Hollywood Publicist Talks Kubrick, Snyder and Stone

Attendee James Inez and Marc Cohen

I had the pleasure of hearing award-winning publicist Marc Cohen speak about film marketing at the GI Film Festival. His credits are long so I’ll just name a few films that are not mentioned below..……the Harry Potter franchise, Superman Returns, Happy Feet, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, and Armageddon. His work ranges from animation films to hardcore war flicks.

Cohen went through the marketing disciplines of a campaign for a film. I was personally interested because this is what I’ve done for 15 years – except my campaigns are for technology companies. While listening to him, I couldn’t help but compare industries and the work we do.  The principles and disciplines are pretty much the same, but there are definitely differences. For one thing, there’s more opportunity to be creative when marketing films. Secondly, Marc has MUCH better stories than I.

Stalking Oliver Stone

The way Cohen got into the business is a great story, so I’ll start there. From a young age, Cohen exuded tenacity and passion for the film industry. Hailing from New Hampshire, Cohen first became interested in a career in entertainment while watching the movie Platoon in 1986.

“Something just hit me from within – this is what I want to do,” said Cohen. He then started stalking Oliver Stone for an interview for his school newspaper (where he served as entertainment editor). Perseverance paid off. Cohen finally made it happen for Stone’s next film, Born on the Fourth of July. Not only did Cohen secure an interview with Stone but he was invited out to Hollywood to attend the Academy Awards. He interviewed Stone in person, and got to meet numerous other filmmakers and actors. This experience solidified his interest in the business.  

While attending Arizona State, he served as the Warner Brothers’ College Rep., where he worked on films for every major studio that shot in Phoenix, Tuscan, Albuquerque and Vegas. (NOTE: Many studios have internship programs for marketing students.) After graduation, he moved to LA with aspirations to work at Disney or Warner Brothers. It wasn’t easy, and Cohen reluctantly accepted a temp job at a new TV show (now called Extra). This was not what he had in mind, but it turned out to be the best decision.  Cohen was at the ground level of a new show that marketed movies and TV shows, and the people he met and the things learned were invaluable.

Years later, doors opened for him when the studios all wanted entertainment shows to promote their projects. In the end, Marc achieved his goal and spent eight years as Executive Vice President of National Publicity for Warner Brothers and four years as Executive Director of National Publicity for The Walt Disney Company.

Cohen’s foresight into the changing digital landscape was a key driver behind him starting his own consulting business.  The market was quickly changing – with traditional publicity fading out, print publications closing down, content moving online – and social media and digital were where it’s at. He pushed the importance of digital marketing campaigns, but some old school studio execs were not receptive to this paradigm shift. Cohen decided it was time to go off on his own and formed Cohen Marketing and Consulting.

Cohen talked about several of his movies but for the sake of space and brevity, I’ll just highlight three.

Working Alongside Zack Snyder and Stanley Kubrick

The 2009 superhero film Watchmen, which is an adaptation of  the best-selling graphic novel ever, was one of the most exciting campaigns Cohen’s ever worked on for many reasons.  Primarily, it was a hard sell. It came out 15+ years later, so mainstream audience wasn’t familiar with it.   Several other filmmakers tried to make it but many said it was “unfilmmable.”  Naysayers declared that it couldn’t be pulled off.

Enter Zachary “Zack” Snyder, who Cohen stated is “one of the most prolific creative filmmakers he’s ever worked with.” And, this transcended into marketing results. There were many opportunities from publicity strategy to marketing promotions. They used Comic-Con 2007 as the launch pad to first announce the release date and cast. Cohen and his team developed campaigns around subsequent Comic-Con events, as well as other genre conventions, to promote and build excitement for the film.

Watchmen illustrator, Dave Gibbons, who originally collaborated with writer Alan Moore on the series, created a poster specifically for the film. This was the first Watchmen art in 20 years, and thousands were handed out at Comic-Con. It’s now a huge collectable item. Considering the money grossed at the box office and the brand equity alone, Cohen can certainly check this off as a success!

I enjoyed hearing about Cohen’s experience working with the brilliant Stanley Kubrick on Full Metal Jacket. “One of the greatest filmmakers ever, he does things his own way,” said Cohen.

Kubrick left Hollywood after doing only a couple films. He moved to England, and from that point on, did things his own way and on his own terms.  Hollywood did not have say in his films. For those few who didn’t see Full Metal Jacket, Mathew Modine plays a war photographer and soldier. Given his role, Modine convinced Kubrick to let him shoot photographs while on set, which was an unusual request. Kubrick loved it! So much so that he encouraged the other actors to keep a written diary while they were in production.He gave Modine rights to do whatever he wanted with the photographs.

Seven years later, Modine put together a coffee table book called “Full Metal Jacket Diary.”  Fast forward decades later, Modine was approached to do an iPad app for Full Metal Jacket, which includes all the photos from the coffee table book, additional photos from the Kubrick estate, and narration by Modine. It’s been well received by the media. Wired Magazine says, “Something Stanley Kubrick would be proud of.” If you’re a fan of the movie, I encourage you to check out the app – it’s very cool!

Giving Back to the Military

Cohen has worked on several movies that had direct correlation with the military, and over the years, he’s pushed to get different programs in place with the military, the United Service Organizations (USO), etc. He’s a big proponent of bringing actors and filmmakers to bases. One of the most exciting things Cohen’s done in his career was orchestrate the world premiere of Pearl Harbor, which took place aboard the deck of the nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, in Pearl Harbor.

With more than 2,000 guests, including the film’s principal actors, production staff, media, veterans and invited guests, it was broadcast live on the Internet by Disney with a special 360-degree camera.

“It was very rewarding to see how excited the sailors were.  This is a perfect example of connecting with your audience. This is critical when it comes to marketing a film,” said Cohen.

If you’re interested in learning more on film marketing, read “Tips and Insight for Filmmakers.

Related post: Hollywood Salutes Veterans

About kristinmartell:
Kristin Martell is a Pacific Punch Correspondent and Author of Damn the Odds. A recent Los Angeles transplant from Washington, DC, she’s pursuing her dream of acting while working as a PR consultant. Visit her at www.damntheodds.com. Follow the Pacific Punch on twitter @ThePacificPunch.

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