How do film companies and festivals utilise online marketing? (PT.1) / by Sian Parker

On the 18th of August, A Film Club was kindly invited to an event hosted by the Film Distributors' Association in London. The Film Distributors' Association is the trading body for theatrical film distributors in the UK who release films for cinema audiences; from certified full length features to event cinema.

During the afternoon, there were two sets of talks from a variety of industry insiders, both of which related to social media, multi-platform releases and online distribution. The first panel included representatives from Dogwoof and FrightFest, and here were our findings...

Still from Dogwoof's  Life, Animated  -  Source

Still from Dogwoof's Life, Animated - Source

Documentary, distribution company Dogwoof buy the worldwide rights to a film and then sell these rights on; whether that is to AmazonNetflix or as a straight to TV sale. As the EU pushes towards a Digital Single Market as part of the Digital Agenda for Europe 2020, they have found the notion of simultaneous worldwide release and distribution to be problem for their sales companies.

Dogwoof works by identifying films they like and how they would like to sell them. Releasing a film simultaneously worldwide, as appose to the optimum time in each country, means that indie films are likely to suffer. This is due to being unable to accumulate necessary traction, using the varying techniques and levels of promotion, required in each territory. When it comes to their films, there is no one-size-fits-all, and therefore each and every promotion depends on the individual film's content. Taking this into account, it is easy to imagine how difficult a Digital Single Market would make the process of figuring out who the company need to reach, as well as the best place to reach them, and all at the same time, across the globe.

From their experience, Dogwoof have identified the most effective form of promotion for them to be newsletters - as they are direct. In accordance to this, utilising social media in and around festivals is key for connection, and a way of drumming up interest; particularly as their social media accounts have a following of their own now. That being said, they do reach out to key communities offline too. Recently when releasing a documentary starring a subject with Autism, they found it to be effective to reach out to Autism societies and charities directly for engagement.

FrightFest's 2017 Poster -  Source

FrightFest's 2017 Poster - Source

UK-based, Horror festival FrightFest, hosts film submissions for the festival via FilmFreeway. Despite the vast amount of films being submitted, as entry has a fee, every single film needs to be reviewed. FilmFreeway allows for submitters to see when their film has been viewed, but also how it has been watched. This means they are able to track if their films were devoured in one sitting or paused in the middle. It was noted that an increase in female Directors and Directors of different ethnicities submitted to FrightFest year.

Twitter is incredibly useful for FrightFest as it lends itself to pinpointing events or links for those interested in the festival. With a single tweet, direct and helpful information can be shared with their followers, i.e.: tickets go on sale here or watch a preview here. Additionally when FrightFest announce the event's programme, they will include the Twitter handles of all those involved. Once a star is announced and linked, they will often promote their appearance and consequently the festival too.

FrightFest's Co-Director carries out the PR work for the festival, and works in conjunction with others, depending on the films within the programme. For example, if a film is from Universal, they will work in partnership with them in order to promote the film's appearance.

The festival will also take interview questions from certain websites that correlate with their target audience, such as Bloody Disgusting and Shock Till You Drop, as well as give exclusives to other outlets too. FrightFest are aware that Horror fans already know they exist, and therefore are working to reach the people who don't know about them.

As the discussion came to a close, conversation turned towards whether projects could rely solely on organic growth through word of mouth, or if there would always be a need for marketing.

The Film Distribution Association complete a yearly quiz centring around what entices you to go to the cinema, and year-on-year the most popular answer has been hearing you must see a particular film from someone you know. Yet when it comes to the online world, and with social media being a level playing field, it is crucial for films to have PR Agencies on board to market everything as much as possible. It was concluded that if a film plays well, it will naturally have audiences going to watch it, but there will always be marketing to some extent.