Film Marketing Guide for Independent Filmmakers Part 1

Notes

This article is a collection of notes along with my own thoughts and insights thrown in from a book called, “The Complete Independent Movie Marketing Handbook” by Steven Bosko. If you find this article helpful, I highly recommend grabbing the book since this article only scratches the surface on independent film marketing and distribution.

This is PART ONE of a 3-part series that will help filmmakers market and finding distribution of their movie. You can find PART TWO and PART THREE here.

What you will learn

  • How to do film marketing
  • Defining your movie in one power sentence
  • Understanding who your target audience is
  • The types of distribution outlets

Introduction

The goal of this article is to go over marketing techniques that any filmmaker at any level of experience can apply.

Let me start off by saying that, you’ll need to develop a thick skin when trying to do movie marketing. You are going to hear a lot of people saying the magical word, ‘NO’ many times. And it’s important not to be offended by it or get mad. Your movie simply may not be what a potential distributor was looking for, simple as that.

As a filmmaker, you may have spent countless hours, if not years developing your movie. So maybe you’ve built up an emotional attachment to your movie. But when it comes to business, especially film marketing, you have to put those emotions aside and think more logically.

You have to understand that your movie is not this fancy art piece, but a product. This is how the people who will distribute your movie will think about your movie. Not as this amazing creative achievement that will change the world or blow everyone’s mind away! But as a potential money-making product. At the end of the day, you’re a business person, you just created an amazing product and now it’s time to share it with the world.

With that, let’s dive into the world of marketing and what to expect and what you should be doing.

Promoting

Start promoting your movie as soon as possible. Even if you haven’t written the first draft yet, you should already be creating buzz. But, let’s say you already have a completed movie, it’s a good idea to find the marketable areas about your movie before you create a massive promotional campaign.

As a creative filmmaker, you may believe that the beautiful cinematography, awe-inspiring performances or the incredible script is what will sell the movie. But the reality is, you can promote your movie successfully even without those elements.

There is most likely some element of your movie that that will generate a positive response from potential consumers, distributors or even the media. Once you’ve discovered what that is about your movie, promote the crap out of it! Sometimes, it’s not the most obvious thing you thought would attract people to your movie, but whatever it is, milk it for all it’s worth.

What did you create?

Being able to describe your movie in one complete concise sentence is incredibly powerful. Here’s an example,

King Kong is the exciting story of a giant prehistoric ape, stolen from a tropical refuge, struggling to survive in modern-day New York City.

Bam! That’s it. That simple sentence would tell anyone within a few seconds what your movie is about. It’s easy to share and captures your attention. That’s what movie marketing is all about, capturing people’s attention or better yet, their imagination!

Creating a concise sentence like the one above allows you to focus on the heart and soul of your movie. It might take you some time to create one, but that’s okay because once you got that perfect line, that’s what will become the basis of your promotional campaign.

Some exercises to help write your power sentence.

  1. What is the basic structure? (Feature-length, short film, documentary, etc.)
  2. What is the main genre?
  3. What is the emotional purpose of your movie? (Entertain, laugh, cry, educate, etc.)
  4. Describe the principal characters of your story. (Fictional, historical, human, animal, etc.)
  5. What is the main plot of the story?
  6. Does the project deal with current events, fad, pop culture or a specific audience group?
  7. Does the film have expensive visual effects, settings, costumes?
  8. What is the time frame of the movie? (Past, present or future)
  9. Why should the audience care?
  10. Who is your ideal audience member?

The worst mistake any filmmaker can make is to believe your movie is for everyone. That your film includes every genre, every possible plot, attracts every possible audience. Please…avoid this urge. Be realistic. You can still achieve massive success by narrowing down who your movie is designed for. In fact, you’ll probably achieve significantly more success by narrowing down your movies core audience than assuming your movie is meant for all life forms.

LEARN 7 KEY PRINCIPLES USED BY SUCCESSFUL SCREENWRITERS TO WRITE BETTER SCRIPTS THAT SELL!

Who wants your product?

The Audience

Before you even begin marketing your movie, you have to first determine who your audience is. If you don’t have a clear idea of who your ideal audience member is, then all the time, effort and especially money will go straight down the drain.

A great way of creating a clear audience profile is by answering the following questions. The best way you can answer these questions is by comparing your movie with a number of similar movies or in the same genre. You can find some of this information by searching online. Some good places to start would be, www.boxofficemojo.com and www.the-numbers.com.

