Since Dances With Films is in Los Angeles - where many of the filmmakers reside - and since we often have world premieres, which means first-festival experiences, we've taken to having an orientation meeting with the filmmakers.
Much of this meeting covers marketing. I thought it might be helpful to say here what I often end up saying at the meeting.
Marketing a film in Los Angeles is different than any other place in the world. She is a great city, and I love her dearly, but her level of polite apathy can not be over estimated.
"Hey, my movie just got into a very prestigious festival in Los Angeles," you say to her.
"That's great," she says, "congratulations. Good for you. How much money has it made?"
"Well, none yet, but this is our big premiere. Will you come?"
"No, but good luck with it."
"But, you should come. It's a really good film about the struggles of..." and pretty soon you find you're talking to yourself.
To get Los Angeles off her couch and into the movie theatre - which, lets face it, is like asking you to pay money to go into your day job - requires more energy than you can possibly imagine.
So here are some ideas that have worked:
Start gathering your troupes.
As you'll learn, film festivals are partnerships between the festival and each individual filmmaker. The festival will promote the festival - and that will include pushing whatever story we think we can get press to bite on, which may be a tie-in to specific films - but you've got to promote your screening.
The best way to do this is with your cast, and to some extent, your crew. The cast are the faces that are seen, so they are the most vested in having a large turn out for your film. The more lead time you can give them, the better. You'll also want to provide them with promotion materials (post cards, jpgs for e-mailing, etc.)
Cast will also help with getting professionals to the screening. Make sure they invite agents, managers, casting directors, etc. since those that work in larger houses write up reports on what they saw. They might also be married to or dating someone who knows someone, etc.
Promote individuals within your film to Hollywood. People get tired of hearing "My movie this" and "my movie that," and very few people in the business are able to help get a finished film in front of a paying audience. So rather than blowing your own horn to people who could careless (because, let's face it, unemployment in this industry is 100% all of the time, so we are all by necessity looking out for number one) talk about the individual stand-outs in your movie.
For example: say you've got a great DP, or a leading actor who everyone things is going to break out. Don't just try to sell your whole movie to a distributor - if you're talking to a production company, tell them they might want to come check out the photography, or the cast. That's how buzz gets going. Change the selling points for your film depending on who you're talking to.
Make it fun! Silly little promotions are great. Make sure the screening time, etc. are easily visible. Remember, this is only a life-or-death screening for you. For everyone else, it should be a fun time at the movies.
Last, but not least, make it fun for you, too. You've worked your behind off to get to this one moment. Drink it in. Enjoy the hell out of it. Because as soon as it's done, you've got to start trying to make it happen again.