Just last month Stephen Robinson, founder and director of Stephen Robinson Productions (SRP) – a creative and production A/V house for the film and entertainment industries – left his long term office at Fox Studios to join us at Paramount by The Office Space. Fittingly, his new workplace resides within the Art Deco Paramount House, the original home to Paramount Film Services’ commercial operations in Australia where it screened its films in the very cinema that operates below the building to cinema owners for distribution. With over 25 years’ experience in A/V marketing, Stephen specialises in the design and production of movie trailers, promos, TV & radio spots, online A/V content, sizzle reels, sales reels, show reels and EPK’s. The Office Space shines the spotlight on him for a change, gleaning insight into his favourite films in the process.
TOS: One major aspect of your job involves creating trailers for Australian and foreign films from various distribution and production companies to entice Australian audiences. Can you name some of the trailers you’ve made in recent years illustrating the range of different genres. According to our research you were responsible for getting us to see Black Swan, Rio and The Railway Man, and gnaw our fingernails through 127 Hours, to name a few.
SRP: We’ve had a strong documentary focus of late and try and bring our expertise in fiction creative to that genre. We just finished the trailer for the Australian documentary Suzy and the Simple Man which was very well received at the Sydney Film Festival. Currently we’re working through the A/V campaigns for Tim Ferguson’s Aussie comedy Spin Out and we are having a ball on Sausage Party!
Primarily, your trailers are the gatekeepers to soon-to-be-released films. To create the perfect “cinematic carrot” what criteria do you focus on when watching a film? Essentially, how do you create a trailer that has, as your website attests, the right impact to get “bums on seats”?
The key is to keep people guessing and build a level of intrigue. What exactly happens next? It’s important to leave an audience with a curiosity that needs to be filled. Tension and mystery are vital elements. With comedies, an out of the blue unexpected humorous moment at the end of the trailer is the best hook to get audiences to see the film. The real key is never give it all away… our work often turns a film “inside out” and presents it with a marketing led focus, but never losing sight of the film’s integrity. With a trailer you should never feel you know how a film resolves or that you have seen it all already, as in so many mainstream U.S trailers.
What do you think are the fundamental differences between Australian cinema goers vs European and American?
Australian cinema goers are much like Americans with trends and box-office results consistently showing this. European audiences have a wider taste spectrum, but internationally, the big Hollywood films mostly fare better than in the domestic U.S market. In Australia there are far less foreign films being released each year. Those that do break through show that there will always be a discerning audience for quality human stories from all corners of the globe. We need more originality in screenwriting and enough faith to take risks to make those films.
You were the national Advertising Manager for Hoyts for 14 years (until 1996). What did this entail and what prompted you to start your own company?
I worked my way up to head the department and managed all press, poster art and television advertising. I had a knack for A/V creative and film distributors who saw the work and began asking if I would do work on the side for their films. This steamrolled and I eventually left Hoyts. Now here I am, 20 years later!
What sort of TVC’s do you make – do you cater to promoting a broad gamut of products and services or a specialised niche? And is it refreshing to devise a creative concept from scratch (theme, script and accompanying visuals) in these instances as opposed to marketing a film?
We really do specialise in film and entertainment as this is where we have built our reputation. It’s wonderful to be given a loose brief and then create a punchy TVC or online spot that really sells the film in the shortest space of time! I don’t always consider the detailed marketing that applies, as we are selling entertainment and escapism and if it makes you feel good, that is often enough. We are currently looking at creating great A/V content for non entertainment industries and bringing the feel-good emotive range that the feel-good emotive range that the filmed medium offers to their market.
For those of us unfamiliar with the following terms, can you explain what the difference between a show reel and a sizzle reel and tell us what an EPK is?
An EPK stands for electronic press kit. Each film has one made as an essential tool for the media. It usually contains the trailer, film clips, interviews with cast and crew and B-Roll (behind the scenes) from the film’s production. A show reel highlights the body of work of an artist, actor, director or cinematographer. These are used to showcase their range for upcoming pitches for new work. A sizzle reel is a highlight reel to promote an upcoming line-up of films. The idea is to excite the audience about a distributor’s slate and show, through sexy and dynamic visuals, how the best is yet to come and it will come from them! A sizzle reel can also highlight an overall body of work from the past to showcase a remarkable history and reputation. These are the reels we are renowned for as we have a certain “house” style. We aim to excite and thrill an audience as well as heighten emotion and bring them to tears – all through the powerful medium of film.
Essentially, you’re the moving image marketing guru. With a keen knowledge of what appeals to audiences, do you ever consider making a film or documentary?
It has certainly crossed my mind. I’m often imagining possible scenarios in my head. It would be an interesting transition from playing with someone else’s vision.
Tell us about your clientele. How do they find you?
Word of mouth has always been the keen driver. We also show our work at film industry conferences. Having key players all in the room seeing what you do – that’s priceless.
Consider this, the weekend forecast is for non-stop rain. You’ve got the opportunity to occupy the Golden Age Cinema below your Paramount office and screen several of your all-time favourite films. What would they be? A mixed bag or do you have a favourite genre?
A very mixed bag. If I had an entire weekend (what a luxury!) I would choose: Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner; Sydney Pollack’s Out of Africa; Spike Jonze’s Her; Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash; Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story; Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient, Hitchcock’s Rebecca; Joseph l. Mankiewicz’s All about Eve; Paulo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty; Pedro Almovodar’s All About My Mother and Volver; plus anything by Billy Wilder (Some Like it Hot / The Apartment / Sabrina). Srp.net.au HEADER ICON: SRP’s logo