Sustain Independent Filmmaking: Marketing & Distribution


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In September 2010, I taught a short course on 'Sustaining Independent Filmmaking through the Internet' at Tampere University of Applied Science.

This is lecture 3: Marketing & Distribution.

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  • Product: Must be good, new, different. Unique Selling Point?
    Price: High enough to recoup costs; low enough to be bought; discounts are part of marketing strategy.
    Place: Where do I put it?
    Promotion: Individual (personal, one-to-one) Communication, Mass Communication, Build Brand Identity.
  • Every film has 4 Audiences. It is essential to know the audience for your film. What you want is to build up your personal audience over time using the different audiences your single films reach. ‘Career Building’ much more than simple marketing of a single film.
  • Production:
    - raised money from 1 sponsor
    - asked 15 Malaysian directors to participate
    - films were put online for free: every 2 days over one month

    Why so successful? The Marketing:
    - There is general unrest among educated Malaysians. 15Malaysia used this wave. They got a big message for a big topic.
    - Aimed at local press. Used personal network (lots of journalist friends)
    - Build big following on Facebook
    - One video (with controversial politician) leaked: Good marketing stunt
    - Filmmakers & Cast (Politicians, famous Actors and Musicians - Namwee & Sharifah Amani) brought their own personal audiences to the project
  • Applied to 15Malaysia (Reasons for local media picking up on the story):
    Length: Published over 30 days
    Timing: Build up to Malaysia Day. Independence Day was two weeks into project (2 biggest national holidays)
    Proximity: Nothing is nearer than talking about your own country.
    Status: Nothing is more important than talking about your own country. Well-known cast and filmmakers add to the status of the project.
    Surprise/Success: The sheer number of downloads, views and comments were a success and hence a surprise.
    Complexity: 15Malaysia was as complex as the issues in Society (directors of all races went to interviews together. They would boycott interviewers who only wanted to talk to directors of one race. Same goes for screenings: If a channel didn’t offered to screen all films, producers would walk out of the deal.) Complexity in films. Complexity of message. Complexity of society.
    Conflict/Damage: Conflict among the races is portrayed. Speaking up against this is another conflict.
    Personalisation: Advertise with the directors (see poster). But also make individual audience members speak up.
    Ethnocentrism: The films are from Malaysians for Malaysians.
  • Applied to the 4Ps of Marketing.
  • Topic: speaks to every Malaysian (theoretically)
  • What helped with the marketing of The Age of Stupid?
    - big topic
    - Investors = Audience & Marketers
    - Lots of Non-Profits or other Organisations with a shared goal

  • Was shown at Unis - especially Informatics Courses (topic related audience).
  • Beyond Biba (Fans of the main character -> There is usually a build in audience for Documentaries)
    Tales of an Ancient Empire - Albert Puyn (opened during Comic Convention)
    Hunt for Gollum (Lord of the Rings Fans)
    My Big Fat Greek Wedding (utilised NY Greek community and grew from there)
  • Robert Greenwald.
    - partners with
    - MoveOn informed its 2.2m members about film and sponsored 2,600 house parties
    - 120,000 DVDs sold within a couple of weeks (later also theatrical)
  • Watch the first minutes of Brian Newman’s informative presentation:

  • Anderson’s main argument is that online, marginal costs are almost zero (bandwidth, storage is virtually free - a new copy doesn’t cost anything and getting it to the audience is cheap too). The price of a product drifts towards its marginal price. So everything will be free anyway. Anderson proposes to earn money with things that cannot be copied:
  • Be everywhere. People rather buy here and now than having to search for your film.
  • Example: VEB Leipzig made Route 66, gave it freely away under CC license and got offered a paid job for the World Cup in Germany (people like their style and want it ‘personalised for themselves’).
  • Shlain produced a whole booklet to accompany her short film about Jewish History told trough the story of a Barbie Doll. This adds value.
  • Create an event because that can’t be copied. Musician go on tours. Take your film on tour. The producers of Weizenbaum took the film to their core audience (Informatics students at universities).
  • Good Screenings: Book a speaker to the screening.
  • Authenticity: People buy signed DVDs and Posters because they come from the artist (e.g. Beyond Biba)
    Patronage: People might want to support your work (e.g. The Age of Stupid, The Cosmonaut - Crowd Funding)
  • Freemium: Have a normal version for free but pay for premium version
    Advertising: You create an Audience that people might want to have access to (e.g. 45365 on SnagFilms)
    Cross-Subisidies: Film creates market for other products (e.g. Nina Paley earns money from talks)
  • Bside’s distribution plan:

    Organise free screenings (you loose money theatrically anyway. But since theatrical is important for marketing, let people keep all the box office revenue but make them responsible for advertising - you get a free theatrical run).

