Basic Movie Marketing Strategy

What is your movie marketing strategy?

This is one of the first questions I ask filmmakers whenever I put on a talk.

And the reason I ask the question is simple. We need to solve a major filmmaking problem. But before I tell you about some of the awesome solutions out there – I want to first tell you about the problem.

. . . And this is a problem many filmmakers don’t realize they have.

I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with your movie marketing strategy. . . Specifically how to source and engage an audience.

If you’re like most filmmakers, your primary goal is to make a movie. So odds are good this is one of the first times you’ve considered a movie marketing strategy.

You know you need Twitter, Facebook and a robust mailing list of people who can’t wait to see your work.

While you know social media is important, you also know that raising money, hiring crew and refining your script so you can actually finish your movie is equally, if not more important.

movie marketing strategy

Movie Marketing Strategy

When time and energy is limited, the last thing you want to do is think about your movie marketing strategy. You probably assume that if you make a good movie, some major distributor will swoop in and do all that marketing stuff for you.

And you never know. . .

You might get lucky. You might win an upfront cash advance and a three picture, studio deal.

But since only a small minority of filmmakers garner these types of deals, let’s focus on the other 99%.

What if your movie has an awesome run at the festivals, garners a lot of buzz?

And against your wildest dreams, you find yourself getting several calls from distributors who want to “pick up” your movie?


If you’re a first time filmmaker, getting attention from a distributor is exciting.

But once the excitement dies down and you actually start reading the offers – You may notice that very few of these distributors provide minimum guarantees. And if you are fortunate enough to get an MG, odds are good the amount is much less than you ever anticipated.

The reason for this is simple.

Production is cheaper. A lot of people are making movies these days. DVD has been replaced with VOD, which means there are over a gazillion affordable ways to upload your movie and share it with the world.

What Movie Distributors Don’t Want You To Know

As a result of this paradigm shift, many former film distribution companies have become VOD aggregators.

Talk with a few of these distributors and you will realize that most VOD aggregators offer the same solution. They put your movie on platforms like iTunes, Cable VOD, Amazon and others.

Most tell you they are better than the other distribution company because they “know the guy at iTunes or Amazon or…”

And based on these relationships, they can get you special placement. But when making this pitch, what most distributors don’t realize is that every distributor knows the same guy and pitches the same placement.

Which brings me to my next point… Are you ready for this?

Movie Distribution has become a commodity.

There. I said it, finally…

If you want to get your movie into the marketplace, you can.

And if you do some internet searches, you’ll find out that for a few thousand bucks you can access most any VOD platform. Want iTunes? Bypass the middle-man and go straight to an iTunes approved encoding house. Want Amazon? Go to CreateSpace. Want to sell on your own website?

Try one of the hundreds of VOD platforms that allow this.

And all this to say…

Finding movie distribution is NOT your problem.

The real problem for filmmakers is audience engagement. How will you source an audience for your movie?

How do you find people who care about your movie? And from there, how do you make it easy for your fans to share your movie with their friends? In other words, how do you find and exponentially grow your audience?

To this end, as part of your movie marketing strategy, one of things you must do is create a valuable internet experience for your audience… And you must do this well before you make your movie. In the simplest form, you should refine your movie website. Your blog should include access to exclusive, interesting content focused on your movie.

Think of this content like the behind the scenes bonuses that used to go with your DVD.

Collect Email and Contact Information

When you first arrived at this article, you probably noticed my BIG opt in form, asking for your name and email address. The reason for this is simple. I would love to build a working relationship with you. A great way to do that involves building trust by sending you valuable filmmaking tips via email.

film distributionAs part of your movie marketing strategy, you need to do something similar on your website. In this sense, you not only build a relationship for your next movie, but if you do it right, you can build a solid fan base for the rest of your career.

This will help you:

  1. Sell more copies of your movie.
  2. Leverage your audience to crowdfund and test concepts for new movies.

Your movie marketing strategy is about sourcing and exponentially growing your audience. If you’re looking for additional market your movie tips, check out the Indie Producer’s Guide to Distribution.

And as always, please feel free to comment below.


Minimum Guarantees for Indie Films

Picture this. Your movie is in the festivals. People like it. They are buzzing about your movie and for the past three months, you have been getting calls from distributors. Exciting right? Except the distributors are not offering minimum guarantees. And as a result, you finally realize that 2005 really is over.

