Independent Cinema Office Blog

News and views on the world of independent film

Posts from June 2014

10 questions for... a cinema marketing manager

Posted Wednesday 25 June 2014 by Sarah Rutterford in Cinema Careers


Kristina Johansen-Seznec is Head of Marketing at one of Scotland's most dynamic arts institutions, Dundee Contemporary Arts (@DCAdundee). Incorporating a two-screen cinema, two galleries, a print studio and a visual research centre, DCA has a famously wide-ranging and eclectic programme and is a world-class centre for the development and exhibition of contemporary art and culture. Kristina, over to you!

What was your route to your current position at DCA? Did you arrive at it via an interest in film, in marketing or both?

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with film. I grew up in a very small place where there wasn’t really a proper cinema so my best friend Helen and I used to go to the local video shop and rent any movies we could find, sometimes watching five or more in a weekend. We had a voracious appetite and would watch anything from the sublime (The Usual Suspects) to the terrible (She Fought Alone). But strangely I never really considered film as a possible career. At university I studied English and History of Art and quickly found marketing, PR and events roles in the arts sector and I worked in several museums and galleries before coming to DCA. 

Dundee Contemporary Arts
A packed out screen and the exterior of DCA

What key films and/or cinematic experiences informed your appreciation of cinema?

Because I didn’t live near a “real” cinema when I was younger most of my film experience was via video or later DVD. However I did visit cinemas whenever we went on holiday. My favourite was Colosseum in Oslo where we went whilst visiting family. It’s a beautiful cinema with a huge screen and this was where I watched the re-mastered re-releases of the original Star Wars films and later the Lord of the Rings trilogy with my brother Pete and my cousins Jorgen, and Andreas.

Please describe a typical day in your role, and the types of tasks you undertake.

The great thing about my job is that there isn’t really a typical day. DCA has two cinema screens, a large contemporary art gallery, print studio and café bar and I am responsible for the marketing of the whole building, not just the cinema.

What film events at your venue are the most challenging to market and why?

Like other cinemas we find art house titles like Ben Rivers' Two Years at Sea or The Turin Horse the most challenging to market. The best way to approach this is to try and build a community around this type of cinema, targeting students and building a list of interested contacts, as well as by cross-promoting these titles with other activity we have on offer. This is something we already do now, but once our new website is launched I would like to do more with this strand of the programme.

Dundee Contemporary Arts gallery and cafe
The DCA gallery and café-bar

What’s the general marketing ethos at DCA? How has it evolved in the last few years, and where do you see it going next?

The marketing ethos behind DCA is to be as audience-focused as possible; we try not to broadcast about events but to target our activity at the key audience groups who we think will respond best to a title. 

DCA has a large and varied programme and we try and give attention to as much of the activity as possible. For everything we try and identify key groups who might be interested in a specific title, for example sending special stickered versions of our Cinema Guide to local bike shops to advertise The Armstrong Lie or linking up with the YSL beauty counter in our local department store to promote Yves Saint Laurent. This year we are putting a lot of effort into revamping our online and ticket offer, and over the last few years more and more of our activity has taken place online. But this doesn’t mean that we will be cutting back on print and physical marketing, rather that we will be able to be even smarter and more targeted about what we do.

Please describe what methods you use to market the film programme – e.g. print brochure, e-newsletter, website, social media channels – and which you think are the most important for your audience(s).

The short answer is we use them all! Like many cinemas our marketing efforts currently revolve around the production of our Cinema Guide, which we print on a 6 weekly cycle. We survey our audience every six months and we use the results of this survey to determine what is working with our audience. Our last survey was completed in January of this year and told us that 38% of our audience cited the Guide as the reason they had selected to see that film on that day.

However the Guide is under pressure for a number of reasons. It’s a lot of work to produce, and is expensive to print and distribute. In addition, distributors are increasingly reluctant to commit to a release date as far as 6 weeks in advance. This leaves us in a difficult position; we know our audience likes and trusts the Guide more than any other marketing activity but this won’t be the case when we can no longer accurately promote the films within it.

