Now to start, there are many reasons why films are forgotten that are out of the filmmaker’s control: (Scheduling, The market, Advertising dollars, Bad PR) But one of the biggest challenges of selling your film is an over saturated marketplace. Because the truth is most films aren’t that unique. Even when separated by genre they still all tend to blend together. So let’s begin with a way to make your film standout that is in the filmmaker’s control.
1. Story Is Everything
The very best way to brand your film is to start by having an interesting story. You need to create unique moments and elements that truly give audiences something to talk about. Now creating a perspective that has never been seen before is easier said than done. And writing a great screenplay goes beyond the scope of this post. But as a creative, it is your job to come up with those ideas or find someone who has them. And the best way to do this is through research. In an earlier article, we reference Ten Great Resources to Research Your Next Film Project, because in order to build on what’s been done you have to know what’s been done before. Researching great books and films will help you understand different types of story sensibilities and help develop your own voice. Is your story sending a message or for just pure entertainment? Is it more true to life or does it feature larger than life characters? Are you taking a risk or playing it safe? Keep in mind that taking risk isn’t for big Hollywood. This is reflected in the number of sequels and remakes that we see. So there is a fine balance between new ideas and doing what’s familiar. A trick to this can be using what’s generally known to explain a new concept. However, when writing, it may not be so important to focus so much on this. At the end of the day just tell a compelling story because sometimes great moments happen organically. But once you have a good story go back and look for those memorable movie trailer moments to make your film even greater.
2. The Genre Brand
Finding your target audience is an important part of branding. The same rule applies to films. Film audiences are targeted by genres because no one film appeals to everyone. Who your film appeals to lets you know if there is a market for it and how it should be sold. Also, familiarizing yourself with a particular genre and how it has evolved helps you specialize in a niche and become an expert. It’s okay to borrow and pay homage, but you want to find new angles and ways to build off of it. Then you can work backwards all down the line of creativity. However, targeting can be difficult because it forces you to impose limits and focus on how your film is defined. This is challenging for some filmmakers who naively feel their film shouldn’t be limited to any particular audience. But you have to define your film in simple terms because trying to be all things to everyone means you will be nothing to no one. But I believe finding a niche forces more creativity and allows you to carve your own identity. You can sometimes even find new undiscovered subgenres. Tyler Perry was able to do this successfully by tapping into an underserved female church-going audience. And if your film is still a neither here-nor-there type of film, you still have branding opportunities that are in your control with social media. Social media is great for finding little pockets of subcultures and interest that haven’t been discovered. Then you can use social media to bring that same audience along the journey to promoting your film. It’s kind of like selling your film before actually selling your film, rather than the “spray and pray” method of throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping something sticks.
3. Creating Your Own Visual Style
There are many ways to film two people talking. There are many ways to film a car chase. How are you being different? Film is a visual medium and people remember more what they see than what they hear. Is the editing style quick and choppy? Are you using heavy CGI? Is it silent or more upbeat? Do characters say everything up front or are things left to be discovered? Whatever it is, you must find that unique selling proposition that makes it stand out. That’s why I love the idea of storyboarding and previsualization. It allows you to map out everything to see what works and how you can improve. And although audiences remember more what they see, what’s more important than visuals is how they feel. If you can tie emotions behind a great revealing character moment or plot point, the better. Just remember, broad and simple universally distilled concepts are easier to sell. Other areas where you can brand your film is through interesting locations, costumes, hair, dialogue and etc. Whatever it is, you must have something unique about your film. Even if it’s a quirky low budget indie film.
4. People As Brands
There is nothing like being in a room and hearing actors read your dialogue for the first time. It’s when your film starts taking shape and really comes to life. Casting is an art and like any art, subjectively there are good and not so good decisions. And Nothing takes you out of a film quicker than seeing bad actors perform a scene. But in order to attract great actors, you have to present material that interests them. This takes us back to the first bullet of having a great story. What is it about the story and characters that hook them? What is that moment that when they get to set they can’t wait to perform it? In the end, actors want to be challenged and tell great stories as well. And the good ones are like movies until themselves who can hold our attention and carry a film. Casting is also about finding a balance between types so that they’re appropriate for the story and read well on screen. When the cast is right you can’t imagine the film with any other actors and sometimes they can redefine your entire film.
5. The Right Poster Art
Friday night when looking for a film to watch on Netflix or at Redbox, what’s the first thing you see about a movie? Besides the description, it’s usually the movie poster art. Movie posters give tons of information about the type of film it is, the genre it’s in and who it stars and go a long way in branding your film. But finding the right combination of images that define your entire film is harder than it looks. When designing a film poster are you using the appropriate fonts? Are you featuring key actors or is the design more conceptual? Are you stretching your imagination beyond what’s expected or going for the obvious? Can it be easily recognized or become a viral social media meme? Movie art must be thought about beforehand because you must have the still photographer on set to capture the moments or try and stage it afterwards. Then you must hire a good graphic designer to make your film different than the thousands that are already exist or set to come out. Keep in mind also that different designs are sometimes used for different markets and territories around the world. This is because different regions have different sizing standards, customs and cultural sensibilities. “International Movie Poster Awards (IMP) Awards” is a great source for getting movie poster ideas. You can also check out Black Movie Posters to see how they’ve evolved over time.
6. Finding That Right Sound
And finally, the last way to brand your film and make it memorable is through music. Music and stories have a way of connecting to humanity deeper than anything else can. And when the right music is added to the right scene at the right moment, it can be transformative. This is because sound is vibrational and touches the human heart at a visceral level. We physically feel sound. This is why music is said to be the universal language. When you think about music from your favorite film, think about how the film and soundtrack are almost synonymous and in some cases take on a life of their own. However, music can be very expensive so choose carefully. But there are millions of songs in the world, so with enough work and research you should be able to find that right sound to fit your film.