How To Network In Hollywood (Or anywhere, really)

The other night, I was at some party. I didn’t know a lot of people, but this is nothing new.

Learning how to network in Hollywood, or anywhere really is one of  the most important skills you can refine. Besides, meeting new people is fun. It leads to new ideas and new opportunties.

But every so often, you will meet a jerk or two .

That is exactly what happened when I walked into a conversation where this guy was bragging about his shoes. Something about Italian leather or some crap.

Anyway, as the conversation shifted from shoes to the movie industry, I started to chime in about video on demand distribution.

And do you know what?

This guy…

He totally looked down at my shoes. He noticed my low top Converse and literally cut me off mid-sentence.

WTF?

(I promise this is not a segue into a fashion blog…)

But here’s the fun part. Later in the evening, I guess somebody tells this guy that I’m connected… That I know people. That maybe I can introduce him to people who could help him in his career.

So this filmmaker comes up to me and actually starts talking about a movie idea.

Pretty silly. No thanks.

I don’t think him and I will ever do business together.

Why?

Frankly, because I don’t like him. He made a poor judgement on how to treat me.

This is an example of BAD NETWORKING

Here is a video on how I thought about Hollywood before I got into the game.

A lot of filmmakers visit LA, wondering how to network in Hollywood. Before I get too far into some awesome networking tips, let me clarify something.

You don’t have to be in Hollywood to make movies!

But if your goal is to make movies, you are going to need a way to raise money. And unless you have a rich uncle or an awesome hookup, you’re going to have to do what most unknown filmmakers do… They get out there and they hustle!

Which begs the question:

“How do filmmakers meet and network with rich people?”

Good question.

You will meet rich people through your ever expanding network of awesomeness. In other words, you’re going to make lots of cold calls, take lots of lunches and network!

The following principals will reveal how to network in everyday life. But importantly, they will show you how to network in Hollywood.

Here is the reason you need to learn how to network in Hollywood:

Odds are good that if you make movies, sooner or later you’re going to end up in Hollywood.

Makes sense right?

how to network in Hollywood with Jason Brubaker

How To Network In Hollywood

As you can probably guess, the guy in our previous example needs to learn how to network in Hollywood. (Or anywhere, for that matter.)

And maybe you’ve experienced this type of crap too.

It happens all the time. I mostly see it at film festivals. Somebody approaches you and immediately asks what you do.

As soon as you tell the other person, there is a beat – A moment or two when the person decides if you are worth his time.

If not, then the other person will feign a polite interest in you, look over your shoulder for someone more important to talk to and leave the scene, tossing you a business card on his way out.

Whenever someone mentions the word “networking” the mental picture that comes into focus, often involves an overly energetic schmoozer who hands out business cards like candy.

These people typically have their own agenda in mind and could care less about you – unless they could potentially USE you.

While this strategy may be utilized by many up-and-coming filmmakers, it won’t be ours.

Avoid becoming a walking business card dispensary”

In order to avoid becoming a walking business card dispensary,  every time you think about networking, I want you to focus on one thing – and one thing only.

Focus on the other person!

If you like the other person and think they are a nice human being, I want you to always focus on finding ways to help. By helping other people reach their goals, all the lessons we spoke about (rapport, reputation and building relationships) will work in your favor.

Here is what I learned. Help enough people, and enough people will help you.

Simple, right?

Action Steps

  1. Build a network of like minded individuals.
  2. If you live in a small town like I did, try to find a local art scene and other local filmmakers.If your area is limited, then contact people through social networking websites.
  3. Consider taking weekend trips to film festivals and screenings within your proximity. Strike up conversations.
  4. Consider helping as PA for movies in your area.
  5. Once you make friends. Go to their screenings. Get business cards. Follow up. Always ask yourself: “What can I do to help this person succeed?”

Get Movie MoneyOne of the best parts about working in the movie industry is meeting other like-minded, creative people. If you go out of your way to help other people as much as you can (without allowing other people to take advantage of you), then you’ll be in very good shape when it comes time to create your own projects.

If you’re still trying to find out how to network in Hollywood, or if you are looking for strategies on how to meet and mingle with prospective investors or Hollywood Heavyweights – I recommend you check out my guide focused on: “How To Meet Rich People So You Can Fund Your Movie.”


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?

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 >>

Filmmaking Success Tips For Sourcing An Audience

Because of an eroding DVD market, the modern moviemaking model dictates that you (as a filmmaker) must treat your independent movie business just like any other small business.

YOU have a product (your movie) and YOU must sell your product. In order to sell your product, you must find a customer and convince them that your movie is worth more than their money. Obvious right?

