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Kristina Trapp and Sarah Calderón, from EAVE and The Film Agency

"A film doesn't need lots of money [to be promoted,] it needs a creative idea"

- Interview with Sarah Calderon, founder of marketing agency The Film Agency and Kristina Trapp, general director of the European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE), during a training workshop on new trends in film marketing and distribution

Kristina Trapp and Sarah Calderón, from EAVE and The Film Agency

On October 16 in Brussels, Cineuropa met up with Sarah Calderon, founder of marketing agency The Film Agency and with Kristina Trapp, general director of the European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE), during a training workshop on new trends in film marketing and distribution.

Cineuropa: Is it the first time that EAVE has organised a training workshop in collaboration with the Wallonia-Brussels federation?

Kristina Trapp: It is, indeed. It's fantastic that a support fund has taken the initiative to do something. They had observed that while Belgian French-language films perform well at festivals, this does not always translate into box office receipts or economic gains. The producers wanted to change that, to work on marketing. But they didn't really succeed and didn't always know how to proceed. The idea for this training session was to introduce them to experts who could explain how to best use social networks for marketing.

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A lot of professionals in Belgian cinema seem to have responded positively to this training opportunity.

Kristina Trapp: Yes, about 120 people signed up. That's a significant number. The room was full on the first day. For the second day of the workshop, we kept seven projects. We needed to limit the number of selected projects because the objective was to go more in depth. The projects are in different phases of their development: three projects were already completed and others are in progress or in production, and that is also very interesting.

Sarah Calderón: The people who were selected had to present a project file containing synopsis, treatment, notes from the producer, director and a small marketing strategy. As for us, we prepared a draft strategy - SWOT analysis, benchmarking, positioning, B2C [business-to-customer] and distribution, in order to advise them on these specific points. We will also be coaching them on social networks and online marketing.

Do you feel there is a lack of experts in film marketing?

Sarah Calderon: Yes, a little. The sector especially lacks professionalism.

Kristina Trapp: For years we have had difficulties finding a person with expertise in terms of both marketing as well as independent European cinema, not only for local and international cinema, but also someone who knew their way around alternative distribution and all that it entails. It was no easy task finding such people.

Why not call on marketing specialists?

Sarah Calderón: A lot of people call on big agencies that are not familiar with the film sector. They come up with very sophisticated and expensive tools, but they can't come up with a plan for the smallest budgets. They may also suggest a very original poster, but one that does not fit with patterns of audience expectation: You also need to reassure people according to what they expect. It's difficult when you are not familiar with the codes.

Kristina Trapp: It is also often a question of credibility vis-a-vis producers because someone who isn't familiar with the context of sales and distribution will exude zero credibility.

You have created The Film Agency. To what extent was this in response to a gap in the sector? Did you feel that producers weren't thinking about the post-production aspects of their film?

Sarah Calderón: You could say so. As a rule, in independent cinema the aim of the producer is to finish the film, which is already challenging enough. What's more, in recent times producers have had to make several films simultaneously in order to survive. The old business model is no longer applicable. Before, sales agents and distributors would pay for the films in advance. During the film's development or shooting, producers already had a sales agent and distributor - the questions being discussed today were therefore irrelevant. Nowadays, on the other hand, very few films are paid for in advance and producers have been left without any contacts. They are also facing the arrival of social networks and new technologies. That's why the whole way of thinking has changed.

The producers have to work from the beginning to the end of the film's life.

Sarah Calderón: Indeed. It's not only about discussing these questions but also about coming up with a marketing strategy that reflects the complexity of cinema marketing and which is easy enough for someone unfamiliar with marketing to carry out.

Kristina Trapp: Greater awareness is needed. Producers must understand they have a unique audience for each film and that a theatrical release isn't always suitable for each film. There are other ways to draw people to films. We are beginning to see a change in this respect: at the beginning of our training workshops, about four years ago, producers were still very unwilling. But they now realise they need to change and to go with the flow.

What advice would you give to independent producers to reduce their marketing costs?

Sarah Calderón: It's difficult to give general advice. A film doesn't need lots of money [to be promoted,] it needs a creative idea, like we saw in the case of Mobile Home [+see also:
film profile
. They could have spent twice the amount on outdoor advertising but instead, they did something quite original which allowed them to connect with the public. There are also films that need to spend money on marketing to become a 'good film' and for their presence to be felt on the streets. At any given time, you cannot avoid the question of spending. It is necessary to predict and anticipate, and take advantage of this as much as possible. For instance, in the B2B [business-to-business] and B2C [business-to-customer] tradition, you don't need to spend too much money in B2B and risk not having enough for the B2C. For example, the marketing for the Palestinian film Omar by Hany Abu-Assad was done through both B2B and B2C and required very little budget investment - and yet it allowed the film to be released with 15,000 followers to share all that was going on. My advice would therefore be to know where to spend or not to spend, and make sure that the spending is in compliance with the desired goal. You also need to think about how to budget during the development stage: You can pay for a huge number of things that can later be used in all the other stages of the film.

One of the lessons of this workshop seems to be to start early with marketing.

Sarah Calderón: What you do early on is less expensive. We were talking today about parcelling when it comes to film merchandising. With this in mind, in one month you can organise a film release in Belgium. With four months in advance, you can do it in China. If you want something immediately, you pay the highest price. That's obvious and it applies to everything. I really appreciated the fact that everyone had the same message today. It's really important for producers: to organise themselves well in advance. 


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