As a filmmaker, you can’t attend any filmmaking event without someone talking about the importance of why you need to build an audience. So you can imagine my surprise when at a recent speaking gig, a filmmaker raised her hand and asked:
“When you say build an audience, what does that mean?”
Admittedly, until I got this question, it never really occurred to me that the whole “build an audience” mandate is opaque to some filmmakers and downright confusing to most. So let me quickly address your questions:
Question: Why do I need to build an audience?
Answer: Because when you build your audience, you have power. You can walk into (or out of) any negotiation knowing your project has value beyond just being a great movie.
Here’s the thing. You don’t necessarily have to build an audience yourself. But you better consider casting influencers who have large followings or partner with other organizations (willing to promote your film) who already have a large audience.
As I explained in this movie marketing article, a few years back I was hired by a filmmaker to help sell a film at the American Film Market. The film received tons of buzz (and a few solid offers) because lead actor had 3,500,000 YouTube subscribers. The film was appealing to distributors because having a “name” and a bunch of buzz signals that the film represents the potential for success.
This is the same reason major studios pay millions to Tom Cruise. He’s a star. He brings an audience. But let us assume for a minute, that you’re like a lot of filmmakers. You don’t have access to a major movie star. Yet you want to share work that sparks emotion. You want to make movies that sell.
This Is Why Successful Filmmakers Also Build An Audience
When I first got into filmmaking (which was over a decade ago) things were different. Back then, we actually shot on film and the goal was to simply make a movie, get into festivals, garner a gazillion dollar check and level up your Hollywood career. There was never any talk about movie marketing tactics or how to build an audience…
I mean, isn’t this the whole reason you partnered with a distributor?
At least that is what we thought.
But digital distribution disrupted and changed everything. Without physical media, distributors can no longer make a business deal with Blockbuster and bank on the fixed revenue associated with manufacturing and shipping 5,000 DVDs. Instead successful distributors must now directly market to consumers.
Make no mistake… Digital distribution is NOT the same model.
What I am describing represents a significant shift from a wholesale business to business model to a retail business to consumer model. And while most of Hollywood wants to pretend differently, the winners of this paradigm shift are the filmmakers who understand self-distribution and marketing.
And ironically, the filmmakers who get the best distribution deals are filmmakers who don’t necessarily need the deal!
Email Marketing Trumps Social Media
One of the best, most cost efficient ways to market is by taking time to build your audience. The good news is, much of this will happen through growing your email list.
Think about it. Trying to break through the online, conversational noise is challenging. Email cuts through some of that clutter. And to reinforce this thinking, here are some facts about other platforms:
- When you post to Facebook, only a small percentage of people see your stuff.
- Most people who “LIKE” a page never return.
- When you Tweet stuff, your tweet is only seen for a few seconds.
Email trumps social media because it serves as a private, direct line to a real person.
By real person, I mean YOU.
You’re not just some reader in a vast ocean of faceless readers.
And neither is YOUR AUDIENCE of email subscribers. They follow you because they LOVE your work. They are giving you permission to share with them.
Your audience consists of people who have dreams, desires and ideas. And is it up to you dear filmmaker to make sure you always remember and respect this. But most importantly, the people who make up your audience have problems that need solving.
Email Marketing Rules
After working professionally in VOD film distribution for quite some time, I know some of these email marketing tactics can be confusing. So to keep it simple, just remember this: Your goal is to communicate directly to your audience, while consistently providing them with thought provoking, interesting and entertaining movies.
Once you understand the value you present, the actual mechanics of capturing email comes down to some simple software. I have explained how to set up an eMail Marketing campaign HERE. And if you’d like to find out more about the movie marketing and film distribution, you may benefit from checking out my newly updated, How To Sell Your Movie System.