  1. What is the main gender of your audience?
  2. What is the main age group? (children, 18-35, 36-50, seniors, teens, etc)
  3. What is the education level of your audience? Certain movies appeals to certain audiences level of education. Understanding this effects your marketing campaign.
  4. What is the income level of your audience?
  5. Does your movie target a specific race/ethnic group?
  6. What are the most common occupations of your audience?
  7. What is the geography of your audience? Are you targeting specifically a North American audience? European? Spain? Australia? Etc.
  8. What are the common interests of your audience?

Film Distribution

Distributor

A company or individual whose sole purpose is to distribute your movie amongst a crowd of movie-goers. It may be in the form of a rental, purchase, television, internet, theatre, and a whole range of other film distribution possibilities.

Producer Representative

An individual who is responsible for building relationships and connections with potential buyers, distributors, and media about your movie. Typically, you get a producer’s rep involved early on in the process to begin building hype and marketing before the film launches. A film producer representative can be at times hard to define, but they are generally communicating the existence of your movie to the rest of the world among other tasks.

Distributor Representative

Much like a producer rep, the distributor rep specifically focuses on finding distributors and potential buyers. They may also get involved with media relations as well. A distributor rep is normally attached to a project if they truly believe, “it will make it”, or otherwise they won’t make any money. Typically, a distributor rep also has a lot of connections that can help out a smaller films or first-time filmmaker’s get a sale or get into prestigious film festivals like Sundance, TIFF or Cannes. Ideally, you want to find a distributor rep who truly believes in you and your project.

Agents

Similar to a producer or distributor rep, an agent is someone who fights for you. They help connect your movie to the right people. Agents typically have a large rolodex of contacts they can get in touch with to help get your movie seen by the right audience, or get the right media attention. An agent’s job is all about connections, staying in touch, and building relationships. That includes people in all areas of distribution like video buyers and television acquisitions. Agents are well connected and highly valuable if you meet the right one. Agents work on commissions or free if they believe your movie will be a definite hit.

Home Video Buyers

The home video market is a very lucrative business. Most independently produced movies forego any theatrical release (rather they couldn’t get a deal or avoided it altogether) and went straight for a direct-to-video release.

Cable, Pay-Per-View and Broadcast Television Buyers

Most cable, digital and satellite providers offer several hundred channels of content for a whole range of hobbies and interests their viewers may have. When you add up all the networks across the globe, you’ll quickly realize how lucrative the TV industry can be for independent producers. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. Too many channels with too few content means great news for the independent producer looking to showcase their movie on those channels.

Internet

The internet has dramatically changed the distribution world. Connecting your movie with audiences worldwide with a click of a button. The internet has made is easy and cost effective compared to other models of distributions for the independent producer. With companies like Netflix and Amazon Prime taking the online market by storm, there are a limitless amount of distribution possibilities on the web any independent producer can utilize. It’s just a matter of understanding your market and how to monetize it on the internet.

You can even self-distribute your movie on popular networks such as YouTube or Vimeo and monetize your movie through ads, or pay-per-view. I can write a whole book on how to distribute your movie online, and I plan to in the near future. I’d recommend subscribing to my newsletter (located at the bottom of the page) to stay informed when I’ll be posting more information about marketing your movie.

Libraries

Libraries have an enormous network. Having a single copy of your movie sold to each branch within an entire state, can quickly add up. The reason why libraries are such a great place to distribute your movies is that libraries love to promote new forms of art, education and self-expression all the time. Constantly growing their…library. These buyers are typically very well-educated and can be very passionate about the independent film culture and support it.

Theatres and Other Public Venues

Promoting your feature film to a local movie house can be a great sales option. Sometimes these local movie houses are always willing to try new ways of attracting new audiences which is a win-win for both you and the owner of the theatre. On top of that, launching your movie at a special midnight screening at one of these venues is also a great way to begin your campaign with a large passionate crowd of movie-goers.

References

If you found this article helpful, I highly recommend checking out the following book that goes into more detail about how to market your own independent movie.

The Complete Independent Movie Marketing Handbook

Recommended Resources

Marketing to Moviegoers: A Handbook of Strategies and Tactics

Distributing Your Film Online

Film School on Demand – How to Make & Sell Your First Movie

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