How To Make Your Movie Rise Above The Noise

Working in film distribution, I can tell you that everything is changing. Production is getting cheaper and easy access to the marketplace is the norm. This is an exciting time to be a filmmaker.

Paradoxically, because more and more movies are getting made each year, this is also one of the most challenging times for making money as a filmmaker. We are experiencing a market saturation similar to what happens when sweatshop factories start producing comparable goods for less money.

And while you may argue that many backyard indies are amateur garbage, this doesn’t change the fact that filmmakers now have more competition than ever before. Your biggest problem is figuring out how to make your movie rise above the noise.

Rise Above The Noise

Photo © Sergey Nivens / Dollar Photo Club

How To Make Your Movie Rise Above The Noise

Before you pour your heart and soul into your passion project, answer these questions:

  1. What is your movie about?
  2. Who is in your movie?
  3. Who is going to buy your movie?

Most filmmakers never take time to answer these simple, yet essential questions. Or if they do, the answers are often based on hope or delusions of grandeur. My target audience is everybody!

Having well rehearsed answers to these questions (that you can deliver with enthusiasm) will increase the odds that a movie distributor or a fan could potentially (easily) tell other people about your movie.

sell your movie“Zooey Deschanel is attached to your movie?!?”

Having a name actor or a strong story hook makes your movie memorable. Knowing that an audience exists for your type of movie, as well as having a promotional plan for reaching your audience is also helpful.

That is what word-of-mouth is all about.

Once your pitch is established, all of your other movie marketing tasks such like your logo, font, DVD cover (still important), poster and website will be much easier to design.

So I’ll end today’s thought with three questions: What is your movie about? Who’s in it? And who is gonna buy it?  And if you like this sort of stuff, you’ll love my Sell Your Movie System.

 

How To Promote Your Movie Fan Page On Facebook

As a filmmaker, you need to be promote movie on Facebook.

I am assuming that you already have a personal profile. And if so, you know the platform allows you to stay in touch with friends, have conversations with co-workers and find pictures of your ex-girlfriend. (Not that I ever do those searches.)

But from a promotional perspective, Facebook is a powerful tool for filmmakers. With nearly a billion monthly users, Facebook is one of the most awesome ways to reach your movie target audience.

If you are part of the Filmmaking Stuff community, you probably noticed how nearly 37,000 filmmakers participate and share ideas about filmmaking from all over the world.

How To Promote Your Movie Fan Page On Facebook

If you are wondering how to promote your movie on Facebook, the first thing you need to do is create a page. To get started, open a new tab and log into Facebook. Once you are logged into Facebook, follow this link create a Movie Fan Page.

Step 1 – Set Up Your Movie Fan Page

When you click the link above, you will be redirected to a web page that asks you to pick your page type. If you’re promoting a movie, choose “entertainment” and then pick “movie.” Facebook will then ask you for the name of your movie.

Promote Your Movie On Facebook

From there, Facebook will ask you to log into your account. If you do not have an account, (and you should), you’ll have to create one. Once complete, your Movie Fan Page will be set. All you gotta do is fill in pertinent information about your movie, including a description, photos, links to your movie website and possibly, your movie trailer.

how to promote your movie on facebook

Step 2 – Invite Your Friends to “Like” Your Page

Your next step is to reach out to your Facebook friends and invite them to “Like” your Movie Fan Page. Depending on your genre and storyline, not all of your friends will respond to your request.

Don’t take it personally. Many of my movie projects have been ignored by friends, probably because they are over-inundated with various requests from Angry Birds, Farmville and other distractions.

Assuming you can break through the noise, the advantage to utilizing Facebook to promote your Movie Fan Page is your ability to connect with your audience. Unlike BIG Hollywood power-players, your fans have access to you. This allows you to add value to their experience, beyond simply watching your movie.

By cultivating these relationships, your audience is more likely to promote your movie to their friends, which helps you build your fan-base and make more sales, without spending much money.

