About 2 years ago, I made a checklist on this site of major items you should prepare and duties to perform at different stages in production in order to implement the marketing strategy of your film . This is an updated list.
Some form of direct distribution (self distribution) should be incorporated into the overall distribution plan of independent films. This helps to safeguard investment should no attractive distribution offers come in for your film because you can at least start recouping the money by getting the film into the market yourself. But it also allows you to see a payoff from all of the hard work you have done in gathering an audience during production. Remember, no one will work for your film as hard as you will so why should you agree to pay sales percentages to an entity that did not take any initial risk in producing the film? In order to put this plan into action, marketing preparation needs to be completed.
Always carve out the ability to sell copies (DVD for now, streaming from now on) and set up your own event screenings where the production has first dollar payment of the proceeds. If any company wants all rights, they should be paying VERY handsomely for them and be willing to submit a marketing proposal with budget attached that clearly outlines what their marketing plan for the film will be. Otherwise, you are squandering all of the months (or years!) you have put into building up a fanbase by giving up the monetary payoff to a third party who hasn’t clearly explained what they will do with that audience and how they will expand it.
This checklist takes into consideration that you have ALREADY identified and researched the core audience of the film. Also, you have written your marketing plan and budget. The plan is your guide, but this is actually building the road. These items are in no certain order apart from the headings and timeframes.
Marketing/Distribution Check List
Pre-Production (two-four week timeframe)
-Source an on set photographer and set schedule for those days. See this post for more details.
Also arrange for a videographer to shoot separate video content for later use.
-Draft a synopsis – paragraph, 3 lines (100 words) and one line versions (20 words) for festival submissions, website/social media sites, press kit, media inclusions etc.
-Brainstorm creative ideas for film branding, partner with graphic designer and manage production of all branded media/materials going forward.
-Publicity – draft early press release to the trades announcing principal photography.
-Continue audience research and online listening to “influencers,” bloggers, and grassroots organizations.
-If interested in product placement/branded entertainment opportunities, prepare a pitch document for presentation to companies and set meetings with them.
-Start the process of website development for the film’s official site-source a web designer and flesh out all elements to be included.
-Choose email database program to maintain a fan contact list.
-Think about any additional media/merchandising that could be created for maintaining audience interest/additional revenue streams.
Production (six week timeframe)
-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/manage website design firm.
-Publicity – coordinate with local press for coverage on the set.
-Coordinate video shoots of content to be used later for the website/released on social channels.
-Oversee stills photography shoot with actors on set for use as content on website, social networks, on the DVD, media coverage, festivals etc.
-Start researching appropriate festivals.
-Complete and launch website.
-Start utilizing Director’s/Production blog of what is happening on set, respond quickly to questions and feedback.
-Set up Google Alerts keeping a list of relevant links that you can share with your audience on social channels.
-Procure a recent film delivery list from any sales agent/distributor to ensure that you are collecting every item. Put all materials in an organized filing system.
-Start stockpiling material to be used on website/social channels in lead up and throughout release.
Post Production (4-6 months before release)
-Set up IMDB and production listings management once a firm film title and completion date is known because it can be difficult to change a title or production date later.
-Start utilizing 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. This material should be well spread out to ensure you will have regular content.
-Choose final publicity stills from the library of photos taken and retouched by the photographer. You will need a mix of scene shots and a few behind the scenes.
-Key art creation. Working with a professional designer is strongly recommended.
-Outreach to influencers, organizations and bloggers and keep them updated with regard to the film.
-Set up social networking sites and start populating. These will need continuous maintenance and responses to feedback from fans. Best to start when you have an idea of the premiere date.
-Set up online monitoring tools to analyze all conversations and press mentions happening around your film and respond to them. Collate weekly reports.
-Edit/update press kit. Multiple video clips/photos needed for various online media and website/social networking sites as well as DVD content. Upload 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 in lead up to film’s release. Engage the services of a video seeding company.
-Coordinate test screenings of the rough cut, collate 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 needed.
-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. 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 if applicable 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 goes live to sell merchandise direct. Manage fulfillment of sales and run special promotions.
These are main points and clearly the person who is primarily responsible for getting these items accomplished will not be working occasionally. A thousand little things will happen in the course of distribution so make sure you have a responsible team and a significant budget to handle it.
Creative commons photo from <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nocklebeast/6245106345/”>nocklebeast</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>
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