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?

Congratulations.

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.

 

How To Overcome Your Indie Filmmaking Challenges

Over the past year, we have seen a lot of developments in the indie filmmaking space. New technology coupled with non-discriminatory distribution has enabled many would-be filmmakers to finally get a feature made and distributed.

While most of us in the indie filmmaking community welcome these changes – The downside to these innovations is the market is now saturated with backyard indies.

The other day I asked members of the Filmmaking Stuff Facebook community to describe their biggest indie filmmaking challenges. Minutes later, it became clear that the most glaring obstacles revolved around:

  1. Film Finance
  2. Movie distribution.

This seems right. Like you, there was once a time when I had no idea on how to finance, make, market, sell and distribute a movie. I remember spending countless hours reading everything I could get my hands on. Most of those filmmaking resources let me down. None of them helped me overcome my particular indie filmmaking challenges.

So I decided to address both points below and offer solid solutions you can utilize to get your movie made, seen and selling.

indie filmmaking

Indie Filmmaking Challenge – Film Finance

You know you need money to make a movie. Your indie filmmaking challenge here is obviously finding the money.

Read any of the books out there and the solution almost always involves some ridiculous scenarios where you either hire a seasoned producer to raise the money (wouldn’t that be nice) or find someone with disposable income, like a doctor or dentist. I’m sure you heard this useless crap too. I am tired of it.

So here is your non-magical solution to film finance. Notice I DID NOT say easy. What I’m about to share is not easy. I am sorry. If you don’t like a challenge, choose another profession or simply buy another indie filmmaking book that promises fame and fortune. But for those of you wiling to do the work, here are the steps for raising money:

  1. Write or acquire a great script.
  2. Break your script into a schedule and budget.
  3. Create a business plan that outlines how you will make, market and sell the movie.
  4. Have a lawyer draft a Private Placement Memorandum.
  5. Approach prospective investors and ask for the money.

While the entire indie film finance process can be broken down into five basic steps, it may take you months or even a year or more to get your movie fully financed. At this stage, your indie filmmaking challenge is to decide if you want to keep going, or perhaps save your blockbuster for another time and focus on making a smaller movie now. I personally think it’s better to make a feature than wait. But only you can decide what’s right for you.

Regardless of the scope and scale of your project, most prospective investors will want to know how they will benefit from your movie. Tom Malloy talks about this quite a bit in our film finance guide – But the basic thing to remember is that each prospective investor is looking for a different payoff. Some want a financial return. But some simply want to get involved in the movies.

It is important that you do more listening than talking. Figure out what the investor wants and then provide that.

In all scenarios, investors will likely ask what your plans are for marketing, sales and distribution. And that leads me to address the next point in your biggest indie filmmaking challenge – Distribution.

Indie Filmmaking Challenge – Distribution

There was a time when film distribution required someone picking up your move in exchange for a tremendous outlay of cash. Those days are over. Thousands of filmmakers flood the market with cheaply produced backyard indies. DVD distribution has been replaced by VOD distribution. And traditional distributors (with minor exception) no longer offer minimum guarantees.

filmmaking_challenge_solved

The cast of Special Dead.

Sounds pretty wacky, right? Wrong.

Many traditional distributors still pretend it’s 1995 and avenues to the marketplace are limited. But this is not true. Getting onto iTunes or Amazon or any number of VOD outlets is simply a matter of choosing one of the popular encoding houses and shelling out a few thousand bucks.

I cover a lot of this in my indie guide to digital distribution. But the bottom line is, you no longer need a traditional distributor to grant you access to these marketplaces. (Especially if the deal is not good!)

Here are your steps to distribute your movie:

  1. Create a marketing plan and launch strategy. (Note: This should be part of your initial business plan.)
  2. Get your movie onto popular VOD platforms like Amazon, iTunes and Pivotshare (and others).
  3. Come up with an advertising strategy that pays for itself and provides a profit.

Once again, I oversimplified this. Your indie filmmaking challenge with distribution is creating a strategy that makes sense for your movie. You need to move enough units of your movie to show a profit. Otherwise, you will be operating at a loss. And nobody wants to lose money… Because that’s not a real business.

If you’re like most indie filmmakers, you want me to prove that this works. You want Video On Demand Sales Projections to show your prospective investors. The truth is, most investors will see your projections as fluff. The reason is simple – Just because The Polish Brothers were able to have one of the highest grossing movies on iTunes does not mean that your movie will have similar success.

There. I said it.

More important than any VOD sales projections is figuring out how you will leverage VOD sales, to sell more movies. In short, there are some old fashioned direct mail formulas that will serve as an awesome starting point for actual scenarios. You can utilize these in your business plans. And savvy investors will understand.

You need to plan both your financing and distribution strategy as if you are your own mini studio. Because you are. If you plan to make, market and sell movies – you now have the technological firepower to take your filmmaking dreams to the big screen. And the best part? You don’t need to ask me or any other film professional for permission.

But you have to take action and make things happen.

What is your biggest indie filmmaking challenge? Feel free to tweet this and comment below.

 

 

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 www.FilmFinanceGuide.com

Film Crowdfunding

There are a lot of filmmakers who think it’s still 1990. While it is nice to dream of Hollywood deals, the Modern Moviemaker refuses to ask permission. Film crowdfuding is gaining popularity as a viable way to raise money for movies.

Aside from raising money, the more important aspects of crowdfunding include testing, proving and pre-selling your movie concept. Additionally, a crowdfunding campaign allows you to test the footprint of your social influence.

