Conversation on marketing your film

February 13, 2014
posted by sheric

Last week, I was interviewed on the BlogTalk Radio show The Art of Film Funding with Carole Dean. I usually prepare for such interviews by taking notes on what we will cover and I tend to over prepare. Often, most of what I want to say will not be covered due to time constraints. While you may listen to the full 45 minute interview here

Popular Film Internet Radio with The Art of Film Funding on BlogTalkRadio

I have also pulled out a few notes for emphasis that I think weren’t included or that I wasn’t able to go into detail as much as I would have liked.

What do you think are the best uses of social media for marketing?   Example, how best can you use Facebook to help fund your film?

Sheri: “To me, social media is a non negotiable part of every professional person’s work. You don’t just jump on it because you have something to promote, you are creating and perpetuating your identity and your work EVERY DAY. You are forming relationships, expanding your professional network, learning new information to help you do your work and sharing that information with others EVERY DAY. It is a marketing tool, but it is really a life tool now. Stop viewing it as a time suck or procrastination because those are cop outs. It is essential to be able to navigate social channels as a professional, at any level. The same with being able to network in the physical world.

I don’t see social media as a campaign and I want that statement to soak in for a moment. A campaign is a short term effort to push people to do something. We very much live in a world where consumers, all of us, are resisting anything that is trying to push us to fit into someone else’s timeline. We want to do what we want, when we want, wherever we want, on whatever device we want. We are all selfish people. So companies and individuals that are still in that corral –the- people- to- do- what- the- company- wants mentality are going to lose in this new world. Think of these channels as a way to storytell what you are about, what your company is about, what your product is about, how consumers may accomplish something for their own lives whether is it physical accomplishment or gaining knowledge or well being. It isn’t about YOU, it is about THEM. Pull them to you rather than push messages out. And you have to commit to storytelling on an infinite timeframe, not for a short period.

What other social networks do you consider to be worth the time?

Sheri: “Choose a social channel you can learn and be comfortable using. If you don’t, it will be a drudge for you and you won’t have success there. If you are hiring someone to handle your social channels for your projects, choose places where the audience (again, you have to know who they are) hangs out the most and where that person has the most experience. In my case, I don’t use Tumblr, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat or Youtube because I have my own blog and I don’t take regular photos or edit together video and I don’t create short term offers. So while I may set up an account just to get a better look at it, I don’t spend my personal time there. But if I find that the audience for a certain project dictates that I use those sites, I would find someone to help me create content for them.

Storytelling on each platform is different so if you think you can use automated programs to blast out one piece of content on multiple sites, you are doing it wrong. Each site has a different format (Twitter 140 characters, Instagram photos, Pinterest photos) and a different reason people use it. For instance, Pinterest is a place people go to show what they intend to buy, what they aspire to buy, what shows off their personalities. But Instagram, also an image based social channel, is more about the immediate. What the lunch I am eating looks like, what my travel is like, what I saw on the way to work, what my friends and I are doing right now. Putting out one image to all the sites is a mistake because you won’t be tapping into the reason people are on those sites.

Don’t get too used to a particular social channel. They change often and not always for the better, they fall out of fashion, they get absorbed into other companies that are not always interested in seeing them grow. Plan your strategy around reaching the audience wherever they are and build your email list instead. That is where you truly have communication control because you own the contact details.”

Do you suggest filmmakers trade hours of social networking time for credits or other things? Or what do you think is an average hourly wage to offer someone to post and tweet for you?

Sheri: “I think we need to get away from this mentality that marketing is just posting online and tweeting. This is the voice of your company and your work presented to the global public. If you wouldn’t trust someone to speak for you at a press conference or go on TV as your representative speaking about your work, you shouldn’t let them be in charge of your Twitter account. And you should never allow someone to post or tweet as you personally, you are basically allowing them to BE you and I don’t think you should be comfortable with that. If you have a team of people using your social channels according to your business strategy and goals, then let the public know it is a team effort, put a face on it.

Again, marketing is way more than an ad or a poster or a tweet or a status update. There should be strategic thinking behind what you are doing and professional people help figure out how to achieve goals. Generally, they aren’t paid an hourly wage, they are paid a salary or a retainer fee and they had better be doing more than updating your Twitter feed every day.

