Monday, June 30, 2014

How do you promote a film?

Good morning!! There were an interesting pair of articles in Mid-Day today that I thought I would share.

The first asks why Bollywood filmmakers are now making everybody sign non-disclosure agreements so they won't tweet and reveal on-set secrets.

[P]aranoia in the industry seems to have hit a new peak. Mere instructions are no longer enough now; filmmakers would rather tackle the problem by taking the legal route. More and more producers are now making the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) mandatory as part of their film contract.

The second has Anubhav Sinha explaining why a 2 crore film needs to make 8 crores to recover its investment.

Here's the problem. On an average, films spend anywhere between Rs 5 crore to Rs 20 crore as part of its P&A. So you need a minimum for your film to be barely noticed by the audience. So if your film cost Rs 2 crore to make, you need an additional Rs 5 crore to reach out to people.

Anubhav "Ra.1" Sinha surely knows what he's talking about when it comes to getting a film noticed.

Filmmakers have realized they can't give too much away while at the same time, they need the attention to break through the wall of media noise. How do you get people's attention? A Bollywood film these days is not only competing with other films but with cheaper entertainments available on television and the Internet in India, as well as a whole host of entertainments available to diaspora viewers in America, UK, Canada, Singapore, Africa, Dubai… It's not just a matter of getting your average viewer from "Do I know what films are releasing?" to "I'm going to go see the new Shahrukh." But breaking through the wall of noise that is the 24 hour news media.

It is impossible for the average person to keep up to date with everything. There is just too much product out there and too much news (or "news") generated about it. Most people going to the movies don't even really care that much. We film buffs are outspoken online but in real life it's not a gripping moral choice of what film to see each weekend but more like:

"Should I see the new Shahrukh or that 500 million dollar Hollywood special effects film or something random my buddy picked or save money and catch one of eight million other choices available on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon streaming video, marathon a television show I've been meaning to watch, play video games with my buddies, watch the game, or just spend all night fuzting around on the Internet and torrenting random shit?

How do you get THAT GUY interested enough in your movie to go out to see it without annoying me? Can you do it? Is it worth it? The amount of media saturation it takes to reach the casual viewer will annoy the information-heavy crowd… but a handful of movie buffs won't get you a hit.

I'm not sure what the solution is. It would be great if small budget films didn't need to spend twice as much on publicity as they did making the film itself but other than reaching out to people like me who happily write away about films for free, there's no way to break through the noise.

On the other, big budget side, the non-disclosure agreements seem like a good idea, although I'm not sure how often it's the cast and crew ruining surprises and how often it's a) early reviewers spilling the entire plot because they think that is what "criticism" is or b) over-eager PR flacks desperate for ANY angle to generate interest.

I would be curious to see if any of the big heroes could pull off the Beyonce, top-secret, same-day drop. People would go to the theater on Friday night and see a new Aamir Khan film listed. Would anybody notice?

My personal information strategy is just to shut off all the taps. I don't watch television; I couldn't tell you what was playing at the multiplex down the street; and I'm not sure what any of the songs on the radio are. There is too much I actually care about and want to dig into to waste precious brain space on the avalanche of cultural detritus that doesn't satisfy any of my needs.

BUT I recognize that not everybody is like me and is willing to (or even WANTS to) disconnect from the cultural glue of things like "Dancing With The Stars" in order to devote hours to seeking out the cultural products that connect on a deep level, whether it's Kannada films or Japanese rock acts from the 1970s.

Films aren't central to most people's lives. So, how do you get their butts in the theater seats?

I don't know. And neither does the film industry. It's not about "making better films" (the knee-jerk Bollywood Industry Watcher response) but "making films people want to go to see" and those are two very different things.



Wow! Such Values!


odadune said...

The Beyonce album is not really a comparable situation IMO because it's not really much of a commitment to download an album off of itunes while you do something else, and listen to it at your leisure. The movie theater, like you said, involves someone committing to go there at a certain time, buying a ticket (reversing the order if getting the ticket online) and sitting down and watching something for 2-3 hrs. I think Aamir or Salman would be able to pull something like that off but it would have to at a time of year when the movie offerings tend to be dull, like the spring, and I think it would work better if you released it on a Thursday and gave the news a day to spread before the weekend started in earnest. And it would have to be an Aamir or Salman movie; Shahrukh would never miss out on the promotional circus (he's the only one who seems to genuinely enjoy it, perhaps due to his background in theater) and nobody else has the automatic drawing power.

I don't have any answers or pseudo-profound thoughts on the main issue, but I find it interesting that the established stars are beginning to move away from aggressive city tours as a promotional tool, with Dhoom 3's producers relying on Brand Dhoom, Brand Aamir, and Brand Katrina to do their work for them.

Also interesting is the Singham Returns team's decision to hold their fire til the last possible minute, with a first look poster coming out about now (month and a half from release) and trailer coming out on July 10 about a month from release.

Filmi Girl said...

I was looking at some web piece yesterday that said that the three major factors in the success of a film were release timing, content, and word-of-mouth. So in theory somebody like Aamir or Salman could drop a film at a "good" release time with "good content" and then see if word-of-mouth spreads it.

Aggressive city tours didn't seem like promotional tours for the film as much as a chance for fans in non-Bombay cities to see their heroes/heroines. It's fine for the film but I do wonder if lack of access to the HERO will mean in the long term…

But I have to admit I prefer the Singham Returns method of promotions. Let us know the film is coming with occasional photos of Bebo on set and then only being promoting when the film is about to come out so we don't get tired of it before it's in theaters…

Didn't Dhoom 3 work this way, too?

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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