Get Your Movie To Market Fast

I’m pretty sure we lost over to $20,000 (probably more) by not taking action and getting our movie to market. Seriously, there is this concept in business called opportunity cost.

It simply means that if you choose one direction, it’s impossible to take the other direction at the same time. Or in the case of film distribution – If you spend all year doing NOTHING with your movie, then you’ve lost potential opportunity to market directly to your audience.

After working with well-over 100 filmmakers on their film distribution strategies, I am now of the opinion that rather than waiting all year for a dream distribution deal (that probably will not materialize) it may be much better to get your movie to market fast.

To understand my reasoning, consider that two things are going to happen:

1. You’re going to wait at least seven months before you get your movie to market.

2. In those seven months, people will forget about your movie.

Speaking from experience, when news of our first feature went viral, thousands of raving fans flooded our website. At the time we were Ill-equipped to handle the influx. We had no lead capture system in place and our social media strategy was non-existent.

Because we were so focused on landing a dream distribution deal, we had no idea we were missing opportunity.


Get Your Movie To Market Fast

Like many filmmakers, we were stuck in the old distribution paradigm.

We thought we had to wait for permission to sell our movie. We thought self-distribution was too challenging. And in all this debate, we wasted valuable time and lost hundreds of sales.

We learned some tough lessons in the process. And thankfully, times have changed.

Video on demand has created a gazillion ways to sell your movie. And as an entrepreneurial filmmaker, you know the importance of sourcing your own audience. You also know that social media engagement is essential. And if you have done a good job, thousands of people are eagerly awaiting the release of your movie.

Encoding And Delivery Burns Valuable Time

For all the technological advancements, modern film distribution is strangely still inefficient.

For example, in order to get your movie onto iTunes, you will need to go through an iTunes approved aggregator. At this point, you have two options. You can either work with an aggregtor directly. Or you will need to work with a sales agent, distributor or a distribution service who has a relationship with the iTunes approved aggregator.

The aggregator will then compile and deliver your movie source file and assets (artwork, closed captions, metadata, et al) to an iTunes approved encoding house. Once there, your movie will then undergo a process whereby each frame of your movie is carefully scrutinized to make sure it passes quality control.

If there are technical hiccups, the encoding team will evaluate and determine the likelihood of a repair in-house.

If the encoders determine your movie can be repaired in-house, they will place your movie in a queue. A technician will then work to repair the source file. And assuming the repair is successful, your movie will once again reenter the encoding process.

If all goes well, your movie will be audited for an eventual delivery to iTunes. And once your movie gets to iTunes, Apple will conduct their own quality control and review. This can take an additional three to six weeks depending on their capacity.

How To Get Your Movie To Market Fast

The truth is, nobody cares about your movie more than you. Even your most enthusiastic fans are dealing with a gazillion other life distractions. And the longer you wait to get your movie seen and selling, the more you run the risk of  losing touch with your audience. So the real question is, how will you get your movie to market fast?

One easy solution is to put your movie into one of the many players available, set a price and then drive targeted traffic to your Buy Now button.

Of course, only you can determine if now is the time to get your movie to market. And this will come after debating with the other producers, taking endless meetings with the acquisitions folks who keep telling you that they have the best solution. But in the end, no matter what, the one thing that matters most is YOUR audience. Because without an audience, you really have no business!

The Secrets of Successful Online Movie Advertising

If you want to be a successful filmmaker, you better learn a thing or two about online movie advertising.

The reason I emphasize online movie advertising is because most movies end up in some sort of video on demand platform. And because many of the most popular platforms exist online, selling movies on the internet is very similar to selling anything online

This means you now have the ability to create online movie advertising campaigns to drive people to your point of sale.

If you’ve been reading my filmmaking stuff for any length of time, you know I’ve been sharing similar advice with filmmakers for years. I first published my thoughts back in 2010 – Here’s the article called Financing Movies With VOD Sales Projections. As you’ll read in the comments, most people thought I was crazy.

Fast forward to a recent job interview with a well known distribution company. I kid you not, the whole conversation revolved around this thing called conversion science.

“Jason, WTF is conversion science? I’m a filmmaker. I failed science!”

Look. I am trying to help you. You’re obviously reading this because you want to know the secrets of online movie advertising. And I’m telling you, the big secret is this thing called conversion science.


The Secrets of Online Movie Advertising

Here’s the thing about business (that most filmmakers ignore). Everything in business is measured in profit and loss. So if you spend money for online movie advertising, you better get that money back, plus a profit on top.

So here’s the question: How do you know if your online movie advertising is working?

