Big studios behind Hollywood blockbusters place 50% or even twice their production budgets into grand marketing campaigns and handle all publicity. With national TV ads, billboards, bus wraps, online contests and corporate sponsorships you can just relax and watch people flock to theaters. On the other hand some low-budget indie filmmaker is trying to make some noise with a first feature length film. And to earn money back, they have to produce and/or direct, then figure how to distribute and market the final product.
Indie Films distributor expects the filmmaker to do a good chunk of marketing and publicity. Thus the message is simple and clear. You are responsible for making your film and selling it too. Indie films should have a marketing and advertising budget that exceeds doubles or even triples the production budget. And how do you do it? You need a strategy to reach an audience and make profit, partners, some great marketing ideas and investor money. Below we have listed a checklist of all major items you should prepare and duties to perform at different stages in production to implement the marketing strategy of your film.
Before you check out the list, it is important to fulfill the pre-requisites that include researching and identifying the core audience of the film and writing your marketing plan and budget. The checklist is your guide and there is no certain order apart from headings and time frames.
Pre-Production (two-four week time frame)
- Hire an on set photographer and set schedule for those days. Also arrange for a videographer to shoot separate video content for later use.
- Draft a synopsis i.e. a paragraph, 3 lines (100 words) and one line versions (20 words) for festival submissions, website/social media sites, press kit, media inclusions etc.
- Come up with creative ideas for film branding, partnering with graphic designer and manage production of all branded media/materials going forward.
- Publicity: Draft early press release to trades announcing principal photography.
- Continue to research audience online and listen to “influencers,” bloggers and grassroots organizations.
- In case you are interested in product placement / branded entertainment opportunities, then prepare a pitch document to give presentation to companies and set meetings with them.
- Hire a web designer to develop an official website for the film
- Choose email database program to maintain fan contact list.
- Think about any additional media / merchandising that can be created to maintain the audience interest / additional revenue streams.
Production (six week time frame)
- Write content for website and digital press kits (bios/about/synopsis/production notes/trailer/blog/email signup/Estore). Work with graphic designer to match film branding.
- Design website yourself / manage website design firm.
- Publicity: Coordinate with local press to provide coverage for on the set.
- Coordinate video shoots of content released on social channels / to be used later for website.
- Check out stills photography shoot with actors on set to be used as content on website, social networks, DVD, media coverage, festivals etc.
- Start researching appropriate festivals.
- Complete and launch website.
- Begin to utilize Director’s/ Production blog of what is happening on set and respond quickly to questions and feedback.
- Set up Google Alerts keeping a list of relevant links that you can share with audience on social channels.
- Acquire a recent film delivery list from any sales agent or distributor to make sure that you are collecting every item. Put all materials in an organized filing system.
- Start stocking up material to be used on website / social channels in lead up and release.
Post Production (4-6 months before release)
- After the film title and completion date is known, set up IMDB and production listings management.
- Utilize email list with weekly blasts of material relevant/useful to your audience.
- Devise a content calendar and start releasing content to populate website/online channels. The material should be well spread out so that you will have regular content.
- Choose final publicity stills from photos taken and retouched by photographer. You need a mix of scene shots and also some behind the scenes.
- Work with a professional designer for key art creation.
- Reach out to influencers, organizations and bloggers and keep them updated about the film.
- Set up social networking sites and start populating. They require continuous maintenance and responses to feedback from fans. Best time to start is when you have an idea of premiere date.
- Set up online monitoring tools to analyze all conversations and press mentions happening around your film and respond to them. Collect weekly reports.
- Edit/update press kit that includes multiple video clips/photos for various online media and website/social networking sites as well as DVD content. Upload them to your website.
- Edit the most gripping trailer anyone has ever seen. Use a professional trailer editor. Choose a date to premiere it to start buzz about the film’s release. Use the services of a video seeding company.
- Coordinate test screenings of the rough cut. Collect notes to give to the editor for adjustments.
- Submit inquiries/applications to festivals or settle on venue and date for film premiere.
- Finalize Key Art layout. Print the posters, business cards, postcards.
- Update IMDB/productions listings with photos, trailer etc.
- Identify possible affiliates for DVD/digital streaming sales if doing this through your own site in future.
- Prepare press release copy for festival acceptances. This can be altered as required.
- Set up database of all publications and editors to contact for press opportunities. Set up separate page in database to track press breaks/mentions.
- Start theatrical/public screening booking process if possible. This may not be possible until outcome of premiere.
- Determine paid advertising placement and book space. Create the ad according to specs.
- Determine and ensure long lead press placement.
- Attach a sales agent or finalize distribution roll out based on audience media consumption habits/interest from distributors.
Release (6-12 months)
- Plan and coordinate premiere party or event.
- Maintain social channels and website.
- Maintain email communication with fans/influencers.
- Set up/reply to public screening requests.
- Reply and coordinate promotional materials with theater/screening event publicist or event host.
- Apply for award competitions.
- Keep press kit updated.
- Continue to pitch press on feature stories and reviews.
- Encourage audience to leave feedback on IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon, iTunes etc.
- Set up own digital distribution outlet on website and Estore to sell merchandise. Manage fulfillment of sales and run special promotions.
These are the main points and it’s difficult for a single person to focus on all of them. So you can utilize as many partners as you want to in the process. Numerous little things will come up in the course of distribution so it’s important that you have a responsible team and a significant budget to handle it.