Personally, I charge a monthly retainer fee with a minimum time frame or I charge an hourly fee for consultation and guidance. But with the retainer, I had better have a marketing plan and budget in place to work with. That fee is just for my time and experience, a labor cost. My work includes influencer outreach, blogger outreach, community management, advertising placement, content creation and curation, and measurement analysis. I also charge to research and write a marketing and distribution plan if that isn’t already in place or those plans may be implemented by others, so if you already have people in place to implement the plan, but you are unsure of how to start, I can help figure that out and work to train those people. I wouldn’t advise skipping over the marketing strategy and just let people post on your behalf.”

Have you seen films with good marketing plans be successful especially because of the marketing plan?

Sheri: ”Define success. Did they make all of their money back? No, usually independent films don’t. Did the filmmakers go on to get other work or have a much more significant release because they were prepared and able to give their film the release they wanted? Yes, and that was a success for them. Remember, not everyone’s goal is money. In fact, let’s be very upfront and say that money is rarely going to be made by the original investors of an independent film. If that is the main reason for making a film, stop now. Find another avenue for your talent. Invest in some other industry.

But if you are interested in expressing your storytelling talent, showcasing the talent of others (because films are made in collaboration with others), putting your voice into the world that only a film could help you do, investing in something that can last and may even change minds, hearts, bring people closer together or create a cultural dialog, then filmmaking is a great medium for that. Humans invest in things all the time that do not financially recoup. We put our names on buildings, we buy yachts, we take vacations. None of those things will have financial rewards, but they do reward emotionally and that is valid.

It isn’t ultimately the marketing plan that makes a film successful. It is the film! Failure is less often on the execution of the marketing plan and more often on the failure of the film. It isn’t hard to get word of mouth to spread on a stellar film; people love to talk about stellar. It is sooo hard to make a mediocre or bad film succeed. What constitutes good and bad is debatable of course, but if the people you have identified as the ones who should be the most excited by your story aren’t talking about it, then you are going to be in big trouble. They HAVE to like it or your story failed. And that happens in studio films as well as indies and TV shows.

I am not going to say that a good film will just naturally be found. I’ve heard many filmmakers say such nonsense. A great film in your hard drive isn’t going to be found. Someone has to see it and you have to get it in front of them, and that’s marketing (to get their initial attention) and distribution  (getting it onto a screen for the public). But once you get that attention and an audience does see it, and their reaction is MEH, uh…you can’t just throw more marketing at it and make it successful. And that is why you see distributors pull the plug early on films. They know the return on the film won’t justify more expense and they can take that money and throw it behind the next film in the slate.

Now, it is possible to have poorly identified who the audience was and tried to attract the wrong audience and the film didn’t take off,  but if you do the proper nurturing ahead of time and you really feel like you nailed the story based on early feedback from the right core audience, you may give more time and more expense to letting the word of mouth spread and slowly build. Unfortunately, this is not done enough in the industry, everyone wants a quick hit. There are very few entities that have the patience to let a film sink in with an audience once it has been released. It is much better to deeply cultivate the audience for a film early so that when it is released, it will flower sooner. That cultivation is only going to happen if the production does it. Distribution entities have far too many films to release. They can’t give a lot of time to each one in advance of a release.

No one that I know of is posting their marketing plan and budget online and even if they did, it wouldn’t help your film unless you are making one exactly like it. Plans are unique to the film, they are organic in that they do shift and change according to what is learned in the field and new tools cropping up that weren’t there when the plan was written or tools that changed or fell away. Some event may happen in the news that is unforeseen and you have to be able to take advantage of the opportunity.

It is not wise to copy, but it is useful to read a lot of material of what others are doing and see if you might incorporate something similar.  That information might even come from another industry like gaming, or software, or apps, not just film. If you don’t want or like to keep up with the trends, you should hire someone who does! I don’t keep up with happenings in editing software or cameras or audio recording because I don’t make films. I keep up with marketing trends and tools and tactics, that’s my professional work and that is why you hire someone like me for that  job. I am not merely your tweeter or your facebooker, so if you think that is all there is to marketing, you are seriously mistaken and all the tweeting and facebooking in the world isn’t going to help you.

There are many blogs and industry publications and videos from panels at film fests where the filmmakers all talk about how they marketed and distributed their films. If you want to spend lots of time studying this, Google is your friend and get used to using a search engine regularly. There is absolutely no excuse not to know how to do something if you really want to handle it on your own. But if you don’t, then you need a budget to pay someone who has expertise in the field and has handled releasing films or may just be starting out doing that (as you probably have in making films) and you need to get that person on your team. Simple as that.”

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