62th THESSALONIKI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL ||
Agora Talks - S2M (Story2Market)
An introduction to film marketing
Within the framework of the 62nd TIFF’s, the seminar S2M (Story2Market) was held on Wednesday 10 November, at Warehouse C, focusing on the topic “Introduction to film marketing from development”. S2M is a new workshop for professionals of the audiovisual field, starting in 2022, organized by Aegean MEDIANET, in collaboration with Thessaloniki Film Festival and the Aegean University. The panel included Stephen Cleary, Development Consultant and Director of Studies - S2M (UK), Vicky Miha, Film marketing Consultant and producer, Asterisk* (Greece) and Mathias Noschis, Film marketing strategy designer and founder of AlphaPanda (Germany).
Christina Liapi, sales representative at Heretic (Greece), moderated the discussion. At first, she invited the founder of S2M, Lena Rammou, who thanked everyone involved in the S2M initiative. “Thank you for being here, I would like to thank everyone participating in the panel, and accepted our invitation, the Thessaloniki Film Festival and the Aegean University, who started this journey and a collaboration with us, but I would also like to thank our sponsors, the Greek Film Centre, the National Centre of Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME), Sofia Meetings and companies Alphapanda and Asterisk* for their support”.
The discussion started with Vicky Miha analyzing the drastic changes cinema has suffered the past decade. “There were some important changes made in the last ten years, as you all know. Apart from the online platforms who have great power, t streamers are also gaining a lot of power. Just think that in 2010 we didn’t know any of these. Technology is constantly evolving, I remember the films we distributed in 2009-10; they were mainly in film, they were not shot digitally. Also, social media changed their strategy completely. Imagine that nowadays there are films focused entirely on social media. Therefore, the way we approach films nowadays is very different from the way we did in the past. There are also various trends that we observe closely, like well-known directors doing TV series, for different audiences than they used to”, Miha explained. “In order to appeal to a larger and a bigger audience, they have to create projects focused on a very specific targeted group. This is a new skill, how to narrate a story through the marketing prism. It is very important that directors and producers should understand the way the market works”, she added.
Then, Mathia Noschis took over to share his own vision of the constant change in cinema. “I always felt that there was a missing link between production and distribution, as if they spoke a different language. Especially in Europe, directors mostly make films without having the audience in mind, while distribution speaks the language of the market. These two worlds do not communicate enough and my job is to find a code for them to understand each other. We make a great effort to explain the language of distribution to the producers and directors, because it helps them, it empowers them. Let’s be honest, at the end of the day, the producer hands over the rights to the distributors, they are in control of the film. However, if the director can discuss with them, the discussion changes completely from “please, take my film” to “I can now select the distributor that understands better my vision and my film” and this is very important”, he pointed out.
“A big change in cinema was related to the interaction between films and social media. As we saw at the Film Festival in Canada this year, almost all of the films were present on social media, compared to the previous years. They build their own strategy in the market and they attract a lot of people, affecting the habits of the audience in choosing a film”, he stated.
After that, Stephen Cleary explained the use of a new approach by directors and producers. “One element that I’ve seen changing in the last 5-10 years, from the producers’ side, is that their projects are now more flexible. More specifically, the idea that the story someone wants to tell doesn’t have to be pre-decided and that they can develop in the process, is common now. This happens because the more digital technology evolves and social media multiply and affect the world around us, the more people start to think of new stories in a much more complex and flexible way. This change is already here and changes the way films are produced. How can you make a story if you don’t know the story to begin with? This is a very important question”, he pointed out.
“First of all, you don’t need to make any decision early on as to where you want your story to go, on the contrary, you need to get experienced people in your team for all the different directions. But how does the new direction affect the creativity and the decisions of the director? Be careful, I am not saying that you have to take a different route, but I was always thinking this: how was cinema in 2006 and how will it be in 2036? The audience is changing and evolving very fast, our knowledge on how to make stories multiply, as well as the technology we use to make them. Everything will be so different in the future and we have to find new ways to communicate with each other. For example, how would it be to plan a distribution strategy before we can even decide the story we want to tell? A reverse-engineer process, that goes beyond the traditional scheme “I have a story, how can I sell it?”, Mr. Cleary added, showing the trailer of a new film, which got funding before there was even a script, in order to explain his argument.
“We chose them based on their talent and we gave them the freedom to move as they wanted to. The idea came from the following thought: how can I sell my film, without someone knowing what it is about? The production companies decided to shoot a film only on Wednesdays, for a year. The film will show these 52 Wednesdays in the life of a family. The idea came before a script was written, before they even started to think about how they wanted this family to be. Of course, you do need to have a good story, it’s just that you don’t have to start from there”, he commented.
After the introductory statements, the speakers explained in detail how S2M can help producers and directors. “In the beginning, the director wants to make the film as complicated as possible, to add many layers, to mix different genres, to try new things. The job of marketing is to make the film simple and to be perceived in ten seconds. We try to understand all the important elements of the film and identify its three pillars that will constitute the basis of the marketing strategy. Firstly, the audience we want to attract. Secondly, to find our initial pitch of the film. Finally, to find similar movies and the way they have been promoted in order to see what they achieved and what not, which will help us with the promotion of our film. If we follow these three simple steps, the marketing strategy of the film will be at a very good level”, Mathias Noschis explained.
After that, Stephen Cleary returned to the issue of marketing, explaining that “It is very important for the director to define early on the identity of the film and the way they want to promote it. Then, you make specific moves, some specific rules that maximize the chances to succeed. Also, you can redefine the relationship with the audience. Usually, we had a film and we tried to promote it. Now, we can discuss with the audience, ask how they like our idea, ask them to vote, we can give Awards, we can do whatever we want!”, he stated, while discussing the freedom social media offer nowadays.
Mr. Cleary referred to Aristotle, explaining that he was the first person who tried to shade light to why a story has to be interesting. “Aristotle was the first person in the history of art, who examined a story and attempted to make it comprehensive and appealing to the audience. The goal of a story is to make the audience care, because a story can make the audience change, evolve. So, everything we are discussing today is not an outcome of marketing, but an Aristotelian idea, the basis of ancient tragedy, which is always with us”. “Our website will start functioning at the beginning of next year. Our programs run for a few months and they are addressed to screenwriters, producers, directors. The ideal case would be to have a project in its early stages, in order to go through the different steps together. In addition, producers can come to us without having a specific idea. There will also be online workshops, with the help of people from all over the world”, Mr. Cleary commented and concluded the discussion.