9 Practical Film Marketing Tips Every Indie Filmmaker Should Know
It is an undeniable truth that most independent filmmakers are not effective at marketing their own films. Every filmmaker, and every film fan, can list dozen “hidden gems”, most with star talent, that no one knows about. One can go on to IMDB and look up any star and see films they’ve made that no one remembers they’ve made, many of which are rather good. There are documentary filmmakers who have great projects about very important topics, and their films almost never get seen. And yet . . . some films with no name talent and with very low production values manage to get seen by everyone (ala The Blair Witch project).
Generally, these “surprise successes” are identified as flukes, but really they are examples of marketing done right. If you’d like your film to be a “happy accident of great marketing” here are some building blocks to get you started.
- Make the film you and your talent want to make. Inherent in that is finding talent who wants to make the film you have in mind, and making that talent very happy to be working with you on your project. A good name makes for great marketing, and often name talent has got a following because they do great work. So design a great film, with a cool script, a great budget, make sure there’s rehearsal time, give your talent a producers cut on the back end as well as cash to shoot, and ensure they’ll be around to talk about the film post release. You really do need their support. This is true for documentaries to. Get a narrator with a recognizable name and your project becomes far more marketable.
- Make sure your film is good. Sounds stupid doesn’t it? But there are good films and bad films and a good film is a film people want to watch. So hack your film together in such a fashion that it is actually entertaining. Show it to people, get their notes, and hack it together even better. People have to actually like your film for it to sell well. Plan for this refining process to take 3x as long as shooting, and to cut the film three times. Because the first cut is yours, the second incorporates feedback from the audience, and hopefully the final one is the “gold” version that people really enjoy and recommend to others.
- Figure out, based on having let people watch your film, what they liked about it and who they are. If your film is about the Satyr Motorcycle Club of West Hollywood, and you discover that gay men who ride motorcycles like it . . . you have a pretty good idea of who your target market is. Every good film has a target market. They may not be the market you expected them to be when you started out, and they may be kind of nebulous, but they exist. You need to know who they are before you market. Juno and Little Miss Sunshine get marketed differently from Chainsaw Massacre.
- Design your artwork to appeal to your target market. Pay someone good to do the cover and other graphics for your movie. You’ll need the DVD case cover, the signature image for sale on websites. Skip the poster unless you’ll be buying distribution for it. Look at the covers of similar films. People’s eyes are trained to identify certain kinds of images with certain films. Show the covers you get made to members of your target market. See which one they like best. Refine your poster until people really go crazy for it.
- Build a website for your film. Generally you should build it using WordPress or another open source content management system like Joomla. I like WordPress. Avoid Flash like the plague. Google loathes flash, and if you market your film with it you are simply “un-marketing” it. If WordPress themes don’t make it fancy enough to suit you, go to www.elance.com and hire a programmer to make it prettier. Incorporate your artwork into your film so your “branding” is consistent across the board. Make sure your Twitter account is listed on your website. Tweet at least once a day about your film. Make sure you include, as a hash tag, your star’s name (Ex: #stevienix). That will get new people to your site every day.
- Ensure you can sell your film through your website. Check out Kunaki.com and CreateSpace.com. Both will let you sell your film directly to the public. CreateSpace will let you sell it as Video on Demand as well. You can also have a link that shows people where to watch the film in person if you are doing screenings (perhaps using Cinedigm). Don’t market something you can’t sell. It’s pointless.
- Start running press releases through free press release sites that incorporate your actor’s name as the first two words, and New Film as the second two words. Run about 50 of those over the course of a year. The actor’s name must be first because people search for them online, and you want your press release to be one of the first things they see when they search for his name.
- Contact people who talk to your target market and ask them to do reviews of your film. Give them a link to the film online. If they do a review, publish a blog on the review and link to it on their site. Reward them for coverage with PR.
- Email people who do interviews and ask them to interview your name talent. Ask your name talent to mention your film. If they do an interview, publish a blog on it, and link to it on their site. Once again, reward them for their coverage with PR.
If you do all that for a solid year, your film will get the attention it deserves. If it is a good film, you’ll find other folks will actively start marketing it for you, just as you probably tell people about your phone, or your car, or your last vacation. What else is there to talk about?
One of the reasons NOT to get an average distributor for your film is that they will almost never do all this and thus you will earn very little from your film. If you can get cash up front for distribution for a Theatrical Release or Direct to DVD film, that might make sense. Otherwise, just market it yourself. You’ll be happier, your talent will be happier, your audience will be happier.
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