Step 3 – Link Your Movie Fan Page to Your Movie Website

When you’re looking to promote your Movie Fan Page, it is important to understand Facebook works best when you supply your followers with relevant info and updates. Where does this info come from? Your movie blog! (Affiliate link.) I’m assuming you have a blog, right?

If you study how successful filmmakers utilize Facebook, you’ll often notice they write content or create videos for their blog. Then they share the info on their Movie Fan Page. The content is usually a behind the scenes production diary. Or in the case of documentaries, it is usually info related the subject matter of the movie.

Step 4 – Promote Your Movie Fan Page

In the event you would like to promote your Movie Fan Page further, Facebook  provides you with some very targeted advertising opportunities to reach your target audience. For example, if you are promoting a zombie movie, you will actually have the ability to reach out to zombie enthusiasts and get them to “Like” your Movie Fan Page.

One of the coolest aspects of building a Movie Fan Page is the ease at which you can build buzz and community around your title.

Step 5 – Update Your Movie Fan Page Frequently!

Marketing is a conversation. Goofy sales pitches and silly “Hey… Look at me…” stuff never works. You need to always think in terms of value. Will your next update add value to your audience? Again, the content needs to be relevant. It should spark a discussion and allow you to meet the people in your audience.

In turn,  your fans will respond favorably. This will be able to monitor word of mouth and find out what people are saying about your movie. And in the event you get a few spammers, you can moderate comments to ensure that the content doesn’t become stupid. (Nobody benefits from stupid content.)

In addition, some filmmakers allow fans to post photos to the fan pages. This sort of activity reinforces community and encourages word of mouth. For example, if your movie is in the festival circuit, you might ask your fans to post pictures of the screening. Then once the photo is posted, friends of these fans may see the picture – which may cause them to “Like” your Movie Fan Page too. But the hidden benefit of user generated content is – you don’t have to worry about generating additional content!

If you’d like to market your movie on Facebook, take a look at my Movie Fan Page system.

Basic Movie Marketing Strategy

What is your movie marketing strategy?

This is one of the first questions I ask filmmakers whenever I put on a talk.

And the reason I ask the question is simple. We need to solve a major filmmaking problem. But before I tell you about some of the awesome solutions out there – I want to first tell you about the problem.

. . . And this is a problem many filmmakers don’t realize they have.

I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with your movie marketing strategy. . . Specifically how to source and engage an audience.

If you’re like most filmmakers, your primary goal is to make a movie. So odds are good this is one of the first times you’ve considered a movie marketing strategy.

You know you need Twitter, Facebook and a robust mailing list of people who can’t wait to see your work.

While you know social media is important, you also know that raising money, hiring crew and refining your script so you can actually finish your movie is equally, if not more important.

movie marketing strategy

Movie Marketing Strategy

When time and energy is limited, the last thing you want to do is think about your movie marketing strategy. You probably assume that if you make a good movie, some major distributor will swoop in and do all that marketing stuff for you.

And you never know. . .

You might get lucky. You might win an upfront cash advance and a three picture, studio deal.

But since only a small minority of filmmakers garner these types of deals, let’s focus on the other 99%.

What if your movie has an awesome run at the festivals, garners a lot of buzz?

And against your wildest dreams, you find yourself getting several calls from distributors who want to “pick up” your movie?

Congratulations.

If you’re a first time filmmaker, getting attention from a distributor is exciting.

But once the excitement dies down and you actually start reading the offers – You may notice that very few of these distributors provide minimum guarantees. And if you are fortunate enough to get an MG, odds are good the amount is much less than you ever anticipated.

The reason for this is simple.

Production is cheaper. A lot of people are making movies these days. DVD has been replaced with VOD, which means there are over a gazillion affordable ways to upload your movie and share it with the world.

What Movie Distributors Don’t Want You To Know

As a result of this paradigm shift, many former film distribution companies have become VOD aggregators.

