Three Tips For Digital VOD Distribution

The other day, I found myself in a passionate debate regarding Digital VOD Distribution. We were talking about the importance of building your own audience.

Despite the fact that the entire world of movie distribution is shifting away from a physical product and people are now watching movies on their small devices – There are still some fuddy-duddies who believe we are still years away from Digital VOD Distribution.

These are the same “gurus” who believe that audience building is best left for the experts.

This is silly talk.

You’re a serious independent filmmaker.

You will stop at nothing until your vision is realized and you movie is made. So why would you go the distance without creating any sort of plan for reaching your audience?

“I just want to focus on making movies and let someone else market them.”

While I encourage you to focus on becoming the next filmmaking success, crossing your fingers for an audience to magically appear doesn’t work in Digital VOD Distribution.

Out of the thousands of films produced each year, most will not garner theatrical distribution. And with DVD on the decline, getting a deal for the vanishing video stores is rare… Even in foreign territories.

So I suggest you take a pragmatic approach to your movie making business.

I’m suggesting you start thinking like a digital marketer. And the first step towards becoming a marketing success is making sure you know your audience.

Digital VOD Distribution

Three Tips For Digital VOD Distribution

While digital VOD distribution is an exciting frontier, your desired target audience is scattered all over the internet. Reaching people interested in your work is your biggest challenge. How will you do this?

Before you make your movie, answer the following questions:

1. Why should someone care about your movie? – If you can’t tell me why I should watch your movie, you can rest assured I won’t. Time is more valuable than money. Once spent, it never gets replenished.

2. Who is your intended target audience? – Most filmmakers never give any thought to this question. Or if they do, they say “everybody.” Because everybody is nobody, that is very unrealistic.

3. How much does your marketing cost? – There are two ways to build an audience. You can spend a lot of time building your audience, or you can spend a lot of money building your audience. The choice is both. But you better plan accordingly.

sell your movieThis should go without saying – but I spend a lot of time looking for great movies. And the truth is, most movies are very poorly done, with no star talent or marketable hook. So please make a good movie.

If you want more help on how to market your movie, check out the indie producer’s guide to distribution.

Modern Moviemaking Manifesto

I am going to share the Modern Moviemaking Manifesto with you. After this, you’re going to know yourself a little better as a filmmaker.

And to get the ball rolling, I have a question for you:

What’s the biggest filmmaking failure you must avoid?

Ok, this is gonna sound obvious… But the answer is:

Making a movie NOBODY CARES about!

(Which is sort of the same as making a boring movie that could put monkeys to sleep, if monkeys actually watched movies – and I think some do.)

 modern moviemaking manifesto

Notice I didn’t say BAD MOVIE. You can make bad movies and people will still care.

For examples, check out The Room or Birdemic for an example of this…

But if you make movies nobody cares about, you will fail as a filmmaker.

This sounds obvious right? But if it was so obvious, how come many silly filmmakers keep making movies nobody cares about. I’ll tell you why…

Modern Moviemaking

Inexpensive production technology, coupled with about 237 different ways to get your movie selling (more on this in my email series) makes it way to easy to make mundane, crap movies nobody cares about.

And SURPRISE: Most movies do not make money!

There. I said it. And it gets more challenging than this… Ready for some serious real world film school?

The problem with traditional independent filmmaking is the ever growing gap between investment dollars and a filmmaker’s ability to recoup the initial investment. In other words, indie filmmakers find investors, get money, make a crap movie and never repay the investors…

Oops. Sorry.

But let’s be clear. Independent filmmaking has always been a risky business. And we freely share this with any prospective investors, usually stating: “Filmmaking is risky and you will most likely never see a dime.”

While these types of disclaimers are transparent and accurate, filmmakers could often counter this objection by getting investors to focus on the misguided idea that the movie might get into Sundance.

The movie might garner ginormous buzz.

And if you’re really lucky, the movie might sell to the highest bidder!

(Sound familiar?)

So from this perspective, the real benefit of investing in independent movies wasn’t the promise of a solid investment. Rather the driving force behind investment dollars was the chance of winning instant fame, fortune and a never ending supply of coolness!

