Festivals are the most effective way to get the attention of established independent distributors. Films with great “buzz” or industry interest can often attract several eyes and ears to a filmmaker’s story. All of this starts with a good film that has a targetable audience, which is not as easy as one might assume. While many films can tell a story, not all have a story that may appeal to the masses. In this sense, it’s imperative for filmmakers to know their intended audience as they are developing their script and shooting. Marketing and promotional opportunities should be considered as the movie is being shot. Do not mistake this for product placement; this is speaking in the sense of taking notes of the efforts that it took to make the movie, the actors’ relationships. It’s much easier to document this experience than in previous generations.
What are some of the innovative AMC programs that filmmakers like Russ Parr have taken advantage of to find an audience for their work?
AMC independent (AMCi) is the program we launched a few years ago with a focus on diversifying quality content on screens. We have identified several circuits within our theatre footprint that have loyal audiences with very diverse backgrounds to include African American, Hispanic, Asian and Hindi. Our program also focuses on core art/specialty fare. Our reach isn’t limited to the film festival darlings, but to films that have interesting and untold stories that we think will resonate with our guests.
What are some of the benefits of having a film released through AMCi?
Films that we agree to co-release via AMCi not only get access to some of the best theatres in the country, but will also benefit from mainstream tactical support in the same vein as traditional wide releases. A multi-media marketing plan is assembled by our internal team that will help any AMCi-exclusive film to get in front of our guests. This includes a reach to our nearly three million Facebook followers, approximately 100,000 Twitter followers, hundreds of thousands of impressions via AMCTheatres.com and an online advertising campaign.
Some relevant examples are MOOZ-LUM, which starred Evan Ross and Nia Long; I Will Follow, which starred Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Omari Hardwick; 35 and Ticking, which was directed by Russ Parr and starred Nicole Ari Parker, Kevin Hart, Meagan Good, and Tamala Jones; and Kevin Hart: Laugh at My pain.
Does race and gender remain an “annoying reality” in your business?
Because of the nature of our business—offering on-screen stories from all walks of life—race and gender are always relevant topics. People relate to movies and storytelling based on their own experiences, whether they’re from the city or the country, whether they are an only child or from a big family… or if they are a particular ethnicity, male or female. A guest’s movie’s choice is always going to be made in part by relate-ability. It’s a key reason why we focus on “quality storytelling.” The best movies transcend limitations from race and gender. MOOZ-LUM succeeded not only because it had strong African American and faith-based audience support, but because it was a coming-of-age story that many have experienced in some regard.
In regards to race and gender being a hindrance: no. In fact, it gives us many more options to reach our guests with films that relate to them. We can now release and support films in specific markets where we believe certain demographics or groups will have a connection. As our guest base grows more diverse, it provides more opportunities for us to deliver different content experiences to them. It truly is about the storytelling. It’s our time, and the opportunities lie before us.
What’s next for you?
I plan to continue introducing audiences to films they may not have otherwise experienced, and ultimately make that a norm, not just a one-off experience. We’ve captured “lightning in a bottle” a few times through AMCi by having the right tools in place for when “lighting may be in the area.” Additionally, I enjoy the film festival circuit and educating other audiences and filmmakers about our work and what lies in front of us as an industry.