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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

From the IFP Conference: Everyone's in the Media

Mark Urman of THINKFilm is of course a marketing and distribution genius -- he handled "Spellbound," "Born Into Brothels," and "The Aristocrats," among other recent hits -- but here's one important thing he doesn't get. (And there's a lesson here for filmmakers.)

Urman was a panelist during an IFP session today on "Niche Marketing."

"Print media is in terrible crisis," Urman said, adding that there is no longer a guarantee that you'll get reviewed, even if you open in a theater in New York.

But blogs and Web site like MySpace, he said, are "not proven." MySpace "is not an alternative, when I have a film that will appeal to a 47-year old suburbanite. They're not going on MySpace; they're not YouTubing. They're reading the New York Times."

As Urman was talking, I was poking around the THINKFilm site.

Now, let's imagine that I was a blogger who happened to run a blog for 47-year old suburbanites, and I had just seen a THINKFilm movie (let's say it was "Then She Found Me," a great movie from Helen Hunt that THINKFilm just picked up at Toronto). I want to tell my readers about it. I go to the THINKFilm Web site looking for a promo clip from the movie, or some still photos to use on my blog. But to get to THINKFilm's press download area, you need a password -- and there's no information about how to get one. Nowhere on the site could I even find a press contact phone number or e-mail.

I work in traditional media, and I'm also a blogger -- and when I encounter a site that asks me for a password to prove that I'm legitimate media, I almost never fill it out. It's just a hassle, and too often I don't hear back until after my deadline. (Especially when there's no phone number on the page to tell you who to call to prove that you are "real" media.)

So if Urman really wanted to let non-traditional outlets promote his movies, he'd simply put the press download material out in the open, where anyone could get to them. That way, if the NY Times or Daily News don't have the resources to write about one of his movies, a thousand bloggers will be able to fill that void.

The lesson for filmmakers (and other studios): make it INCREDIBLY EASY for anyone who wants to help publicize your movie to do so. Production notes should be on your site, making-of clips, production stills, press releases, cast bios, your prize-winning recipe for beef stew, etc.

Urman did have some very good advice during the panel (I'm sorry I didn't take more notes), but THINKFilm ought to be more of a leader on its Web site.

One more comment from him, which is very good advice for indie filmmakers: from the moment a big studio green-lights a film, they start researching its likely audience and planning the PR and marketing campaign: how do we reach that audience? Indies, even though they may have fewer resources, need to start thinking about PR and marketing right out of the gates, too.

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