Talk with a few of these distributors and you will realize that most VOD aggregators offer the same solution. They put your movie on platforms like iTunes, Cable VOD, Amazon and others.

Most tell you they are better than the other distribution company because they “know the guy at iTunes or Amazon or…”

And based on these relationships, they can get you special placement. But when making this pitch, what most distributors don’t realize is that every distributor knows the same guy and pitches the same placement.

Which brings me to my next point… Are you ready for this?

Movie Distribution has become a commodity.

There. I said it, finally…

If you want to get your movie into the marketplace, you can.

And if you do some internet searches, you’ll find out that for a few thousand bucks you can access most any VOD platform. Want iTunes? Bypass the middle-man and go straight to an iTunes approved encoding house. Want Amazon? Go to CreateSpace. Want to sell on your own website?

Try one of the hundreds of VOD platforms that allow this.

And all this to say…

Finding movie distribution is NOT your problem.

The real problem for filmmakers is audience engagement. How will you source an audience for your movie?

How do you find people who care about your movie? And from there, how do you make it easy for your fans to share your movie with their friends? In other words, how do you find and exponentially grow your audience?

To this end, as part of your movie marketing strategy, one of things you must do is create a valuable internet experience for your audience… And you must do this well before you make your movie. In the simplest form, you should refine your movie website. Your blog should include access to exclusive, interesting content focused on your movie.

Think of this content like the behind the scenes bonuses that used to go with your DVD.

Collect Email and Contact Information

When you first arrived at this article, you probably noticed my BIG opt in form, asking for your name and email address. The reason for this is simple. I would love to build a working relationship with you. A great way to do that involves building trust by sending you valuable filmmaking tips via email.

film distributionAs part of your movie marketing strategy, you need to do something similar on your website. In this sense, you not only build a relationship for your next movie, but if you do it right, you can build a solid fan base for the rest of your career.

This will help you:

  1. Sell more copies of your movie.
  2. Leverage your audience to crowdfund and test concepts for new movies.

Your movie marketing strategy is about sourcing and exponentially growing your audience. If you’re looking for additional market your movie tips, check out the Indie Producer’s Guide to Distribution.

And as always, please feel free to comment below.

 

How To Finance Movies With VOD Sales Projections

Do you know the most popular question filmmakers ask me?

I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with video on demand.

Ready. . .

Without too much variation, the most popular question is: “Can you provide some VOD sales projections?”

I understand the motive behind this question.

Believe me, I do.

You’re a filmmaker. You either made an awesome movie and you’re trying to use VOD sales projections to convince your partners that VOD is the way to go. Or you are in the process of making a movie and you need to convince your investors that VOD is awesome. In both scenarios, you’re trying to find proof that movies make money in VOD.

I get that. . . But. . .

Let’s make one thing clear. Asking for VOD sales projections is asking the wrong question!

If you dig around, examples of VOD Sales successes are out there. Check out what The Polish Brothers did. And if that’s not enough, Google the case study around Indie Game the movie.

But the truth is, one filmmaker’s past success does not guarantee that your movie will be successful.

Read that statement over and over again. And if you need a little more clarity, take a look at what the cat is saying here:

VOD Sales Projections

Realizing that VOD sales projections are BS is essential for your success. And I am going to explain how you can use your new found understanding for good, very soon…

But before I go there, let’s talk about why people invest in independent film.

Why Investors Invest In Indie Film

Independent movie investors invest because (aside from having an appetite for risk and an interest in the film business) most of these people want a return on their money. If you are doing things by the book, you probably created a marketing strategy as part of your business plan. This plan provides prospective investors an overview of how investment dollars will be budgeted, spent and hopefully recouped.

In the past, trying to convince investors movies were a good investment involved projecting returns based on speculative data. To guess how much money a movie may make, filmmakers would compare their project to other successful movies.

Creating indie movie comparables is complete BS.

The reason for this is simple.

