Film Marketing Guide for Independent Filmmakers Part 2


This article continues from PART ONE of a 3-part series about film marketing for independent filmmakers. You can find PART THREE here.

What you will learn

  • The marketing hooks of your movie
  • Defining the goal of your movie
  • Finding film distribution

What are your hooks?

Like any good story, you need a good hook to draw in your reader to keep on reading. Same is true with your marketing. A hook is what catches your potential audience’s eye and reels them in to learn more.

However, a hook for your film marketing can be much more than just the elements of your story, character or setting. But can also be your actors, production, crew and literally any element a part of your production that may catch the attention of your ideal audience member.

High Concept

The entertainment industry likes to call this specific hook the, high concept. A high concept is an element in your movie that can be marketable in any medium you decide to advertise your movie. From public relations, posters and even sales letters. The Blair Witch Project has a solid high concept idea. A low-budget movie that was shot on videotape that explores the disappearance of a group of researchers with only the videotape left behind. Even though The Blair Witch Project was only made with $60,000, they spent $7 million dollars on marketing using their unique high concept idea to promote the movie that ended up grossing well over $100,000,000.

Analyzing the Elements

Story – Can your story be the main attraction of your movie? Take a look at the one power sentence you wrote that best describes your movie. Is there enough there that can attract audiences to want to learn more?

Source – Is your story based off a best-selling series or author? Or is it based off real events? Using the words, “based on true events” can be great hooks.

Genre – Can you draw in a crowd simply by stating the genre it belongs in?

Celebrity – Does your movie include any famous actors or stars?

Special Effects – Maybe the amazing special effects in your movie can draw in your audience.

Location – Think of the locations you filmed your story at. Underwater, in a haunted mansion, or an exotic location.

Uniqueness – Is there an element within your movie that is unique to your movie alone? Something no other audience member has ever seen?

Exploitative – Maybe your movie offers exploitative content that viewers have never seen before.

Title – Sometimes the hook of your movie could be the title itself. Mysterious, intriguing, exciting, etc.

Budget – At times, people are drawn to projects based off of a known budget. You can draw audiences from both spectrums from ultra-cheap low budget movies to mega blockbuster summer movies that cost millions.

Always keep in mind that you must use a hook that you know your ideal audience member will latch onto. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal audience member. Why would they choose your movie over other similar movies? Picture yourself standing in a department store at the movie section and you see a long line up of movies on a shelf. What would make your ideal audience member pick your movie than the rest? Is it the cool cover design? The title? The story?

What is your ultimate goal?

Be realistic. As creative imaginative filmmakers, we can sometimes conjure up gross expectations that are unattainable with the limited resources you have at your disposal.

The Big Picture

Think back to the very first day you even started writing about the movie. What drew you to the story? What made you want to make it so badly compared to all the other ideas spewing in your head?

By understanding the why, you’ll have a clearer idea of where you truly want to achieve with your movie.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get into the mindset of understanding what drives you to see your movie successfully marketed and accepted.

  1. Are you looking for exposure? Consider how much and where such as, local, regional, national, worldwide. In specific industries.
  2. Do you want to make more contacts in the industry?
  3. Are you looking to raise money for your second big project?
  4. Is this project about promoting your talents or the movie?
  5. Did you just want to create some great content for a specific audience group?


Thoughts on limitations

If you truly believe in your movie’s success, then there is no shortage of resources or money that will stop you from achieving your goals. In fact, this pure determination and ambition is what draws investors, distributors and audiences to your movie. It’s not the boat load of cash you may have spent on making it, but the lack of it and the drive you have to see it succeed on its creative merits alone. This is what opens up promotional opportunities for you.

Finding film distributions

For any independent film producer, landing a distributor offers you the best chance of widespread success. Here’s a few reasons why going with a reputable distributor is so valuable.

  • Well-connected – They know the major players in all the industries of the entertainment sector.
  • The ability to sell your movie in multiple markets. Distributors have built up connections regionally, nationally and globally.
  • They know what sells – Through their years of experience and understanding market trends.
  • They know when to sell –Timing is everything. There’s a reason why major studio distributors decide to release their movies for specific blockbuster movies in the summer or in the winter.
  • Knowing what to change – Distributors know what sells and sometimes your product may need changes in order for it to fit a specific market you want to enter.
  • Knowing who to sell to – Distributors know who to approach with specific content. Everyone specializes in specific markets, and you want to make sure you are speaking to the right people.

Distributors also have relationships developed over many years with buyers that you would never be able to sell to, or never even knew they existed. There is such an array of markets you can sell your movie to, it’s incredible. And only with the experience of a long-time distributor would they know who to approach and when.

The traditional cycle of a movie’s release goes as follows:

  • Theatrical
  • DVD and Internet
  • Television
    • Per-per-view
    • Pay cable
    • Network broadcast
    • Basic cable
    • Broadcast syndication

It is common practice to distribute your movie through separate licenses to specific markets that will yield better returns. For example, a major studio may acquire your independent movie for festivals and theatrical release, then license its domestic DVD rights to a distribution company that specializes in that area. Then sell off the broadcast rights to a company that specializes in broadcasting and network deals. While still holding the foreign rights, pay-per-view and internet rights for other forms of syndication.

Finding a reliable distributor will be difficult if your new to the game, but not impossible. There are hundreds of businesses and individuals calling themselves, “distributors”. It’s up to you to do your due diligence and find out who to trust with your movie. And can also deliver your movie to the audience you want your movie to be seen by.

Types of Distributors

Studio Distributors – These are typically the big boys in the industry. 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Paramount, Columbia, Universal and Disney. Collectively known as “The Big Six”.

Independent Distributors – These are independent companies who operate outside the traditional Hollywood system.

Wholesalers – Typically in the video and DVD movie marketing, they can be categorized into specific market groups.

  • Adult wholesalers – Adult-themed content.
  • New Product wholesalers – the lifeblood of the home entertainment industry. These wholesalers typically only do business-to-business deals and not with the general public.
  • Used Product wholesalers – specializing in selling used or under-performing content.
  • Leased product wholesalers – Renting/Leasing content to distributors by a pay-per-transaction model.

Sub-distributors – These are middlemen, companies who never buy products but simply connect your products to other distribution channels.


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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  • film-marketing-guide-for-filmmakers
    Film Marketing Guide for Independent Filmmakers Part 3
  • film-marketing
    Film Marketing Guide for Independent Filmmakers Part 1
  • film-marketing-guide-for-filmmakers
    Film Marketing Guide for Independent Filmmakers Part 2


What you will learn:

  • How to write a script
  • Screenplay format
  • How to write for passion and business
  • Exclusive content that I only share through email

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