Why indie films need creative marketing



Show biz on an indie budget takes creative marketing.

Official Poster

This summer, Willamette Week, Portland’s Pulitzer-winning paper of a juicy half-of-a-million readers, reviewed a press release from Hapstance Films, and look what happened — an engaging full-paged story in last week’s issue. Check it out here.

While often impactful, public relations is merely one component of effective marketing. An integrated creative approach across many channels can make all the difference in attracting thought leaders, sponsors, distributers and investors alike, not to mention ticket buyers. And, the more original and relevant the content, the stronger the bond established with these key audiences.

Years have elapsed since Coup de Cinema’s premiere, but Hapstance’s first awareness campaign for its first feature-length film became quite important in terms of a proper 2019 launch on Prime Video. That’s because a tight, well-executed promo package tends to attract and meet the expectations of investors and distributers in any industry, not just ours. Also, with its next feature-length film in the works, Hapstance is well posed to continue building upon its brand with its trusted marketing partner.

You’ve already noticed the tried and true formulas that Hollywood has employed for a 100 years: exploded image of cast + film title + credits + ‘coming soon’s.’ But much of that approach relies upon massive media buys, the equity of familiar cast names and/or trusty large studio logos that appear in the art. New indie film producers usually don’t have that luxury — until they do. They must create and build it through not only their productions but awareness campaigns. Even with blockbuster media budgets, larger studios often create highly conceptual campaign content. How come? Because they know their competition is, too. To survive they must thrive.

Austin Hillebrecht and Sean Parker of Hapstance Films

Often, creativity’s born from happenstance. Or, serendipity. Or, spawn from a mission — like ‘telling the world’ about trends, controversies, etc. in a documentary. Well-written marketing content won’t come out of thin air though. It’s born from rock solid content strategies, aptly choreographed in execution.

Hollywood’s often broken the mold, too, leading the way with highly conceptual while straightforward key art, film titles and taglines. That’s something Oregon studios can apply to more than one-sheet posters or social media, but emails, animations, websites and mobile apps, too — and, without risking their audiences’ respect, if what’s said resonates genuinely with them. That’s why copy and art explorations often take a few rounds of hard thinking to get to the optimum solution.

Tinseltown also knows the value of a tagline in clueing in viewers. It’s great when your film’s title, photos, illustrations or footage communicate on their own, but don’t underestimate the value of a smart tag, script or unique film title. Look through this lens the next time you see a new film’s poster: Do the elements reveal enough about the plot that you’ll watch the two-minute trailer or buy a ticket?

Don’t have a significant media budget set aside for social media ad placement like most other indie studios? Better have some captivating content to share there! That being said, anything of value takes effort, so be sure you factor in at least some budget for it, so you can source the talent who can make this happen affordably. Unbeknownst to many outside the Hollywood world, key art agencies and freelancers specialize in just that and win awards because their work ‘works’ and is so deliciously memorable.

In working with its marketing partner, Hapstance Films has learned the value of a consistent brand message for Coup de Cinema as well as for its own brand image showcased digitally, in print or at screenings. It honestly reflects who they are, is well-received and remembered.

Goes to show, a strong creative concept also is key to marketing indie films. That means yours, too. It’s not selling out. Commercial art matters, if done right. It adds perceived value to your productions. Need another example? Where would the Saturday Evening Post have gone without Norman Rockwell, their hired gun illustrator? Back to the magazine racks or sold out to a competitor.

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