Digital has shifted the filmmaking paradigm. Advances in inexpensive production technology has allowed backyard indie filmmakers to flood the market with cheaply produced movies. As an analogy, this is similar to what happens with sweat shop labor. Suddenly once rare and premium goods are no longer as valuable. And as a result, it is difficult for people to make money – especially distributors.

While the days of huge MGs are not completely behind us – getting upfront cash for your movie is very rare (as I’m sure you know) because success of a project is no longer influenced by moving physical product. This explains why you don’t hear about minimum guarantees… It is simply too hard for distributors to predict the success of a digital movie.

With this said, if you want to increase your chances of success, you may consider focusing on the following criteria. Whenever I look to acquire a movie, I’m asking the following questions:

  1. Can I define the audience in 5 seconds?
  2. Does the filmmaker have active and strong social media?
  3. Is the filmmaker invested in the project?
  4. How can we add value to the movie?
  5. Are there merchandising opportunities?

The bottom line is this – A reputable digital distributor is more concerned with the success of your project. So digital distribution agreements are increasingly geared towards revenue share. And because the digital distributor has skin in the game, it behooves them to help make the project a success.

Keep in mind that my specialty is digital distribution. So if you can still find a great DVD deal, you should go for it and take the deal! If not, you should consider some of the modern distribution models.

How To Grow Your Filmmaking Fanbase

Filmmakers need an audience. Without an audience, you have no business. Many filmmakers ignore this part of the process.

And let’s be honest, building an audience sounds a lot less sexy than actually making the movie. But here is the deal. Traditional film distribution once revolved around shipping physical product. There were fixed costs and accurate sales projections.

We just sold 5000 DVDs to Hollywood Video!

But the days when people converged on video stores searching for obscure independent movies is over.

Viewing habits are changing. People are increasingly interested in the convenience of viewing content on their preferred device. These same people are scattered all over the world.

If this paradigm shift wasn’t challenging enough, production technology now allows any filmmaker with a few hundred dollars to create a backyard indie. And while many of these movies are not worth watching, it doesn’t change the fact that the market is flooded.

This creates an interesting challenge for you. How will someone ever find out about your movie? How will you cultivate word of mouth around your movie? How will you make your movie a profitable enterprise?

Grow Your Filmmaking Fanbase

It is no longer good enough to simply have a great movie! There is only one way to succeed as a modern moviemaker. Focus on building a following of rabid fans who know you and enjoy your work. I’m serious here. Unless you proactively focus on sourcing your own audience, your odds of success are diminished.

Here are some reasons WHY building an audience needs to be your primary objective. Growing your own fanbase allows you to:

  1. Ignore crappy distribution deals.
  2. Accelerate your crowdfunding efforts.
  3. Sell direct to people who know your work.
  4. Stop asking permission to make your movies.
  5. Leverage deals for minimum guarantees.
  6. Provide engagement beyond just the movie.
  7. Encourage word of mouth beyond your community.

In order to succeed as a filmmaker you will need to spend time between each movie working to expand your audience engagement.

At the very least, growing your fanbase means you will need to create a production company blog, a YouTube Channel, Facebook page, a Twittler handle and a mailing list. Once you create these tools, you will need to create new content frequently. What kind of content? You will want to focus on content that appeals to your desired target audience.

For example, if you are a horror filmmaker, you might profile other movies in the genre, provide your audience with one minute teaser videos, and Tweet about horror. If you produce environmental documentaries, you would want to focus on environmental issues. And once you figure out your focus, you will want to update, and update frequently.

You will also want to link ALL profiles to Klout. (I’ll save Klout for another article. But in short, the site measures your social influence and rewards you with perks.)

Here are some mandates to get you started:

  • Movie Site Blog: Update at least 3 times per week. Initial goal: 100 articles.
  • YouTube Channel: Update at least 2 times per week. Initial goal: 100 videos.
  • Facebook Page: Provide links to you blog and YouTube updates. Initial goal: 2500 likes.
  • Twitter: Tweet your blog and YouTube updates. Initial goal: 2500 followers.
  • Mailing List: Email your blog and YouTube updates. Initial goal: 5000 subscribers.

In addition to creating this content, you will want to use these tools to create personal relationships with your fan-base. Answer emails as they come in. Respond to comments. And above all else, always work to provide something of value to your followers.

If you need additional tips like this, check out these professional filmmakng tools.