UCF Film graduate teacher Charles Sutter explains the history behind how UCF film students have been helping promote films at the Florida Film Festival.
By Jacob Engels
While attending the preview party of the Florida Film Festival several weeks ago, I got the chance to speak with UCF Film graduate teacher Charles Sutter about how students in the UCF Film program help promote select films and the festival as a whole. Sutter explained that the partnership and concept of providing films at the festival with “street teams” to help drive attendance and awareness was conceived by Mike Monello – one of the producers on “The Blair Witch Project.” Mr. Sutter has been involved in this process while earning his Bachelors, attending grad school, and now as an instructor at UCF.
Tell us about your experience working on the “street team” promoting Art and Copy for the Florida Film Festival as a student several years ago while attending UCF.
I can’t remember why, but for some reason we weren’t allowed access to the filmmakers. I think it might have had something to do with them getting distribution or something, so we were on our own figuring out how to promote the movie. The biggest stroke of luck for us was that the movie is amazing. We did all the footwork things that you have to do, like putting flyers all over downtown and Winter Park, but ultimately we were really concerned that no one would see or care about them, so in a stroke of inspiration, really desperation, I emailed the human resources departments of all the advertising firms in the area, and told them about the movie and how it might be a great team building exercise for them to bring the whole office. To my pleasant surprise, that worked.
In grad school you had the opportunity to intern with Professor Rich Grula, who has been put in charge of the guerrilla marketing (Film Producer) class, what did you learn while working with him?
Working with Professor Grula was and continues to be great. There are lots of specific marketing things that I’ve learned, but the largest, most valuable lesson is about professionalism. I think that often people get caught up trying to have a genius idea, or trying to impress someone, when the truth is that people just want you to respond to their emails in a timely manner, or to be early to meetings, or get their lunch order right. I’m paraphrasing but at some point Professor Grula said something to the effect of “if you want to get a job when you graduate, be able to prove that you can make your boss’s life easier.”
What are the most popular and most effective tactics used by “street teams” to promote films at the Florida Film Festival? Are the methods different from when you took the class?
Popular and effective are usually the exact opposite of each other in the world of marketing. The people that are the most successful are the ones that have found a way to be very unique. Everyone hands out flyers, but if you can do something that creates a little bit of a stir, then you might be remembered and that’s the name of the game. My thing was emailing people in the field of my film’s subject, but last year there was a team that dressed up like a group of aliens that played folk music, which was what their movie was about. One student got an drum team to play one of the screenings. I think I love teaching this class because it forces our students to apply a creative thinking to a practical problem, so its like a marriage of all things they’ve been learning over their time in UCF’s School of Visual Art and Design.
What films are you most excited for this year at the Florida Film Festival?
I’ve been involved with the festival for a couple years now, and coming to festival for long before that, and I have to say that this year’s line-up is the strongest I can remember. I would pick something more specifically, but I don’t want to be accused of favoring any of the groups in my class.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org