Tips and Insight for Filmmakers

Marc Cohen is an award-winning entertainment publicist. He spoke to GI Film Festival attendees about film marketing, touching on several disciplines, including publicity, digital strategy, premieres, press junkets and road shows. While Cohen’s experience is mainly blockbuster Hollywood films that have deep pockets for marketing, some of what he discussed can apply to indie and other low-budget films.

First, and foremost, knowing your audience is critical. Cohen stressed this several times during his presentation.  It’s not only important for the filmmaker, but when hiring a publicist or an agency, it’s important to ensure they know your market and audience. Cohen shared the example of the faith-based community. This community loves going to movies but are incredibly selective and hard to reach. Studios hire agencies just to reach out to this audience. There are agencies that specialize in reaching out to niche markets, specific geographic regions and demographics, etc.

Regional promotions are quite effective. “It’s one thing to know the overall marketing message, but if you can hone into people’s individual interests, skies are the limit,” said Cohen. There are agencies in almost every major U.S. city that execute local campaigns.

What if you’re a filmmaker who doesn’t have a big marketing budget? There are many smaller PR/marketing companies that work with small budgets.  And, what if you don’t even have the budget to hire someone?  Here are some things to consider for getting the message out to your key audiences.

Digital is where it’s at and there are tons of opportunities if you know your audience.  Social media opens many doors to reaching your audience or creating an audience.  Cohen says, “With the Internet and blogging, you can do a lot of work in little time pretty cheaply.”  Bloggers have a dedicated audience.  For instance, let’s say your film appeals to children and/or mothers. This can be a hard audience to reach but Cohen says mommy bloggers are powerful and can have quite an impact.

Leverage all your resources.  Cohen said Clay Enos, the official set photog for Watchmen, was probably the best unit photographer he’s ever worked with on set. He took more than 700,000 photos capturing every angle and item on set. This opened up so many opportunities in marketing to use these materials. Enos went on to do several coffee table books and spoke at in-store events at Apple. This turned into additional publicity opportunities for the film.

Get creative.  There’s so much you can do from promotional items (e.g., Watchmen artwork poster) to press mailers.  Cohen shared  the example of how his team sent journalists end of the world countdown clocks a year before the movie opened.

Make a bond with the audience.  I posed a question to Cohen: In terms of objectives for a film with little-to-no budget for marketing, what’s more important – getting press coverage or building relationships with your audience?  He responded,If it’s a great film and worthwhile to cover, then you’ll get the press coverage. The critical thing is to know and build a relationship with your audience. Crafting the actual campaign is most important because in doing that, you create the different things that will be of interest to the press and your audience.”

Lastly, great publicity is not always planned.  You know the saying, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Well, this was certainly the case for Cohen on the movie 300. Just days before the opening, the film received major backlash from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying the film is U.S. psychological war aimed at Iranian culture.  Cohen told the story of how he turned on the TV and saw CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in front of the White House reporting the story.  While it may have been alarming at first, Cohen said “it turned out to be amazing publicity for the film.”

For more on Cohen, read “Hollywood Publicist Talks Kubrick, Snyder and Stone.”

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 Follow the Pacific Punch on twitter @ThePacificPunch.


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