How To Make Your Movie Rise Above The Noise

Working in film distribution, I can tell you that everything is changing. Production is getting cheaper and easy access to the marketplace is the norm. This is an exciting time to be a filmmaker.

Paradoxically, because more and more movies are getting made each year, this is also one of the most challenging times for making money as a filmmaker. We are experiencing a market saturation similar to what happens when sweatshop factories start producing comparable goods for less money.

And while you may argue that many backyard indies are amateur garbage, this doesn’t change the fact that filmmakers now have more competition than ever before. Your biggest problem is figuring out how to make your movie rise above the noise.

Rise Above The Noise

Photo © Sergey Nivens / Dollar Photo Club

How To Make Your Movie Rise Above The Noise

Before you pour your heart and soul into your passion project, answer these questions:

  1. What is your movie about?
  2. Who is in your movie?
  3. Who is going to buy your movie?

Most filmmakers never take time to answer these simple, yet essential questions. Or if they do, the answers are often based on hope or delusions of grandeur. My target audience is everybody!

Having well rehearsed answers to these questions (that you can deliver with enthusiasm) will increase the odds that a movie distributor or a fan could potentially (easily) tell other people about your movie.

sell your movie“Zooey Deschanel is attached to your movie?!?”

Having a name actor or a strong story hook makes your movie memorable. Knowing that an audience exists for your type of movie, as well as having a promotional plan for reaching your audience is also helpful.

That is what word-of-mouth is all about.

Once your pitch is established, all of your other movie marketing tasks such like your logo, font, DVD cover (still important), poster and website will be much easier to design.

So I’ll end today’s thought with three questions: What is your movie about? Who’s in it? And who is gonna buy it?  And if you like this sort of stuff, you’ll love my Sell Your Movie System.

 

Three Tips On How To Target Your Target Audience

Having spent time at the major film festivals, I can tell you that having an audience (also known as a large email subscriber list) is currency. It gives you power. But before you get into the mechanics of growing your audience – You need to first figure out how to find your target audience.

In fact, you need to target your target audience even before you write your screenplay.

If thinking about your target audience is a new concept, you’re not alone. Most filmmakers fail to consider their target audience. Or worse, many filmmakers will tell you that everyone is their audience.

This means men, women, teens, tweens, children, puppies and space aliens could all benefit from your movie.

This is a mistake. It’s a left-over concept from the indie era of 1995. Back then, you only had one goal with your movie. Get into the festivals, fill up your screening and hope the some distributor shows up and writes a check.

Many filmmakers still believe this. But these filmmakers are wrong.

Think about it.

Think about the last time you went to a film festival. What did you see? Was it a bunch of acquisitions professionals handing out business cards like candy? Or did you happen to see other filmmakers handing you postcards, asking:

“Will you come to my screening?”

If you want to figure out how to find your target audience, here’s a solid piece of advice:

Other filmmakers are not your target audience!

But don’t worry. Because I’ve worked on the inside of film distribution for several years, I am going to help you avoid the mistakes 99% of other filmmakers make. I am going to provide you with three simple steps on how to find your target audience.

And these simple steps will put you years ahead of other filmmakers who are living off the hope and pray film distribution strategy of the bygone era. Are you ready to rock?

Find Your Target Audience

Find Your Target Audience

Here is the thing. There are ton of filmmakers that consistently muck up their film release strategy. As I mentioned earlier, the reason most films fail is because the filmmaker never took time to really write out a release plan.

The process of finding your audience starts with refining your movie concept.

Step 1: Refine Your Movie Concept: For this example, let’s pretend your lead character is a boxer living in an improvised community. And then let’s pretend that your boxer ends up with ONE big opportunity to take a shot.

A. From this, we know your movie is geared towards: Boxing.

B. We can also think about related interests: weightlifting, fitness gear, diary supplements, et al.

Step 2 – Conduct a Google Search: Your next step is to locate blogs, websites and publications already targeting people who may be interested in your subject matter. In this example, you can quickly Google “boxing.”