This one is simple. You track your advertising campaigns. If you make more money then you spend, you’re doing OK. But if you start throwing money into an online movie advertising black hole, you have a BIG problem.

And before we get too crazy, there is something you need to know.

The whole reason you want to do your homework is so you don’t end up depending on the glaringly flawed and totally outdated distribution strategy:

“Gee, I sure hope we get into a film festival and garner a great deal.” 

Hope is not a sustainable business strategy. It is a lottery. And it’s outdated.

Online Movie Advertising Formula

Whenever you think about your movie advertising strategy, it helps to think about some real world scenarios. And because we are talking numbers, I am going to share a basic direct marketing ROI (return on investment) formula.

Here are the MAJOR Filmmaking Challenges:

  1. With no promise of pre-sales, or minimum guarantees in a traditional distribution deal, how do filmmakers justify a budget large enough to pay freelance day rates, while at the same time project enough direct DVD and VOD sales to recoup the initial investment?
  2. And assuming only 1% of your website visitors buy your movie, then how many people must visit your website so that 1% recoups your initial investment? (Don’t forget to include marketplace costs.)
  3. How much will this cost in advertising?

Here is a formula you can test and tweak. Plug in numbers and play around with assumptions.

U = Unit Sales Goal.
A = Amount you pay advertiser per website visit.
C = Projected conversion percentage rate.
X = Number of Visitors Needed.

(X)C = U
THEN:  X(A) = ?

If all of that seems like a bunch of gobbledygook, you’re not alone. In the real world, most marketers utilize software, an online calculator and spreadsheets to help clarify assumptions.

But here’s the rub.

When you actually crunch the numbers on a One-Million dollar budget by selling $20 dollar DVD’s in Amazon (which is a totally high price), and you rely solely on Pay Per Visit advertising at $.05 cents a visit – Even if you’re lucky enough to garner a 1% conversion, you would need to sell 100,000 units (which allows for a 50% marketplace fee).

Or to put it another way, to get these results, you would need 10,000,000 targeted visitors, visiting your website.

Yes, ten Million people! Which is outlandish… 

This means you will have to think very carefully about your movie budget, marketing budget, your distribution strategy and obviously, you’ll need to make sure your movie actually has a market large enough to support the budget.

If you would like to start planning your distribution, you might want to check out my “How To Sell Your Movie” program.

Who Is Your Target Audience?

The other day I posted this question to our Facebook Filmmaking Stuff community:

“Who is your target audience?”

The responses were varied. Filmmakers chimed in with everything from “tweens” to “adults over 30.” Many filmmakers responded with the word: “Everybody!”

While I love the enthusiasm, without much exception, defining your audience by age or gender is extremely broad. And unlike the major movie studios, you do not have the marketing budget to support this.


Who Is Your Target Audience?

Every week at least one filmmaker emails me with something like this:

“I made a movie and we just won best picture at a regional festival you never heard of! Since my movie appeals to every man, woman and child on the planet, I want to sell it for a million dollars? How do I make this happen?”

Can you understand why this sentiment is seriously flawed?

If your movie does not have enough juice to get a an awesome distribution deal, your returns will be limited by your own marketing and distribution efforts.

Let me be very clear.

I have been working in distribution for a half-decade and I can tell you that even great movies end up with crappy distribution deals.

The truth is, most film distribution deals suck.

And without a marketing budget to reach a global audience, you must focus on finding your niche audience.

One of the first places to find your audience is the local newsstand. If there are print magazines devoted to your movie subject, then those subscribers are part of your target audience. In addition to print, you will want to explore the Internet for online publications.

Open up a spreadsheet and add these publications to your list. Your goal is to create a database of the top fifty publications geared towards your niche audience.

Make a list of 5 ideal movie fan categories for your title

Once you create your list of print publications catering to your niche, your next step is to understand your audience.

To do this, reach out to the top ten publications on your list and ask them to forward information about their subscriber demographics. Since magazine revenue is based on understanding their subscribers, most established publications will have this info readily available.

From there, you will want to study this info and get to know your audience.

Who are these people?

Are they primarily men? Women? Teenagers? Do they have jobs? Are they business owners or unemployed? What is the average income? Are they college educated? Do they live in the city or on the farm?

From this information, you can create audience profiles for five ideal types of movie fans that you want to target within your niche.

Figure out why these fans should watch your movie.

In addition to getting inside the head of your audience, your next task is to figure out why these people enjoy your genre. Why would they want to watch your movie? What makes your movie unique from the other, competing movies in existence? How will your movie to appeal to viewing needs of your audience?

