Over the past year, I have been invited to various filmmaking workshops and panel discussions to share my internet movie distribution system. My goal in doing these events is to show indie filmmakers how to leverage the internet, build an audience and get paid for their work. My other purpose is to help you (and other filmmakers) avoid my marketing mistakes.
Let me explain. . .
A few years back, my first feature failed to garner a tradition distribution deal. Admittedly the movie was a silly zombie flick with a very controversial story and a totally rough production value (understatement!). Upon completion, (like you), we cut the movie, rented a theater, held a premiere, got the feedback, refined the movie and then entered the festival circuit.
How our marketing mistakes cost us $100K in lost profits. . .
Movie Maker Marketing Mistake #1 – Our Movie Website
On our last day of production, a photographer for (the now defunct) Premier Magazine came to set and snapped a few pictures. One of the photos appeared in the magazine – And on the day of publication, we had about 10,000 unique visitors to our website. We were not ready. The traffic crashed the servers. Oops.
What we learned about movie websites:
We should have spent the money and got a Hosting Company with a solid track record. These days I prefer www.bluehost.com because for very little money, you can get a domain name and year’s worth of hosting. Since utilizing Bluehost, I have experienced very little downtime – And they have great indie film friendly customer service.
Movie Maker Marketing Mistake #2 – Our Initial Trailer
Once we fixed the website, we added a trailer that we self hosted. This was a mistake. Firstly, the load time sucked. Secondly, the trailer burnt bandwidth. And third, there was no option for zombie movie enthusiasts to re-embed the trailer on their fan sites (which is very inexpensive advertising). Oops.
What we learned about hosting a movie trailer:
Don’t host your movie trailer yourself. Upload it to one of the many video sites, like YouTube. Aside from saving you the bandwidth and providing re-embedding opportunities, each video hosting site allows your fanbase to build community around your movie. This in-turn spreads word of mouth and offers you the opportunity to keep your finger on the pulse of your marketing. The more views, the more your movie gains popularity.
Movie Maker Marketing Mistake #3 – Capture Visitor Information:
Despite our mistakes, the one thing we had going for us was a very controversial hook. Word of mouth spread quickly. And our website had thousands of visitors each week. This was great right? Sort of. . .
Why we should have captured visitor information:
Garnering high organic (unpaid) traffic on your movie website is euphoric. However if you allow people to visit and leave your website without attempting to build a long term relationship, then you just lost a fan. To prevent this, set up an automatic newsletter opt in on your website. For this job, I prefer www.aweber.com. For a minimal amount of money, the service provides you with a opt-in form and also manages your email list.
This goes almost without saying, but you should immediatly set up a facebook fan page. You can find ours by clicking here:
Movie Maker Marketing Mistake #4 – Marketing VS Sales:
Your initial website will allow you to spread word about your movie and provide contact information for anybody who wants it. Additionally, your initial website will probably include production photos, silly stuff and a press kit. All of this is fine if you are seeking a traditional distribution deal. BUT. . .
The difference between Movie Marketing and Movie Sales:
When you’re marketing your movie, it is OK to have all the extra web pages. But when you make the shift from movie marketer to movie seller, you will need to change a few things. Firstly, you need to remove anything that doesn’t progress the sale of your movie. For example, if your intention is to sell a DVD, and your prospective fan gets distracted by your behind the scenes photos – and leaves your site – you have accomplished nothing.
Movie Maker Marketing Mistake #5 – Getting Bootlegged:
When it happens, it is both disheartening and validating at the same time. At first we went all over the internet and found a bunch of weird, cryptic streaming websites. We sent threatening, attorney drafted emails to the violators. Surprisingly, many complied and our movie was removed. . .
What we learned:
Within a week of removing the bootleggers both our web traffic and subsequent movie sales flat-lined. While I don’t have the evidence to prove correlation between bootlegs and sales – I have since come to the conclusion that people will buy your movie or not. Those that want to steal, will.
As a result, I have stopped policing the internet for bootleg providers. Let’s face it, paid advertising is expensive. Independent movie bootlegging is just another form of advertising.
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If you are already a member of my newsletter, you know how passionate I am about helping you make movies without asking permission. You also know that I’m passionate about sharing the “how to aspects” of making movies and making money. In no other area can this be achieved than the distribution of your movie.
As a result of my digital self distribution experience, I was hired to coach a rather well known indie filmmaker through his own digital self distribution campaign. Additionally, I have put all of this knowledge into a product called The Indie Producer’s Guide To Digital Self Distribution.
Comments and questions related to digital self movie distribution are welcome below: