Sell Directly To Your Audience

There are a lot of filmmakers that tell you it is NOT okay to sell directly to your movie fans. The reason for this is based in our industry-wide belief that we must follow traditional release windows, or miss opportunity.

“I’m going to do festivals. Then I’ll hopefully negotiate theatrical. Then I’d like to focus on broadcast. Then, I’ll get my movie onto the digital platforms.”

Does this sound familiar?

Following this release model takes weeks, months and in some cases years to get your movie to the marketplace. And while this was all fine and dandy when we had retail DVD, times have changed. You now have direct access to your audience. These are the same people who are Tweeting, Facebooking and emailing – asking “when can I buy your movie?”

What do you say in response? Do you tell your fans to wait?

Your audience consists of people who have a job, family, bills, babies and other obligations. And like you and me, these people get distracted easily. And while you are waiting for a dream distribution deal, these are people who will quickly move on and forget about you.

Yet, this is when your audience is fully engaged and ready to buy now!

How long will you wait?

If you want distribution tips to sell directly to your audience, you might benefit from grabbing a copy of the Indie producer’s guide to distribution.

How To Avoid Filmmaking Headaches

As a filmmaker, you are focused on making a movie. You have a gazillion things on your plate. And the last thing you need is more movie production paperwork. I know the feeling. A few years back, I was on the festival circuit with a movie. And over coffee, I heard this story about some filmmakers who locked down rights to an awesome song for the movie soundtrack.

The song was from a popular New York based band. And in securing the rights to the song, the filmmakers pulled down one of those legal releases you find online. From there, they got the signature of the band leader and a CD containing the music. The music was added to the movie. The movie played well in festivals and was eventually picked up.

Despite the fact these filmmakers accepted a crappy “deal,” (should have studied my sell your movie system) - These filmmakers had bigger challenges. Turns out the band broke up and the guitar player needed money. And while that guy did agree to license the performance of the song, he never agreed to license the actual lyrics. The guitarist’s lawyer happily informed the filmmakers that they also needed a release from the publisher. Suffice it to say, those filmmakers had some not-so-fun times.

Protect Your Movie Production

You need to get legal clearance for everybody who works on your movie as well as every element put into your movie. This includes (but it not limited to) your story, cast, crew, locations, logos and equipment. And as stated above, special care should be given to music. In addition to the case study above, many filmmakers accidentally include non-cleared music in the backgrounds of scenes that cannot be “fixed in post.”

If you are short on cash, do a web search for lawyers for the arts in your state.  Many states have programs where you can at least get a discounted consultation with an attorney. Additionally, you may benefit from doing some of the legal legwork yourself. There are many filmmaking sites the provide boilerplate, generic releases. If you present one of these to an attorney for compliance, it may save you time and money.

In addition to production releases, many distribution platforms now require that you maintain an active errors and omissions policy. Without having the proper releases, getting an E&O policy may prove impossible. And your dreams of distribution may diminish significantly. This is why it is very important to work with seasoned legal and production professionals to make sure you utilize the proper releases.

If you are seeking more information, go here www.MakeYourMovieNow.com

Movie Distribution FAQs

Twitter for Filmmaking Twitter logo initial

Twitter for Filmmaking Image via Wikipedia

The whole world of movie distribution is changing. This is important because the success of you movie depends on distribution.

Given the deterioration of DVD sales channels, to become successful as a filmmaker, YOU are now responsible for sourcing, engaging and selling your movie to your intended target audience.

In this filmmaking article, I decided to share my most frequently asked movie distribution questions:

Q: What about Facebook and Twitter?
A: Essential, but only part of the strategy. Even if you had a gazillion followers (which you probably don’t), it is very difficult to convert these folks to paying customers.

And if you don’t even have a Twitter or facebook page for your movie, then you will have to invest quite a few months of Twitter time, to build relationships, community and authenticity with your audience.

Q: What about my website?
A: Firstly, stop building stupid, complex flash websites. 1999 is over. And we have entered into an era where fresh, unique, interesting and SEO friendly content is king.

Figure out your website objective. And make sure your site works!

Example?

In the festivals it is OK to have press kits and behind the scenes stuff. But when you start selling your movie, your objective changes to a BUY NOW mentality. Monitor your stats and then eliminate all pages that distract your visitors.

No website? Visit my affiliate www.MovieSiteHost.com and reserve a domain name and hosting. (Disclaimer, this is an affiliate. They pay me.)

Q: Audience List building?
A: Building a list of people who know you and like your work is essential for your current movie and your long term success. As you were reading this article, you probably saw a pop-up where I offer you a ton of free stuff – for the price of your email address.

This is one of the ways I build a list. Feel free to study what I do on this site, then copy this filmmaking list building strategy for your own movie website.

Here is how you do it. And yes, as a disclaimer, I get paid to promote just about everything including the following recommendations. But these are the exact tools I use. So why not?

1. Reserve your domain address and hosting for your movie and your movie company. There are about a gazillion web hosting companies. But I use Bluehost for everything. You can find out more here: www.MovieSiteHost.com

2. After you have hosting, I recommend installing the WordPress CMS to handle your movie websites. Why? With MovieSiteHost, installing wordpress and having your website is only takes a few clicks. (Note: If you are not using MovieSiteHost, you will have to check and make sure your hosting company can handle WordPress Installations.)

3. Once your site is up, you can add your trailer and also, create a blog to tell people about your movie. Having frequently updated, fresh content will aid you in search engine optimization.

