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‘Witch’ haunts IFFM panelists

'Net clicks with marketing mavens

NEW YORK — On Wednesday, Independent Feature Film Market attendees put their heads together to contemplate publicity and marketing in the post-“Blair Witch” era.

Offering spiritual guidance was Artisan Entertainment exec VP of worldwide theatrical marketing John Hegeman, who oversaw the Web campaign for “The Blair Witch Project.”

Joining Hegeman on the morning panel “Strategies for Successful Marketing Campaigns” at the Public Theater, were Cinecom Entertainment exec VP of marketing and distribution Richard Abramowitz and Lions Gate Releasing co-prexy Mark Urman. Attorney John Sloss moderated.

Filmmakers first

If there is a marketing lesson to be taken from the case of “Blair,” the panelists agreed, it’s that distribs should see a filmmaker’s vision as a vital resource.

“You need them,” said Urman from a distrib’s perspective. Touting the superiority of personality-driven campaigns, he added, “Entertainment isn’t just a movie anymore.”

The wisdom of filmmakers’ starting up Web sites prior to getting distribution has been a popular topic at this year’s market, with at least a few vet producers recommending it unconditionally. While Hegeman cautioned against overblowing the value of the ‘Net into a marketing “end-all, be-all,” he did describe the Internet as “a place where ingenuity and creativity still mean something against the dollars you’re going to spend.”

But dismissing the notion of any sure-fire formula, he concluded, “I think if you treat the spirit of the movie, you’re doing OK.”

Life support

When it comes to marketing, Urman claimed docus need distinctive figures even more than features on the (such as Wim Wenders’ “Buena Vista Social Club”).

“As most movies now are sold on the strength of the personalities (involved) rather than a phenomenon or subject,” Urman said, “documentaries are particularly difficult to market.”

The IFFM was doing some marketing of its own Wednesday, having slated high-profile docus as an introduction to its sidebar Spotlight on Docs, which runs today and Friday.

Among the skedded screenings was work in progress “Women and Genocide,” concerning survivors of Rwanda and Kosovo. The doc represents the sophomore team effort of filmmakers Susan Musk and Greta Olafsdottir, who made last year’s IFFM work in progress “The Brandon Teena Story.”

Susan Todd and Andrew Young’s “Americanos: Latino Life in the United States” unspooled midday with co-producer Edward James Olmos in attendance. Doc, which sports interviews with such celebs as Carlos Santana, has piqued the interest of at least a few theatrical distribs. “Americanos” will launch a weeklong screening at the Egyptian Theatre Oct. 3 as part of the Los Angeles Intl. Film Festival.