Wednesday, May 13, 2009

As if being a good director wasn't hard enough.

I just got back from a week in New York, screening my latest film for ad agencies there.

At one agency, I got applause.

I don’t bring this up to brag, but rather to make a point. But before I get to the point, you’re going to have to sit through a little more background.

The film was the same at all the agencies. The conference rooms I screened in were more or less equivalent. The food was provided by the same caterers. And the people attending--copywriters, art directors, and broadcast producers--were all equally professional, experienced, and talented.

So how come I got applause at one screening and not the others? Here comes the point.

The set up.

In each of the screenings, I set up the film differently. In some, I talked about my experience as a director. In others, I talked about my background in advertising. And in others, I went into a bit about the film.

I’m not going to divulge which approach worked the best, not because I want to keep it secret, but rather because it’s not important. What is important is that the right set up creates a favorable expectation.

I was fortunate. I got to try out different approaches in person and come up with one that led to a really positive reaction.

But even if you’re not presenting your film in person, you’re creating certain expectations for it with every aspect you create. Everything––from the title to the poster to the typefaces you choose––contributes to the perception.

Don’t believe me? Look at Hollywood.

If you go by The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, all anyone seems to care about is a film’s opening weekend.

Guess what. Nobody who goes to a film on its opening weekend has seen it before. So they’re going not because it’s a good film, but because it’s a good marketing campaign.

Marketing creates expectations. In the same way that standing in front of a screen in a conference room does.

This is why Hollywood studios spend as much money on marketing as they do on production. And why so many films open well and then fall off to nothing.

Make a great film. But do an equally great job marketing it.