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Creative Distribution Case Study for a Film “Ringside”

My recommendations and suggestions are based on a “Ringside” trailer I watched and the EPK I read.

£1000 Budget – it’s a fantastic achievement, James; let me congratulate you on that. With such a small budget, you should be bragging about this every time you give an interview, write a guest blog post or mention your film.

When creating blog posts, interviews with cast and crew, or any other promotional materials, always, always mention your budget.

It’s awe-inspiring that with sheer willpower, talent and determination, you pulled it together.

In your promotional videos, which you will use as a part of your marketing and promotion, you can talk about the challenges of working with little money and how you managed to overcome them. People always admire others who are passionate about their craft.

Social Media – as much as you might not like social media, there is no denying you need those to find your audience today.

FB ads (you might not agree with FB’s social conduct, but they’re still the best in business) will allow you to target your niche audience better than any other widely available platform.

Twitter will help you find influencers, who can offer free advertising in the form of a review or interview etc.

Whatever platform/s you choose, don’t spread yourself too thinly across too many.

Your 2-3 (no more) social platforms need to be updated regularly, to engage with your audience.

If you think you don’t have the time to manage social media for “Ringside”, consider hiring someone. I would advise caution against hiring people without paying them, as they simply won’t feel incentivized enough to do the job properly, and you will end up frustrated, constantly chasing after them but not really in a position to expect much.

Try to find someone who can manage not only the technical side of posting but also someone creative enough to help you produce content for your social media outlets.

Do you have social platforms for yourself as a director? If not, think about building your online following. In the future, your fans might be able to help you make your next project.

Influencers – those people will be able to help you reach your niche audience. By influencers, I don’t mean celebrities; I mean people who are at the top of their game and have social media following in the niche your film is in.

From the synopsis and the trailer, I could see that social justice, poverty, youth (Universal Credit, falling educational system, deprivation of communal recourses)_ are the main focus.

Who are the “influencers” in social work, social care? What kind of publications, websites, charities, public speakers you could approach that would help you get the word out?

I’m sure that with your background, you know people, who could spread the word to make “Ringside” more visible.

What about local papers, local bloggers?

Don’t be afraid to ask your cast and crew, if they have any media contacts, connections.

All those media posts, interviews etc. will have to be coordinated around the premier date if you give an interview well before the premier and haven\t settled on VOD platform direct people to the film’s website to sign up for updates.

Creating too much buzz without knowing when the premiere will take place and when and were “Ringside” will be available to watch will be counterproductive.

Marketing and promotional materials – since your production budget was so tiny I’m guessing you don’t have any marketing and promotional budget. If at all possible, I would suggest you find some money for the FB advert. If you can’t, let’s focus on what you can do:

– Use the film stills as mini-posters, include the film’s website (your primary communication tool with your audience alongside social media outlets) and the premiere date once you know when that will happen. You can also add some keywords that are descriptive of the film or write a really short logline that could be used.

– Create a lot of short video clips to post on social media. Videos will help you create interest amongst the public.

– Make short video interviews with cast and crew. Share some behind the scenes “secrets”.

– Create a video hook. What do you think a video hook could be for “Ringside? (“Deadpool” had a brilliantly used hook. I know it’s a different genre and different audience but just check it out and see how they did it.)

Keywords – what keywords do you think would describe “Ringside” best? This part of the process is essential because you will use the keywords in every single communication outlet with the “outside world”. Those keywords will help you find your potential audience. Once you have a list of keywords, check them out in search engines to see what comes out when you type them up.

When you find similar films to “Ringside”, also check out what keywords filmmakers used to promote their films. You can find them on the film’s website and the film’s synopsis, logline.

Niche Audience – who is your audience? Did you think about your audience before shooting, during production and in post-production?

I know it may sound like a lot of work, but you need to be very specific when it comes to finding your audience. Not every film is for everyone. Quite frankly, not any film is for everyone.

Create a profile of your ideal audience member (just like companies create profiles of ideal clients), going as far as naming them. You need to know who this person is to find places where they hang out so you can make your offering available for them.

Think about Mike Leigh and Ken Loach and their social/impact films. What type of audience goes to see their films? This could be your audience, as well.

Film Website – you need to have a website for your film, especially if you are thinking and considering a creative distribution path. You will need a website to communicate with your audience, collect emails and make it easy for your fans to find your film with a click of a button.

Your website will have to evolve together with your distribution stages. Since you are in an audience-building stage, at the moment the website’s aim should be to collect emails from people who express interest in your film. Once you are ready to premiere, you will be able to let everyone who signed up know.

When your film is available, your website will have another purpose, to direct your audience to the screening platform/s.

It needs to be clean and clear, so your audience knows what you need from them every time they visit. If you give people too many choices, you might not get from them what you need.

Screenings – organizing private screenings is going to be very difficult during the pandemic, so I’m not even going to cover this subject.

However, what you could do is organize online screenings that are followed by Q&A sessions with you and perhaps the cast, if they’re available.

VOD Platforms – getting “Ringside” on one of the VOD platforms is what you should be aiming for. This is the easiest way to distribute your film without having to involve third party companies & consultants.

Finding the right VOD platform doesn’t mean your job is done. No VOD platform will do marketing and promotion for you; you have to do the hard work yourself. You should start rolling your film with one VOD platform.

When you set the premiere date, all your marketing and promotional efforts will lead to that day. Every interview you give, blog you write, social media post you send should be pointing people either to your website, where you will be collecting emails or to your VOD platform where the film is showing.