When you do this, “boxing” will get over forty-nine million results. This is not surprising. Interests such as boxing, horror movies, martial arts and race car driving have prominence in our culture.

Step 3 – Build a List: Add the top 50 targeted publications (both online and offline) to a spreadsheet. Then reach out to each publication and request their demographic statistics. These stats will tell you how many people subscribe to the publication and will often provide details on age and gender. (You will use this info later, when you go to sell your movie.)

You can apply these three steps whenever you want to find your target audience. And once you have a good understanding of your target audience, all future advertising, marketing language and your trailer should be created with your target audience in mind.

Then later, when your movie enters the marketplace, this research will provide you a contact list full of organizations that may help you promote your movie. And if you would like more information on how to market and sell your movie, come to my next webinar: www.filmmakingstuff.com/sell-your-movie-webinar

Email Marketing For Movies (Why You Need To Start Now!)

Did you know that email marketing for movies is as important as making your movie?

Sounds weird right?

I mean, you’re a filmmaker. What does email marketing for movies have to do with your success?

Everything…

In fact, I believe that email marketing for movies is essential.

And here’s one example why:

Picture This – You’re meeting a prospective investor for the first time.

You enter her gigantic office and you sit down. The assistant asks if you’d like anything to drink. You politely decline. (The truth is, you’re thirsty – But this is a big meeting and you don’t want to spill anything on your shirt.)

After a few minutes, your prospective investor walks into the room, sits down and you start talking. Everything is going well and the conversation organically flows into why you’re there. You’re there because you’re looking for investors. Specifically, you’d like her to fund your movie. And it goes something like this:

[Disclaimer: I am not a tax, legal or investment professional. So what I am about to share should be no way construed as any sort of advice. In fact, I am merely demonstrating via dialogue why I believe email marketing for movies is essential for filmmakers. Please speak with a qualified professional before taking any meetings with anybody anywhere in the universe.]

BEGIN SCENE

Filmmaker
I’m going to make a movie right here in this town. And I am looking for prospective investors who would be interested in backing the project.

Prospective Investor
Sounds interesting. As you can probably imagine, I have meetings like this every week. Last week someone proposed I should invest in their purple-pine-cone business. They are already profitable. And they are offering me an amazing opportunity with very low risk. Why should I invest in your project?

Filmmaker
We have this really great script. And we are going to make a movie. Take it to Sundance, sell the movie for maximum profit. And then we are going to use those profits to make more movies.

Prospective Investor
Get out of my office!

Filmmaker
Why?

Prospective Investor
Because what you just presented is not a business. It is a gamble. You don’t know if you’ll get into Sundance. And you don’t know if someone will buy your movie. And even if you do, you have no idea how much they will pay.

Filmmaker
But Paranormal Activity did awesome!

Prospective Investor
Get out!!! And only come back when you have a REAL business plan.

END SCENE

The world of independent filmmaking is changing.

The market is flooded with backyard indies. As a result, there is no longer a world where you get into Sundance and simply sell your movie to the highest bidder. And even if that world still existed, it was always a crappy bet for new filmmakers and inexperienced film investors.

Email Marketing For Movies

Email Marketing For Movies

As a result of these changes, filmmakers who want to make a living making independent movies need to start thinking about their target audience BEFORE YOU MAKE YOUR MOVIE!

While I would never suggest that you completely forgo your artistic integrity, I would suggest you answer the following questions:

  1. Who is going to buy and watch your movie? (Hint, if you answer everybody, you answered nobody.)
  2. How will you reach your intended niche, target audience?
  3. How many VOD downloads will it take to recoup your initial investment?

Since those of you who make movies are mostly filmmakers, not marketers, it becomes increasingly challenging to market your movie and your work. But some aspects of marketing are easier than you think.

How to get started?

