Pre film marketing ideas

[First written May 28th]

Imprint teaser poster
My brain works in a very round the houses kind of way. But then, if you’ve read my other entries, you already know that. So before I even actually make the film, my brain is thinking of the Film Poster, the blog site, the potential marketing opportunities. Hence the mad idea of writing blog entries and posting them later, when I’ve got time to rework them – rather than just bash stuff out at the time. I tend to work on many things at once, and move from one task to another. It’s not ideal, but it’s the way that I have to work each day and it fits with the way my brain is programmed.

Some could consider that pre-marketing is a very definite waste of filmmaking energy – and they’d be right. However, what is the good of making a film if no one sees it? How are you going to make a film festival pick it up and select it to play at their event, if they can’t guarantee people will part with their hard earned money to come and see it? How are you even going to raise the money to make said film, if you can’t convince people that the film is a ‘goer’? – that it is really going to happen. Without a team behind you it is a lot of work for any individual to take on. However, I think it is a very vital part of the filmmakers’ responsibilities. And it is even more crucial when you’re sure that the short has potential as a feature and you want to promote the former to enable you to make the latter. Am I right?

After all, even in the big leagues it is written into many contracts that the talent must go out and help promote the film. But in the world of no-budget filmmaking you should really make sure that there is an audience out there for your product before you make it. Do your research, try word of mouth. Try at least to document your achievements and even your failings. Let them motivate you to try harder next time. You never know, even on a blog like this, people may be happy to lurk in the shadows and silently follow your story. They may even be rooting for you to succeed. It’s not just about the supportive comments – but they do help. ;0)

I have seen many films in my time, that are never likely to grace the special features of a DVD, in my time as a reviewer. I’ve lost the contact details of many a filmmaker because they have virtually no online presence and are too humble to promote themselves, to try and stand out from the mass of other wannabes.Roseblood Podcast image

Granted, for me, their is a risk with promoting a film that you haven’t even made yet. After all, I learned that the hard way, when after a year of producing the ROSEBLOOD PODCAST, the film hit the skids, just when it was about to actually happen! That was a shame, especially as it was a cracking idea, had so much potential – all we needed was a location. But sadly that was not to be and the production tanked. But it would have been a bigger shame to pour money into a project that was only ever going to grace a festival screen at best, and not have any word of mouth to help launch the feature.

Anyway, the point of this post is that I choose to promote my work. If I could pre-sell it I would, in order to fund the venture and keep making films. I’m no way even near that stage yet. But I would if I could. For me, most of these promotional activities start with having a visual brand. A logo, a poster or graphic that people can remember. Like the classic teaser posters that are used to sell films at film markets all over the world, that exist only in name form, with a possible cast list of marketable stars.

Now I’m no graphic artist. But I do have friends who are. And in order to help promote this film idea, I knew I needed a blog, and possibly a twitter site, and in order to stamp some kind of identify on them I needed a graphic, perhaps even a rough film poster of my own. So what better than an excuse to chew the fat, bribe a good friend with food and enlist their services to come up with ideas for the poster.

So what I did was send my good friend Paco the film script. Wait until he’d read it and was already psyched about working on the film. Them took him out for lunch and then bombard him with images of classic film posters. I talked about what kind of images were effective within the film. Spoke about what it was about those classic posters for the inspirational exploitation film posters, like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, STRAW DOGS, as well as normal posters like THE EXORCIST and ALIEN. To give him a few good examples to use, to reference styles of fonts and layouts etc to create an iconic image for me. And then I let the ideas percolate in that mad Spanish brain of his, while I planned my holiday.

Then, once he’d agreed to think about it, I allowed myself a week of relaxation to get over my early summer cold and the demands of my day job. A week of writing on my netbook, in Ibiza, working on the script / breakdown while I was away. In between cocktails, I planned the various props, wardrobe items, locations and sound effects I would need to make this movie… After all if I was going to make this movie, I had to break down the script to work out what I needed. Right?

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Life FAIL and writing woes

[Originally written 26th april]

Myself and Anna never actually got to hang out when she was down in Brighton. I was busy with work stress and trying to prep for ScriptFrenzy and failing miserably and Anna was caught up in the constant activity and networking WHCC 2010.

