Monday, March 10, 2008

They pay people to do this?

I went to a really cool seminar yesterday about feature film distribution. The panel was made up of "taste makers" who acquisition films for all of the relevant indie studios right now. I found it interesting that each one of these studios had a philosophy and certain type of film they wanted to put out. They sit together every year and decide what kind of films and statements they want to make. They all mentioned that buying a film at a festival is becoming more and more rare these days. They're really interested in acquiring screenplays and owning the whole production. They all agreed that theatrical release isn't where you make money these days, but that online, VOD and DVD purchases are most important.
What I found most interesting and relevant about this seminar was how these films are marketed and how they determine what niche to pursue distribution in first. Obviously they can't just do a marketing blitzkrieg for a small esoteric film, and in most cases that wouldn't be appropriate anyway. Instead they find "street teams" and alternate media plans that are specific to each film. A great example was from one guy who bought a film at Sundance last year called "Samoan Wedding". He and his team loved the movie but knew it wasn't going to play to a wide audience. After a little research they decided to only play it in Hawaii for two weeks to see how it went and then the plan would be to release on DVD and spend most of the promo budget then. Well, it worked, it opened in 2 theaters in Hawaii only with a huge word of mouth and little or no physical press and they made they're money back in two weekends. This enabled them to spend even more money marketing the film on DVD. There were lot's of examples of this strategy and were all tailored and unique to the style of the film and the audience they were trying to reach.

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