Marketing a Film to the Hip Hop Community… Guerrilla Style

Chris Knittel speaks in this article about the guerrilla tactics employed to market Snow On Tha Bluff , a violent crime, heroin and poverty fuelled film about Atlanta’s ‘forgotten neighbourhood’, The Bluff. Chris starts off with burning a good 3,000 DVDs of an enticing, raw segment of the film (In which protagonist, Curtis Snow, ambushes some rivals and takes a seemingly fatal bullet at the end) and dropping them off at a flea market to ‘simmer and marinate’. What followed was the wheat-pasted posters across buildings and alleyways, general saturation of Atlanta’s cityscapes.
I was reading this and getting flashbacks of the Blair Witch campaign, the missing people, the genuine concern from communities and the legend that is, still somewhat around.

“Rappers often paint a glamorous view of drug-dealing and violence; our film peels back that facade to reveal the true reality. I wanted to hit the music industry — more specifically, the hip-hop audience.”

Chris gets to the chase quite quickly and divulges his target audience, the need to very accurately talk their language, be where they are paying incredibly close, vested interest in a community is so key.

“Keeping our message authentic, I felt that it was important to project from the perspective of those entrenched in this neglected community. This is their story and we must keep it hood at all costs.”
So let me cut to the chase here and lay out the marketing timeline with some commentry:

Audience, Demographics, Target market.

Know the audience, have a plan for intriguing and eliciting their responses. Know where they hang out, spend their time, their interests, hobbies, age ranges and locales.
Drop 3000 DVDs in a public, high traffic area, the flea market. The DVDs are there to be taken, watched and with that snippet very quickly intrigue the viewer. Flea Market, this is street level, your gonna hit a few of the key demographics over here. Absolutely vital in marketing, the first word in marketing a film for sure. Know your fakkin’ audience!

Outdoor Advertising.

Posting images across Atlanta’s cityscape; walls, alleyways, over passes and high traffic areas. Going deep into territories, really keep hitting that demographic right. Keeping it really street, and really visible. The way outdoor marketing works is by making hundreds of impressions. You might need to see an image as much as 40 times in one day for it to provoke you to actually Google or ask about it.

Shit gets real!

Police investigate the tapes they come across, trace it back to the director. Everyone keeps quiet about it, and this furthers the ‘realness’.

Festival Circuit.

Hit the festival circuits, and keep pounding the press and media with pitches. Lots of online sources to hit too. VHS tapes are made, covered in dirt and blood, sealed in manilla envelopes. Hood shit! As that snowball builds, bigger and larger reach outlets gain interest, along with distributors.

In one particular screening, the images are getting pretty distressing for one viewer:

“He began to scream incoherently as my director asked him to calm down. The man screamed at my director, “Is this real!? How dare you!?” Suddenly, Curtis and his friends jumped up from the front rows of the theater and all hell broke loose! Audience members felt as if the movie had come alive as they ran for the exit doors. The melee spilled out into the lobby, and the rest was history.”
This garnered more press attention, flies across the country, turning negatives into positives yet again!

Social Media

You knew it was coming! As all this is going on, of course there is an online aspect here!
Online efforts take the form across the board including a Twitter account as the star of the film, spitting out controversy as the enigmatic anti-hero, and people are drawn to this. Whats he going to say or do next?

“For the audience to listen, the voice must be thought-provoking and authentic.”
Social media profiles were actively monitored as they should be so when say a celebrity like Kid Cudi catches wind of the film, the onslaught that follows can be engaged, channelled and whipped up into a raging firestorm!
“Creating a loyal following is like having thousands of interns at your disposal; once they are dedicated to the cause, they will market the project for you.”

Social Media “proved useful in making a personal connection, bypassing managers, agents and creating a new connection for future creative endeavors.” They received a message via Twitter from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire star, Michael K. Williams. As they chat and discuss the film, Michael remarks “Everything that is wrong with the hood, is in this movie,”. They are nailing it with this film, people are getting the message, from hood to HBO! Note, Michael steps on as Executive Producer.
As the circuit draws to an end, Michael drops a few PR nuggets here and there;

“Hitting media outlets such as CNN, VICE and BET, our buzz was lifted from guerrilla muck to corporate command.” Not bad for a couple tweets huh?


So lets just reiterate that one more time, minus all the words.

  1. Know your audience incredibly well; talk their language so everything you say has the highest chance of resonating.
  2. Get down and dirty; when you have the tiniest of marketing budgets, sometimes good old underground guerrilla tactics work really well. This can be quite situation dependent, no good for a space sci-fi, but really good for an earthly topic like disappearances, gang wars, life stuff ya know?
  3. Social media; Get them profiles up on running. Spread that web out far and wide. Concentrate your efforts on the platforms you like and that your audience like. “Be where they at”. I wrote a primer here if you need a refresher / starter.
  4. Educate, Entertain or Empower; These three things, bare them in mind with everything you do. Your audience doesn’t give two fucks about you or your film unless it educates them, entertains or empowers them… Or all three! Make the things you put out there, online or offline, applicable to the recipient. Tailor everything to them, those three things though, they help a lot!

Hey so, this is a smashing article by Chris Knittel, spread the word by sharing this.

Also, I’d be really interested to know, when it comes to marketing indie film, whats worked well for you? Drop it in the comments below.