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Podcast – Everything you need to know about film marketing

Three experts on screen marketing break down everything.

Splice of Anthony Grundy, Demi Hopkins and Michael Matrenza's headshots.

Anthony Grundy, Demi Hopkins, Michael Matrenza

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

Start early.

When it comes to marketing, this key piece of advice is repeated by Screen Australia Distribution Manager Anthony Grundy, Madman Entertainment Senior Marketing Manager Michael Matrenza and Carnival Studio’s Demi Hopkins.

In the latest episode of the Screen Australia Podcast, each of the three guests discuss what marketing can do for your project, why you should be thinking about it even before the cameras start rolling and practical steps you can take to identify your audience and know what assets you need. While Grundy provides a screen agency perspective and advice for those applying to Screen Australia, Matrenza is able to speak from a distributor’s point of view at Madman Entertainment, and Hopkins – who developed A Practical Guide to Key Art (see here) – dives into the do’s and don’ts of key art.

“I think the biggest takeaway for the producer is to really think about the marketing needs of the film, because they are vital,” Grundy says. “Budget accordingly, give time in the schedule to capture this – it absolutely pays off down the line – and early strategy and collaboration with the partners is the way to achieve this.”

Subscribe to Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

Audio Transcript

[00:00:05] Caris Bizzaca Welcome to the Screen Australia podcast. I'm Caris Bizzaca, a journalist with Screen Australia's online publication Screen News. Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge the countries we meet on. Although you might be listening in from a geographically different place, we are all joining from unceded lands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I'm joining from the lands of the Gadigal people who are of the larger Eora Nation, and as a visitor on this land have great privilege to work on this country. Always was, always will be. For this episode of the Screen Australia podcast, we are joined by not one, not two, but three guests who are each going to talk to us about all things marketing - what it is, why you should be thinking about it even before the cameras start rolling, and practical steps you can take to identify your audience to know what assets you need and much more. First up will be Screen Australia's distribution manager Anthony Grundy, who will give an overview, provide advice for anyone putting together a Screen Australia application and also some of the big do's and don'ts. Then we'll be joined by Michael Matrenza, the senior marketing manager at Madman Entertainment, who will be giving his insights from a distributor perspective. And then last but not least, we'll be joined by Demi Hopkins, the creative director at Carnival Studio, who developed the key art for films like Ladies in Black and who will be explaining what key art is, how it works with trailers and his advice for filmmakers. It's a big ep[isode], so we'll jump right into it, but as always, remember to subscribe to the Screen Australia podcast through places like Spotify and iTunes. Feedback can be sent to [email protected] and subscribe to Screen Australia's industry eNews for all the latest from the local industry. First up, here's Anthony Grundy from Screen Australia. And so welcome back to the podcast, Ant. For anyone that hasn't listened to your episodes on distribution, go listen to that now, but also, can you give a little refresher - what's your role at Screen Australia?

[00:02:11] Anthony Grundy I can, thank you. Thanks for having me back. My role at Screen Australia, I'm in the production investment team and my focus is on projects as they kind of move from completion through to release. So I work with distributors to maximise the potential for our films, and I run some distribution programs that specifically fund distributors to give Australian films a wider release and increase the awareness and visibility for our films. And more recently, I've had lots of fun managing the SCREEN Fund, which was a twenty million dollar initiative the federal government gave to independent cinema to help them through the impacts of COVID. And I also do one off initiatives like the Summer of Cinema campaign that we did last year.

[00:02:58] Caris Bizzaca Great, and so a bit of a loaded question, but why is marketing important?

[00:03:05] Anthony Grundy Well, if a tree falls in the forest and... I think, I mean, I'm speaking from a feature film perspective, but a lot of this applies to television and online. I think if you were to say the audience is the 'who', then marketing is the 'why' and the ability for content creators to understand what the content does for the audience and why they're going to be drawn to it is a piece of the puzzle that if it's really solved at the beginning, it really pays off at the end. And what that value proposition for the consumer is. It could be just wild entertainment, so films-- and exhibition talk about this a lot. A lot of cinemas run 'chicks at the flicks' type of programs, and they're looking for content that is just Friday night with the girls. So that occasion is something that is a very common cinema going occasion, and you know what content can fit into that category, whereas sometimes people are looking, and this is obviously in the documentary space, where they're going to learn something, so there's an educational component to it or there's an inspirational component or there's the thing that the content can give the audience can be articulated and defined. And that then forms part of the positioning for the way that the distributor is going to market that to the audience.

[00:04:27] Caris Bizzaca And so you've talked about why it's important. Do people applying to Screen Australia, do they need to be thinking about marketing at that application stage?

