These are the most common mistakes/beliefs I regularly come across from filmmakers, whether they are seasoned or newbies. I ask that you carefully consider these scenarios to see if one applies to your situation and possible solutions to either avoid them or turn them around.

film distribution problems

#1 Not setting aside a promotional and/or distribution budget. For at least 4 years now, I have been talking about this one point and for at least 2-3 years every industry event brings up this point, so why are there still people producing films without a promotional budget? Most of you are not getting into Sundance or any other impact festival that will lead to a significant sale., so what’s the plan for getting your film noticed and into the market? Solution: Recognize that the responsibility for promotion and distribution of your film is increasingly on the production. Even sales agents and distributors are now checking out how much work the production has done on this BEFORE the film premieres. Raise and set aside this money to guard against being forced either to take a bad distribution offer or shelve your hard work. If you get a great deal, give the money back to your investors.

#2 Holding back on distribution to wait on the imaginary deal. If your film has been kicking around on the festival circuit for 6-12 months and there are no active negotiations started for a broadcast deal, for example, don’t hold back from at least distributing it from your own site, both digitally and via DVD (if that is relevant to your audience). Films are not like fine wine, they don’t get more valuable with age. The chances for a decent deal start to decay quickly after the film has a premiere and even more so if it does not find some kind of distribution path quickly. The attention you have built up will quickly dissipate with audiences who have heard about the film for a while, but are unable to see it and for industry who have heard about the film, but know that no other company has bothered to pick it up.  Have a contingency plan that within 6 months of premiere, if the film isn’t in active negotiation for some or all rights, you will start to distribute it directly to the fans you are picking up on social sites and on the festival circuit. Solution: Momentum and resources die quickly, stop holding out for a deal that may never come. Sometimes the deals you are waiting for are waiting to see how the film does in the market. If after investigating outside distribution options and nothing seems to be on the near horizon, then start your own efforts. You would be surprised at the entities that will chase after films they perceive are showing success on their own.

#3 Thinking your first film is sellable. That thesis film you made for film school or your first short film may just be practice. So may your second, third and fourth film. The fact that you completed a film does not mean it will sell and you should not have automatic expectations that it will. Films are a commodity, and not a scarce one anymore, so audiences are getting discerning about what they are willing to pay for versus what they will watch for free. While there is certainly nothing wrong with putting your film up on Vimeo Pro or embedding a Distrify player on your website, be realistic about its revenue prospects. Solution: First try to get some pedigree built up on your work before asking for payment. The more distinguished titles earn a right to ask for payment from an audience.

#4 Believing your film has more merit than the market does. There are hints along the way to making a film that indicate that it will be tough to attract financing and reasonable distribution. Usually it starts with the script (you pitch and pitch and executives pass), then with the talent (you fail to attach anyone notable willing to take a pay cut in order to have a juicy, well written role), then in trying to attract a presale or significant distribution deal (the film fails to make it into the impact fests and reputable distributors won’t return your calls). Making the decision to go against all of these judgments because YOU believed the project had merit is very indie, but it doesn’t mean that the film is going to attract a sizable deal in the market or an interested audience. Solution:  If you are committing to the decision that the market doesn’t know what its talking about and you do, then go all the way with the budget to back up a direct distribution plan. You’re going to need it. But it still may not succeed.

#5 Not spending marketing money believing it will make you money. Admittedly, filmmakers are not the only people who do this. I’ve worked in marketing on and off for a while and usually in a sales downturn, management thinks that cutting the marketing spend will somehow increase sales. This doesn’t happen. By refusing to spend money to market your film, you are in effect keeping your project a secret and this will not increase your film sales. Also, spending a lot to launch a film and quickly stifling the spending will not prolong that initial burst of sales. Good word of mouth can only do so much and 4 months into release, that word of mouth is gone if no other marketing/publicity efforts are continuing.  Solution: While you may spend the significant portion of your marketing budget for the initial release and then pull back on the spend, don’t blow the whole budget on the first week of release. There are new films releasing every week. In order to stay top of mind and keep those sales coming in, new marketing initiatives need to happen regularly over time. If you have let efforts fall the ground, recognize in order to raise them again, you are in essence starting all over.

Some of these topics will be covered during my upcoming webinar hosted by Atlanta Film Festival on October 20. Anyone with access to the internet may participate. Visit the Atlanta Film Festival site for details.