When crowdfunding attempts fail, it could mean the concept is not yet interesting to the marketplace, your social media reach is limited or your marketing needs tweaked.

When in doubt, think of your project from the perspective of an investor. What seems more risky? The filmmaker who just had a successful crowdfunding campaign, sourced a mailing list of 10,000 rabid fans clamoring to see the movie? Or the unproven project with no plan for ROI?

Just because you are producing a film does not mean that you are no longer bound to the general principals of business. Traditional distribution is being replaced with Video On Demand. Pre-Sales are not what they used to be. And if you think you are going to sell a gazillion DVDs to the big box video rental company, think again.

You must never forget that you are creating a product. So before you approach any prospective investor, you need to first figure out how your project will make money. Film crowdfunding is great way to test the selling strength of your concept without spending all year creating a movie nobody wants to watch.

Find out how to bullet proof your movie marketing with the movie marketing and distribution system.

Modern Moviemaking Manifesto Explained

Filmmakers need to establish a new business model to survive changes in VOD distritbution. Business Model Canvas: Nine business model bui...

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Last week I published a new filmmaking podcast called the Modern Moviemaking Manifesto. I published these ideas in response to all my veteran independent filmmaking friends who are currently having difficulty raising movie financing, and later, getting a return on that money.

Since posting, I have gotten a lot of feedback. Most of it has been positive. But there have been some questions. The most glaring involves how to create a production team for the long term. And the other feedback has something to do with my pragmatic approach to the movie business. I’m told that the modern movie making model, relying heavily on VOD distribution, is not as sexy as what most filmmakers expect (because I don’t talk about Hollywood fame and fortune and going to cool parties, et al.) One woman screamed at me, telling me that she doesn’t care about business and just wants to make movies. Other folks have simply told me my modern moviemaker ideas suck. And others have quit our filmmaking community.

This was to be expected. Not everybody is willing to explore or embrace new filmmaking ideas. And when I listen to my own recording, I can see how my enthusiasm for the modern moviemaking model could potentially sound pompous. This was not my intention. So I promise to get back to Toastmasters and refine my speech. But all of this aside, I believe the demise of traditional movie distribution creates a serious problem as filmmakers – and also a great opportunity. As a result, we have two options as filmmakers. We can choose to ignore this, or we can choose to be part of the modern moviemaking solution.

If you read Ted Hope’s blog – Truly Free Film, you may have seen my conversational responses to Sheri Candler’s well written guest post: How To Make Money With The New Independent Film Distributors’ Business Model. If not, it’s worth a read. And I have added one of my responses, on how to make Independent Filmmaking a viable business, here.

Just like you, I’m looking for a way that us fillmmakers can actually make a living making movies in this brave new world of VOD distribution. So in terms of empirical data, so far in my own business, I can tell you that at least one of our titles generates a nice stream of passive income without the middle-man, and without much marketing. As a result, many of the acquisition folks who formerally rejected our title have circled back with offers. While the new deals are OK (cash advances for foreign territories, complete with performance bumps), after crunching some numbers, the headache of locking up rights prompted us to respond in way familiar to most gate keepers: “Unfortunately we have to pass at this time.”

In this new era of filmmaking, our growing ability to make our movies, find our audience and make money without the middle-man has forever changed my life. And as a result, I firmly believe this process can be repeated for all subsequent titles. I mean, sure, we can still entertain traditional theatrical and retail DVD distribution both in North America and abroad (while these channels still exist, and if we are so fortunate) – but from now on, it is my intention to base my business plans on projected returns from our direct DVD rights as well as our VOD rights – because these are the two sales channels that filmmakers can access and control without asking some middle-man for permission.

For those of you who are adding your own thoughts to the Modern Moviemaking Manifesto, what I’m proposing is easier said than done. It is easy for me to talk about the success of our first feature. It is much more difficult to admit that our second feature bombed miserably. With that project, we did the complete opposite of everything that made our first title successful. The movie was a character driven drama, without any name talent. And while the production value was great, and the acting was good, we had no definable hook. Nothing about the movie separated it from the sea of other, similar character driven movies. Had it been 1995, we may have had a chance.

So my team and I learned some valuable lessons. Most modern moviemakers agree that it behooves us independents to create movies with a strong marketing hook, peppered with a bit of controversy, aimed at a very specific target audience. But when you crunch the numbers, to make this work, our niche audience must have mass enough to justify our movie budget.

While I have spent considerable effort to jam-pack these ideas into the Modern Moviemaking Manifesto, anybody who has studied Rodger Corman and read his book, “How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime” will quickly realize that the Modern Moviemaking Manifesto is not so “modern.” Corman has been utilizing it for years. Known for his type of down and dirty movie making, complete with fans who got to know him and know his work, Corman created a model where movies were made fast, cheaply, and each movie had a controversial hook.  The result of which allowed Roger Corman to create multiple streams of movie income.

But the one thing Roger did not have was a non-discriminatory sales channel. And thanks to VOD and companies like Distribber, we really have nothing holding us back from creating a similar empire. This is why I’m so full of enthusiasm for modern moviemaking. Nothing is holding us back from raising money, making movies and reaching our audience. And instead of simply blowing investor money on up-front compensation, we just have to adjust the model ever-so-slightly.

The Modern Moviemaking Manifesto is about creating movies fast, cheap and repeating the process, while at the same time creating awesome profit sharing deals on the back end. Over time, you will add more and more titles to your library. And this will create diversification, with the thought that dividends from dozens of titles can really add up.