[00:04:42] Anthony Grundy Yes, and the interesting thing when you look at the timeline of what happens throughout the green light and production and release of a piece of content, the idea of, it's being positioned to someone at every step of the way. If it's to a funding body or to an investor or to a casting director or to a cinema or to the consumer. The idea has to be boiled down to something that makes people very quickly go, 'oh, I get it, I want it, that makes sense. I think that there's a place in the world for this piece of content.' So understanding that hook and the positioning of the film is something that is vital at the application stage. So when we're looking at what comes in, the projects that stand out, you can see there's a super clear understanding of who the audience is and why that audience may be compelled to see it in cinemas or otherwise. So sometimes you look at things and you go 'oh the natural heart of this audience is probably not in cinemas, but is likely to be on a streaming service - where the most number of people are going to engage with this content.' So one of the things that we ask for when people apply is for them to give a marketing strategy, and that's a tricky name. Some people read that as well, how will the distributor market it to the consumer? And, like, we'll do bus sides, or we'll do, you know the actual call-to-action style marketing components. And while that can inform what the document is, the document isn't really about that. It's about just the fundamental building blocks of who is the audience, why they're going to go, how are we going to reach them, what's the scale of the film - is this a small art-house film where the festival strategy is fundamental to its success? Or is it going to be a really big crowd pleaser that will play at Hoyts and Events and Village? So just understanding from the applicant where they think their content fits into the landscape, I think, is the documents that are great. They do that really well. The other thing I think with, you know, sometimes the distributors write these documents, sometimes the producers write these documents. My advice is, it should be a combination because across those two entities, you've got the content creators that deeply understand the content and the potential. But also, the distributors lens is able to look at that and boil it down and commercialise it and understand where its potential lies. So the ones that are written and the collaboration between the filmmakers and the distributors, I think, are clear they don't need to be thirty pages long. The best ones I've read are a page and a half, and they just really understand the positioning of what the content is, you know, really understanding comp[arison]s. What is this content like? It's like this other content, and that's what it did. And of course, all of this stuff is not set in stone. You've got to start somewhere. And I think really smart producers understand throughout the process as the project moves along, well, maybe you have to change course, maybe who you thought the audience was slightly different or genre-wise, actually, we're going to-- this might be a horror film, and we want a position at more in the thriller space or having the ability to just course correct along the way. Understanding what changes impact those bigger picture levers that are going to be pulled along the way, I think is really smart.

[00:07:55] Caris Bizzaca And so you mentioned how, you know, sometimes distributors write those documents, sometimes producers do, like how much is marketing the responsibility of filmmakers and how much is the responsibility of a distributor or, you know, a broadcaster?

[00:08:09] Anthony Grundy I think it used to be the responsibility of the distributor or the broadcaster. And I think increasingly producers have to understand what steps are going to come when they hand the film over and start to plan for them accordingly. And there's more of a requirement for producers to have some ability to understand marketing. I think that that is just a shift in the landscape and also because there's a number of reasons that inform that. And one of them is that the distribution landscape has changed and the financial models don't work the same way that they used to. Whereas, you know, ten to fifteen years ago, a distributor could kind of buy their way to an audience and spend a significant amount of P&A because ancillaries don't add up the way they once did-

[00:08:55] Caris Bizzaca -and the way people consume films is completely different to what it used to be.

[00:08:59] Anthony Grundy Exactly, exactly. Audiences are harder to reach, they're more expensive to reach. The spend has to be smart.

[00:09:04] Caris Bizzaca They're kind of more niche as well. You have so many more fragmented audiences than you used to have.

[00:09:08] Anthony Grundy Exactly, exactly. And the role that social media and digital marketing play in the way consumers find out about films and screen content, I think has changed the way marketers need to think about what assets need to be collected. And some early strategic thinking and capitalising on having all of the elements of the production and planning out what that rollout is going to be is just essential. I think that that's something that has definitely changed. So I think the biggest takeaway for the producer is to really think about the marketing needs of the film because they are vital, budget accordingly, give time in the schedule to capture this stuff - it absolutely pays off down the line, and early strategy and collaboration with the partners is the way to achieve this. And I think drama could learn a lot from documentary. Documentary filmmakers have a great track record and understanding of the role impact campaigns play in helping to understand who the audience is, but also connecting the themes of the film with that audience. But I think those principles apply to drama as well. And again, just connecting that understanding of who the audience is and why are they going to care and where are they going to engage with this content? And if it is at cinemas, what's going to motivate them to pay twenty bucks to leave the house and engage with the content?

[00:10:34] Caris Bizzaca One very successful documentary impact campaign that did just that was for a feature documentary called That Sugar Film. It released in March 2015 and went on to earn one point seven million in Australian cinemas, which puts it as the fourth highest grossing Australian feature documentary at the local box office ever. It was distributed by Madmen Entertainment, where Michael Matrenza works as senior marketing manager. Madman are responsible for a variety of feature films and documentaries, everything from High Ground to Hunt for the Wilderpeople to the Australian Dream. Here's Michael first telling us a bit about his background in the industry.

[00:11:14] Michael Matrenza So I've been working in film industry in Australia, in Melbourne specifically since 2009, I started out at Roadshow Films in the marketing department there and then a very brief stint after a couple of years there working at Melbourne Film Festival and then straight into it with Madman, where I've been for about ten and a half years. And so pretty much all that time working in marketing, started out in sort of publicity-specific roles, and I sort of moved into broader marketing roles over the past seven or eight years and primarily working in theatrical distribution for all but one year of that time.

