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The whole reason you want to do your homework is so you don’t end up depending on the glaringly flawed and totally outdated distribution strategy: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 And it’s outdated.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

How Film Finance Expert Tom Malloy Raised Over 25M

When I got started in filmmaking, one of the biggest mysteries was how filmmakers found investors. I spent countless weeks and months seeking answers to the age old questions all indie filmmakers have:

“How do I raise money to make my movie?”

That one question sent me on a quest that involved dentists, doctors, car dealers, international pre-sales and a whole slew of phonies pretending to be big shots. I found out that there is a lot of really bad information on film finance out there.

Since that time, I made it my quest to cut through all the BS and supply indie filmmakers with good, actionable information. Eventually someone suggested that I reach out to film finance expert Tom Malloy.

And I’m happy I did.

So far in his career Tom has raised over 25 million dollars to make his own movies.

Tom stopped by Filmmaking Stuff to share a few film finance tips.

No-Fluff Film Finance Tips

Jason Brubaker
Hi Tom. It’s great to finally get a chance to chat. Before we get into the some of your film finance tips, I thought it would be great for the readers to get to know you. How did you get started in filmmaking?

Tom Malloy
I’m originally from Redbank, New Jersey. I got started in filmmaking, because for me, there was no fallback plan. I always dreamed of making movies. I focused my mind to such an extent, I was going to find a way to make a movie, no matter what.

Jason Brubaker
Is that how you got into film finance and raising money?

Tom Malloy
I started as an actor, and had some early success, but started finding I was losing roles to more established actors.

Jason Brubaker
Acting seems like a lot of waiting for someone to “pick you” from a lineup. I imagine waiting is challenging when you’re super entrepreneurial.

Tom Malloy
I didn’t want to be a helpless actor. So I took control of my career.

Jason Brubaker
And that’s what prompted you to raise money for movies?

Tom Malloy
I initially looked at film finance as a means to an end. I was raising money to give myself roles, and to prove my talent as an actor.

Jason Brubaker
Was it hard to go from actor to producer?

Film Finance with Tom Malloy

Film Finance with Tom Malloy

Tom Malloy
Things sort of changed, through osmosis, I guess. I became a producer and writer, as well as an actor. I was one of the first successful triple-hyphenates. But when I was doing it, it was unheard of.

Jason Brubaker
After you successfully raised money, people started hearing of you.

Tom Malloy
Now [laughs] it’s the only way to go.

Jason Brubaker
Why do you think more filmmakers don’t take action in raising money?

Tom Malloy
Well, filmmakers are usually artists, not businessmen. And I’m not suggesting you need to be pure-business, because businessmen have ruined movies to a certain extent.

Jason Brubaker
I talk to a lot of filmmakers who would agree. So what do you suggest?

Tom Malloy
What you need to be is equal parts both. You need to work on your salesman side and look at films equally as art and commerce. You need to willing to embrace the business side so you can get funding.

Jason Brubaker
The good news is, once you get the funding, you can make your own movie.

Tom Malloy
Remember the golden rule: He (or she) who gets the gold, makes the rules.

Jason Brubaker
How did you find your first investor?

Tom Malloy
I knew a guy who played high stakes poker with a lot of money people. I had no idea he had a large sum of money himself. I asked him if I could pitch him on helping me find money for the film.

Jason Brubaker
So in the process, you told him about the movie…

Tom Malloy
Yes. I shared my pitch with him, and it blew him away so much, he said: “Well, jeez, I’d like to invest in this!”

Jason Brubaker
Here is a big one. I get emails from filmmakers sharing stories of rejection. I know it’s part of the film finance game. But how do you overcome rejection?

Tom Malloy
Collect the “no’s”. There is a famous real estate story where a failing real estate agent is coached by the office pro. The failing agent hears “no” and lets it affect him severely. The pro asks, “On average, how many “nos” do you get before you sell a house? The failing agent says, “Around 20.” So the pro suggests a change, “Just think of each “no” as one more to your collection. Once you get to 20, you’ll sell a house.”

Jason Brubaker
So every no increases your probability of success.

Tom Malloy
That “re-framing” caused the failing agent to even outsell the office pro! So I make a point go always go out there, collecting “no’s”, knowing that I’m one step closer to a yes.

Jason Brubaker
What do filmmakers need before they can meet with an investor?

Tom Malloy
They need to have a fully prepped project. Investors are financially smart. They didn’t just stumble onto their money. So filmmakers need to present a project that is a viable, intelligent investment for them.