Work also got in the way of my writing – both on the last day when I had to work much later, to clear the decks in order to go on leave, a holiday I’d planned specifically for writing, and then on the Friday I was going away, when I was forced to have a confrontation with a client; in which I was so angry I just couldn’t think straight to write at that point, so wasted a whole day of my holiday and got nothing done; which wound me up even more. And then, wound up by wasting a day on the 2nd day, I got carried away and injured my left hand whilst doing a furious workout on the punch bag. So typing was painful and slowed me down a bit. I was livid and in pain. What a pointless combination and hardly the productive writing holiday I had planned.

Not only was I struggling to complete Script Frenzy when I went back to work, but on the 20th April the drummer from my old band, and a friend that was one of the few links to where I came from, lost his battle with Cancer. We were never that close. We talked trash, we shared the same friends and we shared a collective history. So I was surprised how it affected me. Death always throws life into extreme focus – makes you take a look at your life and evaluate the hell out of it. So it’s that much harder to perform to your best, to be warm to others and not just feel like you’re going through the motions. I think it was harder because I’d been meaning to see him and never got around to it, what with him going away for road trips and bucket list adventures, and me being tied to a slave like existence. And he was younger than me – something that is neither here nor there, but still brings ones own sense of mortality into razor sharp perspective. It really affected all of us.

Anna was incredibly supportive, although work were very much business as usual. But Anna was dealing with her own issues, being freaked out by her Dad’s fight with cancer, so for her to have time for me was very touching.

“…please don’t worry about keeping in touch or emailing me at the moment. I know how busy and exhausted you are, and I’m really amazed that you are managing to do Script Frenzy at all while being way over-worked.“

Although my day to day world was full of work bullsh*t and mechanical writing in the evenings. We still made time for some pre-production chats, with me responding to more notes on the script. There was talk of possibly canvassing Eileen Daily – to see if she would like to play a part. Talk of a possible Liverpool location -

“…the more possible locations we have to choose from, the better, as we need somewhere really good to shoot the murder.”

- and Anna did say that one of her contacts from the World Horror Con really liked my script, and that she’d be up for putting in a bit of money. And had some valid ideas to contribute:

“… [we] go to a lot of film fairs and comic marts, though nothing quite so sleazy as described here. The main problems that I could see were the number of locations, especially something like the film fair with the two scream queens doing their signings. If you were fortunate enough to get real scream queens their fees might eat into your budget. There are a number of film fairs at the Electric Ballroom, Camden, each year, which [we] go to. Between us we have quite an extensive collection of stills and posters, so maybe if you hired somewhere for this scene we could set up stalls with our collections on them and be the stallholders?

I’m also concerned about how you would produce the outstanding bills and all the various magazines [the main character] is supposed to look at and the DVDs offered to him by the dealer, as this would seem to involve a lot of original artwork, and the various things which he watches, which will need to be made first in order that he can see them. The whole thing reminded me slightly of both THE RING and the ‘Sick Room’ section of CRADLE OF FEAR. …”

- I do have talented friends who are graphic designers so we didn’t think the graphics, etc would be a problem.

There were also mentions that some of this contacts’ friends were members of the Dracula Society and might help out.

Anna also said, regarding a potential location or two, that a -

“…friend of mine has said we could use her sitting/dining room for the first two weeks of August if we had absolutely nowhere else, as long as we re-decorated and left the place looking exactly the same as it did before we started. There are a couple of problems though: her place is really nice, beautifully clean and nicely painted, etc. With some fitted cupboards. It’s long enough, but not terribly wide. … It’s more of a last resort. and also, I don’t know if we’d be ready to go by the first week of August…” also her partner has said “…that his brother’s house has a bannister in the open-plan sitting room on which someone could hang themselves, but the house is in Liverpool. I’ll try to find out whether that house would be a possibility (it will probably have lodgers in it) and I’ll try to get some photos. Would we even consider filming in Liverpool?”

I was busy using the power of the internet to source props and wardrobe items – stumbling across this website when looking at Rectal Thermometers;

- So we knew where to buy CSI gear from for the opening scene; despite it not being quite what I had pictured in my cinematic and not accurate brain.

So despite my emotional hell, the film was looking more possible with each passing day.

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Work stress and Script Frenzy

[Written in April 2010]

After the initial enthusiasm about the project, work had definitely been getting in the way. Not that I didn’t have enough distractions – what with gearing up to take part in Script Frenzy – the annual screenplay writing challenge. I was not only questioning the amount of time that this competition would require, in order to break down a feature plot and script 101 pages of it in 30 days, I was also questioning the amount of time and energy I would have for even the most rudimentary of correspondence; due to working insane hours and being exhausted each night when I got home. And my workload was showing no signs of lessening at all. The problem was that I had already bottled out of doing Script Frenzy tow times in a row and I needed to see it through if I could.

