Film Courage: Should a screenwriter start designing the movie poster before the script is written?
Scott Kirkpatrick: No, I don’t think so. I mean I mentioned that in the Writing for the Green Light [Scott’s book] because that’s how we did it.
We already had the established connection and track record of being able to pre-sell movies and to produce them and deliver them and have them actually meet the expectations of what we promise to deliver and we had a whole marketing department that knew how to create poster work specifically for the movie buying audience.
You can usually tell when an indie producer has drafted their own artwork versus when it’s done by a company that’s is used to selling into the movie space because it just has a completely different look. It’s not a marketable, punchy, pushy-type poster. Not that there is anything wrong with it. It’s just that it’s not the type of stuff that attracts the buyers from all over the world or things of that nature. They get redesigned and redesigned throughout the whole process.
I think the screenwriter shouldn’t worry about the stuff they’re not going to be in a position (especially starting out) where they have to presell their project to buyers. They’re selling themselves…they are not even selling their script really…they are selling their talent to write. So they shouldn’t have to focus on the marketing components of creating artwork, they should focus on making sure that they’re producing a library of work, a portfolio that they can showcase that’s ideally all of the same type of genre so they can just be the go-to screenwriter who can deliver that type of film quickly and reliably.
Just as I am saying, we would sell movies (pre-sell) movies off of the poster, people would pay us and pre-buy them because they knew we could deliver them. There’s a lot of companies that try to pre-sell that fail. I’ve worked with ones that were very successful because we’ve had the track record of being able to reliably deliver on time good quality products. That’s what the screenwriter wants to do just from a writing perspective. Here’s my showcase of what I can do, this proves a track record. If you give me the opportunity you can guarantee and trust that I am going to get it done correctly the first time.
Film Courage: So why do you think those other titles failed? What was the reason? I mean you said that there were others that tried the same approach.
Scott Kirkpatrick: Look pre-sales is this really sexy, fun idea of like “You know, my idea is going to be so great, I’m just going to get 20 countries to jump on board and buy it.” You really have to know how the pre-sale process works, who the buyers are at these companies that are willing to invest that money. You have to already produced a decent amount of content that’s going to kind of prove the fact that you know what you’re doing and you can deliver movies on time that are under budget or on budget that meet all the technical specifications of that specific country.
It’s a delicate process and it’s not easy to do and not all companies do it. There’s a lot of companies that have no interest in even trying it.
But the idea of selling a movie off of a poster really only today happens at the pre-sale stage and not every company does pre-sales. Big studios, they will come out and basically say this is our slate. Independent companies, we have to go build those relationships because we don’t have output deals with everybody. We don’t have guaranteed buys in the majority of countries the way studios do. So there are companies that try to do that and have to be very…they have to have a good reputation for being able to already accomplish what they are selling themselves to be able to do.
Question for the Viewers: Do you ever think about the movie poster before you write the script?
About Scott Kirkpatrick:
Scott is the author of the book Writing for the Green Light: How to Make Your Script the One Hollywood Notices and is the Senior Vice President of North & South American business development, sales and global digital strategy for the London-based distributor DRG. Previously, Kirkpatrick served as Executive Director of Distribution for MarVista Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based production and distribution company that produces original TV movies and has managed international TV deals on major franchises including Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Before shifting to the distribution side of the industry, Kirkpatrick worked behind the scenes on major studio productions, including Talladega Nights: The Balled of Ricky Bobby. Kirkpatrick has also produced and directed TV series and feature films including Eye for an Eye, Muslims in America and Roadside Massacre.