Jason Brubaker
A few weeks back, you shared your best tips in the Film Finance Guide. How do you think the Film Finance Guide will help filmmakers?

Tom Malloy
This is all about “prepping” the project. The essential steps to get your project ready to pitch. Trust me, trust me, trust me, if you go in front of an investor with a project that’s not ready, not only will you not get the check, you will most likely never get a chance to pitch that person again.

Jason Brubaker
Why should filmmakers invest in the Film Finance Guide instead of all the other stuff available?

Tom Malloy
This is invaluable information for the price. If you’re not willing to invest in your career, I supposed you must be an “enthusiast” and not serious about filmmaking. I have had industry veterans listen to this information and tell me that he or she learned something. So I guarantee you will learn and you will advance your skills in the film finance world.

Jason Brubaker
I think the big thing is proof points. The information is coming from someone who’s done it. Not everybody can say the same.

Tom Malloy
I’ve raised over $25 million. I know what I’m talking about.

Jason Brubaker
What advice do you have for filmmakers who want to do what you’re doing?

Tom Malloy
Never give up, stay focused, continue to learn and gather knowledge. You will get there.

– –
You can find out more information about the Film Finance Guide by visiting

Meet Prospective Film Investors

One of the toughest parts of getting business minded prospective investors to take you seriously is distribution. Like it or not, your film distribution strategy has a ripple effect on all other aspects of your movie production, including film finance.

If you can not create a marketing, sales and distribution plan for your movie (that you control), your project becomes very risky.

Fortunately there are two developments that have helped in this arena.

Firstly, through companies like distribber (Disclosure: They pay me to promote) you now have the ability to get your movie into the marketplace. This allows you to create a business plan and marketing strategy with a fully accessible sales channel. (This is huge!)

Secondly, sites like Kickstarter and Indie GoGo allow you to crowdfund. With crowdfunding, you can test your concept long before you get into the marketplace. This will help you determine if your movie has a market – long before you dive into your project both feet first.

When you have a sales channel and a proven concept, having conversations with prospective investors will be much easier.

If you would like more information on movie marketing, check out these filmmaking tools.

Keven Smith talks Movie Distribution

Kevin Smith at the 2008 Toronto International ...

Image via Wikipedia

I love Kevin Smith’s attitude towards modern movie distribution. If you’re like most independent filmmakers, what Kevin was able to accomplish from his days of Clerks has been amazing. Back then, he not only dreamed the Sundance Dream, but he realized the dream.

The Sundance dream is the idea that you will make your movie, get into Sundance, sell your movie and live happily ever after. As I have been telling you all along, the demise of DVD sales channels, replaced by ever evolving VOD marketplaces are impacting Filmmakers everywhere.

These days, if you are going to make movies and profit, you must now view your independent movie business in ways akin to how any business owner handles their business. You must source and grow your own audience list.

In the following video Kevin Smith shares his perspective on modern movie distribution and how the brave new world is impacting indie filmmakers.

Please feel free to comment.

Indie Film Website For Your Filmmaking

If you’re like most filmmakers, you have a website for your movie. And odds are good you are trying to fit too much into it. So the first thing you need to do is remove all the distracting crap. Whenever I mention this at a talk, invariably someone asks me how to determine what’s distracting? It depends on your website objective.

When building a movie website, most filmmakers have two objectives:

  1. Stage 1 – Raise awareness for your movie.
  2. Stage 2Sell your movie directly.

If you’re still in Stage 1, chances are good you have press kits, actor bios, reviews of your movie, anecdotes from production and about a gazillion other items, including behind the scenes photo galleries. But once you finish the festival circuit, you may choose to enter Stage 2 and start funneling web traffic towards your DVDs and VOD in various marketplaces.

To do this, I suggest you install Google analytics and monitor your traffic. Here is an example from the first feature I worked on:


If you look closely, you’ll notice that many visitors ended up visiting pages that did not lead to a sale. This is like keeping money on the table. So to counter the confusion, I suggest simply removing the pages altogether.

When promoting your movie, the goal is to remove all the extra crap and keep what matters.

The end result is a very simple website that “funnels” people to your desired destination.

When visitors click on “Buy NOW” they are redirected to the point of sale.

Marketing a movie is initially a creative art – but unlike other arts,  the beauty of movie marketing is, with the right tracking tools, you can test and retest your ideas to determine effectiveness.

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