Many of the movies that screen at SXSW each year — particularly the documentaries — speak to such specific crowds that it’s hard to imagine how to get them to find audiences after the festival. But indie distributor Richard Abramowitz knows the name of the game.
Abramowitz, the president of Abramorama, which provides marketing, distribution and representation for a wide range of movies, recently acquired two titles screening at SXSW, each with its own particular needs.
"Anvil! The Story of Anvil" tracks the progress of a forgotten 1980s heavy metal band that goes on tour after more than 20 years of obscurity. Entertainingly assembled (at times it feels more like "Spinal Tap" than a work of nonfiction) by director Sacha Gervasi (the screenwriter of "The Terminal"), it begs for a marketing strategy that involves the heavy metal community. So Abramowitz partnered with VH1 in a plan to release the movie this summer, aided by a "network-wide, multi-platform promotional campaign" to ensure that the right people check it out.
Abramowitz is also working on documentarian Ron Mann’s "Know Your Mushrooms," a portrait of mushroom hunters in Telluride, Colorado, that probably won’t appeal to anyone without a penchant for the fungus at the center of the material.
On a panel earlier this week, Abramowitz discussed the importance of finding the right tactic for each individual movie he works on. When he released "The Singing Revolution," a look at the role of folk songs during the Estonian liberation from the Soviet Union, he figured out a specific way to market the movie to Estonian audiences through the movie’s website. Joining him on the panel, B-Side Entertainment’s Chris Hyams talked about his company’s ability to market the stoner comedy "Super High Me" to its intended audience by offering a 20 percent discount on DVDs purchased online as long as the buyer agreed to hold screening parties.
But Abramowitz was able to top that. In 2000 he worked on another pot-related feature, Mann’s marijuana history documentary "Grass: The Movie." Recognizing Mann’s intended audience, he took an unconventional route to tracking them down: Giving fliers for the movie to pot delivery services based in New York City, making direct contact with his target.
"They’d get the delivery, see the marketing materials, and say, ‘Wow,’" he said. "We had this fantasy that everyone would be so stoned they’d forget they saw the movie, so they’d go see it again." Abramowitz insisted on the importance of mass marketing on a grassroots level. "If you have a film that plays well, just get it in front of as many people as possible," he said. "Try to create the word of mouth you can no longer create in the theater."