cards: so inexpensive if you’re just starting out, yet effective. As you become more established and financially savvy, improve on the quality of the paper. Some stationery companies have even gone digital with their cards. You can swipe a mobile phone with a chip-filled card and a cornucopia of information becomes available to your recipient.
A5 Flyer: with film stills, synopsis, social media handles and other important contact details. Again, you don’t need to use fancy, expensive paper. What matters is the design and content. This also helps with images for film festival entry. Don’t ever submit your work to festivals without images and images that you’ve taken yourself.
Social Media Marketing: You don’t have to be on all the online/mobile platforms. Just work the hell out of the ones you choose which are relevant to your audiences and your product.
Generate interest. Find innovative ways to create content. Choose themes. Build your audiences. Still not sure, investigate your favourite, high profile products/people and watch how that production rides its digital waves. Whilst not film, the way in which Apple uses social media to promote it’s latest iPhones is ingenious even for a player at Apple’s heights.
Website of Director and/or Film: Website construction is pretty easy and again, inexpensive. There are too many hosts out there to mention here – just pick one to suit your budget and/or ability. Think of the website as another part of your digital CV, a portal for a growing portfolio of your work. Another place for you to grow and connect with your audiences.
Network: Have abovementioned hard-copy stationery in hand. Get out. Continually test your pitch. Get connected to prospective sponsorships, marketing, funding and in-kind relationships.