One easy thing you can do is set up your own email marketing system. Email marketing for movies works like this – The bigger your list of targeted subscribers, the more sales you can potentially make. And for an example of how this works, click here to grab your free filmmaker checklist.

Pretty cool right?

Did you see how that big box just jumped right at you?

If you signed up, you did so because the Filmmaker Checklist is more valuable than the time it takes to type your email address. (And I really did put a lot of work into making it valuable for you.) This is what marketers call an “ethical bribe,” “opt-in candy” or a “lead magnet.” And you need to create a lead magnet for your movie website visitors too.

Common lead magnet examples for movie website usually consist of: behind the scenes photos, movie song downloads or soundtrack, poster downloads, short video clips, or pretty much anything your audience would value…

There are two tools I utilize to create this and build my list. And both pay me to promote. (So do your own research.) One is called Aweber. And the other is called LeadPages.

Aweber manages my professional email correspondence and helps me avoid ending up in the Spam trap. And LeadPages links with Aweber and helps me come up with really awesome subscriber forms like the one you clicked above.

As a rule of thumb, never email blast from your own servers. Always use a 3rd party email marketing company that insists on something called a double opt-in. A double opt-in means that after people submit their name and email to your list, they will still need to check their email for a confirmation link.

Then in each subsequent blast, the email will always provide an easy way to unsubscribe.

For a recap, here are the three steps you take to get started with email marketing for your movie.

  1. Come up with a “lead magnet.”
  2. Get started with Aweber (they pay me.)
  3. Link Aweber to Leadpages (they also pay me.)

Collect Email From Your Movie Website

In the context of movie promotion, several other movies do this really well. Check out Food Matters, Camp Takota and Forks Over Knives. Each example is a highly successful movie. And one major reason for this success is, you guessed it:

Email marketing for movies!

As you can see, most of these movie websites are very streamlined, usually limited to trailer as well as an opt-in form. This is intentional. Above all else, building an email list is essential for the long term success of these movies, selling related merchandise and subsequent sequels.

Copy this strategy for your own movie website! Like these other filmmakers, start collecting names and email addresses of prospective audience members as soon as you can. Or to put it another way:

You are no longer in the movie business. You are now in the audience engagement business.

Through both online and offline marketing efforts, your objective is to grow community around your movie – which could spread positive word of mouth. This could eventually lead to direct video on demand sales! And the other benefit? If you start now, you could begin to grow a list. this can help you while you’re raising money.

Here’s that example again (with the added value of a robust email list.)

BEGIN SCENE

Filmmaker
I’m going to make a movie right here in this town. And I am looking for prospective investors who would be interested in backing the project.

Prospective Investor
Sounds interesting. As you can probably imagine, I have meetings like this every week. Last week someone proposed I should invest in their purple-pine-cone business. They are already profitable. And they are offering me an amazing opportunity with very low risk. Why should I invest in your project?

Filmmaker
We have this really great script, a robust email list of 15,000 raving fans! So far, the responses for this next movie seem favorable. So this at least gives us a direct market base to hedge our bets. Aside from selling the movie directly, many have expressed interest in additional merchandise, like t-shirts. So this offers us a great opportunity to create multiple retail, revenue opportunities.

Prospective Investor
Sounds like you’ve done your homework. Tell me more!

END SCENE

While this is a totally fictional example, I am hoping you see the power of email marketing for movies. Having a plan for email can accelerate the growth of your movie business. And we aren’t just talking your current movie, but all movies moving forward!

sell your movieSometime down the road, long after your movie has played the festivals and sold out on iTunes, you may find there is value in promoting other movies of a similar genre – or better yet, selling your next movie. This is when email marketing for movies really pays off. Remember, with email marketing for movies, the real money is in your list!

If you liked these marketing tips, you will love the sell your movie action pack.

 

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.