And we all want to look cool.

Here is a picture of me looking cool:

filmmaking_Challenge

Many filmmakers still hold this dream.

But the realities of the independent movie business are sobering.

Out of the gazillion movies made each year, only a few get into a major film festival. And out of those movies, very few garner a deal worth mentioning. Adding to this problem is the ever prevalent demise of DVD sales channels, resulting in filmmaking becoming less profitable and less cool than it once was. And as a result, the “invest in my movie because it’s an awesome business” pitch is no longer believable.

Technology is also changing independent moviemaking. For two-thousand dollars, every filmmaker can now grab a camera, shoot a feature and compete for virtual “shelf space” in iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and most of the many VOD outlets.

In the context of business 101, this means that our high quality, expensive goods (our movies) are now competing with cheaply produced goods of a somewhat comparable quality. And if we were in the widget business, this would mean massive layoffs are in the near future. Or to put it another way, our old way of making movies no longer fits the marketplace.

This of course raises the question:

How do we make independent moviemaking profitable (and fun) again?

A lot of people have solutions. One that is gaining popularity is the idea that filmmakers should hire someone to cover the marketing and distribution of the movie from day one. In this sense, filmmakers can focus on making the movie while the marketer can focus on the marketing, social media and list building duties.

Instead of trying to find a traditional distribution deal, complete with a cash advance, you get enough people to know you and know your movie from day one. And once your mailing list (or community of followers) reaches a certain mass, you will hopefully sell enough copies of your movie to recoup your investment.

Build Your Audience Now

Everybody is now talking about audience engagement as though it’s a new concept. But it’s not. In fact, audience engagement has been around since the beginning of story telling. And again, it comes down to telling a great story that people actually care about.

Then the goal is to start telling your story early enough so people actually care.

Here a video I did for the folks at Film Courage that explains this in a little more detail:

Modern Moviemaking Manifesto

Modern moviemakers need to build a targeted audience list and grow community around individual movie titles – Everyone fits into some kind of demographic. And everyone wants to be part of something. And many folks aren’t even conscious of this. But building community around your project is easier said than done.

The reality is, it will take tremendous efforts to make the metrics work, begging the question: How much must a community grow to support a movie budget of at least one-million dollars?

One-million dollars is not a lot of money in terms of traditional indie filmmaking budgets. And if we assume all traditional distribution will eventually be replaced by some form of VOD, then as a filmmaker, business success really comes down to three economically focused questions:

  1. Who is your movie’s target audience?
  2. How will you reach your target audience?
  3. And how many VOD downloads does will take to recoup the initial investment?

If you can’t answer these questions, then you know from day one that your odds of success are dramatically decreased. Without a defined market or an established sales channel, it is difficult to justify financing, which makes it very difficult to pay cast and crew, which makes it difficult to produce a movie.

Assuming you can answer these questions, the problem is still economy of scale. If you can’t reach the masses (or reach enough people willing to pay for what you’re selling), how will you ever recoup your initial movie investment? And if you can’t figure out how you’re going to recoup your budget, two things have to change:

  1. Filmmakers will need to make smaller movies.
  2. Filmmakers will need to pay cast and crew less money.

At first thought, neither of these options seems to make independent movie making profitable (or fun) – which is why people keep creating solutions without first scrutinizing the traditional filmmaking paradigm. As a result most current solutions fail to fully SOLVE the indie producing for profit problem – Which prompted me to share my own solutions.

What I’m about to share is the official Jason Brubaker solution for saving the independent movie industry. And it has a name. I call this philosophy…

Modern Moviemaking

Revolutionary, right? Admittedly, I should have added some shazam to my idea and called it something fancy – but coining phrases is not my strong suit. Rather I want to join the other filmmaker thinkers and focus on a workable solution.

Additionally, I’m just like you. I’m a filmmaker, passionate about making movies. But at the same time, I want to help us figure out a way to make a living making movies.

So this movement is your movement. Should you choose to participate in this brave new modern movie making world, there is one solid, economically viable way to make movies profitable again. And it will require that you adopt a modern moviemaking paradigm.

So are you ready to join the modern moviemaking movement?

