By Gordon Meyer
Filmmaker Eli Roth was the keynote speaker at last week’s Film Marketing Summit. Now frankly, I’m not a big fan of the kind of gore Roth has chosen to specialize in. But after listening to him talk, I have become a fan of his as a a total filmmaker. Roth is the kind of guy who not only manages to maximize his production values, even when shooting on modest budgets, he’s also very aware of the fact that this is a business and his name has developed some serious brand recognition.
Roth has embraced social media as an exceptionally cost effective way to market his films and his name as a brand – something mentor Quentin Tarantino taught him. He often gets his fans engaged even before a single frame is shot and has become quite savvy at the use of Twitter in particular as a way to interact with those fans and build early and passionate word of mouth.
I mentioned the advice given to him by Tarantino, but filmmakers creating a brand around their names dates back pretty much to the beginnings of commercial movie making with directors like Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Capra and Howard Hawks and producers like Walt Disney. Tarantino has very consciously built his personal brand, as have filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. But Roth consciously takes it a step further, not as a matter of ego, but as an exercise in marketing. While all of the filmmakers I just mentioned no doubt treat their names as public brands as well, Roth really takes that branding to new levels.
For example whenever he meets fans who want their pictures taken with him, he asks them to use Twitter to send them those pictures so he can share them with the rest of his fan base. This kind of personal connection with his fan base has led to a passionate and loyal following, which is also why whenever he’s involved in a new project, he’s adamant about having his name prominently displayed in all advertising and promotional materials as a way of protecting and reinforcing his personal brand.
Roth has become the consummate filmmaker in the era of social media. He plays his social media connections like a fine violin and as a result is able to generate excitement and awareness for his projects on a grass roots level with minimal expense. Don’t be surprised if PhD candidates study his branding strategies for their dissertations. You really could write a book about his effective guerilla marketing strategies. And it would be one Hollywood could well benefit from reading.