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Dylan Marchetti, founder of Variance Films, donated his afternoon Wednesday to mentoring filmmakers at IFP’s Marketing & Distribution Labs. Variance, a distribution company that has overseen the releases of niche indies and foreign imports like Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Littlerock, and Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, has built a reputation very much in line with the trailblazing, DIY-attitude that many of IFP’s lab filmmakers hold dear. And it was a great match, as Marchetti spent the afternoon listening to these filmmakers discuss their marketing and distribution strategies, offering tailored advice about the distribution paths that he felt might best suit each project.

Perhaps most universal were Marchetti’s insights into marketing. As each filmmaker screened a trailer or showed some of the key art options they were working with, Marchetti interjected with suggestions. Here are some highlights from the session, tips about gathering marketing materials that might not be obvious to emerging filmmakers:

When cutting a trailer, less is more
It’s common practice for filmmakers to cut a trailer in prep for a festival premiere. This is especially useful to have to show to distributors, sales agents, or other potential partners you might meet at said festival. At the Labs, one filmmaker screened a trailer that clocked in at two minutes and thirty seconds, prompting Marchetti to advise that this type of trailer should be as brief as possible, definitely under one-minute. Marchetti argued that industry are so bombarded with projects that they will generally only give a trailer a very short amount of time to win them over. “A trailer isn’t about the film, it’s about how to sell it,” Marchetti argued.

When designing key art, more is more
There’s no reason to be coy or secretive when designing your printed promotional materials. “Key art should clue the audience into what your film is about,” Marchetti told one filmmaker. Be as direct as possible about what the film is about; try to hook an audience in with an eye-grabbing, representative image.

Find unique backing music for your trailer
During Wednesday’s session, Marchetti critiqued one trailer’s score for being too slow; arguing that music in a teaser trailer should always be fast-paced and exciting. When the filmmaker countered that this was the actual score from her film, Marchetti responded that “It’s just too slow. Eighty percent of the time, the same music you use in your film will not work as music for your trailer.”

Make sure your social media campaign has a personality
Marchetti continually stressed the importance of having a personalized social networking presence, prompting one filmmaker to express hesitance about joining Facebook himself. “My film already has a Facebook page, isn’t that enough?” he asked.  No, Marchetti responded, it’s not. The director needs to have a presence online, as well as a personality.  “People get bored with spam,” he argued. “You can only post so many times about where your film is playing before they tune out. Make sure you’re hitting people with interesting stuff, stuff that interests you, even if it’s unrelated to your film.”

Don’t Focus on Your Core Audience
If there’s an obvious audience for your film (ie: a doc about surfers, or a biopic about a band), don’t focus your marketing campaign around this group. According to Marchetti, this audience will come see your film either way; because they’re interested in the subject, they’re already as good as won over. A successful marketing campaign will task this core audience with spreading the word about your film, helping to bring in people outside the core.

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