Over the next 6 months we are going to review our Cinema Guide to assess whether it is still sustainable, and potentially make significant changes if we think they are the right choice for our audience. At the same time we are investing significantly in redeveloping our website and ticketing system (the current site is over 5 years old) so that any changes we do make can be backed up by a strong digital presence.   

DCA Cinema Guide
Kermit checking out the DCA Cinema Guide (from DCA's Instagram)

What are the most exciting things about your venue and what it has to offer?

The most exciting thing about DCA is the atmosphere and the people. We offer a great selection of films chosen with care specifically for our audience, in a vibrant and welcoming building. It’s this personal and welcoming touch which makes DCA special and an exciting place to work.

If you were advising a new venue on how to market themselves, what key advice would you give?

Find out who your audience is and where they hang out (both in person and online) Don’t be afraid to take risks and have fun with it!

And if you were giving advice for people looking to get into a similar career, what key advice would you give?

Marketing is a really transferable skill and the job experience is worth far more than qualifications. If you can get experience at a film organisation that’s great, but if you can’t it is worth getting relevant experience at other types of organisations (cultural, heritage, and in the business world). Also, never stop learning. Try out everything yourself, be the first to be on the new hip social network, don’t be frightened to get out there to meet people in your area, call local businesses, make connections. The tools we use as marketers will inevitably change over time but key skills like networking and creating new partnerships will always be useful.

Finally please can you describe any particular successes you’ve had in cinema marketing?

A recent example I am particularly proud of is our social media strategy for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Our Cinema Coordinator Simon came up with a Guess Who? game using the photos of all the characters from the poster for our Film Quiz. We took this idea and developed it into a quiz which could be run on social media. We created a series of three visual clues on Instagram and shared them with our audience. People were allowed to have as many guesses as they liked but only correct guesses would be entered into a prize draw to win cinema tickets posters and some macaroons coloured like those in the film. We had 20 individual entries on Facebook and 27 on Twitter.

DCA Instagram
One of the visual clues posted on DCA's Instagram for their Grand Budapest Hotel competition

This isn’t a record breaking number by any means but what was exciting was the high level of engagement it generated. In order to understand the clues people had to look at the poster, watch the trailer and watch a special video about the characters on the film's website. It also increased our number of likes and was blogged about by the local news channel STV Dundee.

Thank you, Kristina!

News round-up... 10/06/2014

Posted Tuesday 10 June 2014 by Sarah Rutterford in News Round-up

Simon and Catharine, Cannes
The ICO's Simon Ward and Catharine Des Forges at our 10th year anniversary party in Cannes

News & opportunities

  • There was a strong ICO contingent at Cannes this year, where we held a party (on the beach!) celebrating the ICO's 10th anniversary and saw lots of fantastic films. Check out our Storify here, our party pics here and our blogs here.
  • You may already have seen one of our film programmers, Selina Robertson at the Gulbenkian speaking on one of Film Hub South East's Roadshows at the Gulbenkian Cinema in Canterbury and Jon Spatz, our Training Administrator will be at Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford tomorrow Wednesday 11th June to speak there. It's late in the day but there are still places available - if you're interested in learning more about the Hub and what the ICO can offer you - whether it be ICO films, training or one-to-one advice - book tickets here.
  • And Deputy Director Simon Ward is speaking on a panel on how the industry can support indie filmmakers during the Mind the Gap! industry programme running 16-18 June alongside the East End Film Festival. Prepare to move on from your first film triumphs to a sustainable career in film with their three-day training programme: book tickets here.
  • We're still running ICO One-to-Ones so if you would benefit from an hour's advice with an industry expert (depending on your chosen topic, we'll match you with an ICO expert or another industry specialist), apply. At only £20 + VAT per session they represent exceptional value for money - you'll come away with invaluable insights and practical, achievable objectives.  
  • Applications are open for the BFFS' Film Society of the Year Awards 2014. It doesn't matter if you're a new film society/community cinema or an established award winner - they want to hear from you. Read more.
  • Scalarama has launched its 2014 programme and is calling on exhibitors of all shapes and sizes to join in their celebration of communal film watching this September. You can screen films from Scalarama's core programme or choose your own film & event. Click here for all details.
  • Film Hub North West Central has opened a funding stream to support audience development projects appealing to new audiences or offering enriched cultural experiences to existing ones. Find out more.
  • Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014 has launched: ooh. Download the brochure here!
  • And Cork Film Festival has complied over ten hours of the best of its 2013 edition, and has released them via VODO on a (very friendly) pay what you want basis. There's seven shorts, seven features, and some bonus thank yous.

