During the last ten years, genre cinema has been going through a moment of radiant splendor. Why? Higher audience demand, a change in the paradigm regarding consumption tendencies, a certain loss of renown by genres once prestigious, and a key aspect and what this text is about: the distribution system.
To talk about this Todd Brown visited us (as part of a series of marketing seminars organized by the Festival), jury of the International Competition, Canadian producer lover of genre cinema, founder of TwitchFilm.com and chief of international acquisitions for producer and distributor XYZ Films.
Just like the demand for genre cinema grew, also did production. But there is a common problem for most independent films, especially in foreign languages: distribution.
First, Todd spoke to us about genre cinema and its audience.
"Unlike other genre, genre films are not sold for the renown of their directors but for the concept. Also, there is always audience because people who watch this films look for new things because once you’ve seen something for the first time, it doesn’t cause the same effect when you watch it again. Genre cinema lovers are constantly searching for new sensations”, explained Brown.
Together with this, the potentialities of, for example, sci-fi films are endless, especially to make political and social satires, where genre enables to address certain issues without the need to make them explicit.
Another important thing is that, unlike what happened a few years ago, the most important film festivals in the world have entire sections dedicated to genre films. You can no longer conceive a festival without a midnight section or an exclusive space for horror and science fiction.
Within this context, the question that comes up is: how to make a film get to an audience, to festivals and to channels?
At XYZ Films, they found a sort of method for testing the potential success of a film: the "proofs of content”, which consist of shooting a 2-minute teaser and show it to potential audiences or distributors in order to see if they have an interest on it, if the film works. Local examples of this are Gonzalo Gutiérrez from Argentina and Fede Álvarez from Uruguay, who shot teasers with low budget and few resources and then got the financing to turn those brief minutes into a successful feature film. According to Todd, all the films of the production company that went through that stage were made and had their commercial premiere and good reception from the audience.
Next, and in a very didactic fashion, Todd gave us a list of dos and don’ts to accomplish this:
1) know your market, which includes audience and distribution at the moment of finishing the film (not before because the market, thanks to the technological advances, changes every year);
2) before shooting, think about the festivals you want to send your film to and find out the different deadlines; based on that, draw a shooting plan;
3) determine what type of audience your film is addressed to;
4) decide if you are going to release a teaser before the premiere. If you know beforehand that there is an audience willing to watch it, the bigger chances you have to convince distributors;
5) know the film programmers of the festivals you want to send your film to and contact them (specific example for Argentina: contact the programming team of Blood Window, Ventana Sur’s genre cinema section);
6) if you are starting to make films, shoot as much as you can and show what you shoot, get people to know you;
7) do simple and low cost proofs of content with potential audience and distributors, with 2 aims:
- make people know you and get financed
- get the money to make your feature film
What usually doesn’t work:
-splatter or exploitation films: there is no distribution, except in very specific festivals
-comedies or hybrid comedies: there is no possibility of sales abroad (as we know, comedy is the worst genre to sale in foreign countries)
What usually works:
-smart and allegoric character based films. Examples: The Babadook, It Follows, Goodnight Mommy, Let the Right One In
As we saw, Todd Brown gave us a general, quick and useful guide to start making genre cinema and think about distribution. Because people are consuming more, more and more films are being made but there are no strategies or resources to make films profitable or internationally acknowledged. Because we want to keep watching and discovering new things, "because social awareness dramas are boring and genre cinema is what we love most”.