Modern Moviemaking Manifesto

1. Modern Moviemakers will think of movie making in ways akin to how entrepreneurs think of start up companies. Instead of raising investment dollars for just one title, Modern Moviemakers will create a mini-studio, complete with research and development, planning, production, marketing, distribution and sales under one roof.

2. Modern Moviemakers will focus on producing a slate of at least five genre specific movies. These movies will be created inexpensively and will be delivered to the audience via ALL popular VOD marketplaces.

3. Instead of paying freelance day-rates, Modern Moviemakers will put crew on a salary, with benefits. Everybody in the company will own equity in the company. So in this regard, someone who owns 10% in company stock will get 10% of all movie profits. This will supplement crew salary with an ongoing, lifelong stream of income.

4. Modern Moviemakers will work to grow our community (and customer base) bigger. And over time, our fans will begin to know us, know our company and celebrate our work. Only in this way will we eventually reach mass great enough to increase ongoing revenue through multiple streams of movie income.

5. Modern Moviemakers focus on muti-title diversification, with the goal that multiple movie titles build enough buzz to create long term, sustainable revenue. In this regard, we can begin to focus on creating entire library instead of just depending on one title to support our career.

There is no fee to join the Modern Moviemaking Movement. If you think it makes sense, just tell two or 3-5 of your closest filmmaking  friends about the Modern Moviemaking Manifesto.

To explore some other awesome filmmaking tools, check out our resources at make your movie now.

How To Design Your Movie Poster (For The VOD Age)

How To Design Your Movie Poster is a guest post by film graphic designer, Ela Gancarz

Having a good movie art is very important if you want to sell your film.

And although the need to design your movie poster may seem secondary in digital distribution era, you should always consider that most video on demand marketplaces will require your art in a relatively large format.

Anything you design to market your movie should be created using a high resolution!

Taking time to design your movie poster is a good first step in your overall branding strategy. Visual design which represents your product should compel and excite the potential viewers to influence their buying decisions and to create a good perception of the film.

To improve your results, your movie art must create an immediate impact and touch the audience on the right emotional level. The starting point of your overall brand strategy is your movie poster design.

Before designing any graphic elements you should decide on the message you want to communicate.

Design Your Movie PosterHow To Design Your Movie Poster

Part 1 – STYLE

When you set out to design your movie poster, you need to first decide what kind of movie your poster is going to represent. You should try to convey the general mood of your film to its graphic design.

For example, if you work on an action or horror movie poster, you should create an intense or dark atmosphere – if it’s a comedy, it would be better to choose a funny and light style.

Your poster should be striking, memorable and focused on a single, clear message. When you are working on your graphic design, always make sure you think about your target audience!

Part 2 – TEXT

The next thing to focus on is the text. Apart from the movie title, your film poster must also contain a tag line (a striking sentence or branding slogan the conveys the movie’s message), the name of the director, names of main actors or characters, the release date and a billing block (credits at the bottom).

If you need to emphasize a presence of someone famous in your movie, or highlight some other particular aspect of the film, you may write it on your poster, along with making sure this information is really indispensable.

Your movie poster must say just enough to make the sale and not a word more!

Part 3 – IMAGES

The most difficult step when you design your movie poster is choosing images. You should hire a great graphic designer. And your designer should help you with this.

But even with the professional assistance, choosing the correct graphics can be difficult. So the best way to find out what to put on your poster is to look at other similar works or to watch some films in the same genre for inspiration.

If you don’t have any good pictures of your actors or movie scenes, you can try to substitute them for some more symbolic images. On the Internet you may find many interesting photographs that would express the mood of your film.

Otherwise, you may have to forgo photos for representative drawings, which would make your poster illustrated rather than photographic.

Lastly, you should use a consistent graphic design in all areas of your marketing, including website, DVD cover and all other visual collateral associated with your film.

Designing your movie poster may at times seem less exciting than actually making your movie, it is essential. And taking time to design your movie poster the right way can be rewarding when you see your movie sales increase!

If you’d like more information on how to design your movie poster, reach out. . .

Who Is Your Target Audience?

The other day I posted this question to our Facebook Filmmaking Stuff community:

“Who is your target audience?”