Who Is Your Target Audience: Action Steps

1. Who is your primary target audience?
Ex: Mid-west, male college kids who love zombie movies. 

2. What makes your movie different from competing movies?
Ex: Our movie is about zombies that attack ninjas.

3. Why should your audience spend two hours watching your movie?
Ex: Fangoria says: Funniest zombie movie since Shaun of the Dead!

Taking time to understand your audience will enable you to create an image of your ideal audience member. This information will then be utilized when you create and refine your marketing message.

If you have a movie you’re looking to sell, you may also want to check out How To Sell Your Movie.

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Why You Need To Sell Movie Merchandise

After you make your movie, people will email asking when it’s available. This period of time is called the social window. It’s the time when your fans are most eager to buy your movie and tell their friends about it. And you will know you’re in the social window when you find yourself communicating this response: “We are still waiting for our distribution deal. Check back soon.”

At this stage, you could choose to put your movie on iTunes, Amazon or any number of the more than 200 video players out there and these early adopters would buy it. In fact, if it were possible, these rabid fans would buy your movie on the moon!

Why You Need To Sell Movie Merchandise

It’s been a few weeks since I started working with the folks at Chill. The ongoing goal of the company is to help you source and expand your audience reach. And through our data analysis we found that many early adopting, rabid fans want more than just the movie. So in response to this demand, Chill provides filmmakers the ability to bundle merchandise with the movie. The response is significant – with some titles, more than 50% of the purchases include merchandise!

Think of it this way. You could choose to release your movie on one of anonymous marketplaces. You then place a link to the point of sale on your movie website. After that, you do an email blast and let your fans know the movie is finally available. You would make sales. But at what cost? Since many new releases hover around 10 dollars per transaction – If you want to make 100 dollars in revenue, it would take 10 people.

This is where bundling merchandise with your movie is helpful. Let’s say you produced a movie about skateboarding. And since I am a rabid fan of skateboarding movies, I come to your landing page on Chill and quickly realize I can buy more than just the movie. On the high end, for $10,000 a top professional skateboarder featured in the movie will fly to my neighborhood and skateboard with me. The problem is, I don’t have an extra 10K – But by comparison, the $100 skateboard package suddenly looks very appealing. So as a rabid fan, instead of limiting my purchase to just the movie, I happily spend $100 dollars.

In one transaction, the filmmaker gets $100 dollars in revenue

But there is more. Because I’m a rabid skateboard movie fan, I am happy to Tweet and share my experience on Facebook because I’m super stoked that I got MORE than just the movie! And because Chill puts a trailer and a ‘Buy Now’ button inside a tweet and Facebook share, many of my skateboarding friends also watch the trailer – And from there, the process repeats over and over…

While there is a time and place to expand into anonymous marketplaces for added discovery, you miss a lot of opportunity by not providing your rabid fans with merchandise bundles. In other words, avoid closing the social window. For more information about Chill, go here.

Movie Distribution

When I put on talks about internet movie distribution, I am often asked if filmmakers should still consider finding a traditional theatrical or DVD distribution deal. My answer to that question is simple: If you have an offer and you’re happy, it’s a deal.

The problem is, most traditional movie distribution offers suck.

And the bigger problem is, most filmmakers don’t find this out until long after the festivals are over, the money has been spent and the movie is in the can, collecting dust. This is usually the time when people call me for a consultation.

During the call we discuss various movie marketing strategies, both online and offline. Our firm is interested in finding movies that have a definable hook and an established target audience. A good client is someone who has crunched numbers and has realistic expectations on how much money the movie can potentially recoup and how long this will take…

Many first time feature filmmakers believe (rightly so) that they have the most amazing movie on earth – and they cannot understand why nobody has “bought it.” While I cannot speak for prospective acquisitions executives, I can tell you two things that I see a lot with independent movies:

  1. The movie has niche audience potential, but does not clearly communicate to the appropriate audience.
  2. The movie does not have a clearly definable niche audience, which means the movie targets everybody.

Out of both of these scenarios, the easier one is the niche. Depending on how you pronounce the word, niche rhymes with rich. And I firmly believe that niches will make you riches. But most filmmakers fail to think this way. But targeting everybody is the same as targeting nobody (think about it) and YOU don’t have enough money to target everybody.

The other point is this, many filmmakers believe that marketing is magic. It is not… I mean, when marketing strategies work out, it’s time to open the champagne and brag about how awesome you are. But if marketing was a sure thing, movies would never flop.

My company bills $600 per hour for movie marketing consulting. Depending where you are with your own marketing and sales strategy, you may wanna forgo consulting and just grab a copy of my movie distribution guide. To add extra value to the package, I have now added a half-hour phone call BONUS.

You can find out more about the movie distribution guide here: