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

How To Finance Movies With VOD Sales Projections

Do you know the most popular question filmmakers ask me?

I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with video on demand.

Ready. . .

Without too much variation, the most popular question is: “Can you provide some VOD sales projections?”

I understand the motive behind this question.

Believe me, I do.

You’re a filmmaker. You either made an awesome movie and you’re trying to use VOD sales projections to convince your partners that VOD is the way to go. Or you are in the process of making a movie and you need to convince your investors that VOD is awesome. In both scenarios, you’re trying to find proof that movies make money in VOD.

I get that. . . But. . .

Let’s make one thing clear. Asking for VOD sales projections is asking the wrong question!

If you dig around, examples of VOD Sales successes are out there. Check out what The Polish Brothers did. And if that’s not enough, Google the case study around Indie Game the movie.

But the truth is, one filmmaker’s past success does not guarantee that your movie will be successful.

Read that statement over and over again. And if you need a little more clarity, take a look at what the cat is saying here:

VOD Sales Projections

Realizing that VOD sales projections are BS is essential for your success. And I am going to explain how you can use your new found understanding for good, very soon…

But before I go there, let’s talk about why people invest in independent film.

Why Investors Invest In Indie Film

Independent movie investors invest because (aside from having an appetite for risk and an interest in the film business) most of these people want a return on their money. If you are doing things by the book, you probably created a marketing strategy as part of your business plan. This plan provides prospective investors an overview of how investment dollars will be budgeted, spent and hopefully recouped.

In the past, trying to convince investors movies were a good investment involved projecting returns based on speculative data. To guess how much money a movie may make, filmmakers would compare their project to other successful movies.

Creating indie movie comparables is complete BS.

The reason for this is simple.

Just because you make a low budget horror movie does not guarantee your movie will have the same success as Paranormal Activity.

In fact, Paranormal Activity is an outlier. It is not a fair comparison. And using breakout hits as examples, while ignoring the thousands of unsuccessful horror movies made each year, is short-sited at best and I dare say a little unethical.

Video On Demand Sales Projections

Given the birth of VOD distribution, as a filmmaker you now have the ability to access and enter into a non-discriminatory marketplace as soon as your movie is ready. And because many of these marketplaces exist online, much of your sales will come from internet traffic.

This is actually awesome news.

It means that you can boost your sales by using a very common marketing concept called…

[Seriously… Are you ready? You are about to receive the secret sauce of modern, indie movie marketing.]

More important than VOD Sales Projections is:

Conversion Rates

What is a conversion rate?

Conversion Rate Defined, According to Wikipedia:

Your conversion rate is the proportion of visits to a website who take action to go beyond a casual content view or website visit, as a result of subtle or direct requests from marketers, advertisers, and content creators.

Conversion_Rate

In other words, if you send one-hundred people to your movie website and two people buy your movie, your conversion rate is two percent. This is profound. This is life changing for indie filmmakers!

Question: Why should filmmakers be enthusiastic about the internet marketing, nerd concept of conversion rates?

Answer: If you know your conversion rates, you can model and potentially project more accurate movie sales projections from day one.

But before you start noodling around to find your conversion rates, it helps to answer the following questions:

Modern MovieMaking Model

  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?

While I won’t get into the actual mechanics of marketing and selling your movie here (My Action Guide How To Sell Your Movie provides you with an actual step-by-step plan for getting your movie seen and sold), I will simply note that a marketing plan must now be included with your business plan.

The Secret VOD Sales Projection Formula

When you create (or refine) your marketing plan, you must now include some marketing math.

Truth be told, math is a weak subject for me and I dare say, most of the filmmakers I know. But luckily there are many spreadsheet templates that allow you to test several conversion rate scenarios. You can use these scenarios as a guideline to ballpark the potential ROI for your movie.

Here is a basic website conversion rate calculator you can utilize: http://bit.ly/17TSCrt

Before you get overly excited (like I am) calculating your movie website conversion rate is only one metric to determine your movie’s potential for profitability. You still need to figure out how to price your movie. And at the same time, you will need to determine how much targeted internet traffic will cost you.