[00:11:55] Caris Bizzaca And so just as a bit of an idea, what would be some of the projects that you have worked across over that ten year period?

[00:12:02] Michael Matrenza Yeah, so in those first couple of years at Roadshow, a mix of blockbuster and Australian content, so you know, titles like The Dark Knight, but also Australian content like The Square and Beautiful Kate. And then in the time at Madman, a really good mix of international cinema, local cinema, docs, you know, campaigns, especially on the local front at Madman, like The Australian Dream, and High Ground, and Gurrumul, Mystify, 2040, That Sugar Film. So, yeah, really a sort of a long list of local content at Madman, of course.

[00:12:41] Caris Bizzaca And so, yeah, a bit of a broad one to start with, but why do you think marketing is important?

[00:12:48] Michael Matrenza Yeah, so I think there's often a bit of a misconception from those that don't have much to do with marketing day-to-day that they confuse I guess, marketing with advertising, that marketing is simply a process where you buy ads to reach an audience, and that's what marketing is. But marketing is very much a strategic framework, and it's not just those implementational and executional tools like advertising and publicity, but it very much is a process that starts with building a framework around something to connect with an audience. So in the case of film, it's very much sort of creating the story around the story. So once you have a film, you want to sort of figure out how you're going to position that film to best reach an audience, so it involves really building it a set of key messages and key positioning statements that are going to really help frame that film in the best possible way for it to reach an audience.

[00:13:41] Caris Bizzaca And at what point of a process would a company like Madman get involved with the project in terms of that marketing strategy?

[00:13:51] Michael Matrenza Yeah, it really varies on a title-by-title basis, especially with international films, sometimes we will get involved with films, maybe after they've had an international festival debut and our team have had an opportunity to screen it or something like that. But when it comes to local content, with almost no exceptions, it's very early on with Australian and New Zealand content. Almost all of the projects we're involved in, we're involved when the project is at script stage and, you know, really working closely with the filmmakers right from that development stage, all the way through production and obviously into campaigns. So I struggle to think of many exceptions in recent years where we've come on board with a local project after this film has been completed.

[00:14:37] Caris Bizzaca And why is it important to be involved from that early script stage?

[00:14:43] Michael Matrenza I think in part, its commercial considerations, of course. There’s a number of distributors working in the space and everybody wants to work on the best content. So it's very competitive and hence, getting in early allows you to make sure that you're involved and at the exclusion of others that you're competing with. But I think, especially from a marketing standpoint, the benefits of being involved at that early stage are significant. I mean, so much of the seeds that form the marketing campaign on local titles are really planted prior to production. Obviously creating opportunities to secure the right materials during production and get everything prepped in terms of early strategy. Being able to have those conversations with filmmakers before the film has shot always pays huge dividends down the line.

[00:15:35] Caris Bizzaca And what are some of the key things then that Madman is thinking about with marketing for projects?

[00:15:43] Michael Matrenza Yeah, so there's two key sort of categories I think we're considering when it comes to marketing considerations, when we're looking at projects that we're first getting involved with. Once a project is completed, once a film is completed, we tend to sort of do a SWOT analysis, which is, you know, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And I guess that's really to look at what it is that we're working with, you know, what are the strengths of the projects we can lean into? What are some hurdles to its success? What opportunities can we look to specifically for that project? That's specific events or audiences that we could tap into. And then threat: so external factors that might be tricky for that project, whether that's specific timing things, or specific things to a project like whether or not there's going to be talent around and available to participate in the campaign and that sort of thing. And outside of the project itself, we're looking very much at who we think the audience is really for a specific project. So, who do we think the audience are in terms of demographics, behaviour-graphics? Whether or not they're a cinema going audience is a huge one for us in terms of knowing whether or not we think the project is viable for a big cinema release, and then for that specific audience, what are the media habits because that really determines how we're going to reach them. For example, if it's going to be a younger teen audience, they can be trickier to reach than a more mature audience because they're much more fragmented in terms of the media they consume and how you can reach them. So that can be trickier, whereas a more mature audience is a very tried and tested way to communicate with that audience for campaigns.

[00:17:22] Caris Bizzaca And talking about the demographics and audiences, like people often say, ‘my project is for everyone, it has a really wide demo - an older demo can see it and a younger demo will love it, too’. What are some of the questions that filmmakers should be asking themselves to really know who their audience is?

