Hey filmmakers, welcome to Going Bionic, #208! Before we dive into to our reader mailbag, I wanted to wish everyone a very happy and healthy Easter weekend. As for me, my wife and I took our twin daughters Zoe and Lena to an Easter Egg Hunt at the golf course at the country club my parents are members of. While this annual event includes a petting zoo, pictures with the Easter Bunny, and an unbelievably outlandish lunch, this year’s event topped all previous years. I say this because just before an army of kids were unleashed onto the golf course to wrangle as many prize-filled plastic eggs into their tiny hands and oversized baskets, a helicopter swooped over the golf course and dropped thousands of additional plastic eggs onto the greens. Simply put, it was awesome.
Today we’re focusing on reader questions that focus on marketing your indie film. With the Cannes Film Festival and Film Market right around the corner, I thought today would be a good day to discuss simple “easy fixes” that can and will enhance your film’s value on the marketplace. So without further ado, here are my answers to some of your questions.
“What do you think is the single most important element in getting financing for an indie film together these days?”
Wow. Great question. While I’m dying to say the story, because lack of a great story will hinder the launch of most films, “these days” I’d have to go with having a household name actor nestled into your main cast. I’ve answered this question many times before in several “Going Bionic,” articles, but the reason I wanted to answer it again is to reinforce the notion that the only thing a film buyer cares about is if your film has a household name actor in it. Thus, they don’t care how many regional film festivals you’ve played (that could actually be a detriment because if your film has already played in too many cities, it could be saturated), and they don’t care how many awards you’ve won (unless those awards were at Cannes, Berlin, Sundance or Toronto – and even major awards from those festivals don’t guarantee an increase in your film’s value). Thus, having a “household name” in your cast is usually the only thing a buyer will respond to these days.
On the other hand, if you’re film catches fire in the media, whether it is critical acclaim or an explosion of Twitter followers, then buyers will be forced to consider it. However, short of a magical run in social media, you film needs a name to enhance its chances to compete in the current marketplace.
“How important is your poster art?”
Having a good film poster is hugely important, especially if you don’t have a name actor to draw buyers to your film. Just remember buyers look at thousands of film posters at every film market, yet only a handful will catch their eye. So, it’s vital to make sure your poster art is attention worthy. One quick fix here is to not put images of your main actors on the poster, if nobody knows who your actors are. While you’ll have a bunch of pissed off actors who will complain about not being on your poster, it’s probably better to have upset actors on your hands than it is to have uninterested buyers. Besides, if your poster helps sell your film, your actors will be thrilled to be in a film that got distributed to multiple countries. Just remember your poster needs to be simple, to the point, and it needs to evoke the emotion of the film’s genre. Thus, it needs to look and feel like a comedy, drama, thriller, etc. A really hip and memorable “tag line” helps too.
“Everyone wants me to change the title of my film. Should I?”
You should if your title sucks, and it must suck if you’re not even mentioning it in this question. Okay, that was harsh. Your title could be brilliant, but a bad title can kill interest from both buyers and consumers. So, if people already hate your title, and if distributors aren’t scooping up your film like homemade ice cream on a sweltering summer day, then maybe you should alter the name of your film.
Side Note: Did you know that once a foreign distributor buys your film for his or her territory, they often times change the title of your film in order to best market it to their culture?
“How short is too short for an independent feature film?”
I’d say you your indie feature should be no shorter than 80 minutes, with credits. How much the length of your film affects its value depends on how much buyers like the film. If they love it, they’ll never mention its length. However, if the film feels “incomplete,” its “shortness” could make its shelf life “short-lived.”
Okay, friends, that’s what I have for you today. I hope today’s edition gave you a bit of insight into how to make your precious cinematic gem more salable in the marketplace. As always, thank you again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday, when we’ll start preparing for the 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival and the Marche du Film, also known as the Cannes Film Market. Until then, I hope you have a tremendous week!
I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.