Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

ARTICLE - Movie Marketing 102

I stumbled upon the below lengthy article in The New Yorker titled, The Cobra: Inside a movie marketer’s playbook, which gives the reader an insiders look at how film studio marketing departments operate.

Much of what I read I was already familiar with; however, it all still depresses me to be reminded of just how much "business" has devoured the "show" in show business. Forget the art and mechanics involved in the production process; to any marketing exec, your film is no different than a Double Cheese Burger from your choice of fast-food joints. How can we make it accessible to as wide an audience demographic as possible? Thicker slabs of beef? More ketchup? 6 slices instead of 4 slices of cheese? Eliminate the buns altogether? Sure, it just might kill them, or at least, lead to unhealthy bodies, but, we're making money, and that's more important.

Piece by piece, your film is taken apart in an attempt to find something within it (or sometimes something that's not even in it) that can be packaged and easily sold to audiences that are thought of as not much more than sheep. And whatever vision you as the filmmaker may have had for the film means very, very little to them. So, you might see a finished version of your film that is vastly different from what you created, even though your name remains stamped on it.

By any means necessary.

Here's a snippet:

It is often said in Hollywood that no one sets out to make a bad movie, but the truth is that people cheerfully set out to make bad movies all the time. It is more accurate to say that no one sets out to make a movie without having a particular audience in mind. Many studio executives argue that films can’t objectively be categorized as “good” or “bad”: either they appeal to a given demographic—and make the studio at least a ten-per-cent profit—or they don’t. “Most critics are not the target audience for most of the films being made today, so they’re not going to respond to them,” Sony Screen Gems’ Clint Culpepper says. “How a fifty-six-year-old man feels about a movie aimed at teen-age girls is irrelevant.”

Interesting take - especially the first 3 sentences! And I might be inclined to agree. There are no bad movies; it's all subjective anyway, right? One man's trash is another man's treasure? Our life experiences contribute immensely to who we are. So, I may not like a Tyler Perry movie, for example, since he's such a polarizing figure; but I'm not going to dismiss anyone who does, if they connect with something within the movie, even though I didn't.

Here's more...

An unexpected corollary of the modern marketing-and-distribution model is that films no longer have time to find their audience; that audience has to be identified and solicited well in advance. Marketers segment the audience in a variety of ways, but the most common form of partition is the four quadrants: men under twenty-five; older men; women under twenty-five; older women. A studio rarely makes a film that it doesn’t expect will succeed with at least two quadrants, and a film’s budget is usually directly related to the number of quadrants it is anticipated to reach. The most expensive tent-pole movies, such as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, are aimed at all four quadrants.

The collective wisdom is that young males like explosions, blood, cars flying through the air, pratfalls, poop jokes, “you’re so gay” banter, and sex—but not romance. Young women like friendship, pop music, fashion, sarcasm, sensitive boys who think with their hearts, and romance—but not sex (though they like to hear the naughty girl telling her friends about it). They go to horror films as much as young men, but they hate gore; you lure them by having the ingĂ©nue take her time walking down the dark hall.

Older women like feel-good films and Nicholas Sparks-style weepies: they are the core audience for stories of doomed love and triumphs of the human spirit. They enjoy seeing an older woman having her pick of men; they hate seeing a child in danger. Particularly once they reach thirty, these women are the most “review-sensitive”: a chorus of critical praise for a movie aimed at older women can increase the opening weekend’s gross by five million dollars. In other words, older women are discriminating, which is why so few films are made for them.

Older men like darker films, classic genres such as Westerns and war movies, men protecting their homes, and men behaving like idiots. Older men are easy to please, particularly if a film stars Clint Eastwood and is about guys just like them, but they’re hard to motivate. “Guys only get off their couches twice a year, to go to ‘Wild Hogs’ or ‘3:10 to Yuma,’ ” the marketing consultant Terry Press says. “If all you have is older males, it’s time to take a pill.”

There's a lot more where that came from.

If articles like these are meant to dissuade novice filmmakers from entering the business, it might work. It certainly has an effect on me. I don't want to have to play this game, but it's a game that one has to play to succeed.

Of course, you can completely bypass the studio system altogether, and instead tread down the just-as-challenging DIY path many filmmakers have, are, and will continue to take. No matter which way you go, the road will be bumpy.

Read the entire piece HERE.


  1. The Wendilicious Wonder said...

    So... novice film-maker begins a side (or main) career as a market trader, makes tons of money on a regular basis, makes and finances his/her movie, gives the finger to mainstream show-biz execs...

    Sorry, was I dreaming out loud again?

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