TOTBO Tip of the Day-Tip 25

May 21, 2010
posted by sheric


To conclude two weeks of crew tips – a reminder that it is best to be able to pay these crew people.  While sales agents should work on commission, lawyers, web designers, PMDs etc most likely will not.  You should create a budget that is as detailed as a production budget.  In Think Outside the Box Office I created such a budget with detailed explanation, using my budget and several others as examples.  Raising the money at inception will help avoid potentially costly P&A finance rates and last in- first out requirements.   If you have a tax rebate due you, don’t bank it, use it as a large portion (or all) of your distribution and marketing budget.    Here’s a list of what you will need to include in your budget:

-Distribution Crew including those who I have discussed and whoever else you need for your specific release: bookers, publicists, community engagement consultants, social media strategists, graphic designers;

-Marketing creative and materials: including trailer, poster/key art, press kit;

-Print and other delivery materials: Various masters, authoring, replication, digital cinema files etc.;

-Media buys from print to google;

-Travel expenses;

-General office supplies – especially shipping;

And anything else your release needs – the above is a very quick summary.

Let me know what you think!  Follow me  @Jon_Reiss on twitter, or on the TOTBO Facebook page.  Check out the book and workshops here.  I look forward to hearing from you.

The DIY Theatrical Distribution of “Bomb It”

October 8, 2009
posted by sheric

This article was sent to me today, but published last fall in Filmmaker Magazine written by Jon Reiss. It chronicles his adventures in self distribution for his film BOMB IT. Below, you will find an extremely helpful budget for both typical service deals and what Jon actually budgeted and spent to self distribute. A great resource.

Visit Jon’s blog or buy his new book Think Outside the Box (Office): The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing in the Digital Era for great advice and case studies on other filmmakers who are self distributing and navigating the new digital landscape for indie film.


Should Filmmakers Market Their Own Films?

June 5, 2009
posted by sheric

I recently read an article on B-side featuring Scott Kirsner, author of the book Fans, Friends and Followers. A question was put to him regarding the work that filmmakers have to do to find an audience for their films and the amount of online and social networking sites that have sprung up to aid in marketing films. By his estimation, filmmakers should be doing at least a 70/30 if not a 60/40 split in their time between making films and marketing them and if this is not being done, their films will likely just vanish from the scene. “You have to think about the marketing as part of your film, part of your art, part of what you do,” says Kirsner. I agree wholeheartedly with the fact that marketing is probably the most important activity to do with your film besides making it, but I do not agree that filmmakers are the best people to do the activity. Here’s why.

For some odd reason, people think that anyone can market a product. It is just making signs and pretty packaging or designing a website and a MySpace page, right? With a little creative talent and printing, who can’t do this? It is unquestioned that when you need legal advice, you would hire a professional lawyer or when you need financial advice, your would hire an accountant or a financial advisor for help. But when it comes to selling your product (or project), professionals are rarely consulted and hired for help in the independent film world. What special knowledge do you need to do marketing that you would hire someone for? Plenty!

There is a wide variety of knowledge and skills associated with marketing. Marketing is part art, part science. MBA’s are given on the subject, plentiful books are devoted to marketing plan development, budgeting, analysis, etc. A proper marketing plan and strategy requires hours of research to determine: target market (audience) description and how to communicate with them, description of competitive environment (SWOT, market research, market demand, past returns), product description (USP), budgeting (advertising/promotional plan and their costs, marketing materials and their costs, media usage and its costs), pricing strategy (pricing techniques, competitor pricing minus material manufacturing costs, overhead and labor costs),  goal analysis and metrics plan. That is just the planning, then you have to carry it out on a daily basis.

As a filmmaker, are you really the best person to do all of this if you have no previous background in marketing? Are you also directing, editing, photographing, acting, catering, and operating the sound and lighting equipment on your film or did you hire people for that? Did you include those costs in your film budget? Probably you did, and you should include the cost of hiring a professional marketer and marketing expense in your budget too. In fact, I am surprised at how filmmakers convince investors to put money into their projects without a clear marketing plan in place. How else can you show that there is a plan to make any money from the film if you don’t have a marketing plan?

Now, I am not saying that filmmakers should not be concerned with learning about marketing or knowing the techniques used to tap into an audience and sell their projects. It really helps the marketing consultant if the filmmaker is aware of the importance marketing has on a film. It should be a huge consideration starting at the script stage. With all of the other concerns a filmmaker has to raise funds and produce a quality project, marketing is one aspect that should be delegated to a person with knowledge and experience.

I see far too many seminars geared toward teaching a filmmaker how to market their films with handouts and templates included on the basic tactics. Nothing on planning, budgeting, strategy and metrics, by the way. Generally, the knowledge is handed out in about a 3 hour course, not enough to make anyone a professional. Then the filmmaker goes back to what they really know, film production, and they will worry about this publicity problem later when the film (and the budget!) is finished. Probably best to save the money invested in these seminars and hire a professional who can devote more time and effort to your film and its success.