Just because you make a low budget horror movie does not guarantee your movie will have the same success as Paranormal Activity.

In fact, Paranormal Activity is an outlier. It is not a fair comparison. And using breakout hits as examples, while ignoring the thousands of unsuccessful horror movies made each year, is short-sited at best and I dare say a little unethical.

Video On Demand Sales Projections

Given the birth of VOD distribution, as a filmmaker you now have the ability to access and enter into a non-discriminatory marketplace as soon as your movie is ready. And because many of these marketplaces exist online, much of your sales will come from internet traffic.

This is actually awesome news.

It means that you can boost your sales by using a very common marketing concept called…

[Seriously… Are you ready? You are about to receive the secret sauce of modern, indie movie marketing.]

More important than VOD Sales Projections is:

Conversion Rates

What is a conversion rate?

Conversion Rate Defined, According to Wikipedia:

Your conversion rate is the proportion of visits to a website who take action to go beyond a casual content view or website visit, as a result of subtle or direct requests from marketers, advertisers, and content creators.

Conversion_Rate

In other words, if you send one-hundred people to your movie website and two people buy your movie, your conversion rate is two percent. This is profound. This is life changing for indie filmmakers!

Question: Why should filmmakers be enthusiastic about the internet marketing, nerd concept of conversion rates?

Answer: If you know your conversion rates, you can model and potentially project more accurate movie sales projections from day one.

But before you start noodling around to find your conversion rates, it helps to answer the following questions:

Modern MovieMaking Model

  1. Who Is Your Target Audience?
  2. How Large Is Your Target Audience?
  3. How Will You Reach Your Audience?
  4. What Is Your Marketing Strategy?
  5. How Many VOD Sales To Break Even?

While I won’t get into the actual mechanics of marketing and selling your movie here (My Action Guide How To Sell Your Movie provides you with an actual step-by-step plan for getting your movie seen and sold), I will simply note that a marketing plan must now be included with your business plan.

The Secret VOD Sales Projection Formula

When you create (or refine) your marketing plan, you must now include some marketing math.

Truth be told, math is a weak subject for me and I dare say, most of the filmmakers I know. But luckily there are many spreadsheet templates that allow you to test several conversion rate scenarios. You can use these scenarios as a guideline to ballpark the potential ROI for your movie.

Here is a basic website conversion rate calculator you can utilize: http://bit.ly/17TSCrt

Before you get overly excited (like I am) calculating your movie website conversion rate is only one metric to determine your movie’s potential for profitability. You still need to figure out how to price your movie. And at the same time, you will need to determine how much targeted internet traffic will cost you.

Generating Internet traffic is the result of executing four strategies. You can either get free traffic online, free traffic offline, paid traffic offline or paid traffic online.

For the sake of this example, I am going to incorporate pay per visit advertising. With pay per visit advertising, you simply pay for someone to visit your movie website.

One example of Pay Per Visit traffic is StumbleUpon. It’s a social bookmarking site that also allows you to pay for semi-targeted traffic. This works well if you have a movie with a dose of controversy and a strong hook.

And again, if you’d like more info on specific traffic generating strategies, check out my indie guide to distribution.

Ok. Here is our first example…

Let’s assume only 1% of the targeted folks who actually visit your website, buy. Then how many visits will you need to sell 100 units?

100 units = Our goal for this ad campaign.
$.05 = Amount you may pay advertiser per visit.
X = Number of Visitors Needed to buy 100 units if only 1% buy.

(X).01 = 100 units
EQUATES TO: X= 10,000
THEN 10,000($.05) = $500 paid for targeted traffic.

So in other words, if you were lucky enough to get a 1% return, you just paid $500 dollars in pay per visit advertising to sell 100 units of your movie. But let’s go one step further. Let’s assume you’re like me – and you hate order fulfillment and shipping. So you decide to let a company like Amazon’s Create Space or iTunes (or some other popular marketplace) handle your order.

