This is a topic that’s a little basic, but it’s a fundamental building block of understanding how to market your film. So I thought I would do a breakdown of why genre is so important to independent filmmakers in terms of marketing and distribution. I do touch on in my book The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget, but even there I only cover it in a sense as it pertains to the market. Let’s get started.
Before we begin, we should talk about what a genre actually is. At its core, the genre of your film is primarily a simple tool for categorizing how your film compares to other films. It’s a broad bucket of similar elements that lump films together in a way that makes it easier to sell them and easier to convey the general experience of a film succinctly. Knowing this will inform everything else on this list.
Generally, there are both genres and sub-genres. Sub-genres can generally pair with any genre, but some pairings work better than others. Here’s a somewhat complete list of genres and sub genres. Genres tend to focus on plot elements and overall feel whereas Sub Genres also have more to do with themes or settings.
So Why is Genre So Important?
Here's 4 Reasons.
It provides a general set of guidelines for filmmakers to follow when crafting a story.
Since there are certain elements that are inherent in any particular genres, understanding the tropes of any particular genre can be very helpful in crafting your narrative and in shooting your film. If you know you’re shooting an action film, then there had better be fight scenes, shootouts, and car chases. If you’re making a thriller, there should be a lot of suspense. If you’re shooting a horror, a good amount of your budget will go on buckets of blood. Knowing the tropes in advance can really help frame your story and what you need to shoot your film.
It categorizes it for potential customers
As mentioned above, genres are simply categorizations of similar elements of a film. As such, certain viewers will develop an affinity for certain genre. Some people will like some genres more than others. Sometimes a viewer will be in the mood for one genre, but not in the mood for another. Kind of like how sometimes you’re craving Mexican food, and other times you’re craving Chinese.
It helps to find an audience for the film
Think of this as the reverse for the point above. If your film has a well defined genre, it can be great for discovery by the audience that’s seeking it out. Again, think about the food example. If you’re a Mexican food restaurant in an area where the the community are all huge fans of Mexican, you’re likely to do well. However, if you’re a barbecue joint in a city known for it’s insanely high levels of Veganism, you might be in for a rough go of it.
It categorizes your film for Distributors and sales agents
Distributors and Sales agents understand the issues above. In addition, they often build a brand around certain genres so that there’s a high degree of audience recognition from them. Buyers and distributors often continually serve the same end viewer, and as such they’re brand is particularly important, and they often seek a similar sort of film time and time again. Think about the difference between the programming on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, or the difference between Comedy Central and MTV.
Sales agents generally develop deep relationships with the same buyers. As such, they become acutely aware of that buyer’s brand, and the sort of content they normally buy. As such, that’s the sort of content they look to acquire.
What happens if I cross-Genres?
It doesn’t add to the audience it limits it
If you make a film that’s both horror and comedy, it doesn’t sell to people who like either Horror and Comedy, it generally only appeals to people who like BOTH horror AND Comedy. So instead of expanding your horizons, it limits them. However, people who like both of these genres are going to be far more likely to really enjoy your film, just because they don’t get as much horror/comedy content as they might like. That said, getting to these people can be both difficult and expensive.
if done poorly, it confuses the message.
My name is Ben, I'm an Entrepreneur, Producer's Rep, and Author. I'm the founder of Guerrilla Rep Media, Co-Founder/CMO of ProductionNext, and founder of Producer Foundry. Together, the organizations seek to help make filmmaking a more economically sustainable endeavor. I am dysic, I have capitalization issues, and the blogs are often unedited. opinions all my own.