The responses were varied. Filmmakers chimed in with everything from “tweens” to “adults over 30.” Many filmmakers responded with the word: “Everybody!”

While I love the enthusiasm, without much exception, defining your audience by age or gender is extremely broad. And unlike the major movie studios, you do not have the marketing budget to support this.

target_audience

Who Is Your Target Audience?

Every week at least one filmmaker emails me with something like this:

“I made a movie and we just won best picture at a regional festival you never heard of! Since my movie appeals to every man, woman and child on the planet, I want to sell it for a million dollars? How do I make this happen?”

Can you understand why this sentiment is seriously flawed?

If your movie does not have enough juice to get a an awesome distribution deal, your returns will be limited by your own marketing and distribution efforts.

Let me be very clear.

I have been working in distribution for a half-decade and I can tell you that even great movies end up with crappy distribution deals.

The truth is, most film distribution deals suck.

And without a marketing budget to reach a global audience, you must focus on finding your niche audience.

One of the first places to find your audience is the local newsstand. If there are print magazines devoted to your movie subject, then those subscribers are part of your target audience. In addition to print, you will want to explore the Internet for online publications.

Open up a spreadsheet and add these publications to your list. Your goal is to create a database of the top fifty publications geared towards your niche audience.

Make a list of 5 ideal movie fan categories for your title

Once you create your list of print publications catering to your niche, your next step is to understand your audience.

To do this, reach out to the top ten publications on your list and ask them to forward information about their subscriber demographics. Since magazine revenue is based on understanding their subscribers, most established publications will have this info readily available.

From there, you will want to study this info and get to know your audience.

Who are these people?

Are they primarily men? Women? Teenagers? Do they have jobs? Are they business owners or unemployed? What is the average income? Are they college educated? Do they live in the city or on the farm?

From this information, you can create audience profiles for five ideal types of movie fans that you want to target within your niche.

Figure out why these fans should watch your movie.

In addition to getting inside the head of your audience, your next task is to figure out why these people enjoy your genre. Why would they want to watch your movie? What makes your movie unique from the other, competing movies in existence? How will your movie to appeal to viewing needs of your audience?

Who Is Your Target Audience: Action Steps

1. Who is your primary target audience?
Ex: Mid-west, male college kids who love zombie movies. 

2. What makes your movie different from competing movies?
Ex: Our movie is about zombies that attack ninjas.

3. Why should your audience spend two hours watching your movie?
Ex: Fangoria says: Funniest zombie movie since Shaun of the Dead!

Taking time to understand your audience will enable you to create an image of your ideal audience member. This information will then be utilized when you create and refine your marketing message.

If you have a movie you’re looking to sell, you may also want to check out How To Sell Your Movie.

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Digital Film Distribution

The demise of DVD distribution, coupled with inexpensive production technology has flooded the marked with cheaply produced, accessible movies. And for most filmmakers, basing an entire distribution strategy on outside studios “picking up” completed movies is silly. Digital film distribution is now a primary way movies are getting seen and sold.

This paradigm shift makes it necessary for every filmmaker to create a specific marketing, sales and distribution plan for their movie.

To succeed, you will need to write a marketing and sales plan. This plan will outline your target audience. It will include specific tactics for reaching your audience and promoting your movie. Your plan will also detail the marketplaces you will utilize to achieve your goals. Will you take the festival route? Will you send your movie directly to sales agents and acquisition pros? Will you sell your movie on iTunes or Hulu or both?

Once you figure out how you will leverage online and offline media to achieve the necessary sales, you will need to budget for this. How many units will you need to sell at a defined price point to break even? How much will it cost you to sell enough units to make a profit? How much time will you need to execute your marketing plan and achieve these goals?

Success in digital film distribution is dependent upon audience engagement. Regardless of any technological trends coming into vogue – Without an audience, you really have no business.

Still Have Questions about film Distribution?

Film Distribution is my wheelhouse and I have helped hundreds of filmmakers via my sell your movie package. There’s too much that goes into marketing and distributing a movie to cover fully here – So if you still have questions feel free to ask in comment section below and I will do my best to respond promptly.