There’s a common misconception amongst filmmakers (and audiences) that a film’s promotion starts around its theatrical release date. We, at First Weekend Club, would like to dispel that. These days, there are more ways than ever to tell the story of your film’s journey. And, as every filmmaker knows, it doesn’t start at the premiere.
At the end of the day, no one cares about your film quite the way that you do. So we’ve put together a list of 6 marketing approaches that filmmakers should consider from development to production:
1. The story begins at pre-production, so consider telling it. You can share news about new talent and crew boarding your project, your process, even your coffee meetings. Set up social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to build interest and have audiences invested in your film before you’ve even shot a frame.
2. Production is where it gets especially interesting. And visual. That’s why North Country Cinema, a director-driven media arts collective responsible for O, Brazen Age, is building their audiences early. They are generating excitement for their new film, #RangeRoadsFilm, by sharing behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram from their set in Alberta.
3. Filmmakers tend to be pretty focused on MAKING the film during production, but once your film wraps, you can’t go back in time and capture stills and BTS content. That’s why you need to make sure that you’ve got someone to capture stills and an EPK crew to capture BTS footage and interviews with talent and filmmakers on set. If you can budget for a unit publicist to help capture the right assets and reach out to media, even better. And, don’t forget to invite First Weekend Club to your set to capture some interviews, so that we can help start spreading the word early too!
4. Start thinking about your poster early. That’s going to be a key tool for marketing your film and you want to make sure that it tells audiences what your film is about and is eye-catching. By considering the poster early, it maximizes your chance of ensuring that your stills photographer might capture the right images to use. Perhaps even more than your log-line, it also ensures that you have a clear vision for the film.
5. Think outside the box. There are so many ways to tell a story when marketing a film and it’s your chance to get creative. Transmedia storytelling has been used by both indies and major films and there’s no one way to do it. Some have created social media accounts as characters in their films. The popular Canadian TV show, Murdoch Mysteries, created videos featuring popular characters in alternative universes. One sci-fi film created a Tinder account that had film-goers at a festival hitting on an AI chatbot. A Canadian mockumentary called No Men Beyond This Point, staged a protest at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Vancouver-based filmmaker’s Zach Lipovsky’s upcoming sci-fi thriller film (co-directed/written by Adam Stein), FREAKS (opening September 13 across Canada), found a unique way to get some attention, on a shoe-string budget. At its core, the film has an oppressive government agency at play, and so the filmmakers created propaganda in the tone of that agency and posted it around Toronto and San Diego, in time for Comic-Con. Their posters were designed to be immediately visually striking and warned citizens to keep a lookout for “freaks” and to report anything suspicious to a 1-800 number. Each city had a different customized recording which directed concerned citizens to a “public meeting,” listing the local showtimes for the film.
“The posters never mentioned they were for a film and didn’t have any hashtags, it wasn’t clear what they were for until you call the number,” explains Lipovsky, “A lot of people called the number to find out what it was all about and felt like they had discovered a secret.” As an added bonus, when prompted to leave a voicemail to report any “freaks,” the filmmakers found that some people have left fun messages about their neighbours or ex-wives and plan to use that as additional online content.
“The posters and phone number are very cheap to do, and as long as you don’t mind risking a fine to put them up everywhere you can get a lot of mileage out of them. In a lot of cases, we witnessed people calling the number within minutes of putting up the posters.”
It pays off to apply the same creativity as you do to making the film, to marketing it!
6. Go grassroots! Don’t forget to reach out to potential community partners and collaborators whose own visions align with your film’s. Together, you can amplify both the project and message. And don’t forget to reach out to First Weekend Club as early as possible to submit your film for support consideration. Each year, we help support countless Canadian films at various levels ranging from listing upcoming films on our website, sending email blasts to members, co-hosting events, conducting interviews with talent, and more. We usually require a minimum of 4 weeks notice to consider films, but the earlier you can get in touch, the more chances we can collaborate in an impactful way. So get in touch, even as early as production. View our submission guidelines for more details.
by Katherine Brodsky