    Super High Me: Organised over 1000 screenings this way for 20 April (national stoner day). Buzz. Got into top 100 Google ‘hot trends’. Free advertising for DVD. Sold 81k DVDS - made $1.7m (plus another $1.6m for DVD rental)

  • New world: First choice: Split your Rights. Second choice: Give all your rights to one distributor (advance must be good).

    Hybrid World:
    1) Split your rights. Give single rights to people you know have the skills/expertise to sell them.
    2a) Keep Direct DVD Sales rights (from your website, at screenings, etc.) - you get higher margins without middelmen.
    2b) Broderick suggests keeping Theatrical and Semi/Non-Theatrical.
    3) Partner with Non-Profits and Organisations.
    4) Sell other products directly from website or at screenings.

  • Sustain Independent Filmmaking: Marketing & Distribution

    1. 1. Using the World Wide Web to Sustain Independent Filmmaking - Marketing & Distribution -
    2. 2. Marketing E. Jerome McCarthy (1960). Basic Marketing. A Managerial Approach.
    3. 3. Audiences Personal Collaboratorsʼ Genre Topic Audience Audience Audience Audience
    4. 4. 15Malaysia 17 Aug - 16 Sep 2009 500,000 direct downloads from website 2,000,000 views on YouTube 100,000 friends on Facebook 50,000 FB comments during month of launch
    5. 5. 15Malaysia News Values (Winfried Schulz, 1976): Length and Timing Proximity (geographical, political, cultural) Status (regional, political, ‘celebrities’) Surprise and Complexity Conflict, Damage and Success Personalisation and Ethnocentrism
    6. 6. 15Malaysia Product: Story; 1Malaysia Price: Free Place: Website & Youtube Promotion: Local Media; Went Viral Used all 4 Audiences
    7. 7. 15Malaysia - Audiences Personal 2 Producers Collaborators 15 Filmmakers, Sponsor Genre Documentary, Indie Film Topic 1Malaysia
    8. 8. The Age of Stupid
    9. 9. Weizenbaum: Rebel at Work
    10. 10. Other Examples
    11. 11. Community Marketing
    12. 12. Distribution
    13. 13. Free
    14. 14. Free Immediacy Accessibility & Findability
    15. 15. Free Immediacy Accessibility & Findability Personalization Route 66 (VEB Leipzig)
    16. 16. Free Immediacy Accessibility & Findability Personalization Interpretation The Tribe. Tiffany Shlain
    17. 17. Free Immediacy Accessibility & Findability Personalization Interpretation Embodiment
    18. 18. Free Immediacy Accessibility & Findability Personalization Interpretation Embodiment
    19. 19. Free Immediacy Accessibility & Findability Personalization Interpretation Embodiment Authenticity Patronage
    20. 20. Free Immediacy Accessibility & Findability Personalization Interpretation Embodiment Authenticity Patronage Freemium Advertising Cross-Subsidies
    21. 21. B-Side
    22. 22. The Long Tail Brynjolfsson, E., Hu, Y. J., & Simester, D. (2007). Goodbye Pareto principle, hello Long Tail. The effect of search costs on the concentration of product sales.
    23. 23. Hybrid Distribution Model Peter Broderick (2008). Declaration of Independence: The Ten Principles of Hybrid Distribution. ( Split Distribution Rights: Theatrical Semi-Theatrical & Non-Theatrical VOD Television Retail DVD Direct DVD Educational Digital Rental & Download International (single territories)
    24. 24. Marketing & Distribution Personal Collaboratorsʼ Genre Topic Marketing is part of filmmaking. Audience Audience Audience Audience Start as early as possible. There are 4 Audiences. Connect to them. Be creative. No Distribution without Marketing. Is Free for you? Donʼt forget Hybrid Strategies.