When browsing film submissions, there are key things us indie film distributors look for. A BIG one is great key art.
It is challenging to market a movie with a low substance, cheaply designed cover. Your front image is your opportunity to grab people's attention, and usually you only have about 5 seconds to do it.
Not sure how to do that? We're here to tell you exactly what it is that sells.
1) Starpower. If you have a star. FLAUNT IT.
Your film can be great, but no one knows unless you draw them in with someone they are familiar with.
Familiarity is the key word here.
It does not matter if a person in your film had a small role in Titanic or The Avengers, unless your audience are watching those studio films because your featured actors were in it (like they would for Leo Dicaprio and Robert Downey Jr.), then don't flaunt those credits or claim your star is big enough to warrant mass sales for YOUR film because their face is on your cover. Be realistic. Our film Hello Herman has 2 front covers, one with stars Norman Reedus and Garrett Backstrom (who have equal roles) and one strictly for Redbox, which JUST has Norman Reedus on it as he holds the bigger starpower. Redbox specifically asked for this cover as they are confident his face alone will be a bigger draw for rental.
2) Action shots. If your film is a crime drama and has guns, showcase this on the cover.
If it is a comedy, showcase the type of comedy the film is about. If it is slapstick, put an outrageous image on there that showcases the goofiness, if it is a situational comedy, stage the outlandish situation on the front cover (ex. Wedding Palace, August: Osage County).
If the film is horror with a scary monster, don't HIDE the monster, showcase it and scare the pants off of everyone before they even pop in the disc, which will clearly convert to a larger sales crossover.
Check out the DVD art for Stitch, an indie horror flick starring Edward Furlong. Can you tell who the villain is?
3) Title text- Having a clear title is very important to set the brand for your film.
Don't make this hard to see or read.
Let it ring bright and bold in a font and color that can alternate as your logo. Colors on your title text mean everything in terms of making your words pop out. Please look at these two examples of our film BURN.
Example 1 (on the left) is our standard DVD cover and Example 2 (on the right) is our cover with title text slightly altered with more of an orangey look to match the firey background which helps stand out a bit easier in rental outlets like Redbox and Family Video. Which one do you prefer?
4) Reviews- Brag from your highest caliber sources.
If you are releasing a film in US theaters, don't use reviews from British publications like The Guardian or Canadian outlets like The Toronto Star. You want the reviews to translate into sales for where you are presenting. If commercial is what you are seeking, try your best to run a four wall in NY or LA, so you can get a NY Times or LA Weekly review.
Can't do that? Higher a publicist to work media outlets and celebrities. Even a good tweet from a well known actor and director can be considered a review nowadays. Be Bold. You never know what celebrities will be into.
Example: Rosie O'Donnell gave a glowing review for our crop circle documentary "What on Earth?" Who knew she was such a fan of off kilter subject matter? If you have a specialty film, a documentary for example, and you are looking for a school outreach, make a special key art with strict reviews from professors and academic advisers. They may care about your NY Times review, but reviews from trusted colleagues will convert much better into a sale, plus this will cost MUCH less time and money in terms of outreach.
5) Imagine everyone in the world has one brain cell. Will they fully understand what your film is about by looking at your front cover in 3-5 seconds?
Make your cover stupidly smart! Spell out what your movie is about with minimal second guessing. Please look at the cover for The Pill below.
Without knowing a thing about this film, you automatically see a beautiful couple in bed together with a conflict. The man is holding a pill in his hands with the woman looking distraught. She blatantly doesn't want to take this pill. Why would a guy be so eager to give a beautiful girl a pill after what looks like a situation of post coitus? Why doesn't she want to take it?
Who are these actors? WHO CARES? The clear situation alone is what is going to convert consumers into a sale as consumers can either relate with the situation or leave them wanting more since they already have a great idea of what they are going to walk into without reading anything, but the title and tagline. SCORE!