NEW YORK — The IFP Market got off to a lively start at SoHo’s Puck Building Wednesday morning as a pair of panels on distribution generated animated discussions.
The first panel, “The Marketing Campaign: Case Studies,” moderated by GreeneStreet Films head John Penotti, shaped up as a study in anomalies. Among panelists were the Shooting Gallery prexy Eamonn Bowles, Copacetic Pictures head Doug Block (director of “Homepage”), director Jonathan Flicker (“The Followers”) and Unapix VP of publicity and acquisitions Steve Grenyo (“Grass”).
“There are audiences for specialized films,” said Penotti. “But sometimes you need empirical data (to give a distributor) showing what will go over with them.”
Block explained how he created a publicity base for his documentary film — about a brazenly indiscreet Internet diarist — by posting his own diary about making the film online. “I got more publicity while I was making the film than afterwards,” Block joked.
Meanwhile, Grenyo’s campaign for Unapix’s documentary “Grass” established links to marijuana-advocacy groups’ Web sites and hit “head” festivals, concerts and protest marches across the country. “Our approach was to do a — no pun intended — totally grass-roots campaign,” Grenyo said.
In marketing his film about the dark side of college fraternity culture, Flicker described taking a similar route by hooking up with anti-hazing groups, offering screenings and Q&As on college campuses nationwide.
In discussing ways to reach specialized auds, Bowles said his emphasis at the Shooting Gallery was on creating a whole new distribution framework. His company has an unconventional deal with Loews to run selected films for two-week periods with the support of corporate sponsors. “Croupier” and “Judy Berlin” have been among the selected films thus far.
Bowles stressed the importance of venues that cater to specialized films, places where “audiences know they’re not going to get a cheesy Hollywood film.”
Forensic Film’s Scott Macaulay moderated the second panel, “The Making and Releasing of Lars von Trier’s ‘Dancer in the Dark,’ ” with panelists Mark Ordesky, prexy of Fine Line, Fine Line senior VP of marketing Marian Koltai-Levine, “Dancer in the Dark” choreographer Vincent Patterson and cast member Siobhan Fallon.
The audience of aspiring filmmakers listened intently as the panelists debated how to market a difficult film such as “Dancer in the Dark,” which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and has so far divided the critics.
For Ordesky the issue was somewhat academic. “I’ve had an obsession with Lars von Trier since 1985,” he told the crowd. “Thirteen years later, when the ‘Dancer’ script came out of Good Machine, it was not so much a decision. The decision had been made before I cracked the page.
“As scary as this movie is from a marketing standpoint,” Ordesky added, “I’ve lost more sleep over smaller commercial films … I was surprised there was a controversy.”
The controversy of the moment for the IFP Market crowd centered on whether the trailer shown during the panel gave away the ending.
One self-proclaimed fan of the film asked the Fine Line people if they feared the “give away” would harm the marketing campaign; another said she was “annoyed” to have been prematurely let in on a key plot element. But a chorus of others, including Ordesky and Koltai-Levine, disagreed that anything had been given away.
The IFP Market runs through Sept. 22.