Generating Internet traffic is the result of executing four strategies. You can either get free traffic online, free traffic offline, paid traffic offline or paid traffic online.

For the sake of this example, I am going to incorporate pay per visit advertising. With pay per visit advertising, you simply pay for someone to visit your movie website.

One example of Pay Per Visit traffic is StumbleUpon. It’s a social bookmarking site that also allows you to pay for semi-targeted traffic. This works well if you have a movie with a dose of controversy and a strong hook.

And again, if you’d like more info on specific traffic generating strategies, check out my indie guide to distribution.

Ok. Here is our first example…

Let’s assume only 1% of the targeted folks who actually visit your website, buy. Then how many visits will you need to sell 100 units?

100 units = Our goal for this ad campaign.
$.05 = Amount you may pay advertiser per visit.
X = Number of Visitors Needed to buy 100 units if only 1% buy.

(X).01 = 100 units
EQUATES TO: X= 10,000
THEN 10,000($.05) = $500 paid for targeted traffic.

So in other words, if you were lucky enough to get a 1% return, you just paid $500 dollars in pay per visit advertising to sell 100 units of your movie. But let’s go one step further. Let’s assume you’re like me – and you hate order fulfillment and shipping. So you decide to let a company like Amazon’s Create Space or iTunes (or some other popular marketplace) handle your order.

Video On Demand For Rent (Electronic Sell Through)
100 units ($3) = $300 – 50% paid to marketplace = $150
minus $500 paid for advertising = -$350 NEGATIVE

In this VOD rental scenario, the Pay Per Visit Ad numbers don’t work, unless you like losing money.

Video On Demand For Download (Electronic Sell Through)
100 units ($10) = $1000 – 50% paid to marketplace = $500
minus $500 paid for advertising = BREAK EVEN

In this VOD download to own scenario, the numbers work a little bit better. Assuming you’re lucky enough to get 1% of your money returned, at least the advertising pays for itself. But unless you can increase your conversion rates, pay per visit advertising is going to be very difficult method for returning money to your investors.

Physical DVD Sales
100 units ($20) = $2000 – 50% paid to marketplace = $1000
minus $500 paid for advertising = $500 in profit.

Ah ha! If you’re fortunate enough to get 1% return on your pay per visit advertising, you can see how physical DVD’s (or units) sold at $20 dollars may offer a slight profit margin. In other words, in this scenario, for every $.50 cents you spend, you get $1 dollar back.

So let’s tackle the bigger problem. Let’s try to get a return on our 1Million dollar movie, selling physical DVD sales and using pay per visit advertising alone:

Movie Budget = 1 Million dollars
Physical DVD Sales using Pay Per Visit Advertising

$1,000,000 divided by $20 per unit = 50,000 Units

Since we will give 50% to the marketplace for all sales, we will need to project for double our budget.

100,000 units = Our goal for this ad campaign.
$.05 = Amount you may pay advertiser per visit.
X = Number of Visitors Needed to buy 100,000 units if only 1% buy.

(X).01 = 100,000 units
EQUATES TO: X= 10,000,000 (Yes, TEN MILLION people.)
THEN 10,000,000($.05) = $500,000 paid for targeted traffic.

100,000 units ($20) = $2,000,000 – 50% paid to marketplace = $1,000,000
minus $500,000 paid for advertising = $500,000 in profit.

So to break even, you would need to sell 100,000 units and make $2,000,000.

Some Sales Conclusions

Based on this scenario, as a filmmaker you will (obviously) need to expand your promotion beyond pay-per-visit advertising!

But importantly and most AWESOMELY, you can treat your movie business like any other small business. With VOD Sales projections, you can find the marketing formula that works for your movie and crunch your numbers until you find a scenario that brings you profits.

Create a plan that included your marketing costs in your budget.