[00:17:43] Michael Matrenza Yeah, this one comes up a lot. And there's that sort of clichéd saying that as soon as you hear someone say, 'my project is for everyone,' for a distributor, in your ears, it can sound a lot like 'my project is for no one specifically.' And we're really looking to engage with filmmakers in conversations around even if your film is something that might be enjoyed by everybody, who are the core audiences that are going to drive success for your project. So some of the questions I think that filmmakers can ask themselves to help determine that audience is thinking about different categories of audience, you know, what different sort of media and entertainment do they think that certain demographics or cultural groups enjoy? And then from there, what elements of their project, whether it's things like cast or plot or the tone of the film, what are some sort of common traits that their project might have with other entertainment that's out there that they associate with particular audiences and try and find commonalities there that might lead them to think, okay, well, I know this particular film was really enjoyed by this group in society. I think there's some elements in my film that are common to that, so maybe that's a good audience for me to focus on. I think the big trap there is, and this definitely comes up in some conversations that we have with filmmakers, is that the distinction between the idea that they think that if a particular audience saw a film, they would really enjoy it, and whether or not the film actually has the hooks to get that audience in in the first place, you know, we've had plenty of films that we know from testing that sort of do play really well to audiences, but can be really challenging to get that audience in the door in the first place. So thinking about particular aspects of a project that they know will be attractive to an audience, that's the really key thing.

[00:19:31] Caris Bizzaca And in terms of these marketing strategies, do distributors develop them independently or alongside, say, like a sales agent?

[00:19:41] Michael Matrenza Look again, one that varies a little bit project by project. We do have really close relationships with a number of the sales agents that we work with, and especially on local content, we tend to go first, of course, usually with Australian films in terms of release. But we'd like to have a really collaborative dialogue with sales agents to make sure what we're doing is potentially going to create some really good building blocks for the international territories that might follow. So whilst the marketing strategy for a release in Australia, it's very much home-grown and we do create those independently. We do collaborate with sales agents frequently on some of the key marketing collateral, especially things like trailers and key art. A really good example is working on Nitram recently where we were collaborating locally, of course, with Stan, but also working with an international sales agent there to make sure that some of the elements like the trailer and the posters that were being released in and around the film's debut at Cannes were helping sort of position the film well for international success that would hopefully come after that domestic release.

[00:20:48] Caris Bizzaca And you mentioned key marketing collateral there. What are some marketing materials that every project should have?

[00:20:56] Michael Matrenza Yeah, look, I mean, I think it always has to start with stills, primarily because there's such a very narrow window to get that right, which of course, is on set during production. Of course, it's the one time that you have everybody together in terms of cast and crew for behind the scenes and that sort of thing, but also over and above the very basic stuff like particular hair and makeup and that sort of thing for cast, you know, you hear all the time so much, especially with Australian productions that there's a real community feel during the production of these films. And everybody really is in the moment that's in a really unique way during production. So capturing that, you really only have one shot at doing it and it is during production. So definitely stills, both sort of basic production stills that are going to replicate sort of look and feel of the film, but ideally also portrait style photography that's going to be useful for marketing elements like the poster for the film and publicity purposes as well, making sure that there's a real sort of investment, both in terms of obviously the cost of getting the photographers on set, but of course in time, in terms of production schedules, it's so key to have that done at the time of the shoot. The other sort of, I guess, main asset that we always talk to is potentially the most important asset for a marketing campaign: the trailer. And of course, that's cut from the feature, but it's also not necessarily something that should be ignored until the film is finished. Having some early conversations about that during production can be really helpful as well, even just getting the strategy right in terms of who the trailer is going to be cut for and what the look and feel of it should be to complement the film. And the other category of assets that I think every campaign really needs to think about right down to the smallest budget indie film is short, sharp assets for social media. Obviously, social media is increasingly the most important channel for us to connect with audiences during a marketing campaign for a film's release. So thinking really carefully about cutting some assets, not just the standard assets like trailer and poster that can be rolled out on social, but thinking about how those channels work, how audiences consume content on those channels, and having some dedicated assets that really suit the platforms best.

[00:23:16] Caris Bizzaca And, you know, talking about, like social media, what are some things that audiences are doing now that they weren't maybe ten years ago?

[00:23:27] Michael Matrenza Obviously, the media landscape has changed a lot. Ten years ago, I remember when I was starting at Madman, we just sort of started creating a lot of our Madman channels, like our Facebook page, we didn't have Instagram page yet, I think we were sort of dabbling in Twitter. So everybody these days takes those things for granted as part of our daily life. But it really only is the last decade that they've emerged as a key thing, really at the heart of our society for better or worse.

[00:23:58] Caris Bizzaca And a means of connecting to those audiences when it comes to film.

[00:24:02] Michael Matrenza Exactly, yeah, and obviously in that time, they've moved very much from sort of a personal communication method to very much how brands and products interact with people as well. So that and of course, in the past ten years, the other major thing with film has been the emergence of a video streaming, subscription-based-streaming in particular. So I think the main change that I've witnessed around audiences is that with the way that they're consuming things through those channels, they're just consuming more content both day to day content that's more social, but also specifically entertainment. They're just consuming more and more frequently. And one thing I've noticed with that is because of the nature of those formats of the streaming platforms, prior to that, you either went to the cinema and saw a full-length movie or you watched the DVD and saw a full-length movie or, you know, you watched a TV episode that was either thirty or sixty minutes, like everything sort of fit into these very neat categories. And I think what social media and streaming have done is broken down a lot of those categories, and so audiences don't now necessarily have those strict definitions of categories of content. So things like genre - whether something is fiction or a doc or the length, whether it's an episode or a feature length, those things have sort of all gone out the door and audiences don't necessarily think about those distinctions anymore. They just want to be entertained and they want to be entertained easily and frequently, and they're not so fussed about how long is something? Is it a film or is it an ep[isode]? Like, things can break down a lot of those walls now on those platforms, and audiences really just look to whether or not something is entertaining rather than trying to define exactly what it is.

