In starting to plan a release, the film distributor has to decide how it will present a film to a potential audience. They need to decide what sets this film apart from all the other films that are on release at around the same time – they look for a film’s ‘selling points’ or ‘hooks’. If, for example, the distributor is handling an action adventure film, they will need to identify aspects which set it aside from other action adventure films.
Kezia Williams | Head of Theatrical Distribution | Entertainment One UK & Chris Besseling | Director of Marketing | Pathe UK
In deciding what the selling points of a film are, the distributor will consider many elements: how the storyline differs from other films and what the key elements of the story are, who stars in the film and what were their most recent films, where was it made, is it based on a well-known book, are there innovative special effects who is the director and what were his/her most recent films, is it a sequel to an earlier hit?
Taking all of these into consideration, the distributor will then decide which elements to stress in the marketing campaign (advertisements, posters, trailers, online clips) i.e. how to position the film in the market place.
The ‘hooks’ of a film must help potential audiences come to an understanding of what they might expect when they go to see it. The visual campaign – the posters, trailers, online clips - will emphasise the hooks and give the target audience a ‘narrative image’ (an idea of the film’s story).
Genre can be a very useful tool in positioning and marketing the finished film. The understanding of genre is shared between the audience and the film industry, so if for example a company is marketing a horror film, the audience will expect certain elements to be evident, this might be settings such as woods, isolated houses, etc. The characters might include teenagers in a particular type of suspenseful situation. These elements are expected by the audience and drawn on during the production, writing and casting. However the promise of a genre film is not just to provide us with the familiar, but to also to provide something new. This might be in terms of new dangers, new settings.
Some genre films rely on audiences getting attached to the character or characters and wanting to see how a fresh situation challenges them. Audiences want to know what happens to well-liked characters such as Luke Skywalker or James Bond in their next adventures. In these types of genre films (‘franchises’) we see a return to familiar characters and settings but the narrative is disrupted in some way.
Part of the pleasure here for audiences is the familiarity of the character, their behaviour and attitudes being revisited as well as offering something new in terms of the adventure on offer. This is also challenging for the film companies involved, and can be very costly. They need to develop interesting storylines that will keep audiences coming back.