Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Yr3 Week 5 (Wed 5 Nov - MDA3300 Film Research and Context - Marketing)

Today's seminar was on the topic of Film Marketing, one the biggest and most critical factors in not just the process of releasing a film, but the success/failure ratio of the project, based on well it works. So, how does it?

To start off with, one of the major components of a film's release is known as the EPK (Electronic Press Kit), which in the age of the internet, has become standard procedure: it includes the key written information (synopsis, cast and crew listing listings and the website) as well as the trailer, poster and even little promo clips for the film. Sets the stage, gets out the information and helps to build interest and hype should the materials appeal.The other really famous part of film promotion comes in the form of what Elhum called 'Great Extras'; the premiere/gala events thrown in honour of the film, the marketing blitzkrieg, the in cinema displays and then perhaps the most powerful of all, the viral/social media angle, where a film's popularity ca be made or broken on god word of mouth and the spread of coverage and even 'favorite' moments, much like the various Joker lines from The Dark Knight (Good Evening Commissioner, Why So Serious, Let's Put a Smile on that face) were in 2008.

Next, we touched on perhaps the most quintessential form of marketing; the poster. Sometimes deceptively simple, the job of these sheets, be they the product of photoshop or even the classic painted ones by artists like Drew Struzan (a lot of Amblin productions got his treatment), is to tell a story of their own, to entrance and entice the onlooker into wanting to see the film. Sometimes, this can be very clear, like a poster for an Indiana Jones film teasing all the characters and big action scenes, or even a little mindgame, like the poster of Her, which contrasts the feminine title and colour scheme (pinks and reds) with a picture of a moustached Joaquin Phoenix. It comes down to the combination of colour, the use of critic quotes, and the juxtaposition/placement of symbols and imagery, as demonstrated rather differently by the two examples above.

Of course, all this is well and good, but how does it start? Well, it begins when you call in a 'Campaign Designer', who is exactly what they sound like: you give them a brief (who's the film's audience, the outline, the objectives o the campaign and is there any use/buzz courtesy of the awards circuit) and then they take care of the rest with their own team. One key factor in how they work is decided the general audience: not in terms of traditional demographics (teens, adults, children, families etc.) but in terms of the general circuit. Is it a mainstream film, or one more suited to the arthouse/indie field. The choice yields very different approaches: the mainstream will very much be more of a 'sale', focusing on whatever clout and praise the film has received (stars, quotes, who's involved), while the indie circuit will focus more on a distinctive poster to really show what kind of film it is and what it has to say for itself. The poster in this instance becomes more of a standalone work of art than an advertisement.

Speaking of audience, this leads into the next topic: Positioning. What's your audience, what are your assests, and how do you use them to get to the desired audience. Let's talk a PG13 style action film, the usual kind of big summer release, like Guardians of the Galaxy this past summer. The audience is a broad selection, but primarily youth (anywhere from 9-30 yrs old, accounting both comic book and non-comic fans of Marvel). The assets here are the property the film is based off, the branding of both Marvel and Disney and the use of well known actors like Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Chris Pratt among others, all of which come with their own fanbases. Already, you have a lot of people who will come for those reasons, as well as the use of the internet, having trailers and TV spots loaded with little moments that become 'memes', which will in turn go viral (a racoon firing a machine gun, the use of classic 1970s songs in the trailers, the parodies of iconic movie moments like the 'walking in a straight line' bit. All of these are very powerful weapons at the disposal of the marketers. With the EPK, you define yourself, but with the marketing, you expand and evolve into something bigger: into a part of pop culture.

Honestly, this can be broken down into three easy to remember components: 1) Build an audience, 2) Launch your new project, and 3) Maintain the audience/Sustain. Today's seminar covered a rather sizeable spectrum f concepts, but still opened how even deceptively simple campaigns an have an absurd amount of planning and thought put into them, and frankly, the sheer scale of tools available to film marketers is astounding nowadays. This acted as both a reinforcement of what I already knew (and had discussed before, see my pieces on The Lone Ranger), and an eye opener on some of the inner workings.

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And today's film-related corporation of choice the British Video Association.The BVA is a trade body that represents publishers/rights owners of video entertainment (nowadays, DVDs and Blu-Rays) in the UK. Their clientele include the likes of the big studios (Warners, Lionsgate, Paramount) but also the BFI and smaller companies like Koch Media. They also have strong ties to the likes of The Video Standards Council (VSC), The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the Film Distributors Association (FDA) among a number of major media boards in the UK.

As well as serve these companies, they also inform and keep up to date with trends in home releases, having the likes of sales charts for both DVD and Blu-ray, release dates/catalogues, as well as a news section pertaining to major developments in British film on their webpage. They also host an awards ceremony, fittingly titled the BVA Awards, which celebrates achievement sin marketing and retail in the film sector. In 2013 for example, The Best Selling UK 'video', Skyfall, won for Retail Title of The Year, while Universal won for Retail Distributor of the Year.

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