As a filmmaker, unless you’ve got a pocket full of superfluous cash and you’re setting out to make a one-off passion picture that never needs to earn its budget back, film is a business. And as is the case with all businesses, you need a plan that includes a thorough understanding of your market and your competition. You need to know how to engage your audience.
Anytime someone decides to become part of your audience and chooses to watch your film, they are simultaneously choosing to not do something else instead.
They’ve probably already set aside that block of time for entertainment, so that cuts down on the competition a little. But you’ve got to somehow persuade this person, a stranger, that there is no better use of the next few moments of their lives than to let you captivate them with a story for as long as you’ve asked for their attention.
The Movie Market Has Expanded
There was a time, not all that many years ago, when a motion picture’s competition consisted solely of the one or two other films that happened to be opening on the same weekend. Then came the multiplexes, and the choices increased to 7 or 8, then 15 or 20 options. That expanded this to a couple hundred VHS tapes, then DVD’s, then Blu-rays sitting on the shelf at the local Blockbuster.
Now with the advent of high-speed internet, on-demand cable options, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and numerous online platforms, a film is competing not just against its contemporaries, but against practically every other film that exists.
A viewer looking for entertainment can choose between a low-budget indie comedy and the entire body of work of Spielberg, Hitchcock, or Scorsese; not to mention some pretty incredible television; plus Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and video games. And that’s all without leaving the couch.
Any film that was released online in the last couple of weeks was directly competing against Netflix’ new original series House of Cards. Your non-actor Uncle who jumped in to play the surly mob boss was up against Kevin Freakin’ Spacey. Hardly fair, is it? But it’s where we are.
Why You Need To Make A Great Movie
A great movie is a great movie, but the seemingly infinite sea of choices available challenges and changes the conventional wisdom about film marketing strategy. We have to think long haul and we have to build relationships with our audiences.
Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves, and by letting your audience in on your own personal narrative, they get to join your club. That’s how you turn an emotion connection with you into an emotional connection with your content.
It’s not enough to make them want to see your movie. They have to NEED to see it. It’s a new Wild West out there, and only the most nimble and engaged production companies will survive.
While the major studios, with their lumbering infrastructures, seem to be quaking in fear at this shift toward the personal and intimate, it is an amazing time to be a small and efficient producer of content. The rules are being rewritten, and those who boldly but wisely set out, braving the marketplace while mitigating risk with a thorough development process and efficient production management, can change the landscape of entertainment.
Begin building your club now. Before you finish your screenplay, before you roll camera, and definitely before you put your movie out there and want people to watch it. Be visible, be real, and be available, and maybe you can get your sea of new friends to pick your flick over the 10,000 other choices at their fingertips.
Stephen Boatright is an indie film producer. You can follow his production company, Lune Bateaux Pictures, on Facebook and on Twitter. And check out his short film, Emmeline Muffet Gives Up Her Tuffet, at www.lunebateaux.com/muffet. (We just released it a couple weeks ago, so we’re one of the ones I referred to as competing with Spacey.)