Industry Report: Marketing
Interview with Fraser Bensted
- Fraser Bensted, Independent Film Sales Manager of Picture Production Company, took part in the 2010 edition of the Marketing & Distribution course at the Media Business School, where he gave a lesson entitled “Audio Visual - Creating Promos and Trailers”. Cineuropa spoke with him about this important aspect of communicating with audiences about a production
IMPORTANCE OF A TRAILER
The important thing with the trailer is that it is the first opportunity for members of the public, your potential audience, to be able to see the film. It's the representation of the film as it will be shown in the cinemas. With Internet now, it's the first time that people choose to view a trailer. In the past, the idea was that in a cinema, where you have a captive audience, people who pay to see a film, sit in the right environment, they see the trailer in the right format, as it will be projected. It's like looking at a free sample, like giving something away. Therefore it needs to be perfect because it's the first time people are going to experience what the proposition is. It's very important in that regard. Perhaps these days, there are Internet activities and certain things happening but I think the trailer is still the point on which people focus and I think they understand what their experience is going to be.
CHANGES IN THE MAKING OF TRAILERS
In terms of real changes, the biggest that you could have seen over the last 10 to 15 years, is the influence of technology used to edit the trailer. Material moved into the digital age and we are able to cut a lot faster, we can produce more variations of edits. Within the various editing, thanks to software packages available, there are different ways in which you can create transition, different effects that you can place on the image. If you were to look at the last ten years of trailer production, you'll probably find that they have become faster, more dramatic. In terms of the effects, what has been done to the material that is not native to the film itself; it may be splat up, flashes of color, different transition going on. Those are the main differences that exist, with the desire to be more and more creative and to really make sure that you are telling a very clear story and selling the trailer in the best way possible.
KEY ASPECTS OF MAKING TRAILERS
You have to ask yourself the question: am I doing the right trailer for the right audience? The trailer has to be beautiful as well as target minded, you have to reach certain people and tell them the right things in terms of marketing, whereas the director of the movie wants to make a peace of art. Can you explain the balance you have to keep between art and industry? This balance has been the classic problem in the film industry since day one. It quite depends on the distributors’ expectations, and how important is the audience they are trying to reach. If they believe that there are a large number of potential audience members within the public, then they will be interested in it and will need to create a piece of work that appeals to the broadest audience available. If they think it's slightly more niche, there's going to be a limited audience, then they can think of creating something slightly more artistic, more interesting, more challenging. The trailer will be able to present the film to the chore audience and possibly a small amount of people on the periphery but still stay true to the fundamentals of the story, how it looks, how it feels, without having to sell it out necessarily. Everything is about potential audience.
DISTRIBUTORS' POINT OF VIEW
A trailer has become one of the key marketing tools and they have to be made at a very good piece and still be creative. In terms of what they do to make that trailer, the tendency is towards trying to create material that does appeal to the broadest audience possible, as opposed to narrowing it down. It is about commercial fair because that equals box-office success: getting people in during the first three days. It is very important in the UK in particular. A successful opening week end will determine the rest of the life of the film.
The Shining becoming a romantic comedy (see here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfout_rgPSA) is an extreme example, but the purpose is to illustrate that, in a trailer, you don't have to stick to the particular story that is being told within the film. You may just want to isolate a particular area within the film, which is correct for the way you want to sell the film. If it is a film particularly bad, there are ways in which you can find the best material possible to try and pull it out and make it more interesting, more sellable. On the other hand, a film could be fantastically brilliant but the story that it is telling may not be the appropriate story that you want to tell in order to sell the movie. So at that point, you have to sell the story without telling it! It then becomes a product, and you want to attract the largest audience possible so you have to think about ways in which you can manipulate it. It does not have to reach the extreme of The Shining but the point there is an opportunity for you to think outside of the course and create something that you think is appropriate for your audience.
If a trailer does not engage an audience, it has failed. It means that that viewer is not going to buy a ticket for that film nor is he going to tell his friends about it. It means that the exhibitor is probably not going to play the trailer because they will look at it and think that there is nothing about this that helps them selling the film to a potential audience, who will turn up the next week when he will put it in his cinema. If the exhibitor does not like it you have a big problem because it is not going to be seen. Yes, there is internet but the point of playing a trailer in a cinema is to make sure that all the people who are in the audience one week are going to return the following week to see that new film. So if they do not believe that that trailer is capable of conveying them a message, they are not going to play it, and if a trailer does not play, it is dead, it does not exist. So it is all about engagement. You have to have a reaction to your trailer. It may be that you do not necessarily like the trailer, you can make a good trailer that still engages but it will engage a particular type of audience. Different people have different tastes but ultimately there has to be an aim to engage a certain proportion of the public.
TRAILERS FOR DOCUMENTARIES
The main point is not to hide that it is a documentary, and whether people believe it's a documentary or not is kind of irrelevant, I think. What's important is the story and people being interested in seeing that story or not, and in a cinema particularly. You want to present that as a cinematic proposition. It has to be something that people are willing to pay money for because they can also get it on television. That is what people think about documentaries. They are also happy to sit in an audience for an hour and a half, two hours and experience this story. The trailer does not necessary need to state clearly that it is a documentary. You want people to engage with the chore values, the narrative, the human angle, whatever the reason for making the film in the first place.
FOLLOWING THE DEVELOPMENT OF A MOTION PICTURE FROM THE BEGINNING
Being close to a film may add something, even if it may sometimes be proven problematic. You could have an editor who becomes over exposed with the material just as when you have a director or a feature editor trying to create marketing material for the film. It can be problematic. The point to avoid is getting tired of it. If that happens, it is more likely that we will move on to another editor and get a fresh pair of eyes, someone who has not grown tired of it. That's the important thing, to keep it fresh, keep looking for the new way in which you could explore the story.
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