Online_Movie_Advertising

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
EQUATES TO: X= ?
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 To Sharpen Your Movie Hook (So You Get Noticed)

Have you ever wondered why finding movie investors is challenging? Have you ever wondered why landing an awesome distribution deal is reserved for a just few movies per year?

And have you ever wondered why some crowdfunding campaigns are a tremendous success while other campaigns die in quiet obscurity?

The reason is simple. . .

And I’m going to blunt.

These movie projects fail because nobody cares about them.

Find_Your_Movie_Hook

The reason nobody cares is because the filmmaker never took time to plan out a marketing, sales and distribution strategy that actually makes people want to see the movie.

Your movie marketing and distribution strategy begins with sharpening your movie hook.

What Is Your Movie Hook?

One of the first questions people ask is, what is your movie about?

While this seems like a pretty easy question, if you find yourself rambling on about a complicated, character driven story, full of people reflecting on love and loss. . .

STOP!

A long description is confusing.

A confused mind doesn’t buy (or invest) in your movie.

To sell your title, your movie must be distinct and memorable.

In business they have this thing called USP. A USP is your “unique selling proposition.” It is the one distinction that makes people buy one product over the next. In Hollywood we call this your movie hook.

And without a strong movie hook, most filmmakers find themselves lost in a sea of other filmmakers clamoring to rise above the noise of mediocre movie making.

You need to make your movie REMARKABLE.

What do I mean by remarkable?

Here’s a brief story to explain how your movie hook influences word of mouth.

Picture this:

Let’s say you’re at a party. You chat with someone and they ask you about your movie.

Your Response: It’s about this guy who falls in love with a woman. Then they have issues. They break up. Then they get back together. It’s really a romantic comedy marketed to every man, woman and child in the world.

Do you see the flaw here? There is no real movie hook.

Do you understand how there is absolutely nothing in this description that makes me want to share your movie idea with other people?

And let’s use another example. Let’s say we start talking and you find out I love martial arts and that I’m really into Bruce Lee. In response, you tell me about the original Ip Man movie. (Ip Man was Bruce Lee’s mentor.)

Then you pull out your phone and share the following fight scene with me:

You can bet I’m going to remark about this. (I might even figure out a way to add it to a Filmmaking Stuff article about finding a movie hook so thousands of people can see my remarks.)

The point here is this. You can have the best movie in the world, but nobody will care about your movie until they care about your movie.

And you have to make them care.

The only way to make people care is to show them something remarkable. And the only way to do that is to make sure there is market for your movie and that you have a sharp movie hook.

In the Ip Man example above, the market is: Martial Arts Movie Enthusiasts.

The movie hook is: The story of Bruce Lee’s Mentor

How To Find Your Movie Hook

Finding your movie hook revolves around taking your broad movie concept and distilling it down to the bare, yet memorable essentials.

For example, let’s say your movie hook is described as “A boxer fights for the title.”

Obviously this is a succinct log-line, but it lacks memorable detail.

So your next job is to incorporate some flavorful elements into your movie hook.

Here is the same example with added detail: “An impoverished boxer is given a once in a lifetime chance to fight for the world heavyweight title.”

Can you guess what movie I’m describing?

With this movie hook example, you can see how the extra detail adds sizzle to the description.

Taking time to sharpen your movie hook will help you in two arenas.

Firstly, with this description, your prospective audience will immediately understand how your movie differs from all the other boxer movies. And from a marketing perspective, the words “boxer,” “fights,” and “heavyweight title” will help you to target your core audience and later, these keywords will help you jump-start your internet search engine optimization campaign.

Finding your movie hook is the start of your movie marketing. Once you have a movie hook, you can then answer the next, very important marketing questions. Take a moment to answer:

  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?

For many filmmakers, the benefit of creating a movie hook, as well as marketing, sales and distribution plan saves TONS of headaches when you actually take your movie to market. And putting together a distribution plan is a lot easier than you think. For more information on how to market and sell your movie, check out my newly updated distribution system at www.HowToSellYourMovie.com