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Independent Film Marketing Part 3

Last time we started telling you about the independent film marketing in general. We also brought you closer the subject of how to create a suitable website for marketing purposes and how to use different networking websites to support your campaign.

This time we try to tell you a bit about modern independent film distribution, about a mysterious figure called a PMD and dish you out some marketing tools to work with.

Modern Independent Film Distribution.

Distribution companies shouldn’t be focused on selling copies either for viewing or for owning anymore. At least not exclusively. They should be selling access, creating networks of devoted fans around their brand/film and developing customised experiences instead. In other words, selling things that cannot be copied. This means they must first gather and cultivate a community of engaged followers and then develop, acquire, produce, and source material with only these people in mind. These people are going to be your target audience.

Of course, there is a question of whether you have to do all of this work by yourself, but before you answer this question ask yourself another one. Who, besides yourself or the team directly involved in making your film, will know the project intimately enough to accomplish engaging personally with its audience? For you can even create a distinct position – PMD, i.e. the producer of marketing and distribution (the term created by Jon Reiss).

The PMD’s duties and responsibilities would be:

1. Identify, research and engage with the audience for the film.

2. Develop a Marketing & Distribution strategy and plan for the film in conjunction with the fundamental principles of the filmmaking team. INTEGRATE THIS PLAN INTO THE BUSINESS PLAN FOR THE FILM.

3. Create a budget for the M&D plan.

4. As needed and appropriate, strategise and implement fundraising from the audience of the film in conjunction with or in the place of traditional financing which would include: crowdfunding, organisational partnerships, sponsorships and even modified versions of traditional fundraising.

5. Assemble and supervise the necessary team/crew to carry out the plan which can include social media, publicity, the M&D production crew for extra material, key artists, editors, bookers, etc.

6. Audience outreach through organisations, blogs, social media (including email collection), traditional publicity etc.

7. Supervise the creation of promotional and (if necessary due to the lack of a separate transmedia coordinator) transmedia elements: script and concepts for transmedia, the film’s website and social media sites, production stills, video assets – both behind the scenes and transmedia, promotional copy and art/key art.

8. Outreach to potential distribution and marketing partners including film festivals, theatrical service companies, community theatrical bookers, DVD distributors, digital and VOD aggregators, TV sales agents, foreign sales agents as well as sponsors and promotional partners.

9. Supervise the creation of traditional deliverables in addition to the creation of all the media needed for the execution of the release as required including:

10. Live event/theatrical: Prints of either 35mm film or on Disk or Hard drive. Any other physical preparation for event screenings.

11. Merchandise: All physical products including DVDs and any special packaging (authoring and replication) and all other forms of merchandise: books, apparel, toys, reproductions of props etc., and hard versions of games.

12. Digital products: encoding of digital products, iPhone/Android apps etc.

13. Live Event Theatrical – booking, delivery of all forms of public exhibition of the film including all elements that make the screenings special events (appearances, live performance etc.)

14. Merchandise – distribution of all physical products created for the film.

15. Digitally – oversee all sales of the film: TV/Cable/VOD/Mobile/Broadband/Video games etc.

This not just in the home territory – but also internationally.

Some of these activities may be handled in conjunction with a distribution partner in which case the PMD would be supervising the execution in conjunction with that partner.

16. Build up the marketing of the film to coincide with the release, which includes:

Social Media


Organizational Relationships

Sponsorship Relationships

Affiliate and Email Marketing


Media Buys (as warranted)

Pushing Trailers and other video content

Any specific marketing uniquely tailored to the film.

Promoting and releasing trailers and other forms of video material

Transmedia campaigns

(Description borrowed from Think outside the box by Jon Reiss)

Naturally, not all the points from the above list must be necessarily fulfilled. It’s comprehensive to present as many possibilities as are available. The general purpose of the PMD is for one person on a filmmaking team to be responsible for audience engagement (aka Marketing and Distribution). You can try to discover and define your marketing strategy by instinct. But you also can use something that turned out beneficial sometimes, one of the most popular marketing tools a SWOT analysis. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. Use it as a brainstorming tool and a strategy formation tool. The first pair of categories — strengths and weaknesses — refer to your company’s INTERNAL nature, while the second pair of categories refers to EXTERNAL opportunities and threats.

– Strengths: experienced producer, the experienced director, well-known actors, strong artistic team, access to capital, presale or distributor already in place, etc.

– Weaknesses (be honest!): areas where your team lacks experience, lack of proper planning, no known talent, disorganisation in the chain of command, etc.

– Opportunities: addressing what film subjects are is lacking in the marketplace, trends that are forming that could be further developed, possible cross-promotion or affiliate programs, possible alternative streams of revenue such as a soundtrack, merchandise, etc., ability to self-distribute using various platforms.

– Threats: number of similar films competing for the same audience, lack of low budget traditional distributors leads to the need and additional work of self-distribution, economic conditions make raising needed capital difficult.

A fundamental mistake of not just filmmakers, but small business in general, is not determining your target from the very beginning. And this mistake may be crucial. The more specific you are, the more efficient your marketing will be, and the better you can determine what methods will be the most cost-effective.

In the end let’s look at one of the Internet marketing techniques, called viral video marketing.  When it comes to the viral video, you need to make sure that:

1) you create something people will want to spread and

2) the video carries a clear message about your film.

Fail on point 1, and your video won’t spread. Fail on point 2, and you’ll be a hit, but it won’t help your film sales because people won’t know what the whole thing is about. There has to be a tie in your film for you to see the ROI (Return On Investment). It’s a tough balance to achieve, and you should only attempt it with experienced marketing or advertising expert to guide you. So how do you carry out a viral marketing campaign? First, you develop that unique and engaging content. People can’t resist FREE. Keep the fans engaged at every step in the process, let them feel included and they will support you through to the end. It will be more worthwhile to think about what people want than to waste your time putting together material that is going to give you no return.


A film trailer itself is not viral marketing.

A really weird, funny and engaging piece (email, video, photo) that causes a reaction and makes people want to spread it around to their friends and to give them the tools to do so efficiently – that is viral marketing.

The key is achieving a delicate balance between spreading your marketing message without appearing like a blatant advertisement. Stick with your campaign for a while (but not for ages) as it may take some time to catch on.

Games and quizzes may be of help, too.

This way we got to the end of our little story on the modern marketing strategy for independent films. Summing it up in just a few words – Make a movie and, if that film makes money… then you’ll make a deal for another film!

Keep modifying and adjusting the distribution and marketing plan as the film progresses, as new information about the audience, market, new opportunities and partnerships arise.


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