Today the marketing gurus Philip Einstein and his partner Maria Einstein Biilmann, known as the ‘Einstein’ couple who masterminded the campaigns for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, A Royal Affair and Nymphomaniac, are holding a masterclass at Nordic Talents in Copenhagen. In this interview Philip speaks about his work and gives some tips to emerging talents.

Tell me about your company…
Philip Einstein: Maria [Einstein Biilmann] and I are the ‘Einstein couple. We are creative directors, discuss all ideas and concepts and then hire trailer makers, photographers, editors, art designers etc. Basically we develop the entire identity of a movie, such as the posters and trailers. Besides the marketing aspect, I produce and direct animation films for our company Einstein Film.

At what stage do you usually step in and what are the criteria for you to get on board a project?
If possible, we get on board at script stage and help producers strengthen the vision of a project so they can raise the financing. We work on projects where we feel we can make a difference, where marketing naturally goes ‘hand in hand with the movie ’ to help it reach a wider audience, such as the upcoming film The Shamer’s Daughter that has all the elements to become a Scandinavian super brand.

So you don’t work on smaller arthouse films or first feature films?
We work on projects that have the potential to get out of the art house box, be it first feature films, features or documentary films. For instance we’ve created the visuals for the award-winning documentary Armadillo, and my own first animation film Ronald the Barbarian. What matters are not the names attached to a movie, but its concept and how that concept can be exploited to its maximum.

Concretely how do you collaborate with producers, distributors, directors and who are your major clients?
Our closest collaborators are distributors. We’re the link between producers and distributors. We try to make everybody play the same tune, like a band. Maria and I write the songs for the band to play, then we try to execute it so that everybody has something to play and know exactly what the song should sound like. We take the wishes of the distributor, vision of the director, the potential of a production - from a financial standpoint - and try to make it as original and engaging as possible for the audience. 

On Nymphomaniac (which we will discuss in detail at the master-class) the concept for the movie was basically, if you’ve ever had a little bit of sex - this movie might be for you. We created a campaign that communicated sex without showing anything literal. On The Shamer’s Daughters, Nordisk said ‘make it edgy, but still a clear cut giant mainstream film’. It’s a fantasy film for a wide audience. It’s known amongst the youngsters but it also appeals to an older audience, so we’ve created the visuals for an innovative fantasy film that crosses between target audiences. 

Do you feel Scandinavian producers are aware of marketing and think of it from an earlier stage?
PE: The Millennium trilogy and in particular the first film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – for which we developed the campaign - was the first Scandinavian project that became a global phenomenon. Yes, Stieg Larsson’s book was good, but the campaign made the film recognisable and different. It made it “radical mainstream”. It seems like it was the tipping point where local distributors started to see the potential in conceptual campaigns. Everyone felt hey, we have to create brands as well around films.

Branding Lars von Trier is what you did afterwards….
PE: Lars is totally unique on a global scale. The campaign around Nymphomaniac helped people focus on Lars’ vision and made it clearer. If you take away the campaign, Nymphomaniac is a dark film by a genius with a complicated mind, but I think the campaign made his film a little more accessible. People saw it as a radical cultural phenomenon that you could actually be able to relate to.  

Marketing is all the more important in a digital world. Do you feel you have to work longer on campaigns to extend a film’s life on different platforms?
The brief for any campaign is to make a big impact. The first window is the most important because it is where people meet a project, and the fame that it achieves at the beginning goes all the way to the end. But today, a campaign has to work on a stamp scale for people to want to taste it on the internet and then want to watch it in a cinema. If a campaign attracts their attention on a stamp level, it will work on all scales.

If you could give tips to upcoming directors and producers, what would you say?
If you have to pitch a project to a financier, put yourself in his shoes, because his agenda is basically to make money. Try to visualise something appealing, clear cut and original that will make your idea stand out. If you’re starting to create something that looks art-house, it will be art-house and have the slowness of an art-house project even though you don’t think you’re art-house. If you look the part, you’re going to have a much easier time being the part. So try to be surprising and bring some entertainment in the marketing of your project. And most of all: make projects that a have a “feel-good” quality to them. No matter how dark the subject or vision is. People want to put “good” stuff out in this world.

Do you think marketing should be taught at film school?
Marketing to the industry and to the audience are two different things, but you just can’t ignore the two aspects. So I do believe marketing should be included in a film school curriculum so that upcoming producers and directors could be taught the basic elements that it involves.