While there are no guarantees in any business, having a plan for marketing, sales and distribution sure beats the old days when your only plan for ROI involved crossing your fingers in the hopes someone will offer you a profitable, traditional deal.

While these may not be the VOD Sales Projections you were looking for, hopefully you now realize the power of knowing your conversion rates.

Treating your movie business like any small business simply means you don’t have to ask permission. You can make your movie NOW! And your prospective investors might take notice…

Also, can you do me a favor? If you liked this filmmaking article, could you kindly retweet or share this article with your friends?

Why I Hate The Words “Self Distribution” In A Video On Demand World

If you’ve been reading filmmaking stuff for any length of time, you know how much I avoid the words “self-distribution.”

The reason I dislike the term is because it makes filmmakers lazy.

It implies that somebody else is out there, ready and willing to distribute your movie.

While this was the case many years ago, video on demand has changed everything.

Here is a quick question for you: What do Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Stanley Kubrick have in common?

Through the course of their careers, all of them have built a platform. They have an audience.

Audiences know them and know their work. And the name recognition has created leverage in the marketplace. If you plan on getting your movies seen and selling, you need to start building a platform, so you can establish your brand and become a rockstar to your audience.

How To Brand Yourself As A Filmmaker

How To Brand Yourself As A Filmmaker (Part 1)
By filmmaker and graphic designer, Ela Gancarz

Everyone’s talking about personal branding these days, but not everyone understands what it does and why it’s important. As a filmmaker, you might be thinking to yourself, “do I really have to care about my brand?” In today’s Internet focused world, personal branding is no longer reserved solely for celebrities.

If you’ve been using social media or your website, you have probably already developed a brand!

A personal brand is the entire perception of a person. It’s all about who you are and what you want to be known for. It refers to the way other people see you. A ‘personal brand’ is in many cases synonymous with your reputation. It’s so much more than a simple logo!

As a filmmaker, you can use personal branding to build trust with your target audience. When people readily know you and they associate your brand with your face, it will be much easier to raise money for a new production or to sell your movie.

If you’d like make your personal brand stronger or to create a new one, you need to set goals for your public image. Your first task is to find your brand identity and develop a style guide. Here are three essential steps to do this:

Step One: Your Identity.

First of all you should ask yourself a few questions to find your personal brand identity. For example: what words would you use to describe yourself? What do people usually say about you? What makes you different from everyone else? What kind of films do you like? What do you want others to think of you? Then write down your answers.

Step Two: Your Audience.

Your personal brand is not only built from your thoughts but also from reactions of other people. That’s why you should determine the audience you want to target. Once you have established a niche, it’s important to reflect what those people want or expect from you. Write down your thoughts.

Step Three: Your Style.

Now, compare two lists and identify some qualities that you want others to associate with your brand. Remember that personal branding is how we market ourselves to others. After figuring out your brand attributes, try to match a corresponding style. It can be expressed visually with a logo, colors, forms, images (I’ll give more details about that in another post) or in the way you act or talk. Think about your personal brand each time you interact with someone.

Your style should be:

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  • Simple and memorable. Your personal brand has to communicate clearly who you are. People will remember only a few things about you so focus only on elements that really contribute something to your brand.
  • Unique. Your style should be distinctive and unique. But you don’t need to sit down and study how to be different! You ARE special! Try to take your life as the basis of your expertise.
  • Modern. Keep your brand modern, fresh and actual. It should always feel inspiring to you and to your audience.
  • Personal. Try to be yourself – it is your PERSONAL brand. Stand strongly behind it. Don’t apologize for it. And don’t be afraid to speak your mind!

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Finally having your personal brand identity, you need to apply it consistently across many activities. Create a website or blog, participate in social media. Whether you like it or not, the world is turning digital at very fast pace and you need to manage your reputation, both online and in real life.

Remember that your personal brand may add value to each new product, film or campaign you create. People will follow your brand from project to project but only if they feel connected and attracted to it. It’s time to take control of all those impressions!

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.