Fishing Where The Fish Are

Data rich and direct – Two incredibly attractive characteristics of digital technologies in their application to the film business

Both of which were highlighted in debate at the EIFF Screen International conference on 17 June and throughout the programme of events over the 18-19th.

The phrase “making a film for a known audience” or equivalent terms are often misinterpreted to advocate a paint-by-numbers approach to filmmaking that conjures thoughts of groupthink dominated studio mediocrity designed to be four quadrant successes. Certainly this baseline intelligence article raises such issues.

The criticism often levelled at simplistic readings of the area, is that no variables can guarantee success, no matter what data is now available about the market prior to production. This is undeniably true. The inference that therefore effort in planning or working on marketing and distribution concerns at an early stage is a waste, or that such work is in a binary relationship to concentrating on creative aspects of the package is incorrect. Both aspects are necessary for a film’s success.

The EIFF “Target the Audience” panel noted the historical dearth of UK films for teenagers, how British films tend to skew older. Streetdance 3D and Attack the Block have bucked this trend and succeeded.

This does not mean that all producers should then only make films for 14-24 year olds, informed by data mining Facebook. However, when budgeting and executing any particular project the independent filmmaker wants to make, they should be aware of the relative market size for their particular film and understand how a distributor would seek to profit from that market (thereby informing themselves of likely MGs, chances of pick ups).

Access to greater information about consumption patterns and response to marketing materials is made available through data from new tools that deliver product more directly to consumers.

EIFF partner Distrify, a tool to sell movies socially allows direct conversion to purchase in any window from digital marketing techniques. Tools like Distrify, flicklaunch and studios integrated into social networks enable the user to understand audiences for films better, build brands and develop exploitation (marketing and distribution) strategies that may increase profitability. Disintermediation as is possible gives the filmmaker a greater slice of the pie. Depending on how a film is financed exploiting home entertainment windows directly may or may not be possible. How the finance plan is structured should reflect the likely audience for the particular film.

Selling certain international rights worked for $9m The Kings Speech and the film benefited from a Weinstein Company release. This was budget and audience appropriate. Using P2P via Vodo to gain attention and then use PPV globally is not going to work if the filmmaker has sold international rights in order to make the film, or if the main audience is over 40.

Digital tools should be understood contextually as a component in a system to manage uncertainty not as means to guarantee success.

They do not provide de facto solutions to the problems of the film value chain in themselves. But they may allow filmmakers to be more able to capitalise on creative content that does work for a given audience.

Michael Franklin
Research Associate, Creative Scotland

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