We publicists like to think the most important marketing aspect of a feature-film release is the publicity campaign. It isn't. When it comes to convincing people to see a movie, nothing is more important than the "coming attraction." The "trailer," as it's known in the business.
There are generally two types of trailers. The first one, called a "teaser," appears well before the movie's release and whets the appetite (or prematurely kills it). The second one is the full-blown sales pitch, and usually gives the entire movie away.
The studio's emphasis on trailers and TV ads gives their creators the leeway to make considerable demands on a film that's still in production.
Which is why 90 crew members and agency types descended on our set recently to shoot a teaser that will be in theaters this Christmas. Meanwhile, I can't even get the production to allow me to schedule a publicity photo shoot that would take all of 15 minutes. "No time!" barks the producer.
"Have to stay on schedule!"
But, of course, when the "advertising" people show up, they are given full access to the sets, our cast (including the Very Big Star), and full complement of wardrobes, props, and other cool stuff. I won't even mention the fact they hired their own caterer, which was better than the one serving the production crew. (Their caterer had cheesecake!)
The director, producer, and creative wizards showed up like conquering heroes, storyboards in hands, with grand ambitions and an attitude that seemed to say, "Don't worry, gang. We're here to save the day!"
As mere publicists, our opinion generally matters little, if any, as concerns advertising. That's fine. We know our place. Show up late, slap a few backs, go to lunch early, and slip out shortly thereafter. It's the life we love. Occasionally, however, we're sought after to impart little pearls of wisdom gleaned from being in the trenches with cast and crew for five months. From enduring the hardship of long days - well, maybe not that long for me - and foul weather. For the valuable insight that comes from working shoulder to shoulder with my cinematic comrades night after night.
So I was more than ready to share what I could with the inquisitive creative director who called me a week before coming to the set. Perhaps she actually wanted to know what I thought of the concepts? Or my opinion on the marketing vent, to see if it jibed with how I was positioning the film with the press. "What do you need?" I cheerfully volunteered. "I'm here to help."
"I hear it's been pretty cold where you guys are shooting. Should I bring winter clothing?"
It's nice to be needed. And I can't wait to see the trailer. I want to know how our movie ends.