The new distribution landscape demands a fresh approach from film-makers to marketing their work and to communicating with their potential audience
A new world order exists in which filmmakers and other media content creators can no longer rely on old distribution institutions to take their films off their hands and pay them mightily for the privilege.
Fortunately the digital revolution has helped to democratise much of the distribution and marketing apparatus just as it has the production process over the past decade and a half. It is not that difficult, relatively speaking, todistribute a film in some manner, but to get people to watch it and pay for it, that is the most pressing matter and the core issue that faces most filmmakers today.
However, devoting a serious amount of thought to distributing and marketing their films is anathema to a significant number of film-makers. Many film-makers feel that if they think about the marketing of their film while making it, that they will be selling out or corrupting their artistic vision. But they would do well to consider the words of drum and bass master Roni Size: “I hope I’m selling out — if I see CDs left in the racks, I must be doing something wrong.”
Mindset shift one
Change your attitude toward the process
Film-makers must view marketing as the way to connect with the audience of their film that either already exists, or should exist. Most film-makers if they are truly honest, want as many people to watch their films as possible. Marketing is the way it is done. Film-makers can also retain their artistic vision through this process and certain new storytelling methods such as transmedia can be used to expand the creative process in new and exciting ways and help market your films in the process.
Mindset shift two
The new 50/50
Almost everyone I spoke to and interviewed for my book Think Outside The Box Office agreed that in the new world order for distribution, 50% of your
time and money should be devoted to making your film. The other 50% must be dedicated to helping your film find an audience. This might change as economics and technology improve. It is also not a hard and fast rule for every film. But it is a good guideline when embarking on a project.
Money for distribution and marketing should be raised at inception and put into escrow. We must
create new crew positions to be responsible for these tasks. Only if we take this work seriously will it get done.
Mindset shift three
Start the process at inception
With minimal resources (even with a lot of resources) it can take a long time to engage your audience. This does not just concern individual audience members, but more importantly, organisations that you can partner with. These organisations can serve as bridges to much wider audiences.
This audience engagement (aka marketing) will be much more organic if you integrate it into the life of the film, the whole life cycle of a film. By starting during prep and production, you are allowing your audience to be involved in the creation of the film. This in turn gives them an investment in the success of your film.
This can happen through crowdsourcing of various creative aspects of the film or through the crowdfunding of the budget for the film. These engaged audience members will be active promoters of your film because they will feel they have a connection with the film.
Even if you are picked up by a distributor, any marketing work you do in advance will not only help you during your release, but might actually help you get stronger distribution deals than you would have otherwise. Having a robust email list, active Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts with many friends and followers is invaluable.
Los Angeles-based Jon Reiss is a film-maker who has produced and directed features, documentaries, shorts and music videos in a career spanning 30 years. His book, Think Outside The Box: The Ultimate Guide To Film Distribution And Marketing For The Digital Era, was published in the US this week in the US. It is a primer for film-making in the digital era.
For more information see thinkoutsidetheboxoffice.com