Marketing: Crash Course Film Production #13

Marketing: Crash Course Film Production #13


Let’s say you made a movie. You wrote a script, prepared the shoot, assembled
a cast and crew, shot the film, edited it, and sound mixed the thing until it’s ready
for the world. And it’s awesome. Congratulations! Now… you just have to convince an audience
to come see it. These days, that’s more important than ever. With hundreds of films, TV series, and online
videos competing for our attention, filmmakers and distribution companies need to find creative
ways to make their content stand out. From posters and trailers to celebrity press
junkets, let’s take a peek at the world of marketing. [Opening Music Plays] In the earliest days of film, movies were the marketing. People bought tickets just to see pictures
move on a screen. As it became clear that film was going to
endure as a source of mass entertainment and communication, a permanent infrastructure
emerged – things like movie studios and theater chains. Those studios started making more movies to
keep up with demand. And, suddenly, moviegoers had options! Audiences also became more sophisticated viewers. They wanted stories, and they wanted stars. Film studios and distributors were faced with
greater competition and needed to find ways to persuade people to see their film, instead
of somebody else’s. That’s where marketing comes in. And, in fact, many of the elements of cinema’s
earliest marketing campaigns are still with us today. In the 1910s, the studios that made and distributed
films noticed that more people bought tickets for movies starring actors like Florence Lawrence,
Mary Pickford, and Lillian Gish. So they began to market their films based
on celebrities, which helped create the star system. Celebrities continue to be a powerful weapon
in a film’s marketing arsenal to this day. They can be deployed to talk shows, magazine
spreads, or press junkets, where hundreds of journalists are wined, dined, and given
a few precious moments to interview a personality. Today’s celebrities also leverage their
own social media to increase hype around their movies. But as flashy as the star system is, in many
ways, the cornerstone of film marketing is the poster or one sheet. Whether they’re organized around an iconic
image from the film, or covered with the movie’s most famous actors, these graphic designs
can be used in print ads, transformed into billboards, or displayed outside theaters. The best posters represent a movie in a single,
powerful image. Think of the shark rising up toward the swimmer
on the Jaws poster, or the moth over Jodie Foster’s mouth from The Silence of the Lambs. Posters often include taglines as well – brief,
memorable catch-phrases that sum up the theme of the movie. Like Alien: “In space, no one can hear you
scream.” Or The Shawshank Redemption: “Fear can hold
you prisoner, hope can set you free.” Posters might also feature quotes from film
critics. Remember, this is all an act of persuasion,
so if critics are raving, people might get curious enough to see a movie for themselves. Trailers or previews were another early development
in film marketing. The earliest trailers appeared at the end
of serials, early short films that told a longer story in weekly installments. Each episode would end with some kind of cliffhanger,
and include a shot from the next week’s film. Once feature films became the norm, studios
would mine a film for shots of its most famous actors. Then, they would pair those shots with title
cards – or after the advent of sound, a narrator – to tell the audience how incredible
the movie was going to be. In the 1960s, American movie trailers began
to break this mold. Alfred Hitchcock famously starred in the trailer
for Psycho, in which he gave the audience a walking tour of the film’s set, describing
where various grisly murders took place. In 1964, Stanley Kubrick made his own trailer
for Dr. Strangelove. It’s a funny, fragmented creation, intercutting
very short clips from the movie with title cards that ask the movie’s big questions. Since the 1970s, films have also advertised
on television. Jaws was among the first, featuring a shortened
version of the theatrical trailer. And during this time, another big change came
to Hollywood marketing. Before the 1970s, the marketing departments
of major movie studios began their work after a film was done. The studio produced the movie, and then the
marketing people sold it to an audience. But by the 1980s, those studios had all been
purchased by big multinational corporations, where the marketing professionals were consulted
before many products were fully developed. That strategy trickled down, and by the mid-1980s
the in-house marketing departments of places like Paramount, Warner Brothers, and 20th
Century Fox began weighing in on which films should actually get made. Studios like Marvel have taken this to a whole
new level, staking out release dates and creating promotional material for movies before they’ve
developed a script, hired actors, or picked a director. Meanwhile, sponsorships and product placements
have existed in some form since the dawn of movies, but in the 1980s, they reached a whole
new level. Companies like Coca-Cola or Frito-Lay would
pay to have their products featured in movies aimed at an audience they hope to reach. And it often worked! For instance, after Hershey’s agreed to
spend $1 million marketing Stephen Spielberg’s E.T. in exchange for a prominent use of Reese’s
Pieces in the film, sales of the candy jumped by a whopping 65% in just two weeks! And the Internet has revolutionized movie
marketing in many ways. Not only is it cheaper to deliver trailers
over the web, but marketing departments can now target their material to very specific
audiences. And savvy use of social media can amplify
the marketing team’s message. So rather than paying to advertise on every
major television network, the marketing team of a new animated film can aim ads directly
