The Marketing Edge for Filmmakers: Developing a Marketing Mindset from Concept to Release
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The Marketing Edge for Filmmakers: Developing a Marketing Mindset from Concept to Release

Russell Schwartz, Katherine MacDonald

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eBook - ePub

The Marketing Edge for Filmmakers: Developing a Marketing Mindset from Concept to Release

Russell Schwartz, Katherine MacDonald

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About This Book

Written for working and aspiring filmmakers, directors, producers and screenwriters, The Marketing Edge for Filmmakers walks through every stage of the marketing process - fromconcept to post-production - and illustrates how creative decisions at each stage will impact the marketability of a film.

In this book, marketing experts Schwartz and MacDonald welcome you behind the curtain into the inner workings of Marketing department at both the studios and independents. They also track films of different budgets (studio, genre, independent and documentary) through the marketing process, examining how each discipline will approach your film. Featuring interviews with both marketers and filmmakers throughout, an extensive glossary and end-of-chapter exercises, The Marketing Edge for Filmmakers offers a unique introduction to film marketing and a practical guide for understanding the impact of marketing on your film.

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Part I
What You Will Contribute to Marketing

Marketing Defined

What You Need to Know

As you embark on your film project, at whatever stage you decide to jump in – original idea, screenplay or book option, newspaper or magazine option, stage play, non-fiction story – it will be important to recognize the signposts and stages of marketing as your project advances up the production ladder. Equally important is to understand the terminology associated with the marketing discipline and how marketing first and foremost is an extension of your creative efforts. However, it has not always been that way if we look at the evolution of movie marketing.


It can be said that the business of marketing goes back hundreds of years beginning with the invention of the printing press in 1440, but for our purposes we will just say movie marketing began somewhat more recently.
“I went into the business for money, and the art grew out of it,” Charles Chaplin said towards the end of his life. “If people are disillusioned by that remark, I can’t help it. It’s the truth.”1
Chaplin was not alone. In fact, he followed the path of the great entrepreneurs from the pre-studio days. Arguably, none of these founding fathers of the movie business went into it solely for the art. It was always partially or mostly motivated by business and the marketing of the business. In the early 1900s, when American was flooded with a wave of immigration and silent films were starting to make their ways into the penny nickelodeons, many of these short films came from Europe. This was to be the only era in U.S. film history in which movie distributors from a foreign country, predominately France, were dominant in the American market.2
Thomas Edison, who is mainly credited as a forerunner of the movie distribution system with the invention of the movie projector, was more interested in licensing and selling his projectors to the thousands of Nickelodeons that were springing up everywhere across the country and less concerned with what they were going to project.
Originally, these Nickelodeon operators purchased their “content” from a Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogue and they would buy it by the foot. The showman who ran the vaudeville theater would spend approximately $50 on a really popular movie and run it until patrons lost interest, or until the celluloid print was in such tatters that it could no longer be run.3
This was the original “distribution” network – a catalogue that held no importance to time or place or subject, simply pieces of content available through mail order the same way one could buy clothes or tractors.
The origins of the motion picture business, then, started with the hardware, and not the story driven “software,” that we have come to associate with the industry. And Chaplin was just one of many who contributed to these short films. Only a few years later, in 1914, in a Keystone Comedy, Kid Auto Races at Venice, did he introduce his classic Tramp character, which turned him into a name talent and helped focus the industry from technological advancement to star and story. For 20 years, Chaplin played The Tramp, until he retired it in 1936 in Modern Times. It can still be said that Chaplin’s marketing of his character that manifested itself not only in his movies, but through numerous dolls and paraphernalia associated with the time is still one of the great marketing and branding feats in the annals of moviedom.
During this time, one of Chaplin’s comedic peers, Harold Lloyd, began pioneering the idea of test screenings with his invention of a laugh-o-meter, when in 1928, he charted audience laughs for his movie, Speedy.4
These early comedians would even use a comedic scene that was a work in progress for an upcoming movie and attach it to a movie currently playing in a theater. They would advertise it as a “coming attraction” and while it helped bring in patrons, it was really a way of testing the scene in front of a regular audience.
From these rudimentary beginnings, marketing has evolved into a smooth running machine – a mix of business, culture, technology and creativity – all finely tuned to define, understand and engage audiences.


There are a number of applications that every Marketing department utilizes as the foundations for their work. They may vary in emphasis and methodology but movies have to be sold and these functions are essential to understanding marketing, but remember the success of your movie lies in what elements you have identified in your project that allow for the “marketing edge.”


First and foremost, marketing identifies the audience for your movie and this most important area of research and understanding is known as Demography.The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines this as: “The statistical study of human populations especially with reference to size and density, distribution, and vital statistics.”
Demographics sits inside Demography and refers to findings and characteristics of certain segments of the population. Demographics breaks down further into audience subgroups which allows the Marketing team to focus its advertising campaign on specific audience groups who are likely to respond to the story, stars, or content. Demographics refers to age, ethnicity, education, etc. These are specifically:
  • The Target or Primary Audience is the most important subgroup to whom the Marketing team must initially appeal. This is the core audience that will ignite the box office and hopefully spread the word on the movie.
  • The Secondary Audience is the group that may have interest in certain elements of the movie or they come as the companion of someone in the primary audience.
  • The Tertiary Audience is the larger, initially uncommitted audience, which eventually comes to the movie when it breaks out and becomes a commercial hit.
Psychographics is another important marketing approach in defining the audience as it speaks to lifestyle, income, political inclination, shopping interests, and a host of other factors. The objective in a psychographic audience analysis is to find people with similar interests regardless of age, geography or ethnicity. For example, with the film Twilight, the psychographic profile of the audience was not only young females, but readers of the book, and mothers and grandmothers who were drawn to the subject matter and the romantic elements. It even became a mother–daughter “date” movie.