Anna was busy putting the word about locations, but had no luck, due to our need to splash a lot of the red stuff around, and that not usually being a popular move with borrowed home locations:

“unfortunately I don’t know anyone who’s prior to having their place done up, but I’ll keep asking. We definitely need a space where we can take the camera far away from the murder.”

- something also tricky to do, to use a supposedly believable semi-detached residence, but be able to get far enough back to create depth-of-field for certain shots.

Anna had been too busy to read the new version of IMPRINT as she was busy at WHCC in Brighton, but she was looking forward to reading carefully through IMPRINT again once she got back from it. There was no rush, what with my delays, but still as a writer you’re always dying to know what your audience thinks of each new draft.

It was around that time that we were also considering options for securing more investment; which would require breaking the script down firstly into a proper budget and putting a proper business plan together; and even speaking to a lawyer to sort out that side of things formally to protect us. And just learned of the route – although that was sadly a no-no, due to requiring a US address and bank account.

So a time very much of ideas but no action. Furious running on the spot….

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Queries and clarifications – from script to understanding

[Written in March 2010]

In between the inevitable preliminary phone conversations, where we excitedly discussed our hopes and desires for the end product, we also conducted email discussions around the actual Script; important discussions which are incredibly useful to the creator – to check that the vision in one’s mind has been sufficiently captured and then translated by the audience’s mind; to hopefully see only what you intended them to see and hopefully be manipulated by the requisite emotions at the appropriate points. Discussions which sense-checked every verb and punctuation mark, measuring the appropriate amount of sexual violence needed to offend; as well as reinforced the mutual enthusiasm for the potential of the core idea. It was also a time of very high level pre-production, ‘the-can-we-really-do-its’, focused purely on the most difficult image to stage and capture, that of the hanging, as the chosen approach would dictate the restrictions we would be forced to work around.

It was also around this time that I sought the approval of other potential crew members, to check if others would share our sick taste and want to get involved. Namely, my trusted friend and talented photographer / artist Paco Jaen. Paco was certainly keen on being involved, but I’m not sure if that entirely down to the cocktails I was plying him with, or the way I pitched it to him. But at that point he hadn’t yet read the actual script. I did pack him off with one to read though. Insisting that it was something he really must do before committing to help us out. As not everyone wants to be involved with such a sleazy idea.

Also, Anna remembered that she was going to be meeting up with a few potential investors / crew members at the World Horror Convention. Someone who might be willing to invest a couple of hundred pounds anyway and/or help out. Although we were both concerned that any potential investors would find our script too violent to want to get involved with. Anna was also discovering that her talents for networking, also meant that that various people she knows have police contacts (some quite high up) which might help; although the original networking mission was to start making enquiries about places where we can have blood splashing on the walls, but no guaranteed joy at that point.

Rather than actually socialise with other humans and interact with them. I was tasked with coming up with different ways to kill someone, for a vague film-within-a-film reference in the script. As well as making a few minor changes to the script, adding in a few notes for elements that we will revisit when it becomes a shooting script and cleaning up a few minor details etc. Ever the recluse, and too tired after work each day, I was in my element. There’s nothing like being fired up to work the keys and exercise your mental faculties.

Part of that enthusiasm was directed at looking for a new and more evocative title. I was already thinking about changing the title, from THE HANGED MAN to IMPRINT, but was conscious of there being at least two other recent productions already in existence, bearing the same name. However, Anna liked the title and when we checked out those other projects, we felt that our title better represented our idea and therefore it shouldn’t be a problem. The trick was going to be pulling it off.

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Of excited phone conversations and life’s interruptions

Anna is back in the UK.

[ Written 20th March 2010]

We spoke on the phone for the first time in ages, two nights ago, and we were both clearly excited about the possibility of making IMPRINT; although I was struggling to keep awake and sound lucid – due to going 4 days without sleep due to my permanently irritating insomnia.

We discussed meeting up to make plans for making IMPRINT. Sadly it is my life which is hectic at the moment, partly with work and also with the upcoming Script Frenzy challenge about to take up all of my time for Easter. But after April I will be all set to dive headfirst into the project. Until then we can certainly meet up and have useful chats and exchange emails, but I will have no time and energy for any serious work during the next 5 weeks.

However, having said that, we are both incredibly excited about having a project that we can both sink our teeth into. Something that we can both visualise as the kind of project that can be used as a festival entry and a fund raising calling card for more ambitious projects. We’ve already discussed an incorporated a few notes into the script and are considering some more minor details to work in – especially for the film-within-a-film snuff film elements.

