Helping you tell better stories

Helping you tell better stories;

closer to your vision than you ever dreamt possible.


List of Marketing Posts 2010 to 2014

This picture is ironic. Keep reading.

I've several new posts coming up in the new year (maybe sooner) which specifically discuss the field of Pre-Greenlight Marketing (PGM) so I thought I'd round-up all my marketing related posts to date.

Bear With Me

  Who is your customer? Who is it really?

Seth Godin on why marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department

  The most important marketing seminar you will ever see.


  Consistency of message, whatever the medium.

Similar but Different

  Arguably the most important concept in script development.

Is Your Film "Remarketable”?

  Advertising is no longer reliable. Why are people going to talk about your film?

Legwork 10 Step Checklist

  My company's proprietary checklist before we'll greenlight.

There is no more room in the middle

  In a saturated market you have to be at the edges to stand out.

Legwork Films

  Introduction to my PGM consulting company.

Film Policy Review… thoughts

  Why a 58% customer expectation of "being entertained" isn't good enough.

Enjoy, and I'll be back to talk about PGM soon.



DIY Script Doctor

This may sound silly at first, but it's just a little shift in perception that could make all the difference to your work, make you a better writer, and shave years off your time spent breaking into the biz.

If you've been writing fairly consistently for several years, reading scripts and blogs and how-to books, learning dramaturgy and honing your craft, then it's probably safe to say that you're a far more knowledgeable and experienced writer than when you started out.

Wow what would that younger self give to have the knowledge of wordsmithing and the industry that you have now? What if there was some way you could time travel and brush up those early scripts?

Well there is. Just dig them out of the drawer.

There's presumably something in the concept that drew you to those themes, to that subject matter.

Maybe it's worth having a fresh look from the POV of the older, wiser, more experienced (more jaded) person you've become. It might seem like an extremely time-consuming endeavour, but in comparison to the several extremely expensive days a script consultant might spend poring over your story and word-choices, maybe it doesn't seem such an outrageous endeavour after all.

Wait, but why is a script consultant telling you this? Because making money isn't my primary goal. I'm far more interested in simply helping my clients and readers get to where you want to go.

When I achieve that I'm happy, you're happy, and my marketing becomes word-of-mouth, which is much better, way cheaper, and far less time-consuming.



Hardwired for Story

Emmy-nominated screenwriter Sarah-Jane Murray helps us to think about why insanely great storytelling matters and why it’s the key to our future.


Fix the Problem Before It's the Client's Problem

A producer friend of mine is a former engineer. The quote "Fix the problem before it's the client's problem" came up in a discussion about a script she has in development.

I'd given her some straight-talking script feedback (she's an Aussie, that's how she likes it) but I warned her not to pass the feedback on to the writer in that form.

She responded by saying that both her and her writer very clearly understand that "criticism is about the project, not the person". Her engineering background taught her to simply strip away ego even when discussing personal creative expression. She's focused on the client, not protecting herself.

Hear, hear. I wish there were more producers (and writers) like that. It truly is the mark of a pro.



Bear With Me

If you're a toy manufacturer, kids are your consumers, and parents are your customers. You agree that you need to sell your toy to both groups, right?

A kid might want all loud and destructive and expensive toys, while parents might want quiet, less expensive and more educational toys. Unless there's an unhealthy power imbalance, they'll probably come to a compromise.

Well the same can be said of the film industry: audiences are your consumers, and international distributors are your customers. You need to sell your film to both but — here's the problem, you guessed it — they're each looking for different things.

Audiences are looking for something that's interesting and novel and remarkable and niche. Distributors for the most part are looking for mass-market, meat-and-potatoes, broad appeal to the masses kind of stuff. This disparity is the reason we have the current independent film industry we do. 

So how do you sell your film to both groups? There has to be a lot of crossover, or else either group could reject you. Anyone with experience of film sales will agree that many good films fail to find a distributor in every territory, and mediocre films seriously struggle in the marketplace. If you don't sell to German, Japanese or US distributors, then it's unlikely that 'pester power' will see audiences there changing their distributors’ minds.

Films are too expensive for anyone to make this mistake very often — and competition is growing rapaciously.*  What solutions exist to make your films competitive again? What can make it attractive to distributors and audiences? What tools are you employing to test your market or identify your niche?

These are questions I ask myself daily. Is someone on your team responsible for asking them?


* Here’s British producer and statistician Stephen Follows with some sobering recent data.