Calls for film submissions...

Read this...

Cannes 2014: Simon's blog (part 2)

Posted Thursday 5 June 2014 by Simon Ward in Festival Reports

Two Days and One Night

The Dardenne brothers (Rosetta, The Child) are among the rarefied camp of filmmakers who have managed to win the Palme d’Or not just once but twice. Their latest, Two Days One Night won’t bring them to any new audiences. Despite regular doses of well-earned critical adoration the Dardennes have always struggled at the box-office in the UK. Aided by the star wattage of Marion Cotillard, this tale of a woman campaigning to keep her factory job under the threat of redundancy was a critical favourite for many at the Festival. For me it was a minor Dardennes which felt a little schematic, but ‘minor Dardennes’ are always major ‘anyone else’ and I’m sure Curzon Artificial Eye will do a good job getting it out in the UK.

La Chambre Bleue
Mathieu Amalric's The Blue Room

The Blue Room

Mathieu Amalric’s second feature as director, The Blue Room delivers a competent reasonably commercial adaptation of George Simenon’s (Maigret, Red Lights) thriller. With much in common tonally to the writing of Patricia Highsmith, this tale of adultery and murder is very well acted but never quite manages to get under the skin. Amalric plays a modestly successful man in provincial France running his own agricultural business, living in a fancy designer house with a young family, who finds himself in the depths of an affair and arrested for the murder of his wife. The film is told in a series of flashbacks as Amalric and his lover are tried for the murders of their respective spouses. A likely acquisition for UK distribution, this would play relatively well with indie cinemas looking for a commercial foreign language thriller fare. It’ll likely get above average press but certainly not the 5 star press it would need to become a break out hit.

Party Girl

The opening film for Un Certain Regard, and the top prize winner for this section of the festival, Party Girl from director Marie Amachoukeli invites immediate comparison with last year’s Gloria, but doesn’t quite cut it. An ageing woman, Angélique (played with wonderful conviction and depth by Angélique Litzenburger) has spent a lifetime as a hostess in a table dancing club and finds herself pondering leaving the familiarity of her old life, and the friendship of her fellow women at the club, for a chance at a more domestic existence with a customer who proposes to her. It's a tender portrait of a woman attempting to find a place in the world for herself after a lifetime using her, now fading, looks to earn a living. An outsider by nature, Angélique’s attempts to fit into a regular suburban life with a man she struggles to love, is at once a fantasy and also a kind of death for her. As she stumbles, inebriated and lonely into her new life we are at once struck by her courage but also self-destructiveness.

Party Girl
Party Girl by Marie Amachoukeli

It’s a moving portrayal which is never exploitative, but the narrative sags in the middle before building to a powerful sobering conclusion. Its realist aesthetic and social conviction undercuts any sensationalism which the subject matter could easily stray into, but it also limits the size of its potential audience. It’s not a pleasurable film to watch, but it has an emotional charge which would see decent, if not rave, reviews which would likely translate into a modest audience should the film be picked up for UK distribution. Given the stronger Gloria’s failure to perform strongly at the indie UK box-office, this lesser film will be an uphill struggle for a brave distributor, but certainly a worthwhile and interesting piece of cinema for committed cinephiles.

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