Kevin is joined by award-winning entertainment marketing executive and former CBS Films President, Terry Press. Terry has held top marketing positions at studios like Disney, DreamWorks, and CBS Films. She’s known for her brilliant campaigns for films like American Beauty, Gladiator, Shrek, and many more. In this fascinating conversation, we get an insider’s peek at Terry’s approach to movie marketing and what makes a film truly resonate with audiences. We also hear fun behind-the-scenes stories about working with talents like Steven Spielberg, Sam Mendes, and David Fincher.

Early Years and Love of Old Hollywood

Terry vividly recalls falling in love with classic movies as a child and how they “spoke to her on a deep level.” Her father recognized her passion and exposed her to old films: “My father would take me to see like 16-millimeter prints in high school gymnasiums of Marx Brothers movies and all kinds of thirties comedies.”

Emotional Storytelling and The Sound of Music

She explains why movies like The Sound of Music and American Beauty were so successful – they touched on universal human emotions and experiences.

Terry on building an emotional connection:

I love baseball. We go to the baseball games and I look at families together. I look at people bringing two-year-olds where they’re holding their parents’ hands and they’re having the best time and they’re sitting together and they’re spending three hours there or whatever and they’re having junk food. And the kids are thrilled. And what is happening in that moment is that the parents are laying a groundwork of emotional connection to baseball. Their children will grow up thinking, I did this with my parents. We had a great time. You see the generational need, like where fathers want their sons to understand how great this is. And sports does it really well. Multi-generations go together and then they take their children. And one of the biggest failings of my generation of executives, I think is the failure to make going to see movies in theaters something that people connect to emotionally. Because what happens is then people pick convenience first.

Behind the Scenes of Testing American Beauty

We get behind-the-scenes insight into testing American Beauty. Though scores were mediocre, Terry saw intense audience engagement: “A man and his wife got in this fight about the movie. People started to discuss it very passionately.” She concludes, “I said, the scores don’t matter. This is what matters.”

Terry on the testing process:

For me, it’s just information. You can use it, you can ignore it, but you ignore it at your peril. As much as I admire auteurs and people who think that they’re making the movie for themselves, they’re not. You are making something to be consumed. If you make it and no one sees it, is that a win? I don’t know. I look at selling movies very much the way I look at a political campaign, they’re the same. I can work two years and it’s going to come down to one night. And voting is emotional.

Marketing Gladiator to Appeal to Women

Terry strategized marketing Gladiator to women by focusing on the protagonist’s family tragedy: “It’s about a man who is avenging the death of his wife…This will appeal to women. And it did.”

Handling Creative Conflicts

Terry lays out her philosophy that marketing’s role is to compellingly present a film, even if it differs from the director’s vision: “Ultimately my job is to present your baby in a way that makes the most beautiful version of itself or the version that somebody wants to spend $20 to see. And that is sometimes really hard for people because you’re saying, thanks so much, now I’m going to take what you made.”

She advises standing up to directors who disagree: “You have to listen. But I’m going to do what I think is best.” Terry adds, “If being honest about what you’ve made makes me a dream killer, I’ll have to live with that.”

Candid Takes on Industry Legends

Terry gives her candid, rapid-fire takes on industry legends like Steven Spielberg, Sam Mendes, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and more.

Shyness Behind a Tough Exterior

In a vulnerable moment, Terry reveals most don’t know she’s quite shy, despite her perceived tough exterior: “What people think is intimidation is really just completely a shyness.”

Tune in for a fascinating conversation as Terry Press provides wisdom from film marketing insights to stories about Hollywood legends to her unique personal perspective. Terry is driven by a genuine passion for great movies and storytelling, and she understands how to craft campaigns that don’t just sell films but reveal their deeper essence and meaning. It’s no wonder Terry is so respected by giants like Spielberg and Katzenberg. Her marketing mastery, authenticity, and humanity shine through in this chat.

Don’t Kill the Messenger, hosted by movie and entertainment research expert Kevin Goetz, brings his book Audienceology to life. This bi-monthly podcast takes a peek behind the filmmaking curtain as Kevin talks with famous filmmakers, studio executives, stars, and other creatives about movies, filmmaking, audience test screenings, and much more.

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