For the final time, welcome foolish mortal to the blog and the final entry into #HORRORMONTH. For this fifth and final week we will be tackling the subject of ‘MARKETING HORROR’ and how to get your films the exposure they deserve.
Once again I do not profess to be an expert of all things Horror and marketing. The promo and release of our short horror films is something I enjoy a hell of a lot and have tweaked throughout the years to try and reach as big an audience as possible. I hope sharing some nuggets of information on how we promote and release our content may inspire you to try a similar approach with your own work next time roung. There are huge benefits to marketing your work and if you want to build an audience and maintain a steady viewership, I’d even argue it as essential.
When Directing a short there are always portions of my brain that focus on the edit, the vfx needed, the grade and of course the marketing. I think that marketing your work is as just an important step as any other part of post production and should be treated as such. It’s all well and good making a killer short but if no one knows it exists, it’s likely you won’t get the reaction you wanted or it deserves – promotion is key. We live in an age of social media where even the everyday joe can broadcast a message to hundreds, even thousands of people simultaneously. Why wouldn’t we want to utilise this as filmmakers? Nearly all social platforms have now adopted a ‘story’ function or LIVE feed facility. Although fairly new and still getting used to it myself, without spoiling the entire film it doesn’t hurt to post about what you’re doing on set, even what you’ve been up to prepping for the shoot. This all helps to build a buzz and get people involved with your work. Twitter has been a key staple in a lot of our shoots, we try to tweet from the set as much as we can, dropping teases of information or glimpses of the horror we are creating. Try it on your next shoot if you can and then try to keep that momentum up right up to the release.
*Images Copyrighted to ‘Thomas Hodge’ of ‘THE DUDE DESIGNS’
Last year I was lucky enough to meet one of my all time favourite Movie Poster artists ‘Thomas Hodge’ AKA ‘THE DUDE DESIGNS’. I met him at the Grindhouse Planet Film Festival (check out more about the day HERE) and it was great to talk to him a little about his work, his process and what he loves about making Movie posters for a living. It was great getting to talk and I was able to get one of my absolute favourite posters of the last decade (for Hobo with a Shotgun) signed. Hodges work really stands out to me as it favours hand drawn visuals and a vibrant colour palette. Immediately his work stands out in the crowd when lined up with row after row of predictable, Photoshopped creations.
*Images Copyrighted to ‘Marc Schoenbach’ of ‘SADIST ART DESIGNS’
Another artist I greatly admire would be Marc Schoenbach of ‘SADIST ART DESIGNS’. Again his colour choices are vibrant and garish. Marc designs a whole lot more for the indie horror scene and has even had his work used on Vinyl releases of some of my favourite horror soundtracks. I think with artists like Marc and Thomas (above) it is apparent that they have a huge passion for what they do and want to bring back the artistry and craft that’s missing with poster designs today.
When I think of a Horror movie poster it usually has the sensibilities of a 70’s Hammer Horror film. It’s a collage of twisted faces and screams. The subjects are hand drawn or painted and brightly coloured. Just because it’s a Horror film we are selling doesn’t mean it can’ be eye-catching. This is very much something I consider whenever I am coming to design a poster of my own. What makes it stand out?
When approaching my own work I always like my posters to stand apart from what my peers are creating, and go against the conventions of what is expected from a typical Horror film poster these days. So many posters have become Photoshop heavy and feature the desaturated screaming portrait of their female lead star. Above is a gallery of some of my personal favourites from the promotional material we have released. One of my favourite parts of releasing our work online is getting to promote it and create these images to entice existing fans and heighten the curiosity of new viewers.
Posters and social media are not the only forms of marketing that can be used to push Horror into the public eye. Horror movies especially have been creative since the beginning with the way in which they have been promoted. William Castle was a famous Horror Director who loved a good gimmick to accompany his pictures. Whether it be the special glasses given to audience members with his release of ‘Thirteen Ghosts’ or the gliding spectres in the theatre that screeched across the ceiling when ‘House on Haunted Hill’ was released. This kind of cheesey promotion was expertly mocked in the opening to ‘SCREAM 2’ with the screening of a film entitled STAB where the audience had glow in the dark knives and complimentary costumes. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is another great example of a Horror film from yesteryear that used a very innovative technique to market itself to a wide audience. In various newspapers in the births and deaths section, the film bought out several adverts commemorating the birth of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and informing the public of when the film would be released.
Marketing campaigns nowadays for big budget movies often make up the majority of budget. There are so many platforms that people need to be reached on. Print media is dying out as Social Media takes over, but still buses, bus stops, bill boards and magazines are plastered with posters and the faces of the stars we know and love. The game has become somewhat predictable, so every now and then when a film decides to take their marketing to the next level I am all for it. Although not exclusively horror based, JJ. Abrams is a Director famous for his air tight sets and ambitious marketing campaigns. With ‘CLOVERFIELD’, ‘SUPER 8’ and more recently ’10 CLOVERFIELD LANE’ ARG’s (alternate reality games) have been used to envelop fans in the world of the movie. I followed the ‘SUPER 8’ campaign particularly closesly and was even ‘physically’ mailed a certificate of acceptance into the ‘Rocket Poppeteers star fleet’ – a fictional brand of Ice Cream and Cartoon show in the film which really wasn’t seen that prevalently. These sort of campaigns adopt a great sense of verisimilitude, whereby they take the potential audience for the movie and take them on an adventure, convincing them that the events of the film world are true and we can all be a part of it. It really is exciting stuff and although nowhere near that level, it doesn’t hurt to do a little research.