[00:25:46] Caris Bizzaca And you mentioned the streamers there, has the change in the theatrical landscape impacted how and when you develop a marketing strategy with Madman and what that looks like?

[00:26:00] Michael Matrenza To some extent, I think we still work with a lot of our titles where Madman, I guess, is an all-rights distributor. So I guess we are in the position to plan out its full timeline in terms of all the different platforms it's going to be on. So in those cases, we still work to fairly similar timelines in that theatrical would come first in those instances. And so it's the work to a similar timeline in terms of planning out a theatrical first strategy. But I think there's definitely a lot more, you know, what initially felt like exceptions, but now we just know that, you know, different films will just have slightly different paths to market. So, you know, we might have some titles where there might be a streamer involved prior to the theatrical release, so it might have a shortened theatrical window. Or we might have a title where an opportunity for the film arises during its theatrical campaign for, say, you know, a global streaming debut which might follow immediately after a traditional theatrical window, so some of those different sort of parts that are a little bit different to the traditional sort of standard timeline of spikes of release definitely do create a few different considerations and not only that, but just the need for us to work closely, collaborate with different partners, whether that's broadcasters or streamers in the mix.

[00:27:18] Caris Bizzaca And looking back on some of the marketing campaigns that you've been a part of or that Madman has been a part of, what are some real success stories, do you think?

[00:27:29] Michael Matrenza Yeah, look, you know, there's been so many over the years. There were a couple, I guess that stick in mind, particularly and in part because they're relatively recent, I guess, but one-- a personal one for me and a campaign that I worked personally very closely on was High Ground. And for me, it was just a really great example of how collaboration can work really well and yield really great results between filmmakers and distributor. So, you know, we worked really closely with David [Jowsey] and Greer [Simpkin] at Bunya, and Maggie Miles (producer) and Stephen Maxwell Johnson (director) on that one, and despite the fact that it was being shot in a very difficult and very remote part of the country, which made certain things like bringing certain people - either from the distributor or specific sort of creatives - to set quite challenging. We still had plenty of extensive conversations prior to the shoot to make sure that what was being captured in terms of things like stills on set were in line with what our expectations around strategy for the film were going to be. And the filmmakers were just so actively engaged and considerate around marketing on that title and it was always part of the conversation from, well prior to shoot all the way through to release so it was a very positive collaboration. And then the way that that really panned out was kind of just the perfect journey that you could hope for. It had a really great international launch in Berlin. And then despite sort of being in that run of films that were affected, I guess, in terms of release date changes and the like due to COVID, it ended up finding a really great window when a lot of the international studio content we sort of put on pause for release.

[00:29:10] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, it was part of the Our Summer of Cinema campaign.

[00:29:13] Michael Matrenza Exactly, and so working closely with Ant[hony] Grundy and the team at Screen Australia on that, as well as Bridgette [Graham] from Roadshow [Films] and Nick [Hayes] from Icon [Film Distribution], who also had films in that campaign was, it's sort of a once in a blue moon opportunity that was really positive and felt quite unique in terms of that collaboration. Just another example, I think, particularly when the marketing process was really positive for us was, I guess, the collaboration we've had over the years with the team at Piki Films with Carthew [Neal] and the team there. So, you know, those are films that we've done like Hunt For the Wilderpeople and The Breaker Upperers and Baby Done and a member of our marketing team Lee-Ann Woon has sort of run point on those titles and worked very closely with the filmmakers, and they've been really great examples where we've been able to really invest a lot of time and planning in the time leading up to production and planning out things like key art shoots and social media materials, and all of those titles have yielded sort of very strong and vibrant marketing elements that have really driven the campaign, and just another great example where we've had filmmakers who are very engaged in the marketing process and really keen to collaborate and get those conversations started prior to production and get the materials in as good shape as they can from the shoot onwards.

[00:30:37] Caris Bizzaca And so with marketing on feature films, you know, anything you spend on marketing the film then has to recoup, but also you need to spend money on marketing so people actually know about it and go and buy tickets. How do you find the balance on spend for a project?

