By Warren Miller
I was watching a presentation of a collection of some 100 year-old circus posters on Antiques Roadshow last night and it brought back a lot of pleasant memories to me.
When I started my film company many years ago; the only promotion that I was familiar with and knew how to create were colored posters. They all had some similarities every year. They told you what resorts you would visit, who would be skiing in the film and special things with which we hoped to excite the potential ticket buyer. I would supply the colored posters free to the ski clubs putting on the show. The ski club added the ticket price, date and location of the show. The ski club talked the ski shops into displaying them in a hopefully prominent place in their store.
After the first few years we were able to convince the ski shop to start selling our movie tickets. This would build traffic into their ski shop for two months or so before the chairlifts started in December. It was three years before we could get some newspaper coverage for our upcoming appearance in their town. First I had to get a newspaper writer to see my show and then the following year he or she might be talked into writing about it.
Those posters of mine were our best way to reach the most people in the most efficient and cheapest way. I designed and did the art work for the first dozen years because of financial constraints. I was too cheap to have someone else design and do all of the art work plus, by then, I had lots of graphic experience making signs and posters for other businesses.
Last week I was working on my biography and had thirty different annual ski movie posters that I had reduced to 8 ½ x 11. I laid them out on the floor and they were really a sight. The artist I was working with on my bio said, “Why don’t we make a 24×36 inch poster including all of them on one poster. They would be reduced a great deal of course but they would be a colorful wall poster to sell on the web site someday.”
Which brings me up to date on the current promotional opportunities that are available in today’s social networking. Sometimes I post something on my Facebook site and get several thousand responses. When I was using only my movie posters to get skiers to come to my movies I would have to travel to half a dozen different cities and do a show in each city to sell 3,000 tickets at a dollar a ticket. I was doing great I thought because I could rent a good motel for five or six dollars a night and a stack of pancakes was twenty cents for three with butter and syrup included. A cup of tea was a dime. Different times!
Ten years ago when I quit working on ski movies in any capacity the new owners started digging out some of my old voice tracks and found sentences that might work in one of their films and spliced them into movies of guys flying through the air upside down. The movies still bear my name and they’re trying to convince the audience that I still have something to do with the film although I definitely do not. Since I quit I have watched the large number of young filmmakers who are filling the market void that I walked away from. Again I want to emphasize that I have had nothing to do in the creative area or any other area with my old film company. When you read it is a Warren Miller Film that is in name only. I sold my company and my name to my son and his partner fifteen years ago. They ran it for ten years and sold it to TimesMirror/Ski Magazine and retired. They offered me the opportunity to continue narrating the movies, do a dozen or more personal appearances and take a seventy five percent pay cut. I said no.
Ski Magazine sold it to Time Warner and they sold Warren Miller Entertainment to a Swedish publishing company, Bonnier Inc.
I enjoyed what I did all of those years and created a much different ski movie than is being put up on the screen today. It seemed that the public liked what I did or it would not have gone from promotion by posters only promotion, to a fifty-five year career.
Now I’m writing my columns and my autobiography and enjoying the same long days at work that I had all of those years. I can hardly wait until I get to create a layout of all of those now antique posters of mine for my book.