Even my cynical questioning nature can’t put immovable roadblocks in our way at the moment. You know, the moments when you wonder if someone will be mad enough to let you fill their entire living room and dining room with a pool of fake blood and wonder how you will manage to hang a naked man from a ceiling without killing him and giving away the secret of how you did it? – just small roadblocks, but hopefully not immovable…. one possible crew member has already expressed an interest in signing-on even without reading the script and two others have quizzed Anna about helping out. The big question is at the moment, do we make it in Brighton or London? And to me the answer is location, location, location…. if we find a venue perfect for our needs that will dictate where we shoot the film.

Anna will be busy schmoozing in a week, when she comes down to Brighton for the World Horror Convention. Perhaps I may get to see her. But you never know, we could remain ships that pass in the night for a while yet. But that’s ok. I’ve got my hands full with the first draft of the feature script for EIBON HEIGHTS and the insane deadline that I have to complete it by.

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The birth of IMPRINT

Hi and welcome to this production diary for IMPRINT (aka THE HANGED MAN – original working title).

[Originally written on 3rd March 2010]

IMPRINT is a short film, currently existing only in script form, which is to be the first collaboration between myself and Anna Taborska; someone I met whilst attending a weekend Special FX course organised by Raindance. Whilst being shown how to make zombie intestines and rig cheap bullet hits we found we had a common love – horror; and actually spent more time talking about filmmaking than doing it – never actually putting the FX tricks that we were shown into practice.

We were very keen to work together although initially hesitant, unaware if such a collaboration would work. The only issue was that at first I was tied in to a production with BlackCABProductions and Anna was busy finishing off her documentary.

On the 17th Feb 2009, whilst I was stressing about the recession and being unemployed, and whilst Anna was back in Poland finishing the edit of a documentary she was working on, I was suddenly struck with inspiration; seeing a single image very clearly in my mind’s eye and wondering how things came to pass; how that body came to be. All I saw was a single pair of feet, dripping blood into a deep pool of blood and a TV tuned to static.

This is what I told Anna the next day:

“Last night I was wracked with self-doubt etc and for some reason it inspired a short film idea. I spent a few hours towards dawn, unable to sleep and writing this idea down in script form. Not sure it will work, or if it is too hackneyed, but the visuals are certainly interesting and pretty much doable in a low-to-no budget way. Tentatively calling it THE HANGED MAN.”

Anna was interested:

“Thanks Lee. I’m looking forward to getting The Hanged Man (if you are happy to send it to me)”

Of course, I hadn’t actually written it at that point. No, the film actually crawled along, rather than being birthed all at once; taking a year to get to a finished screenplay. Unless I have a specific goal in mind or deadline to meet, I tend to write in small bursts, whilst carrying my netbook around and usually, whilst trying to fill awkward waiting times, waiting for a friend to show up at the pub, or on the train. And this script was no exception, never written in one consistent setting and never with any clear direction or plan – simply making the film up from an emotional point of view, drawing on the darkness within.

Roseblood podcast bannerDuring that year I found work, I watched the planned collaboration (ROSEBLOOD) with BlackCABProductions die a bitter-sweet death, failed my exams due to the pressures of my busy day job, wrote plenty of short stories and even finished the rough draft of a novel, until eventually, in another dark place mentally one year later, I was drawn to dusting off IMPRINT again and finishing the script.

I actually ended up finishing it on the 20th of Feb 2009. Completely by random, unplanned coincidence, almost a year to the day!

“Finished a rough draft of an old unfinished short film idea today – THE HANGED MAN (attached) – and thought I’d send it over, in case you fancy reading it. Don’t worry if you haven’t got time. I just thought that you might enjoy it; although enjoy is maybe not the right word for a dark tale such as this. It’s definitely sick in the head and originally started out as a bit of unplanned writing fun, but proved to be an unpleasant story to finish. I’m not sure it is worth polishing up any further. I was sort of subconsciously channelling THE RING and THE LAST HORROR MOVIE when writing this.”

You don’t have to proof it. I merely sent it across for you to read, as it is the only thing that I have written in a while. I’ve just had a week off work and been sick with a cold virus the whole time. But today, almost the last day of freedom before I got back to work, I suddenly felt inspired to dust off this old thing that I started last year and play around with it. Don’t know when I willing to do any more writing any time soon.”

Two days later Anna responded:

“I really like your script.”

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