at, say, people whose browser histories indicate that they have young kids. Now, when you’re marketing a film, first
you’ll have to figure out how much you’ll need to spend. Generally speaking, marketing costs about
an additional quarter to a half of a film’s budget. So if you’ve made a new comic book movie
for $150 million, you might have to spend another $75 million to make sure people know
it’s coming out. And the problem is, now your movie has to
make $225 million just to break even! So where does all that money go? Well, the biggest chunk of a marketing budget
falls under something called Prints and Advertising, or P&A. Marketing departments will often buy print
ad space in local newspapers and on billboards, advertise on the radio, or make a series of
teasers and trailers. And depending on /how/ you release your film,
the cost of P&A can change. Each of these avenues has different marketing
requirements, expenses, and strategies. A theatrical release is generally pricier. The film itself has to be physically delivered
to theaters – which used to cost more when that meant hauling around heavy metal cans
full of physical film. But there are benefits, too. There’s still some prestige attached to
having your film play in a movie theater. And films have to have at least a small theatrical
release to be eligible for major awards like the Oscars, for instance. And if you make a big enough marketing splash
when your film opens in theaters, by the time it comes out on other platforms, people might
remember hearing about it. Other films find release on cable television. Marketing these films is somewhat less expensive,
and the audience is easier to find – because they’re already watching the channel! Channels like HBO, Showtime, and even the
History Channel have produced and distributed movies and miniseries to great success in
recent years. Then, there are paid streaming services like
Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. They not only distribute films that have had
a theatrical run, but also let you stream original movies on your television, tablet,
or phone whenever and wherever you want. These companies know more about who their
audience is than anyone else. They know what you’ve watched before, what
you’ve searched for, and what you might be interested in seeing next. This level of detail is a dream for movie
marketing executives… and a little bit creepy if you think about it too much. Some movies get released on free streaming
services, like YouTube or Vimeo. These films often aim their marketing materials
at prominent users of a platform, hoping that someone with a few million followers will
spread the word about their movie. This kind of marketing can be less expensive,
but more time-consuming. Movies also get released on home video formats
like DVD and Blu-ray, and by film festivals, both live and online. Some movies use a successful film festival
run to market their films to buyers – distribution companies who will then release the film theatrically
or through video-on-demand. These distribution companies, from the major
studios to independent companies like A24 or Magnolia Pictures, will use their expertise
and infrastructure to execute a marketing strategy and help the film find its audience. Film festivals also offer movies a chance
to be seen by critics, whose reviews can boost interest in a film and provide marketing departments
with quotes they can put on the posters and DVD art. Needless to say, different kinds of movies
aimed at different audiences require very different marketing and distribution strategies. And while a film’s success relies on more
than just its marketing, every film does need to find its audience. For big-budget movies with a theatrical release,
the opening weekend box office is key to their success. The money and good press from a big opening
weekend can lead all the way to massive home video sales, successful sequels, and even
theme park rides. So there’s a lot riding on the marketing
departments of major studios to get people buying tickets for their films right out of
the gate. They have some help, because many huge Hollywood
movies are based on characters or stories that people are familiar with. Sequels, prequels, and reboots, oh my! Since audiences are already pre-aware of these
stories, the job of the marketing department is to use tools like trailers, posters, commercials,
or talk show appearances to make people want to see these movies right away. Big-budget marketing efforts create a vicious
cycle, though, since the high cost of a national campaign means the film has to make even more
money at the box office to break even. Smaller, independent movies don’t have the
resources to throw 100 million dollars into marketing, but they don’t necessarily need
to. These movies are often made for much less
money, so they don’t need to break box office records on their opening weekend to be a success
and pay back investors. So whether you’ve made the latest Marvel
movie or a DIY indie on your cell phone, marketing is an essential piece of the filmmaking puzzle
when it comes to finding an audience and getting them excited to see your film. Today we talked about the history of marketing,
from the earliest days through innovative online campaigns. We looked at the ways marketing professionals
use things like posters, trailers, and celebrity interviews to drive awareness of films. And we explored the costs and benefits of
various strategies for marketing large-scale blockbusters versus micro-budget indies. Next time we’ll spend some time exploring
that age old question: should you go to film school, or not? Crash Course Film Production is produced in
association with PBS Digital Studios. You can head over to their channel to check
out a playlist of their latest shows, like Deep Look, Eons, and Infinite Series. This episode of Crash Course was filmed in
the Doctor Cheryl C. Kinney Crash Course Studio with the help of these nice people and our
amazing graphics team is Thought Cafe.

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