How To Market A Chick Flick: Add Heels & "Tug At The Ovaries"S

There's an epic piece in this week's New Yorker that's worth your while, and reveals what Hollywood movie marketers think about you:

While we highly, highly suggest you take the time to read the entire story, here are some revelations from people who make trailers, manipulating moments from flicks:

“The most common comment you hear from filmmakers after we’ve done our work is ‘This is not my movie,’” Terry Press, a consultant who used to run marketing at Dreamworks SKG, says. “I’d always say, ‘You’re right—this is the movie America wants to see.’”

But what about you, the modern woman? Oh, the marketers know all about you:

The collective wisdom is that young males like explosions, blood, cars flying through the air, pratfalls, poop jokes, “you’re so gay” banter, and sex—but not romance. Young women like friendship, pop music, fashion, sarcasm, sensitive boys who think with their hearts, and romance—but not sex (though they like to hear the naughty girl telling her friends about it). They go to horror films as much as young men, but they hate gore; you lure them by having the ingénue take her time walking down the dark hall.

That is, of course, only if you are under 25. If you're over 25, you fall into a different "quadrant" of marketing. You're "older."

Older women like feel-good films and Nicholas Sparks-style weepies: they are the core audience for stories of doomed love and triumphs of the human spirit. They enjoy seeing an older woman having her pick of men; they hate seeing a child in danger. Particularly once they reach thirty, these women are the most “review-sensitive”: a chorus of critical praise for a movie aimed at older women can increase the opening weekend’s gross by five million dollars. In other words, older women are discriminating, which is why so few films are made for them.

The marketer at the heart of this article, Tim Palen, was working on a new Renée Zellweger new film, Chilled in Miami, and trying to figure out how to get people to watch it. After a screening, Palen worried:

“They weren’t talking about Renée Zellweger, but she was the reason they came, because she’s a movie star. So if we’re out on Super Bowl weekend as counter-programming—trying to get women—the trailer has to be about her and be all shellacked and lacquered. Though I wonder if ‘Fargo’ meets ‘Baby Boom’ might be more relatable, with the downsizing everyone’s experiencing.” I mentioned that Blanche (Siobhan Fallon Hogan), Zellweger’s administrative assistant at the plant, had got many of the biggest laughs. “Droll and folksy reads as quaint, reads as art house,” Palen said. “I love Blanche, but I can’t sell her.”

So how do you sell a Renée Zellweger movie? The New Yorker's Tad Friend writes:

He had been working to make a compelling trailer, using David Schneiderman, at Seismic Productions, who cut trailers for “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Sex and the City.” Paul Brooks wanted the trailer to be primarily comedic, but Palen felt that it needed an emotional through-line, “the stuff that tugs on the ovary.” Schneiderman says that Palen’s reaction to his first pass “was the worst: ‘Where’s the Mary Tyler Moore?’ He said, ‘This girl goes to this little town in Minnesota and she’s a cold person, and they warm her up, right? More warmth, more style, more “Devil Wears Prada.” ’ And I said, ‘I don’t know where that is in the movie.’ And he said, ‘Create it.’”

By the end of the piece, Chilled In Miami has the more straight-forward title New In Town; the poster features red, Devil Wears Prada-esque shoes and a Louis Vuitton suitcase (Palen shot the photograph himself; whether the shoes or the luggage actually appear in the film is unclear), and the trailer, writes Friend, "made me want to see the movie, even though I’d already seen it. It looked like fun."

Letter From California: The Cobra [The New Yorker]