Good Communication

"You can't be focused without good communication. Even if you have only four or five people at a company, a small communication breakdown is enough for people to be working on slightly different things. And then you lose focus and the company just scrambles." — Sam Altman

From Lecture 2 of How to Start a Start-up. Lecture 1 here.

Sam Altman is the president of start-up accelerator Y Combinator.

Why do I post about tech start-ups? Because they have a lot in common with getting a new film off the ground, building a strong and focused team, and impressing investors that you're dealing in reality not just fantasy.

Show investors that you're passionate, not crazy.


Is Your Film "Remarketable"?

"Regular" readers of this blog (I'm sure there would be some if I posted regularly) will know that I'm essentially convinced that marketing is now an intrinsic part of the craft of creating a feature film, and in all cases — whether you're a haughty auteur or a consummate hack — marketing shouldn't even be thought of as separate from the process of storytelling.

To those who might accuse me of trying to dumb down, or cause projects to appeal to the lowest common denominator, I'm not. What I'm saying actually runs totally counter to that; because in fact giving people the same homogenised mush they can get elsewhere is completely the opposite of being remarkable.

What I'm talking about is treating "finding an audience" as simply another creative parameter; an essential requirement of using someone else's money to practise your craft.

Lots of filmmakers want this to be someone else's problem, and try to shirk the responsibility of even thinking about it, hoping that a producer, sales agent, financier or distributor's marketing department will let them do as they please, and take care of the pesky audience question.

Others, I know of many, actively want to reach bigger audiences, but simply lack the knowledge of how they can do so. There are no guaranteed results, but there are lots of things you can do.

So I'm a huge fan of Seth Godin's stuff, and I've posted about him here in the past, but I still don't think enough people are getting it. Maybe people are still confusing marketing with advertising, in which case they should stop, because this stuff is too important to not know and, as Seth says:

"Marketing is too important to leave to the marketing department."

This is truer now than it has ever been. With an ever-growing glut of content out there to distract us (and dilute our potential audience base) we have no choice but to somehow make our work remarkable, in the sense that people feel compelled to remark upon it.

This is just one concept among many that Seth talks about. Hopefully at some point I'll blog about Tribes and Getting Permission (and any conversation with me about marketing will inevitably feature me paraphrasing Seth with "Marketing isn't what you're saying, it's what other people are saying about you..." ) but it'll be much faster if you just look them up yourself.

Those are all really important concepts for filmmakers too, but today I just want to talk about how to ensure (and communicate that) your projects are remarketable.

I've also posted about the concept of "similar but different" in the past, but my thoughts on it have evolved over the years, specifically with regard to finding a sizeable worldwide audience for a feature film. The short version goes something like this: Imagine seeing a TV commercial for a film and feeling genuinely excited to see it. That took maybe 20 or 30 seconds to get you energised to go see it, rent it, download it or whatever you do these days.

Why so fast? Was it because it was radically different from anything you've ever seen before? Unlikely. It's far more likely to be because it is a genre you're comfortable with, updated with a clever tweak.

Genre provides the "similar",  
the original tweak provides the "different".

Can your project do that at every scale of its existence, from Title to Logline to Outline etc?

Can you get the concept in a sentence that you reckon is worth a text message to someone who loves the genre? How about firing off an email link to someone you don't know well, but who likes the genre? What about bringing it up in passing to a vague acquaintance who you're not even sure likes films? How about a complete stranger? The removal man? The barista?

Now can you get it so everyone else would be texting each other too? What tools are at your disposal to achieve more of this? Playing with genre, combining genres, combining mundane ideas from your life with an unexpected genre twist. Even playing with bizarre casting ideas (because that could subvert our expectations) could be just the thing you need.

Being like everything else is now banned.

(And so is not being like anything else... but that can wait for another post.)

Now I'm not saying that it's easy to build the marketing into the project at every step from the concept to final cut and beyond, but I firmly believe these questions will help get you there.

And you know what? The people who ultimately have to sell your film will thank you, because they will say "I know how to sell this!" and the sales agents who have to sell to those distributors in every country around the world will thank you, because they will say "I know how to sell this!" and once you're giving people something they know they can sell to their guy... you'll have everyone on board, pulling in the same direction, and the money will flow.

As a producer myself, I've just launched a new project into the marketplace to test all these theories. I will update you with how I get on. See you in Cannes.

* That sentence was getting too long so I'll finish it here: The full quote is something like "Marketing isn't what you're saying, it's what other people are saying about you... so never send spam or try to manipulate anyone."