[00:30:57] Michael Matrenza Yeah, it's very tricky and you know, every project is very different, and there's so many factors both unique to that film, but even external factors like seasonal factors with regards to what the theatrical landscape is looking like. Obviously, at the moment, everything is very topsy-turvy, and it can be very hard to predict audience behaviour over the past two years, with people sort of either prohibited from going to the cinema at various times or reluctant for obvious reasons. But you know, the main things that we look to when trying to sort of predict what sort of investment we're able to make on a film's marketing campaign is really around data. So our sales team spent a lot of time looking at comparative titles. So, you know, we try and really do our best to, I guess, get as much predictive data in the mix there as to what the sort of range of opportunity looks like, you know, we try and build out scenarios of a low, medium, and high Box-Office scenario and from there sort of, you know, determine where this film might be sitting. Of course, we look at seasonal trends. Obviously, it's so important for a film to get the date right of release. And so we definitely look back at how films that have released at that particular time of year have performed previously. But one thing and that's obviously things that have been happening for decades in the industry, but one thing I guess that's a bit of a newer opportunity for us is we can get a lot of live data now during our campaigns. And so we try and be as dynamic as we can. You know, we might have set out budgets and plans early in campaign, but we keep an eye on a lot of metrics like audience engagement, traffic to websites, social media engagements and of course, some of the more anecdotal feedback that we're getting from our exhibition partners and that sort of thing, and try and look at those really on a weekly basis in the sort of three to four months leading up to release to try and determine if things are tracking as we'd expected. A lot of Australian films that are sort of much broader release can use market research tracking data that gives insights into audience anticipation for films. But we tend to find that's a little less relevant for medium sized releases - that only really is necessary relevant for sort of the larger scale, two hundred-screen plus releases. But the data that you can get that sort of lives and sits on dashboards that we can look at, at any given moment, at any given day can really sort of act as a really good barometer for how things are tracking for release. So that enables us to, from those early I guess estimates that we make based on historical and comparative data, that enables us to sort of be dynamic and assess how things are going throughout and potentially adjust some of those figures, both with regards to box office expectations, but also with regards to spend.

[00:33:50] Caris Bizzaca And you know, there is this push in the theatrical landscape for opening weekend. Can you talk a little bit about why everything is geared towards opening weekend and like the relationship that that has with word of mouth?

[00:34:06] Michael Matrenza Yeah, I think it's really just due to the volume of content out there. Obviously, with cinema releases, there is a finite amount of space for content. You know, you're dealing with cinema screens that are limited and a number of releases every week competing for those same screens. So obviously, our partners in exhibition need to make choices on a week-by-week basis as to what's going to be on those screens. So basically, when a film opens its results across those first four days, with the film opening on a Thursday, and there's those results through the weekend to the Sunday cinema program and sit down on a Monday and then plan out sessions for the next week commencing on that following Thursday. So, of course, if a film has opened relatively softly, it's very difficult for them to be able to prioritise that on their cinema screens for the following week. So, you know, there really is an assessment that happens, and these days, of course, that all happens live throughout the opening days. But very much that first Monday for a film is a key decision point in the eyes of exhibition for what they're going to be able to do in terms of supporting that release from the next week.

[00:35:18] Caris Bizzaca And do you think that the business model for feature films has changed with the introduction of streamers or remain the same when it comes to, you know, forward planning, the marketing and sales strategy?

[00:35:32] Michael Matrenza Yeah, look, I think the biggest change that I've been witness to in my time in the industry was probably the one that was more eight to ten years ago with the downturn of physical media. And I think at that point, it was really clear that, you know, distributors could no longer sort of sustain a loss at theatrical with the expectation that they would definitely pick it up down the line on disc and other home entertainment platforms. I think with streamers, it's a bit less clear and it sort of depends on the journey of each film specifically, so, you know, there's still plenty of titles where a theatrical distributor like Madman might sort of manage all rights for a release so meaning that we are able to sort of, I guess, have some sort of control over the timing and planning for a film's various release dates, whether it's cinema, transactional streaming, broadcast, that sort of thing. So in those cases, you know, we can still really try and build out a cohesive plan for all the different audience touch points and all the various marketing campaigns along the way. But I think the change with streamers has really been there's so many more different paths to market. So there might be titles with those shortened theatrical windows going then straight onto a streamer or yeah, those other titles where maybe some of the release dates, whether it's pay TV or a disc release, some of those might then be cut out in favour of a streamer. So I think it's just that there's so many more paths than there used to be, and it has to be sort of really considered on a case-by-case basis. So I think the business model really just has more variables than it used to. And for a theatrical distributor or a traditional distributor like Madman who works across all of those channels, we just need to, in those circumstances where a film maybe has a streamer attached or has a different path to market in mind, it just requires us to be a little more adaptive and think a little bit more carefully around what our role is in the mix and who we need to collaborate with. And I think definitely the industry is still shifting a lot there in terms of finding sort of, some of those new pathways and how they work. But I think the really key thing is just that all the partners who are in the mix are trying to work as cohesively as possible. And even if the different releases like cinema and streaming are happening in sort of non-traditional times, ultimately, it's mostly a fairly consistent audience across those channels so that collaboration to have a cohesive campaign across all those releases that speaks to the audience in a sort of cohesive fashion, for me, that's the main thing.

[00:38:19] Caris Bizzaca And so with so many different platforms and release time frames and things like that, how does Madman actually go about collaborating with these other companies?