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jazbeck/8025692978/”>jazbeck</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

Sheri Candler

 

Facebook is not a good sales platform

May 18, 2011
posted by sheric

I covered this in a past entry, but more of this opinion was voiced on today’s Social Times blog. I’ve seen many new services like FlickLaunch and Dynamo Player configuring their platforms to sell on a film’s Facebook page and Warner Bros has started implementing their own Facebook movie rentals for US residents including Dark Knight, Inception, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Yogi Bear and Life as We Know It paid for with Facebook credit or $3. I’d love to see their sales figures, but remember that a huge advertising and marketing budget was spent on these titles and they have all gone well into the DVD window and beyond. Most indie movies will not have the same kind of demand because similar marketing efforts haven’t been made .

Facebook sales will not be your biggest money maker because people do not come to Facebook to buy.

Facebook is a social platform. People come to Facebook to chat with friends, see what everyone is up to, post news about themselves. While you may have amassed a large following on Facebook, unless you are posting content of interest to your audience on your page regularly, chances are your “fans” have not been back to your page since they joined. They won’t see your fancy Welcome page or your newly constructed BUY NOW page. Most people are only reminded of you if they see your news in their news feed. The news feed is the first page everyone lands on when they go to Facebook. Sometimes they only see the Top News view, even though it is possible to change that to Most Recent, most people do not. If they haven’t visited your page in a while or commented on any of your news, your page has stopped appearing in their feed. NOTE: I am not suggesting you spend all your time shilling for your film on your Facebook page in order to stay in the news feed. A conversation with a shill is boring and a turn off.

Even though you can buy ads to drive more traffic directly to your page, it will take a significant spend to generate the number of impressions someone needs to have before they click on it. On average, an ad will be seen 5-7 times before any action is taken. Facebook is more about attracting and keeping attention that can influenced into a sale later on than it is about making a sale right now.

As the Social Times article contends, social media platforms like Facebook are the top of your sales funnel, the place where relationships and trust are built. After you have accomplished this, and it will take a while, then you can transition your audience to your own website where the sales can take place (here’s where something like Dynamo Player will work). Yet another reason to start your social media efforts and audience building WELL in advance of your finished film. This isn’t a campaign for 3 months, this is commitment for the full life cycle of your film and continues into the length of your career.

So, should you never try and sell streams on your Facebook page?

Undoubtedly there are hundreds of millions of people on Facebook and it is entirely possible that someone will try your film out if they see it’s available. If the cost to set up Facebook streaming is right (ie, low to free), you aren’t losing anything to try, but do not invest a lot in this. As DVD’s popularity continues to plummet, more and more people will be turning to online streaming rentals. Invest in having a good player on your site and spending upfront to access iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and game consoles. Spend the majority of your time and effort on your content marketing to pull you audience in, earn their trust, make them feel connected and give them viewing options.

If anyone here has implemented a Facebook sales platform for film and it has resulted in great success, let’s here about it.

TOTBO Tip of the Day-Tip 17

May 10, 2010
posted by sheric

Before Bringing on Principal Crew

If you have one or more sales representatives interested in your film, certainly talk to them.   But have your distribution and marketing strategy ready before even talking to sales reps, then present it to them to determine whether or not they feel that they can help implement that strategy.  This helps put their recommendations into context for your film. Remember, your strategy will evolve, so at least have the first draft before you take these meetings. In general you should go to any meeting with the following:

  1. Knowing what you want from the meeting or person.
  2. Having researched the person you are meeting with so that you know what they want, or can provide for you.   

Leaving for the Amsterdam tomorrow.  Then to Cannes. Check out the TOTBO site for more information. Comment here or on my blog, or @Jon_Reiss on twitter, or on the TOTBO Facebook page. Check out the book and workshops here.    I look forward to hearing from you.

TOTBO Tip of the Day-Tip 16

May 9, 2010
posted by sheric

Producer’s Reps Pt 1

In honor of the upcoming Cannes Film Festival – I will take this opportunity to explore other people that you might want to engage on your film and whether or not they are right for your project. There are several types of sales representatives/sales agents.  Today the topic is Producer’s Representatives. A classic sales representative or producer’s representative, as has been known to the independent film world for the past 20-30 years, is someone who will broker your film to the various distribution entities, generally in search of an overall deal.

The main advantage of sales reps is their relationships with the various companies that buy films, from full-service distributors to DVD companies to cable companies, etc.  In the old model, it was almost taken for granted that an unsold independent film would engage a sales rep. Not anymore. Whether or not to engage a sales rep is one of the first decisions you need to make in the execution of your overall distribution strategy.

 The London TOTBO Workshop went amazingly well.  On to Amsterdam this week.  Then to Cannes. Check out the TOTBO site for more information. Comment here or on my blog, or @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 London workshop

The London workshop