the marketing and branding considerations of indie horror film 'cult girls'

Independent film director and music film clip producer Mark Bakaitis recently released the full feature horror flick 'Cult Girls' - his first commercial release since Narcosys back in 2000! Mark is well respected within the Australian music scene for his film clip and documentary directing however, with the launch of Cult Girls, he is fast making a name for himself as a director to watch after taking out 'Best Director' in Italy's prestigious Agrippa Award at the first Hermetic International Film Festival earlier this year. I spoke with Mark recently and explored upon the branding and marketing considerations within the creative process of making 'Cult Girls' and his plans for the future.

Mark Bakaitis on the set of Cult Girls in Lithuania

First of all, in terms of the branding for ‘Cult Girls’, where did you take your inspiration from in regard to fonts and the symbols used?

The symbols were from taken from a Lithuanian pagan religion called Romuva. This is a modern revival of the religious practices of the Lithuanians before their Christianisation in 1387. The main Cult Girls logo is the symbol of Ragana, which means witch or all seeing. The symbol has been wrongly compared to the Nazi swastika, which in itself was an inverted version of an ancient religious icon and the fonts were based on Nordic runes and German gothic typefaces.

I noticed that different Cult Girls posters are used within different regions. Did you change these due to different geographic regions appeal to different images?

Original Cult Girls poster art

Each country and distributor have their own style that caters to a targeted audience. The original poster featured a hooded figure with two girls at the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania under a dark sky. The U.S distributor- ITN films, used these elements but made it more glossy and less dark. Umbrella Entertainment in Australia/NZ took more of a black metal styled approach and used a hooded skull figure. They had released the film Lords of Chaos in Australia and took a similar marketing campaign with Cult Girls.

All the classic horror movies seem to release merchandise such as character figurines, t-shirts, limited cinema art posters etc. Is this something you feel that Cult Girls may produce in future?

During the funding campaign we had local boutique fashion label - FLUX Clothing draw up a few punk/metal styled T-Shirt designs. If we had further interest, we would definitely consider moving into merchandise for Cult Girls.

Would it be fair to say you taken some references from the Cure ‘a Forrest’, Conan the Barbarian and Dogs in Space when creating the sets for Cult Girls?

The artwork for The Cure’s 'A Forest' is iconic and the song has been covered by death/black metal acts. However, it was more about capturing a European folk horror look with the use of pine trees rather than Australian bush. Conan the Barbarian had amazing set design by Ron Cobb, but we had little funding to really develop the art direction. Shooting in Europe enabled us to capture unique Gothic architecture that was centuries old without expensive sets.

Jane Badler on the set of Cult Girls in 'a Forrest'

Like Dog’s in Space, Cult Girls weaves music and concert footage into the story. However, I didn’t want the film to show any recognisable Melbourne landscapes. I was more influenced by the cult/industrial imagery of Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV as The Golden Path headquarters.

You’re hugely into music being renowned mainly up until now as a film clip director. What images of artists or album designs have had the biggest effect on you creatively within your career? I’m betting Kiss, the Cure and the Stooges, yes?

I think KISS influenced a lot of kids our age. They really did seem like cartoon characters and were larger than life. Black Sabbath’s artwork and approach had a big influence on me when I was young too. The Cure early on, didn’t really have an image, but their songs invoke a sense of space and reflect nature. Robert Smith lives near the beach. Iggy embodies androgynous primalism. The Stooges were so nihilistic compared to the hippy movement. They definitely were proto-punk.

I was very inspired by the DIY nature of punk and picked up a Super-8 camera in the 1980’s and started making films, shooting bands and filming skateboarding. Thrash metal was very popular among skaters and I witnessed its’ transition into death/black metal. The imagery from this scene was definitely an influence on Cult Girls such as having Swedish metal band Tribulation featuring in it.

Adam Zaars from Tribulation featuring in Cult Girls

So what's next for you Mark, do you have any future projects or anything currently in the works?

My next project is a documentary with Umbrella Entertainment about local record stores/labels and how an underground community spirit can make an impact on music and youth culture worldwide.

Sounds awesome Mark! We can't wait to check this out.

For more info on Cult Girls, head on over to the official Cult Girls website.

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