By Jesús Silva
Following the success of its first edition, Europa Distribution launched a new series of calls for the “Distributors on the Move” programme in 2021. The main goal of this initiative, aimed at members of the network working in marketing and promotion, is to foster the exchange and collaboration between independent distributors from different territories. The project offers these professionals a chance to visit other companies within the network and spend a few days with them, sharing their experience, tools and strategies towards marketing. While certain insights are necessarily linked to the particularities of a specific market, a growing shared catalogue between European distributors, as well as some mutual challenges in the covid/post-covid world, have established a common ground from which they can all learn and benefit, specifically when it comes to communicating with their audience.
While the first call of this second edition had to unfold online, due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the second call could resume the physical exchanges at the end of last year. Between September and December 2021, six members from the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Italy took part in the programme. They all worked in pairs, acting as tutors for each other in their respective countries, while establishing the focus of their exchange based on their specific needs and similar concerns, with a particular interest in building long-lasting relationships.
Jana Trnková, Responsible for PR, marketing, and social media at Czech outfit Aerofilms, spent some days in Denmark visiting Camera Film at the end of October, under the tutorship of the Distribution and Marketing Manager Agnete Juul. While being used to meeting fellow distributors at workshops and other professional gatherings, Trnková stressed the importance of having the opportunity to spend some time exploring a different work environment, office dynamics and strategies for releases. “What was very relevant for us is the connection with cinemas,” explained Trnková. Both companies operate their own theatres, and some of their exchanges revolved around taking advantage of this connection to find better ways to reach their audiences, while comparing their activities in organising special events to promote titles. The Czech member was notably inspired by the system of film clubs in Denmark: “We are now considering launching something similar, with regular film club screenings and discounts for members”. Their conversations also tackled some shared releases, such as their work with the Norwegian title The Worst Person in the world by Joachim Trier: “We talked a lot about target audiences and how to present the film to the public. What to say and what not”, added Juul, who travelled to Prague the following month, bringing up new topics to the table. When asked to highlight a specific strategy or know-how that influenced her during their exchange, the Danish member pointed at the internal workflow, specifically in terms of dividing roles and building the campaigns with a more practical and hierarchic approach. “We also spent time talking about online platforms, which is a big discussion in Denmark at the moment. Aerovod (Aerofilms’ VOD platform) was very inspiring as an example of how theatrical releases and platforms can work together”, said Juul, whose company also runs its own VOD platform.
Giulio Bruno and Fleur Dopheide, Marketing Managers at BIM Distribuzione (Italy) and The Searchers (The Netherlands) respectively, also took part in the exchange last autumn. In the course of their stay abroad, the Dutch distributor was particularly interested in getting a better insight into online promotional campaigns. “I don’t have a digital background, and we are always working with the same agency, so I was really eager to look at someone else’s vision on this huge part of marketing”. Throughout their encounters, they also focused on their work with common titles, going through the process of developing marketing materials and even discussing their social media calendars. “It was so inspiring to see their approach to online campaigns. It is always tailor-made, no matter what the budget is. I really liked it, so when I got back home, I decided to look for a different angle for our own materials and storytelling”, expressed Dopheide. Likewise, both focused on improving their skills and knowledge regarding the promotion and positioning of blockbusters and big action movies. “Normally, BIM Distribuzione has a catalogue consisting mainly of arthouse films, but we have started to release more cross-over and action titles, so Fleur’s suggestions have been very useful”, according to Bruno. On a general note, the two of them stated the convenience of getting in touch with their partners beforehand, in order to adjust the program to their personal expectations and questions.
The last pair of distributors was the one formed by Ian van der Putten, Marketing Director at Cinemien (The Netherlands), and Joanna Paulina Lipiecka from Poland’s Tongariro Releasing. Given the specific interest and experience of the Polish distributor with LGBT+ cinema, some of their meetings centred around analysing the differences between both markets when releasing these films, “discussing obstacles that may appear while distributing queer and women independent cinema”, illustrated by the case of the Italian film Mascarpone (Alessandro Guida, Matteo Pilati). While it was openly promoted as a queer story in the Netherlands, it had to be marketed as a ‘feel-good’ movie for the Polish market, including some changes in the poster design. “Even though we share part of our portfolio, it is not ‘one size fits all’, says van der Putten, who called attention to the importance of “learning from each other and their different perspectives”. Overall, the main outcome of their exchange was their commitment to finding new ways of working together and more efficiently, in terms of producing marketing materials for the same titles: “If we are already creating visuals for a film, we could deliver 50% to them, while they create the text and synopsis, so we don’t do the same work in two different companies. It won’t happen overnight, but that’s why we will keep the collaboration on the long term, in order to understand the workflow”, according to the Dutch member. Lipiecka also emphasized the value of doing more systematic work: “It changes everything. For two weeks, I was in quarantine because of covid, and it was hard for others to do my job. I learned a lot from all the tutors at Cinemien in that regard”. In terms of specific marketing approaches, both members examined the importance of working with influencers and events, underlining how “small changes in marketing” could improve their brand enhancement, in Lipiecka’s opinion.
All the participants were eager to recommend the programme to fellow distributors, stressing their interest in making it a long-term project to build personal and professional connections between companies, which can be especially fruitful to cope with the current situation.