Video On Demand For Rent (Electronic Sell Through)
100 units ($3) = $300 – 50% paid to marketplace = $150
minus $500 paid for advertising = -$350 NEGATIVE

In this VOD rental scenario, the Pay Per Visit Ad numbers don’t work, unless you like losing money.

Video On Demand For Download (Electronic Sell Through)
100 units ($10) = $1000 – 50% paid to marketplace = $500
minus $500 paid for advertising = BREAK EVEN

In this VOD download to own scenario, the numbers work a little bit better. Assuming you’re lucky enough to get 1% of your money returned, at least the advertising pays for itself. But unless you can increase your conversion rates, pay per visit advertising is going to be very difficult method for returning money to your investors.

Physical DVD Sales
100 units ($20) = $2000 – 50% paid to marketplace = $1000
minus $500 paid for advertising = $500 in profit.

Ah ha! If you’re fortunate enough to get 1% return on your pay per visit advertising, you can see how physical DVD’s (or units) sold at $20 dollars may offer a slight profit margin. In other words, in this scenario, for every $.50 cents you spend, you get $1 dollar back.

So let’s tackle the bigger problem. Let’s try to get a return on our 1Million dollar movie, selling physical DVD sales and using pay per visit advertising alone:

Movie Budget = 1 Million dollars
Physical DVD Sales using Pay Per Visit Advertising

$1,000,000 divided by $20 per unit = 50,000 Units

Since we will give 50% to the marketplace for all sales, we will need to project for double our budget.

100,000 units = Our goal for this ad campaign.
$.05 = Amount you may pay advertiser per visit.
X = Number of Visitors Needed to buy 100,000 units if only 1% buy.

(X).01 = 100,000 units
EQUATES TO: X= 10,000,000 (Yes, TEN MILLION people.)
THEN 10,000,000($.05) = $500,000 paid for targeted traffic.

100,000 units ($20) = $2,000,000 – 50% paid to marketplace = $1,000,000
minus $500,000 paid for advertising = $500,000 in profit.

So to break even, you would need to sell 100,000 units and make $2,000,000.

Some Sales Conclusions

Based on this scenario, as a filmmaker you will (obviously) need to expand your promotion beyond pay-per-visit advertising!

But importantly and most AWESOMELY, you can treat your movie business like any other small business. With VOD Sales projections, you can find the marketing formula that works for your movie and crunch your numbers until you find a scenario that brings you profits.

Create a plan that included your marketing costs in your budget.

While there are no guarantees in any business, having a plan for marketing, sales and distribution sure beats the old days when your only plan for ROI involved crossing your fingers in the hopes someone will offer you a profitable, traditional deal.

While these may not be the VOD Sales Projections you were looking for, hopefully you now realize the power of knowing your conversion rates.

Treating your movie business like any small business simply means you don’t have to ask permission. You can make your movie NOW! And your prospective investors might take notice…

Also, can you do me a favor? If you liked this filmmaking article, could you kindly retweet or share this article with your friends?

Would You Cast Actors Based On Twitter?

Yesterday I met with a pretty well known Indie producer. We were talking about audience engagement and how filmmakers are now responsible for sourcing an audience. I’m a sucker for useful, actionable tips. So I asked him how he engages his audience.

Actors Hired Based On Their Twitter Followers

To give you an idea of budget range, this guy produces movies around two-million dollars. And one way he builds buzz is by hiring a socially active team, especially when it comes to casting actors. Here is an overview of how he casts his movies:

  1. Hold an audition for the actors.
  2. For each role, narrow down to two equally talented actors.
  3. Choose the actor who has greater Twitter followers. (Facebook fans and email lists count too.)

He then sets it up so cast and crew continually promote the project from prep through post and into distribution. This ongoing engagement provides rabid fans with value – they get frequent, awesome updates. And from a producing perspective, this shared social engagement helps to inexpensively spread word of mouth. What do you think? Would you cast actors based on Twitter followers?