In the past I have tried a whole host of things to get the word out there about a film I have set for release. Everything from handing out posters in the town centre, giving them to the public and leaving them in shop windows, to posting on message boards and social media accounts. Some of my attempts have marketing have been far more successful than others. I think it is possible to ‘over market’ something and it is important to know when so much is ‘too’ much. I have done countdowns on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for a whole 7 days leading up to the release of a short but never really noticed a difference in the amount of support we get compared to when I am not so thorough. It is important to utilise all of the platforms you have available but perhaps not all at once. Know who your audience is and try to gently remind them you have something new on the way.
One of the best bits of advice I could offer to any filmmaker would be to seek out reviews of your work. There are plenty of indie film news sites and more often than not they will review local and genre specific work. Horror filmmakers are incredibly lucky as there is a huge fan base and community available to get involved in. I have been incredibly lucky to have reviews sent to me about my shorts both in written and even video form. It’s not a bad idea to send out your work prior to it’s release, like studios do with conventional feature films, to get quotes and ratings to be used in the marketing for the film. Using this technique I was able to put together the short teaser above for ‘SANDMAN’ a month prior to its release online and weeks prior to its premiere at Mayhem Film Festival. I think having some genuine quotes and feedback from critics really adds to the legitimacy of your project. I’ve used quotes from local and international horror sites in our promo and I think our work looks all the more impressive for it. Why not try it? The worst that could happen is that you don’t care too much for the review, but it also provides you with some constructive feedback you can put into action in your next project. We’ve been really lucky in the feedback we have had on our work and I would like to say a huge thank you to a couple of sites in particular, for their continued support and killer content. BLOODY FLICKS, HAUNTED MEDIA and MODERN HORRORS have really had our backs on the work we have created and it really means a lot! Check them out and even get in touch if you have a project you think they’d like to review.
Speaking briefly in my point above I think it is important to acknowledge the importance of a trailer, even a teaser. Trailers these days can spread like wild fire online. Even just this last week the new, (absolutely terrifying) trailer for the 2017 adaptation of ‘IT’ was released and it has been viewed millions of times over all platforms, on a whole host of channels. That is complete worldwide exposure in a few days. Although it is unlikely your work will reach those levels, the principle remains the same. Dangle a morsel of information in front of your audience and slowly reel it in until your audience has no choice but to bite the bullet and watch your work on the day of its release. Review quotes can be used, if someone else has praised it, chances are other people will like it and want to watch too. If your film has had a run in the festival circuit use those laurels, getting selected for any festival is a huge privilege and a great achievement. Be proud of that. Push as hard as you can and without giving too much away let your viewers know its worth their time to check out your work.
Another key thing to remember, especially when publishing your work online is the use of thumbnails and I know it sounds obvious, but also the title of your film. Considering the likes of YouTube and Vimeo, thumbnails are something that can really get your work discovered and into the hands of people who might appreciate it. How many times have you scrolled through YouTube and clicked on a suggested video at the side, purely based on how cool or weird the thumbnail is. Similarly if something on your recommended list has an intriguing title, chances are people will take a look. The more consideration and time you put into this the better, more people will notice your work and your following will continue to grow from project to project. Just take a look at our example above for ‘THE FINAL GIRL’. We utilised a quote from a review at ‘BLOODY FLICKS’, a few of our film selection laurels from around the world and finally a creepy image of one of the villains in the film. The thumbnail on its own tells a story and that the film has been on a journey, hinting at some of the horrors the film contains.
I don’t think it hurts to network online too. Find out who your peers are online, who else makes films similar to what you do, see what they’re up to and have a chat. Tweet fellow filmmakers, comment on other horror short films and try to feed people back to your own work. You don’t have to spam people to get people to perhaps show your work some love. I have known a good amount of people online for a fair few years now and we always support each others fresh uploads. The Horror community is a large one full of interesting people. Get to know some of them.
Overall I don’t think it hurts to try and get creative with your marketing. Try new things, like always try to be original in how you get your message across to your audience. Don’t outstay your welcome and be cautious of pushing a project too much. Band together with fellow filmmakers and genre fans and support your peers.
So there we have it, that concludes our #HORRORMONTH here on the blog. We have covered a hell of lot when it comes to making Horror movies (CHECK OUT THE OTHER ENTRIES HERE) and we really hope some of the information we’ve shared might help you on your own project one day. The support for the blog and our work in general continues to grow and we will always be grateful for that. We have plenty more fresh content on the way and maybe some other spooky surprises just around the corner, so please stay tuned.
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