While choosing your platform, research how well similar films did there. See what tactic they used, did they focus on pre-paid sales, maybe special screenings, priority screenings etc.

Keep in mind that each platform has a different caption requirement, and you might have to pay for those as well as for the right screening format. Start with one platform, and if you want, have the energy, time and resources, try another.

But just like with social media don’t spread yourself too thinly. Choose the platform(s) where your audience gathers the most.

Crowdfunding – Crowdfunding is an excellent way to reach and find the right audience for your project. You can set up a crowdfunding campaign to cover your distribution costs such as FB adverts, caption etc. People, who contribute to your campaign, could have access to pre-screening of “Ringside”, for instance. Or you could do a private screening for some people. (the sky is the limit when it comes to perks)

Just remember that running a crowdfunding campaign may turn into a full-time job, and if you don’t have any online following or aren’t present on social media, I wouldn’t attempt that. Build your social media first before you think of running any crowdfunding campaign.

“Ringside” as crowdfunding – since your film covers social subjects, I was wondering whether you were thinking of joining with a youth charity/club that could benefit from your success. If you join forces with a charity, make sure the contract between the two of you is clear.

However, before you enter into any contract with any charity, make sure you are clear what your needs are and what you are offering in return/exchange. This partnership can be pretty neat and would open your project to many audience members you wouldn’t otherwise find.

Distributors – where do I begin? With such a small indie film like yours, I would stay away from distributors at all costs. Like in every aspect of life, there are a lot of crooks out there, who feast on unassuming filmmakers and require retainers to distribute their films.

Real distributors would never ask for a retainer; it doesn’t work this way (it’s the same with agents. If they ask you for money, run!).

Some distributors offer to upload your film to VOD platforms, which you can do yourself, and take 50% of your earnings while putting no effort into marketing and promotion. Of course, those distributors also require the filmmaker to pay for all the captions and file formats. These aren’t distributors, just a new business model that mushroomed in the past 5 years.

A real distributor offers you upfront payment and marketing and distribution budget and support, but this may be hard without any previous relationship with any of them.

Similar Projects – since I haven’t seen the film, I cannot recommend any similar films to “Ringside”. However, search IMDB, BoxOfficeMojo, and other outlets for similar films (similar plot). Budget wise I don’t think you are going to find many films in the same range.

Once you find similar films, do a bit of research and see how they run their marketing and promotion and what type of distribution they chose. Check out Mike’s Leigh and Ken Loach films and their campaigns for reference, some of their ideas might be worth copying and implementing in your strategy.

Creative Distribution –the best part of the creative distribution model is that you are in charge and can do or not do whatever you want. If something isn’t working, you can quickly react and change your approach. You can come up with marketing and promotional ideas that no one ever thought about before that will put you on the map.

You have the control and keep the ` revenue, which is very important.

I feel that when it comes to distributing indie films, no one will care for your project as much as you do. No one else will be up all night, finishing the editing of the snippets, only you. Your film is your baby, and you need to give it all to make sure it grows up and becomes independent.

James, you should be very proud of what you have already accomplished. Making an indie film is bloody hard, but you did it anyway, despite all the roadblocks and challenges. Now you need to decide what you want for the film and yourself.

You might decide, after some time, that since it’s an impact film, you want to make it available for free for people to see as I did with “Anna & Modern Day Slavery”. Or you decide and wait for COVID-19 to ease and try a festival circus or hybrid distribution.

However, whatever you do, you need to find your audience first; without the audience, even your best plan won’t work.

All the best,

If anyone of you would like to check out the trailer, it’s here.

Addendum

Film Festivals – under normal circumstances (pre-COVID) I would suggest that you give “Ringside” a go at film festivals.

Film festivals, especially the A-list ones, have always been a great way to discover new talent. But since everything normal we have known is gone, film festivals had to adjust as well. Currently, most festivals take place online. You will still need to pay submission fee (a lot of festivals are running discounts) but your film, if selected, will be screened online on the festival’s website.

No one knows how long it will be before physical events can take place and how many festivals will risk opening up to the audience from around the world. Festivals don’t usually pay for screenings unless it’s a film they desperately want and from an already established filmmaker. So you won’t make money from festival screenings, but you will have to pay a lot upfront towards submission fees.

Additionally, if you are selected to one of the top festival’s hiring a PR person will be in your best interest.

Before you start a submission process, I would suggest you decide what you are after. If you are after peer recognition and awards, by all means, go the film festival path (there is nothing wrong with feeling this way). However, currently, you won’t be able to attend any of the festivals, so networking face to face is pretty out for the foreseeable future.

Suppose your film is picked up by A-list film festival (Sundance, Rotterdam, Berlin etc.), you can use that as a springboard into a distribution deal with a VOD platform and fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of your project amongst the public.

Film Festivals fees are pretty expensive for feature films, so make sure you have a budget in place for that. It’s easy to get carried away. I’ve done it many times over. Stick to your budget and not even a penny more.

Choose the festivals carefully see what their previous programs looked like. If the festival doesn’t have a track record of screening films in your genre and similar subject, the odds of the programmers picking up your title are very slim.

And remember, even if you end up premiering (with film festivals, it’s all about the premiere status), you’ll still need to have all of your materials for creative distribution in place. If you don’t, it will be a wasted opportunity.


To learn more about Creative Distribution, check out the Creative Distribution Package I created

DIY Film Distribution

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