4. Ask people to become your eMail pal. For this, I use two tools. Firstly to manage my ever growing email database, I utilize aweber. Here is my affiliate link – www.AudienceList.com. Why? It’s more professional to send movie emails from a 3rd party email company with a good reputation, than your gmail account. Plus, there a few SPAM requirements you need to follow. Aweber is very strict in helping you adhere to SPAM compliance.

Once my audience list account is set up, and because this is a wordpress site, I am also able to easily plug-in a tool (which you probably saw a minute ago) called pop-up domination. (Yep. I get paid to promote these guys too.) And this tool has dramtically increased my subscriptions. You should use something similar on your own movie website.

5. The most important tip to remember is this (say it out loud 100 times): “My audience is my movie business. Without an audience, I have no movie business!” Seriously. You are responsible for cultivating genuine relationships and sharing as much value as you possible can with your audience. Treat them like gold!

Q: I don’t get social media. I just want to make movies. How much do you charge to do this?
A: First of all, I am not cheap. Sourcing an audience is tough work, time consuming and potentially expensive. This is why studios spend a gazillion dollars on marketing! But assuming your movie is still playing festivals, you have a well defined target audience (you do know your niche, right?) and you have some buzz – then that makes my job easier. But still not cheap.

Modern Movie Marketers (and people like me) usually charge between $10,000-$25,000 dollars for a 3 month strategy. Most of that money is used in marketing efforts. And most marketers make very little profit. So with that said, if you are creating a marketing budget, you need to know that marketing is not magic, it’s not a science, and while it’s essential, it’s not cheap.

And let’s be very frank. Most filmmakers don’t have that kind of money.

So here is an affordable alternative. I recommend simply grabbing a copy of the Independent Producer’s Guide to Distribution. You can find the movie distribution action guide here.

Happy Filmmaking!

Movie Marketing: Are Film Festivals Losing Relevance?

Filmmakers often utilize film festivals as a way to get their work seen and hopefully sold. And while acceptance to top-tier festivals is super exciting – the reality is, many filmmakers do not get in.

As a result, many of these semi-dejected filmmakers take a shotgun approach to their festival strategy. They start applying for most every regional and local film festival, everywhere. And aside from outlandish application fees, upon arrival to these festivals – instead of  meeting a bunch of VIP acquisitions executives, most second tier festivals are populated by a bunch of other desperate filmmakers shoving postcards in your face, eagerly advertising their screening times to, well, other filmmakers.

Sometimes this includes free beer. (Most times not.)

While having delusions of distribution grandeur is still part of the film festival fun – with the demise of DVD distribution, and the odds that you won’t get into Sundance – it is vitally important that you create a film festival strategy PLAN B.

What is a film festival strategy PLAN B?

Simply put, if you are serious about making your movie profitable, YOU are now responsible for marketing, promotion and distribution of your movie. And inline with this strategy, you must view regional and second tier festivals as an opportunity to build your audience list. But instead of handing out postcards to other filmmakers, your marketing strategy will be smarter.

Here are five tips on making film festivals relevant to your movie business:

  1. Write a press release specific to the festival and then distribute to the local press. This also involves picking up the phone and personally inviting the press to attend your screening. Many festivals will have a press list. You can use this – but I would also advise conducting additional internet searches for other press outlets.
  2. Many local towns have a filmmaker community. Reach out to them. If you are traveling, it’s great to have someone to pal around with. The secondary benefit to this is, many of these same people will have relationships with the festival staff – always good to know people on the staff.
  3. If the festival allows it, see if you can take several clipboards into your screening. You’ll want to collect the names and email addresses of each viewer and get their permission to email them. Later you will enter this data into your audience list.
  4. If your film website does not include a blog component, add one. Then update frequently. Add pictures and video. Let the world know your movie is screening. People like this stuff.
  5. And finally, most regional festivals have panel discussions with industry experts. Make sure you attend these. Take your business cards. And then try to build relationships with whomever is on the panel. (And as a side note, if you know anybody looking for a panelist – I suggest inviting Jason Brubaker from Filmmaking Stuff? Just sayin’)

Out of everthing I mentioned, the most important strategy for your movie and your modern moviemaking career is grow your own fan base. This way, when you focus on building your audience list, you stress a lot less about the traditional distribution deal you may or may not have received at one of the notorious festivals.

So yes. Film festivals are still relevant. They offer a great way to source an audience for a minimal marketing investment.

Also, I’d like to thank one of our filmmaking stuff readers named Michael for this question. If you would like to get on the filmmaking stuff VIP list, click here >>

Sell Your Movie For Maximum Profit

If you’re already a seasoned feature filmmaker, take a moment and think back: Do you remember when the idea of making movies seemed like a far away dream?

Do you remember when you first got the idea for your movie? Do you remember Your first day of production? Do you remember your first screening and how well everyone loved your work?

That happened to me with my first feature. Like you, I thought our movie would get into Sundance, play well, build buzz and if we were really lucky, we had hoped the movie would garner us a 3 picture deal. But that didn’t happen.

Sure, we got some offers, but they were not “deals.” (A deal actually pays money!)

So instead of exchanging our movie for an empty promise, we decided to try selling our movie on the internet. Little did I know, this one decision has changed the course of my movie making life. That was five years ago…

And since that time, the internet as evolved. If you’re a filmmaker with a movie, you need to get it selling in all the popular internet marketplaces, including Amazon and iTunes.

You don’t need a middle-man to make this profitable. I am going to show you my internet marketing secrets…

You can check out my “How To Sell Your Movie” system by visiting the website here.