But most filmmakers have no idea how to find a customer.  It’s not your fault. I blame the STUPID notion that filmmakers should concentrate solely on making movies without considering how to source their target audience.  Think about it. Filmmakers traditionally depended on some sort of middle-man distributor to come in deus ex machina style to provide a big fat cash advance. But that was then…

Now, as a result of DSLR technology, you have a whole world of filmmakers flooding the market with awesomely good-looking backyard indies.  It’s an example of supply and demand. There are too many movies! And there are too few traditional deals. And sadly, most filmmakers have no idea how to get their movies seen and selling. As a result, the entire world of indie filmmaking is belly-up.

The only way modern moviemakers can compete and succeed is to learn from traditional small businesses. Filmmakers must focus on finding creative ways to produce movies inexpensively and spend tremendous effort (and little money) sourcing an audience. Which, when you compare the filmmaker’s need for customer acquisition to other businesses, it’s really the same thing.

Welcome to the new movie business!

So who wins? Filmmakers who can source an audience for their movies are in better shape than those who can not. Period.

How do your source an audience: In two words – Internet marketing.

I got news for you. Selling a movie online is no different than selling an eBook! But not everybody knows how to sell things online. That is OK. I explain this in my book. And for those of you not ready to get my book (so you can discover my mad movie marketing methods) – here is a tip as well as an actionable item: Crowdfunding.

By now you’ve heard of crowdfunding. But the little secret that nobody is talking about is this – Not all movie projects will get fully funded by the crowd. BUT, by creating a campaign, you essentially get the word out about your movie. You increase your YouTube hits (because you presumably embed your trailer into your campaign)… And even if your campaign is not successfully funded, anybody who did donate is now part of your future audience. Hmmm.

I know I’m on a bit of a rant today. So I’m going to slow-my-roll. If you like this filmmaking stuff, make sure you click here   >>

And if you want to see me speak or attend any of my workshops, telephone your local film festival and leave this message on their answering machines –> I WANT TO SEE Jason Brubaker LIVE.

Feel free to comment below.

Filmmaking For a Living

Hollywood Sign

Image via Wikipedia

As a filmmaker, you are expected to make a product (your movie). The money invested to create your product should be less than the eventual sales of your product. If you can not figure out how to achieve this goal, you do not have a business. You instead have an expensive hobby and probably a good demo reel.

There are a lot of filmmakers who attempt to raise money without first considering how their movie will recoup the initial investment. These filmmakers say things like “I have a vision” or “I’m going to make this for the love of filmmaking. Then I’ll get into festivals, get noticed and garner a great distribution deal!” And while it is true that passion, tenacity and blind optimism play an important role in getting your movie produced and seen and hopefully sold, this alone is not enough to drive the masses to your screenings.

This happens in Hollywood all the time. A filmmaker creates a typical business plan that focuses on film festivals as the most viable distribution strategy. And played out, the filmmaker gets the money, hires a crew, makes a movie and then enters the festivals. But months after wrap, well into the festival circuit, these filmmakers realize that the market has changed. The days of awesome DVD acquisitions deals and huge upfront advances are over. And when the last frame flickers off the silver screen, these filmmakers take their dashed-dreams back to their day job.

The veterans of the industry tell us that all this distribution deal disappointment is a result of improved technology. They optimistically tell us that our lost DVD revenues will be recouped by Video On Demand. Some refer to this as simply a market correction, implying that someday, somewhere, someone will figure out how to once again pay the big bucks for movies. But this is a pipe-dream.

Here is the flaw. Most filmmakers depend on DVD distribution for a return on investment. And with deteriorating DVD sales channels, filmmakers are currently left with iTunes, NetFlix and Amazon as the most prominent VOD sales options. My question is this. Who on earth is going to pay a major advance to get your movie into a marketplace that YOU can easily access without the middle man?

This approach to the marketplace changes everything. Your business is no longer dependent on production and capital gains. Nope. These days, the focus for the filmmaker lies in creating multiple streams of movie income over the long term. And if you want to make a living making movies, you need to realize that your libary and the subsequent auidence you source (over your career)  are your major assets. And as a result, your most important filmmaking focus (aside from doing good work) is to acquire and keep a customer.

Like it or lump it, filmmaking has become a small business. The same rules now apply.

– – –

Jason Brubaker is a Los Angles based independent filmmaker and an expert in Video On Demand distribution. If you are one of the many filmmakers seeking movie distribution, you might want to check out The Independent Producer’s Guide To Distribution.