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The mad science laboratory
of a screenwriter & consultant


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."