[00:38:32] Michael Matrenza Yeah, so with so many more of those partners in the mix and those different sort of pathways to market for films, whether it's streaming or broadcast at sort of earlier dates on non-traditional dates, it's brought up a lot of opportunities for us to work really closely with some of those partners, especially streamers, for example, and I think one thing that's becoming increasingly clear is that there's plenty of benefit for both partners in the mix to see the other platforms release as something complementary to their own. You know, in particular, one thing that we know about theatrical releases is they happen in a very specific time and place, you know, people can't always get to the cinema or it might not be the screen that's immediately near them. So one thing that we think is really important is that the theatrical release can really sort of create a huge awareness and profile of a film that may then in effect, really complement a release on another platform be it broadcast or streaming down the line. The cinema release in itself almost acts as a part of the marketing campaign for those later platforms and allows the film to develop a scale and awareness that will really just build increasing sort of scale and buzz for that title down the line and vice versa I think that there's benefit for theatrical distributors to be promoting and talking to those releases on other channels that come down the line too to increase the sense of it all as one sort of cohesive buzz around that title. So I think that's one thing that is becoming increasingly clear to us is that there's opportunities to create and to share audiences and to build something sort of greater than the sum of its parts for those titles that are having those releases across a number of different platforms.

[00:40:25] Caris Bizzaca And so just lastly, what advice would you have for any filmmakers just generally about marketing?

[00:40:35] Michael Matrenza I think the main thing there is that it should be a very collaborative process. I think there's a lot of questions that a lot of filmmakers have, especially emerging filmmakers, on what their responsibilities are, what they should be thinking of going into projects. And certainly, if you're in the position where you have a distributor attached to your film, I think don't overthink how much you need to bring to the table, just start having the conversations. I think that's the key thing - having conversations and collaborative conversations early is the absolute number one thing. And I think that there's a lot of talk around at the moment and some really great case studies and documents that have been released, like there is a really great report that Carnival Studio put out around why having marketing materials early on and investing during production is so important, and all that stuff is great but what is harder to measure is the benefit of just having those collaborative conversations early on. You know, if you're a filmmaker and you're having a conversation with your distributor prior to production about things like a key art shoot or stills photography prior to principal photography, even if those things don't end up being the perfect materials or being exactly what you need down the line, the benefits of even having all those conversations and getting on the same page around what your film is, who the audience is, all that strategy talks, all those conversations will yield massive dividends down the line when you're actually going in to campaign for release and the best projects that we've worked on and the ones that tend to yield the best results are really when we feel like really closely connected in terms of the vision of the filmmakers from very early on. And so by the time the campaign rolls around, you really feel like you have a good shared understanding of what the task at hand is and how you're going to reach your audience.

[00:42:35] Caris Bizzaca One of the things Michael just referenced there was a report from Carnival Studio around why having marketing materials early on is important. That report, which we've linked to in the show notes, is called A Practical Guide to Key Art. I highly recommend you have a look through it. But joining us to talk a little bit about that is Demi Hopkins, the creative director at Carnival Studio. Demi has been a graphic designer for more than twenty-five years and has been working in cinema and film since 1999. First joining the team at Dendy Cinemas and then starting the company Carnival Studio in 2002. Some of the projects they have worked on the key art for include TV series such as Wentworth and Dive Club, as well as feature films Ladies in Black, Dirt Music, Sweet Country, The Nightingale, and Ivan Sen's latest film Loveland. But what exactly is key art? Here's Demi with more.

[00:43:29] Demi Hopkins Key art is a generally single visual that will represent a film, and I guess it's trying to distill lots of complex themes and a whole film into one single image so people scroll on Netflix or Stan or any platform, and they'll be rolling through and often it's the artwork, if they don't know the title already, it's what engages the viewer. So key art is a combination of title treatments and text, you know, typography and visual images.

[00:44:04] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, so it can be photographs, it can be posters, can be trailers? Is that also inclusive of key art?

[00:44:13] Demi Hopkins Well, I think no, I don't consider trailers as key art. I mean, key art and trailers work side-by-side. And you know, it's preferable that they do really talk to each other. And there's often a bit of a muddle with posters that clients will sometimes want to have all the elements fill in a poster. And I think it's a mistake, because it doesn't need every cast member as long as it really captures the feel and gets people's attention. Where posters or key art works well is when the trailer backs it up and then fills out the story and they work in tandem but they're also doing different things. So they kind of have different purposes, but working towards the same aim.

[00:44:58] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, okay, and just broadly what are key assets that you think every project should have?

[00:45:08] Demi Hopkins In relation to key art?

[00:45:09] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, in relation to key art.

