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 Stuff News For 2011 Early

Picture I made for my goals article

Image via Wikipedia

Hi Filmmakers,

If this is your first time visiting Filmmaking Stuff, welcome! For those of you who have been a member of the Filmmaking Stuff community for some time, hello again! I’m writing you from my home in Laural Canyon. For those of you who don’t know this part of Los Angeles, I’m in the canyon between the Hollywood Hills, and within walking distance to Jim Morrison’s former house (which is for sale if any of you have an extra 1.6 Million).

I wanted to write YOU because our filmmaking community is growing like crazy. It seems many of you have told your friends about www.FreeFilmmakingBook.com – and your friends have told their friends, and their friends have told their friends… So THANK YOU for spreading the word! The goal is to grow our community of modern moviemakers to at least 10,000 by December 2011.

Because our filmmaking community is growing so rapidly, you can tell I’m already planning my filmmaking stuff goals for 2011. I am looking for ways in which we can help each other increase our moviemaking business. Obviously our facebook and twitter pages provide at least one way to connect, but I think there is more we can do. Over the next few months, I will share some solutions. (And you’ll be the first to know.)

Filmmaking Stuff News Updates – In Prep For 2011

1. Film Festivals:

I’m in the process of scheduling workshops and panel discussions at various film festivals around the world. My focus is showing filmmakers how to market and sell their movies, utilizing new methods in VOD distribution (and also how to leverage these sales channels to raise money from prospective investors.)

Why is this important to you? Because, before VOD, filmmakers had to find some sort of  middle man to market and sell their movies. But this has changed for the better. These days, you can finally make a movie and distribute your movie without asking permission – which means, you can finally pitch your movie project as a REAL business to investors. (Please stop putting stuff in your business plan about how you hope to get into Sundance and garner a dream distribution deal. 1995 is over. Investors don’t want to play the lottery. They want a business!)

So, if you know of a local film festival that would benefit from the “Maximize Your Movie Profits Without The Middle Man” workshop – feel free to tell them them about Jason Brubaker and Filmmaking Stuff. If I book a gig as a result of your efforts, you will get a copy of the entire Movie Maker Action Pack.

2. New Filmmaking Product:

Speaking of the Action Pack, two weeks ago I totally updated and silently released my latest product. I call it the Independent Produer’s Guide to Digital Self Distribution. It is a step-by-step action guide with some fill-in-the-blank type stuff.  Not surprisingly, this action guide is complementary to my workshop.

In truth, there are a lot of people out there that tell you that twitter and facebook is a great way to promote your movies. And while I agree that FB and Twitter are powerful tools, the other material never fully addresses (or solves) the real question: How do we make filmmaking a viable business? Hmmm?

If you have the same question, then you’re in luck. With the Indie Guide to Digital Self Distribution, I’ll show you how to market and sell your movie through video on demand and direct DVD sales – And I will also share how I lost over $100,000.00 with my first feature and how you can avoid my mistakes. Here is the link>>>

3. Modern Moviemaking Podcasts:

I started a FREE filmmaking podcast. Next time you open iTunes, search for Filmmaking Stuff. You’ll be able to subscribe to the Filmmaking Stuff, Filmmaking Podcast. In the coming months, I hope to interview a whole bunch of industry folks. I am going to focus on finding professionals willing to give away their secret sauce… I’ll keep you posted.

4. Modern Moviemaking Community, online:

Since publishing the modern moviemaking manifesto, some of you have written, requesting an online community where you can share ideas with other filmmakers involved in our movement. So I have taken the initial steps to creating the modern moviemaking community. If you want to be among the first to know about it (because it’s exclusive), make sure you get on the list.

5. Happy 2011. OK… I know I’m early.

For those of you who have gotten to know me, you already understand that I’m passionate and excited for the future of moviemaking. I have so many little projects lined up for 2011, I figure – Why wait? I’m eager to get moving and you should be too. Why? Because I believe the movie industry is changing fast! And it is vitally important that you stay on top of all the changes.

My suggestion? Read everything you can about finance, marketing, filmmaking and video on demand distribution. We are entering a new era.  This is the filmmaking equivalent of the automobile replacing the horse-drawn wagon. We are in the middle of a movement!

CLICK HERE TO COMMENT>>>

Movie Distribution (Without Asking Permission)

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:

The Filmmaking Stuff Fan Page

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: