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Who is your bak kwa?

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Over the course of the last year, I have been asked this questions many times: How does one find funding for a film? Or how do we convince investors to invest in our film?

I came up with this answer: You have to ask yourself “Who is your bak kwa?”

(For our dear foreign friends, bak kwa refers to barbecued pork, a very popular snack, especially during the Chinese New Year festive season. Warning: Don’t eat too much, very ‘heaty’!)

We always think that the easy way we can find some private funding is through good ‘ole product placement. Hence, dear bak kwa retail chain owner, would you like to support my film project? We will give you actors who will chew on your delicious snack, guaranteeing that your branding will appear for about 30 seconds in the movie? Yes! Thank you so much! (Well, it works so shoot me!)

On the other hand, over the years, corporations have wised up. Firstly, who can remember products when watching a movie? Seriously. And if done too obviously, it turns off the viewer more than it enhances the brand. More often than not, product placements may hurt the brand more.

If you want a truly (to me, at the least) great example of satire, watch Josie & the Pussycats. Even the new NBC series Heroes suffers the pitfall of having not-so-subtle product placements.

Ok, product placements are NOT a bad thing. For us indie guys, they can really help. We all can be a little bit more creative here.

This is the example: Go to a bak kwa retail chain owner and work out a promotional plan, to be launched before the film is released. When someone buys maybe $30 or more of bak kwa, they’ll get a pair of tickets to the film. The bak kwa owner can buy just 300 tickets first, and have the film poster put up (in all his 200 retail shops) advertising this promo.

There! You’ve just sold 300 tickets that add to your box-office takings and you get visibility (for free!) in retail space. Now, you don’t even have to have a product placement in your film — though of course you could do that as well, if you wanted to be nice.

So during this festive season, when chewing on the lovely bak kwa, remember: The hurt is temporary, the film is forever. Happy Chinese New Year from all of us at Sinema.sg!

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