[00:45:11] Demi Hopkins Yeah, look, unit stills, obviously all productions have to produce unit stills. What we find really valuable is to like, I like to basically get everything available, whether it's behind the scenes unit, key art, gallery - absolutely everything, and then also have separate folders that if it has gone through talent approvals to have those approved sets. I mean, I think art shoots and galleries are really important as well. You know, at the minimum, if there's no concepts to guide production, I think a gallery shoot it helpful. So, you know, a option is probably the ultimate that we like to recommend. And that would be preferably outside of a shooting day. So we get a TV and film. They tend to organise a dedicated marketing day and it's outside of the shooting schedule. And that will cover off key art shoots they might do a separate publicity shoot and do EPK and maybe social video. It's great because everyone's on board and focused on it. What we find, with film it, and it comes down to budgets and time, and it can't be helped quite often. But we find that, you're grabbing actors separately and pulling them off when they're between scenes. And the issue is when you don't have all the talent together, they're not playing off each other. So it changes the dynamic. So yeah a key art shoot is great. We like to try to shoot everyone together and then to separate and get separate shots and do it again and last one would be clean plate photography. And I would recommend and encourage all producers and photographers to just get as much clean plate photography as possible, especially for atmos scenes, you know, early mornings, late afternoons, important locations, the more beautiful the scene, the better. And you know, if they can work into the schedule, you know, if we know that there's a really important location to dedicate some time to actually go out and capture that at the best time of day. It's not always easy with schedules, I know they're extremely tight and budgets are tight. So that's the ideal.

[00:47:26] Caris Bizzaca So plate photography is taking a shot of a location with no people in it, so that if you take an image of, say, an actor with a green screen behind them, that you can put that plate in behind them--

[00:47:39] Demi Hopkins --absolutely.

[00:47:40] Caris Bizzaca And create some assets?

[00:47:41] Demi Hopkins Yeah, that's exactly right, so we might do a studio shoot and have some great ideas and then we don't have any backgrounds. The issue is that you end up having to rely on stock photography, which is always going to be a compromise. And again, that comes down to planning and understanding what we're trying to capture.

[00:48:00] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, okay, and could we just use - you mentioned Ladies in Black, you worked on Ladies in Black with Sony - could we use that as a little bit of a case study? Could you kind of talk through what happened with that particular example? You know, for anyone that isn't aware of what Ladies in Black is or hasn't seen it, it's a feature film that came out a few years ago, did very well at the Australian box office. Could you talk through it a little bit?

[00:48:28] Demi Hopkins Yeah, absolutely. So we've worked with Sony Pictures for twelve plus years, largely on international releases, but they brought us in as the creative agency to develop the key art for Ladies in Black, and  working with the producers, well, principally with Sony, but they were in consultation with the producers, we read the scripts and undertook early concept development, and we basically went through and developed ideas and the positioning, which was essentially trying to capture Sydney in, you know, the 1950s, it's a coming of age story. We then developed about six or so concepts and they were pitched to Sony, and they were involving the filmmakers from very early stage and it was pretty quick consensus, you that the department store is a major character in its own right in the film, so that was the main concept that we ended up developing. This is in early production, I think it was probably in pre-production that we were developing these ideas, so we were just going with the scripts and we knew who the talent were, but there was very little else available. What is interesting about the Ladies in Black campaign is it wouldn't have been possible to do if we didn't have concepts sketched up and photographed specifically. So once the concepts had been debated and revised, we went through a few rounds with Sony and the producers, we then had sign off and a shoot date was organised and we shot off the side of the set at Fox Studios. The incredible Ben King shot the gallery shoot and key art shoot. The idea was to capture each of the characters and to really bring people into the world. So eventually, with great photography that was based on very specific ideas and direction and with us involved with Ben [King] in helping capture those ideas on the gallery shoot, we were able to effectively put together the poster. So we had the planning, then concept development, asset capture, and then from there we went into the design phase, and you know that's what becomes finished art.

[00:50:52] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, okay, and just, you know, lastly, any kind of advice that you would really love for Australian filmmakers in particular to know?

[00:51:03] Demi Hopkins Look, probably the key thing is, please don't leave it to chance with unit stills. The biggest issue that we have, and it was really the impetus for writing this key art guide, was that we were often brought into a project after the film was wrapped and asked to create a poster, and then we were given a set of stills and we're really compromised on what we can put together because there hasn't been the understanding of, or the intention, I guess, with the photography and the asset capture for marketing. So my advice would be to really think about positioning and to try and bring in, even if it's just the unit photographer, but to be sort of keeping key images and key visuals in mind while going through production. And if you can bring in a designer or have some concepts developed, you know, even if it's low budget, even if the filmmakers have some ideas of positioning and can bring in the photographer and say, we want to make sure that we're getting some great quality images of the cast, but I think it's something everyone realises after a production is made how important the marketing is, you know, once you're in that stage, it's then, 'Oh, well, we don't have these images' and then it becomes the problem, and it makes the whole process a lot harder.

[00:52:24] Caris Bizzaca Great, so plan ahead.

[00:52:27] Demi Hopkins Plan ahead, that's it. It's not always about money. I mean, money definitely helps grease the wheels and allows everyone to do a better job. But it's it's really planning and positioning.

[00:52:42] Caris Bizzaca That was Demi Hopkins, the creative director at Carnival Studio, and remember, you can find a link to that report in the show notes. A big thanks to him, as well as to Madman Entertainment's Michael Matrenza and to my wonderful colleague at Screen Australia, Anthony Grundy, for sharing their insights. Remember to subscribe to the fortnightly Screen Australia newsletter to keep up to date with new initiatives, opportunities, videos, articles and more. And thanks for listening.