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It’s the economy, stupid!

During former President Bill Clinton’s 1992 run for the White House, his chief political strategist James Carville coined the phrase „it’s the economy, stupid”, to remind Clinton and his campaign staff that the economy was chief among American voters’ concerns at the time. Today, it may seem even more crucial considering the political climate in many countries which are now submitting to more populist ideas. How is this related to the movie industry? Well, it appears movie producers might think about hanging a sign over their desk stating: „it’s about promotion, stupid”.

On the surface this suggestion may look a bit impertinent, however it doesn’t come from an negative assessment of the environment. It comes from experience showing that more often than not, after years of development, financial sourcing, weeks of shooting, and months of postproduction, the producer reaches the end, the final cut and pre-release review, and is satisfied his efforts are complete. He believes he’s accomplished what he set out to do; his adrenalin falls and he must now patiently wait for the effects and public favor. Unfortunately, such reckoning is woefully misplaced, as this is only half the battle.

Many will say: „I have a professional and experienced distributor, a P&A budget , the film has been scheduled at festivals, the premier date has been reserved”. What else should we expect from our poor producer? Here’s some advice: „Take care of your business and get involved in the promotion”. A producer maybe makes one or two movies per year. Sometimes only one movie every few years. Distributors generally sell several, if not dozens of titles per year. This changes the perspective. It’s not that the distributor doesn’t care, of course he does, as the film’s success  effects  his own profit. However, he doesn’t have much time and limited knowledge about the project, as compared to the producer. Sometimes the distributor has a different perspective –he  also brings experience, and contacts. And these assets are worth using. But nothing replaces a professional approach to promotion realized by the producer from the beginning of the project in tandem with the distributor. When I hear that a promotion strategy and plan aren’t necessary; that it was created a few weeks prior to the premier; buying only billboards and cheap spots just before screening; I can’t escape the feeling that this is like doing extreme sports without insurance. There are no second chances. In a majority of cases, the opening weekend in cinemas decides everything. And this casts a dark shadow over the future potential of a movie.

This is why it’s advisable to not to focus only on posters and DVD covers. There’s value in considering matters such as: target groups (maybe not one, but several, because for some audiences the main character will be relevant, but to others perhaps secondary characters or story lines may be more appealing) and how to reach these groups. Maybe instead of TV advertising it’s worth reaching out to Youtubers, preparing a viral campaign on social media, to engage influencers, or also by doing focus group research? All this requires many weeks of planning, analysing, studying and processing of strategies. Some authors might say: „My movie is not a product, it’s not a commodity; the art speaks for itself”. And it’s possible they may be right. However, there is one big „but”, because in order to appreciate outstanding art, one first needs to see it. Without good promotion, even the biggest pearls of cinematography may not reach potential recipients, not convey what the creators wanted to express and not influence, as much as we all would like to, culture and society.




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