Surprisingly, Jon’s book has provoked some online debate about the additional work he espouses we, as filmmakers, should undertake to get our films out there. I say surprisingly because in my mind, the current system has been broken for a long time now - to read more about this click here. Suffice to say when Jon posted a guest blog at Ted Hope’s Truly Free Film on Thursday, it provoked a flurry of responses, that I somehow became embroiled in, in comments section... The thrust of the argument is that if you make a “great film” it will be discovered - now I for one think that’s a rather naive and overly optimistic way of looking at things. When I said as much (and that I wanted to be able to make a living from filmmaking) - I was called a snake oil salesman! Now if you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ll know I’ve been called much worse... but what troubled me with the argument being put forth is that if a filmmaker choses to market their film or to reach out to potential viewers of the film then they are somehow frauds and that their film must be shit! I mean where’s the logic in that?
Then of course there is the really commercial films, often called tentpoles or blockbusters... Hollywood is known to spend as much (or more) marketing a film as they do making it - and at the end of the day, like it or lump it - as a filmmaker (even a teensy weensy indie) then that is your competition along with EastEnders, Britain/ Americas’s Got Talent and frighteningly even Waterskiing Squirrel!
In fact the animals (or kids) doing mad things videos are consistently the most viewed on Youtube - which I guess means that’s what audiences want to see... does that mean the people who made Marley & Me are hacks? What about if they made that movie in isolation without knowing that anything with dogs and horses in sells; as sales agent Lisa Romanoff of Vision Films said recently in the Live from Cannes Production Office show? Is it having the knowledge that makes you a hack? The same as marketing directly to your audience makes you a snake oil salesman... Knowledge is, and always, will be power and marketing is an important part of any business - and I’m sorry but let’s get real - making films is a business any way you slice it. As soon as you take someone else’s money (even UKFC or NFM money) you have a duty to put some thought into how you are going to recoup that money - and if you don’t then I’m not sure how you can look yourself in the mirror and call yourself honest let alone an artist or filmmaker!
The problem seems to be marketing directly to the public, rather than to a distributor - and again I don’t see what the issue is here - the tools to market directly to large numbers of people in a cost-effective manner didn’t even exist 5 years ago and have only been widely used for the last couple! I can only guess as to why it is okay to sell your film to distributor and have them market it to your audience and yet to do it yourself makes you somehow less of a filmmaker...
Regardless, I’m not buying it and I’m not going to scale back any of my activities in this area - somehow I can’t help but think it’s a bit stupid to believe that if you personally try to market your work rather that relying on someone else then your work must be somehow inferior! As I have gone on record as saying here - I’m not looking at self distribution because I have exhausted all other possibilities but rather that I think in some ways Pissheads would reach a wider audience if I do that. I am still in negotiations with some of the distributors I pitched to in Cannes, and for the most part they are delighted that I am taking such an active role in this part of the process and at my realistic attitude to the marketability of Pissheads. So as Mr Carruthers would say - “Onwards and upwards, and a little bit sideways.”