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Promotion goes digital, and how! – B-Town

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Promotion goes digital, and how! – B-Town

Mumbai, April 7 (Ajit Weekly News) Filmmaking as well as other aspects of the business have come a long way over the years. From nitrate-based film prints, which could easily catch fire, to ‘safety film positives’, to now using no film at all — it is, after all, the digital era.

Films are shot on digital cameras, transferred on discs and that is how they reach for projection in cinemas. Digital cameras did away with a lot of peripheral needs and expenses.

For starters, they did away with editing rooms where a rush print of a film was edited on a table (literally), frame by frame. It can now be done on the spot when you are shooting. The advantage is that you have a small screen that is attached to the camera and this enables you to see what you are shooting and how it will be seen on a cinema screen.

The biggest money-saving benefit, however, is that you save lakhs on the negatives that used to be needed for shoots and the ‘positive film’ required for release prints. These films were all imported, controlled by the authorities and often in short supply.

The bigger the film, the bigger the order for release prints, and then, the film processing labs took time. The release of a film involved transporting these print reels filled in a tin trunk from Mumbai to various film distribution capitals of the country.

Mumbai is where all filmmaking activities took place. It was also the home of about half-a-dozen film processing labs, such as Filmcentre, Bombay Lab, Ramnord Lab, Adlabs, and so on. All of them are now out of business and have monetised their prime real estate.

If filmmaking has moved to the digital medium, ancillary activities are bound to follow in the same direction. Film promotions especially have gone digital.

Before we get into this aspect of the film business, it is important to know how a film used to be advertised in the past decades. They were advertised and not promoted as it happens now. There were no lies and deceptions, which seems to be a normal way of doing things today. For any advertising that would take place, the original material was used.

A trailer, in other words, was made from the original footage shot for the film. The films were advertised through paper posters pasted all over a city and in railway stations. And of course, there used to be photosets and show cards to be displayed on cinema windows, both facing the road outside and inside the premises.

This publicity material worked wonders. People stopped and gaped at street posters and at cinema windows. That is how they decided if a film was worth watching or not. Of course, the trailers of yet-to-release films scored the most maximum points. For that, though, one had to watch the film preceding the next attraction.

It was all a set routine and very simple. You could arouse enough curiosity even with street publicity. There was this 1962 film whose makers pasted posters all over with its title in abbreviation, namely, M.S.K.C. So, one waited eagerly for the makers to reveal the title. It was ‘Main Shaadi Karne Chala’.

Then there was the stalwart filmmaker Gulshan Rai, a film distributor, who was launching his own film production company. Wall and kiosk posters came up asking for a suitable name for the company. Depicting the pictures of three gods — Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh — the posters appealed to the people to suggest an appropriate name for the production company!

The company was eventually named Trimurti Films in keeping with the gods depicted on the posters and it went on to make iconic films such as ‘Johny Mera Naam’, ‘Joshila’, ‘Deewaar’, ‘Trishul’, ‘Vidhaata’, and so on.

The way films were advertised was all about catching eyeballs and rousing public interest in those days when promotional avenues were limited to publicity on the streets and cinema windows.

As the big corporate players got into filmmaking, the business went all-India instead of being organised circuit-wise. The makers needed to use media that served the purpose of promoting a film across India at the same time. Film promotions therefore moved to television and print. Responding to the shift, TV channels introduced dedicated slots for film promos and the print media came up with what began to be called ‘Advertorial Supplements’.

There was also a time when a film’s promotion was conducted through popular television shows when the star cast of a film invaded the sets of a serial pretending to be part of the show and appealing to the viewers to watch their film. Both carried a price tag and were vastly used for a time. But to little effect.

Then the films went digital. The first film to be shot in the digital format was Alt Balaji’s LSD (Love Sex Dhokha) in 2010. In keeping with time the promotion activities also moved to the digital media.

It started with the creation of groups on chat sites, which were in vogue in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The unfavourable reviews were subjected to foul-mouthed dissing. By 2005 or so, YouTube made its entry and Disney used the medium for the first time to promote a film. That started the trend. It is now being used extensively to promote songs and film trailers to good effect.

If the promotions had to be moved to wider platforms, they had to go to social media. Facebook, Twitter (now X) and Instagram became the favourite media. There, too, the same policy was adopted as in the ‘Advertorial Supplements’ of the past.

You paid certain guys who had film trade credentials and they said only nice things, starting from your film trailer to the film itself and the box- office figures. Instead of paying the television and print media, you were now paying this breed called influencers to say good things about your film.

Street poster publicity is out, so are cinema window displays and so is the practice of buying newspaper reviews.

Some sensible minds started thinking social media needed to be used better, and more creatively. You cannot have the same paid trade experts selling their souls and be trusted by netizens anymore.

Lately, filmmakers have decided to get more innovative. The influencers have lost credibility and their paid positive posts are subjected to abuse!

Now, the trend is to create memes related to the film that are then passed on to the handles of influencers such as RVCJ, Ghanta Media, Viral Bhayani, Voompla, and so on, who have followers in millions. That is where the buzz about a film gathers momentum and spreads on social media. The idea, for you can’t expect regular social media user to take to regular memes, is to create curiosity and make a film a subject of discussion.

Recently, when the promo of ‘LSD2’ was launched on social media, it carried a 100-second video where the film’s director, Dibakar Banerjee, issued a ‘warning’ that the film carries some scenes that may hurt the sensitivities of certain people, for the film has been made on the same lines as its previous version, ‘LSD’. The director also warns those under the age of 18 to avoid watching the promo!

Now, Dharma Productions has come up with a similar warning for the teaser of their forthcoming film, ‘Kill’. A poster has been put up on social media that reads: “The film contains violent content that may be intense and disturbing for some viewers.” It adds: “Viewer Discretion is advised.”

No, the filmmakers have no intention to opt for self-censorship. This is just another ploy to get a film to be talked about.

–Ajit Weekly News


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