Too many filmmakers are caught up on all the strikes against them. They worry about how theaters won’t play their film without a ridiculous amount of money. They fuss over making a trailer but ignore their film’s website. They make a mediocre film and want a studio to get behind it with lots of money to make fans appear.
Just as you shouldn’t follow the Hollywood template for producing your films, neither should you try to market your films like major studios do. It’s a similar situation as with production. They have money and a set way of doing things, you have little money and following their methods will put you at a severe disadvantage. There are things you can do to market your film that studios generally ignore.
Do you know what a great movies looks like? What is stopping you from making that movie? Knowledge, skill, time? Whatever it is that hinders you from being able to make the best movie you can, take the time and get what you need. There is no time clock that says it must be done at any particular time. In fact your time will be well-spent in making a remarkable film in that it will be much easier to spread the word about.
Take the time to make it something people want to talk about.
It’s common to see on the DVD of a major studio release scenes that were cut from the movie. We hear stories about scenes that were in the screenplay that they never got a chance to film. All this material is abandoned as casualties of the making of the movie. Nobody ever gave any thought to using this material and maybe a little more as a way to seed interest in the storyworld of the movie. It wouldn’t take much to turn the cut scenes from the screenplay into short stories that can be released on a blog. With a few more shots added, instead of a cut scene we can have a short film.
People want to know what the movie is about before seeing it but also want surprises, give them that like Hollywood doesn’t.
From the earliest days of cinema people were not all passive watchers of the movies. For a period in the silent era screenplays were solicited from fans and made into features. In that era people would write in to studios and demand more films for their favorite star and countless moved out to Hollywood for the chance to be in movies. There are also countless people that want to get involved but in smaller capacities.
Get as many people as possible a chance to do something on the film and they will reward you by telling friends.
Stories For Media
It’s common for filmmakers to give away behind the scenes material on the DVD or before the release of a film to generate interest. At its base this is a good idea, but in execution it’s misplaced. These are compelling non-fiction stories and media outlets need these types of stories everyday to fill air-time, pages, and web space. These outlets have a wider reach than you have and hungry for free stories.
Get your get non-fiction stories to media outlets and they can help you find more fans.
With rampant piracy and the fact that film festivals usually don’t pay the films they exhibit, it’s hard to think of a way to actually make money. Instead of making cheapo freebie thingies, why not make some higher quality souvenirs that are worth somebody’s hard-earned money. Not everybody will want one but anybody who wants to support you beyond seeing the film and telling friends will have a way to do that.
Don’t concentrate on selling just the film, have related memorabilia for sale.
For many movies this will be the only place where it is shown in theaters. There will not be a run in an art house chain or in the local cineplex. Sadly some movies are either better seen at home or just don’t have enough of an audience in any single geographical area to warrant a theater screening. Use the film festivals for the promotional opportunity they are. They are places where you can sell DVDs, souvenirs and build a fan base to keep in touch.
Don’t treat film festivals as a way to find a distributor, rather a big part of your marketing.
4-Wall Theater Rentals
There are those movies that do have a significant audience in a certain geographic area but still can’t get a traditional theatrical distribution deal. There are people who want to see this film but no company willing to take a risk on the movie. If you’re so sure, then rent the theater and sell tickets yourself. Some distributors just can’t be convinced or it could be a matter of economics at the time, but some people will have to take their theatrical run into their own hands.
Find out who wants to see the movie in certain places and set up your own theater screenings.
Sell Your Own DVDs
This is the lifeblood of most independent movies. They earn little money in theatrical and even lose money. Many just put the movie in theaters to promote the DVD release. DVDs can be a significant opportunity to recoup money invested, keep the organization running and prepare for the next project. Consider your technical skills, risk aversion and moneys available when deciding to make DVDs yourselves, go with print on demand or some combination. Sell them anywhere you can, but don’t despair over not getting into physical retail stores. Just like the theater situation, your audience is everywhere but maybe not in any one place.
Make DVDs and offer them for sale, do it yourself and keep more of the pie.
Continue Free Content
It might seem time to close up shop once the DVD is released but there are still lots of people in the world who have not discovered you. Most movies make more in their entire life than the first year. One of your actors could become popular and generate sudden interest in their previous work or some content that you released after the fact could go viral and generate more sales than you had up to then.
Don’t stop after the DVD is out, release more free stuff, keep interactions going, and more fans will find you.
Announce New Project
You have this gathered audience of people that love the work you do and some people that help you make the stuff. When it’s time to start on your next project do you want to start all over? No. You can now offer them to be fans of your new project. You can’t expect them all to be fans of the new thing, but they will likely be a significant source of fans and consequently this new project will have a leg up.
Other than selling DVDs, this stuff is rarely done by studios. They aren’t in the business of making little communities around movies. Their movies are a mainstream community phenomenon and need to be in the public space to be considered thus. You are making a special thing that only certain people will want to see. Help them gather together and get involved and they will support you. Don’t try to find fans like Hollywood tries to get the mainstream excited, do it like they never do.
This article was written by Julian Perrera and originally appeared in the consolidatedfilms website.
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