Film marketing buzz
Getting attention for your film
At every stage of the feature filmmaking process you need to be thinking about how you are going to sell your masterpiece and taking the appropriate steps.
I've included a page in each section of the filmmaking lessons on what sort of activities you should doing to spread the buzz.
Film Development Buzz starts before you've even written the script.
Preproduction Buzz makes the right people aware of what you are up to.
Production Buzz keeps spreading the word at the same time as you are gathering the important marketing materials you will need for the final assault.
Postproduction Buzz begins to get the word to the people who will help you sell your film.
Once your film is done everything needs to come together to get your film sold and in front of audiences.
For any size film--no-budget short or blow-out feature--an important first step should be creating a marketing plan. What do you want to happen to this film after you make it? The marketing plan will probably include a film festival strategy. I'll talk more about this later but there are two things you can do right now to get the ball rolling.
- Set up a web site to promote and track the progress of your film.
- Set up an account at Without A Box so you can track and enter festivals.
Set up your film web site
Get yourself a domain and a site host to put up your web site. If you don't know what I'm talking about, ask around and find someone who does and that you can talk into helping you handle the details of getting set up and putting up a few pages of info about your film.
On the website you would typically put the poster for your movie, publicity photos, info and pictures of all the people involved, a synopsis, a blog, the trailer, etc.
Lots of kids in high schools and colleges have set up web sites. It's not hard to learn how to do it yourself once the site is set up and you have a few basic software tools.
A word of advice: don't put your site on a service that lets you set up for free. The people who host the site will stick obnoxious banner ads and other distracting stuff on your site that looks very unprofessional. Spend a little money to get your own site so you have complete control over it.
This site you're viewing is running on HostGator. It was recommended by a friend and I've have been pleased with them. For less than $100 for a year you get your own domain name (www.MyGreatFilmProductionCompany.com) and the huge capacity and bandwidth you will need to host your film's trailers. There are many other web hosting companies and the competition keeps the price down. HostGator is probably the biggest hosting company, has been in business for years and has a good track record.
I recommend you just sign up and get the process started because it takes a little while to create a great looking web site and it will be a vital part of your publicity campaign later on.
The goals of your film's web site
The main goal of your web site is to create buzz for your movie. Keep this important fact in mind. A lot of independent filmmaker's websites look like high school yearbooks with a cheesy main page then lots of tiny photos of the director, actors and crew partying off the set.
How is this going to sell the movie? If a beer company ran ads that showed the employees getting sloppy drunk in the parking lot would that make you want to buy their beer? Probably not.
Advertisements need to create a mood and show value to create desire in the viewer. That's the main thing your site should do.
The Blair Witch Project was a very successful film and a big part of the success was the web site. It was designed to create the impression that the Blair Witch legend was real and that some filmmakers had actually disappeared trying to film a documentary about the legend. Brilliant!
The other purpose for you web site is to be a repository for your press kit. If anyone in the media or any potential buyers express interest in your film you want to have an easy way to get them your press kit. Your web site is a great place.
Traditional press kits are put into a glossy cardboard folder. Now it is becoming more common for movie presskits to be distributed electronically.
Contents of a film press kit:
- Description: Short or feature, and genre.
- Three synopses: 3-line version, 125-word version and-word version.
- All the people involved and contact information: producer, director, executive producer, principal cast, writer, principal crew.
- Publicist with address, website, phone numbers and email.
- Biographies/resumes of the director and principal cast members.
- Productions notes, statements and anecdotes from the director and principal cast members.
- Where the film has been screened and reviews or excerpts from reviews.
- Hi-res production still photos from the film and any posters or other promotional handouts.
Another important step is to set up a film site on as many social media sites as you can. There are an almost infinite number of sites where you can post information about your film but remember that you need to keep all of them up with new, original information on a regular basis so don't over commit yourself.
Your job is producing a film. Put most of your efforts there.
Facebook is the biggest and most obvious. I assume you already have a facebook page. Now you need to create a Facebook "page" for each film you produce and get fans.
Get a Twitter account and get active posting your progress.
MySpace is not what it used to be but it is still another free way of connecting to people and organizations that can help you promote your film. Music bands and filmmakers should check it out.
Then search all your social media sites for "film festivals" and "filmmakers" and request to be their "friends". On twitter you need to follow them. If possible put a comment on their sites after they approve you with a link to your film's web site.
