Friday, September 28, 2007

Yay Team!

Here's what's been keeping me busy for the last week or so - writing, designing and printing these sell sheets for Peace Arch's sales staff at MIPCOM.
Here's how a lot of this shakes down in production terms:
- While in preproduction, a synopsis of the story is written in a variety of formats - a logline, a paragraph, and a one-pager.
- During production, a still photographer is on set to shoot the exciting stuff that will sell the movie to viewers. THIS PART OF THE EQUATION IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! You want star shots, backgrounds, scenes, and most importantly NO BEHIND THE SCENES material. No director against the camera. No craft service. No shots of the stars not in a scene. The still photographer is there to tell the story in a series of stills.
- They are also there to get shots of the stars so that the marketing department can use those elements to create the key art (the art that all other art is based upon). All those shots you see on DVD covers of guys or gals holding guns are usually made up of three or four different elements - the guy, the gun, the background, etc... If you are a larger budgeted operation you have photo shoot days where the principal actors are contractually obligated to pose for key art designs. Actors trickle through and strike different poses which the designer later integrates into one shot.

These images are designed together and worked into a sell sheet combining images and a synopsis, a tagline, pics chosen from the movie, a list of movies that it is similar to, and a credit block. It is made into a cohesive package that lets the buyer know exactly what kind of movie this is (or can be sold as).
Sell sheets (and posters and ads) are used to hook the buyer into watching the trailer in the booth or suite at the market. A buyer from Wherever-stan comes in asking about thrillers that he can show on television. The sales team pulls out the sell sheets of the films they have that fits the buyer's needs. He flips through them and picks a few he likes...

Based on the images he sees in the sell sheets.

He's making buying decisions and he hasn't even seen one frame of your film's trailer let alone the feature. He will, eventually, but many of the important weeding out steps are done based on sitting in a hotel room looking at pictures. That's why marketing is an important step in the development of a movie - you must ask the question "How can we sell this picture?"
Now if you're the indie guy, the pulp guy then these sell sheets become even more important because often the decision whether or not a picture gets a green light is based on the key art and sell sheet. When SCARECROW SLAYER was greenlit it was based on the fact that we sold half the budget for SCARECROW by Day 2 of AFM. That was done with a poster and a trailer as the movie was still in post.
EVERY company that goes to AFM has some project that has only a script and a poster or an attachment, all in the hopes they can pre-sell the project to raise the money for the budget. GANGS OF NEW YORK was sold in this manner - based on it was a Scorcese movie with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Thing is, the internet is making this much much easier. People are going to fewer and fewer markets because they can see all the images and the trailers online. They can find what they want without ever leaving their office (or living room). They only go to markets to shake hands and put a face to a name. I'm going to AFM this year to do just that.
Just remember that all this business starts with the idea, the script and the direction - something you can do on your own. You back up that vision with solid pictures that sell the movie you're making. To not do that to the best of your ability is to really shortchange yourself when it comes to the return on your movie.


Vipin said...
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wcdixon said...


"Just remember that all this business starts with the idea, the script and the direction."

When you say direction, what do you mean exactly? Do you mean for selling a movie after its been produced (but confused becasue you are also talking about selling flicks before they get made)

Bill Cunningham said...

I mean the concept.

It all starts with the idea, the story (script) and the direction (the concept that sells the story).

It's part art direction, it's marketing direction, it's part that magical feeling you're trying to impart to the person looking to produce or buy your project.

You want something that clearly says, "This is the kind of movie this is..." All too often, that part of the process is muddied and creates a confusion within the buyer's mind.

If you know at the outset what sort of movie it is you're making and stick to that in all steps of the process you are leagues ahead of the competition.

That's what I mean by "direction."

Sorry for the confusion!