Marketing has two main functions: To generate Audience Awareness and Audience Interest. While the methodologies are quite different, these two elements are the twin pillars of a successful marketing campaign. They are quite interdependent on each other and deciding on what kind of movie you are making, whether it be one that appeals to a small specialized audience or to a wide commercial one, will determine the levels of awareness and interest that marketing will consider necessary to insure success. However, none of this is easy anymore.
Awareness is generated through:
  • Media (such as television, digital advertising, outdoor billboards, radio, stunts)
  • Publicity (talent appearances, subject interest, promotions, influencers, print and editorial, etc.)
  • Distribution (in theater trailers, lobby displays, exhibition of the film, etc.)
Interest is generated through:
  • Creative advertising (trailers, posters, original content)
  • Social media (identifying and appealing to like-minded communities usually through online methods)
  • Word of mouth (friends and family)
We live in a very cluttered media world, one that offers a myriad amount of content, from movies to games to television to streaming, and available on a variety of screens and platforms. This creates enormous challenges to marketing when it comes to creating awareness and interest. Understanding this issue and how the marketing elements you incorporate into your film can help marketing is probably the most important take-away from reading this book.


As we stated above, media helps create awareness and anything that helps promote awareness is media in one form or another. Media functions in a number of different ways, some of which marketing can control, some of which it can’t. All of the different types of media are effective in their own particular way.

Paid Media

Paid media is generated through the licensing of advertising slots such as they are available in traditional television, online or outdoor venues. Marketing has complete control over the when, where, how and what is put out there to the public. Examples of paid media are 30-second television spots, outdoor billboards, bus stop shelters, Facebook and Instagram posts (and even “likes”), banner advertising on key web portals and sponsored online content including streaming, story and pre-roll and forced view short form content.

Owned Media

Content that has been created either during your production (i.e., behind the scenes footage, interviews with cast and director) or in the period leading up to release (original television or web specials of varying lengths, content themed to a specific character). Owned media is story and subject driven and is placed in both traditional and digital environments in a passive way where you come upon it as you are watching or surfing the web.

Earned Media

If the ultimate goal of marketing is to make audiences aware of and interested in seeing your film, then the best way to do this is through content that people discover, talk about and share. Content that is shared earns the highest form of credibility as it is vouched for by a trusted source, your friend or family, and not the studio or some advertising agency. Content that is shared can lead to the ideal result: Awareness, definite interest and commitment.
As you conceive of your project, it is vitally important to consider how the subject you are choosing will translate into something people will actually want to see and how a Marketing team can make that happen. In Part Two of this book, we will see how these two important principles of awareness and interest impact the campaigns of our four case study movies.
Whether the primary audience for your film is smaller and specific or big and broad, you will still need to achieve awareness and interest. For a lower-budget, indie film you may employ Targeted Marketing. This refers to a campaign directed at an audience with a specific interest in the film. For example, Latinx and African American audiences are very specific targets for subjects or cast that are appealing to them. Horror or sci-fi fans are also a loyal and specific audience that can be marketed to directly. Arthouse audiences are another specific audience that can be strategically targeted.
Conversely, if you are making a big budget, high-spectacle movie based on known IP, you may use 360 Degree or Integrated Marketing. This type of marketing campaign encompasses all of the media options discussed above and includes gaming, merchandise and product promotions, soundtrack, and, where applicable, theme park tie-ins. They call it 360 marketing because anywhere a moviegoer turns, she encounters a promotion for the film. The campaign literally creates a 360-degree circle around the consumers.


Once marketing identifies the audience, the next step is to figure out what they want and how to convince them to fork over money for a ticket. To do that, we use Marketing Research. This refers to the quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (feelings) study of a movie’s potential at different points in its life cycle. The methodologies used measure the impact on the target audience and help devise the most effective creative advertising.
Kevin Goetz, the founder of Screen Engine LLC, defines the Market Research process as a series of “abilities” which, when utilized correctly and at the proper time, all work together to create a very effective marketing strategy. Mr. Goetz also discusses this idea in Jason E. Squire’s excellent, The Movie Business Book. We’re going to delve deeply into the different tools and approaches to Market Research in Chapter 10, but for now, here is how Mr. Goetz breaks down the marketing abilities:
  • Capability: How well can this move do? What’s the ultimate potential? In research, this is learned by conducting “Positioning and Brand Studies.”
  • Playability: How well does the movie play with audiences? Research addresses this with “Recruited Research Screenings.”
  • Marketability: How easy or difficult is this film to sell? Research explores this question with “Creative Advertising testing” and “Theatrical Tracking.”
  • Buzzability: Will pe...

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