You can also set up a blog on Blogger and Wordpress for additional free coverage. But remember that you need to put original unique information about your film on each blog you set up.
Without A Box
Until recently every film festival had its own rules and entry forms and it was all very confusing and difficult for everyone involved. Filmmakers didn't like having to fill in the same information on each festival's forms and submit different press kits. The festivals had to deal with the confused filmmakers and trying to collect fees and get publicity information out of non-standard press kits.
WithoutABox to the rescue! Ignore the unfortunate name. This site is a godsend for filmmakers.
This website was set up as a central clearing site for filmmakers to set up a single set of submission documents which are shared by all the festivals the filmmaker wants to enter. It will cost you nothing as a filmmaker to open an account. The film festivals pay a percentage of the entry fees to WithoutABox and WithoutABox handles all the details.
It's a good deal for everyone. At last count over 5,000 festivals all over the world were accepting film submissions through WithoutABox, many exclusively.
While we're talking about festivals you might as well get started learning what film festivals are all about and how to work them. There is one recognized bible on film festivals- The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide.
The author of the Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide, Chris Gore, is a filmmaker, writer and festival gadfly who also runs a couple of web sites.
Compete with the Hollywood studios.
The average Hollywood studio movie costs, in round numbers, $50 million to make, then the studio spends an additional $50 million to promote it, mostly through newspaper and television advertising. All those big newspaper and television ads cost a lot of money. You're possibly wondering how the small, independent filmmaking company can possibly compete.
Amazingly the playing field is far more level than it might seem. The studios spend these huge sums on advertising despite the fact that advertising is often the poorest way to get people to come see a movie.
It turns out that most of the people going to movies and renting and buying DVDs are young, and they're generally far more influenced by what they hear from their peers than what they see and hear in advertising. They trust their friends far more than they trust advertising. This "word of mouth" advertising has come to be referred to as "buzz".
The studios know this and make the occasional attempt to influence the buzz for their movies but buzz is hard to quantify and the Hollywood studios are large corporations where decisions are heavily influenced by the bean-counters. Advertisments, and the numbers of people who see them, can be counted. Buzz can't.
How marketing buzz works
Everyone is part of a network of friends, family and co-workers who communicate and share ideas. But not everyone is equally influential within the group. Certain individuals seem to always be more aware of what's new and cool, and have a wider circle of people they talk to and who solicit their advice. These are the people you want to find and get them talking about your film.
They are the opinion leaders, influencers, mavens, network hubs, or what ever you want to call them, that will spread the word for you, practically for free, if they like what you've got to sell. Think of them as your champions.
Champions come in all sizes. The major champions would be people like Roger Ebert. When he recommends a movie, people believe him and go see it. Other powerful champions are film critics, especially at a major newpaper like the New York Times, the directors of major film festivals and even well know personalities who have nothing to do with the movie business. Imagine if Oprah Winfrey told all her viewers to go see your film! Publicists are professional opinion influencers you can hire.
There are also the small scale champions. That one friend of yours who knows everyone and seems to always know what is the next hot thing. S/he can also spread the word.
You need all the champions you can get and your job is to find them. You need to start looking as early as possible in the filmmaking process. You need time to nurture your relationship with your champions and get them convinced and enthused about your project.
The most basic rule of creating buzz is that the object of the buzz has to be truly great. Your best strategy is to undersell rather than oversell your project. Let your champions discover for themselves what a great idea you've got.
Get the word to potential distributors
To ensure that acquisition executives are aware of a film, send a press release announcing the project to the trade papers and magazines:
- Hollywood Reporter: (213) 525-2000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request the submission form
- Daily Variety: (213) 857-6600
- FILM MAKER: 213-932-6060
- Moviemaker: 310-234-9234
- The Independent: 212-807-1400
These publications will include your film in their listings of motion pictures in development, pre-production and production. Also, one should alert Film Finders at (310) 657-6397, a company that tracks films for many distributors.
Acquisition executives will start tracking your film in hopes of getting an early viewing as soon as it is done. The filmmaker can expect to get calls from them as soon as filming starts asking when they can see it.
If they like it they will try to buy it before anyone else sees it. The filmmaker's job is to keep them from seeing the film until everyone sees it all at once at an important film festival. That way there will be the most possible competition to try to buy the film resulting in the best deal for the filmmaker.
Jump to the next part of the Film Marketing Buzz article in the Preproduction section.
Jump to the next part of the Film Marketing Buzz article in the Production section.