We sucked at marketing our first feature. Like many filmmakers, we spent months in film festivals hoping to land a distribution deal. This resulted in a lot of talk and a lot of free beer. But there were no deals. And we almost gave up.
Our film was a stupid, low budget zombie story. And though it was a long shot, we somehow caught the attention of the famed set photographer David Strick. He came to our location on the last day, snapped a few pictures… And he ended up selling one to the now defunct, Premier Magazine.
When that issue of Premier hit the stands, our little zombie movie went viral. In a short time, we had over 100,000 unique visits to our movie website. And like a bunch of idiots, we stupidly tried to leverage this as another way to gain the attention of a traditional distributor.
“Dear traditional distribution company, we have almost a quarter of a million people visiting our movie website. We can help with marketing our first feature. Can you please give us a deal?”
Think about it. Website traffic seems like a perfectly reasonable way to prove value in the marketplace, right?
Three Lessons We Learned Marketing Our First Feature
Our first feature did not get a traditional distribution deal. And we thought that the lack of a traditional deal was synonymous with a lack of success. We wanted a film distributor to write us a million dollar check and give us access Hollywood (whatever that means…) And in addition to the financial returns, we really wanted validation.
In retrospect, we were stupid. Knowing what I now know, we should have cared a lot less about getting a traditional deal, and instead focus on leveraging the opportunities we had. Here are three things we should have done:
- We should have captured email addresses and created solid relationships with our fans.
- We should have created a plan to directly promote our film to our fans.
- Most importantly, we should have never waited for a distributor.
Despite our idiotic focus, we eventually slapped a big buy now button on our website. This allowed us to successfully drive traffic to our page on Amazon. As we made more and more sales on Amazon, we climbed in the sales rankings… This put us in front of more people, which resulted in more sales.
In the decade since releasing our first feature, we’ve seen a shift in the marketplace. Similar to the publishing industry and music industry, digital has replaced physical. We are now working in a direct-to-consumer marketplace. As a result, the films that get the best distribution deals don’t necessarily need a distributor to be successful.
If you’d like to learn more about how to market and distribute your film, make sure you download these film distribution tools.