Part 2 of a 10 part series sees filmmaker/author Jon Reiss giving us answers to the most asked about questions regarding the new role on a film production, the PMD or Producer of Marketing and Distribution, that he coined in his book Think Outside the Box Office.
What are the responsibilities of a PMD?
The responsibilities of a PMD are wide and varied. Not all films will utilize all of these elements (since every film is different and will have a unique approach to distribution and marketing), but each should be considered when strategizing and planning for the film’s release.
1. Identify, research and engage with the audience for the film.
2. Develop a distribution and marketing strategy and plan for the film in conjunction with the key principles of the filmmaking team. Integrate this plan into the business plan for the film.
3. Create a budget for the M&D plan.
4. As needed and appropriate strategize and implement fundraising from the audience of the film in conjunction with or in replace of traditional financing which would include: crowdfunding, organizational partnerships, sponsorships and even modified versions of traditional fundraising.
5. Assemble and supervise the necessary team/crew elements to carry out the plan which can include social media, publicity, M&D production crew for extra diagetic material, key artists, editors, bookers etc.
6. Audience outreach through organizations, blogs, social media (including email collection), traditional publicity etc.
7. Supervise the creation of promotional and (if necessary due to the lack of a separate transmedia coordinator) trans media elements: script and concept for transmedia, the films website and social media sites, production stills, video assets – both behind the scenes and trans media, promotional copy and art/key art.
8. Outreach to potential distribution and marketing partners including film festivals, theatrical service companies, community theatrical bookers, DVD distributors, Digital and VOD aggregators, TV sales agents, foreign sales agents as well as sponsors and promotional partners.
Just FYI – nearly all of the above and much of 9 happen before the film is finished.
9. Supervise the creation of traditional deliverables in addition to creation of all media needed for the execution of the release as needed including:
• Live event/theatrical: Prints either 35 or Disk or Drive. Any other physical prep for event screenings.
• Merchandise: All hard good physical products including DVDs and any special packaging (authoring and replication) and all other forms of merchandise: books, apparel, toys, reproductions of props etc, and hard versions of games.
• Digital products: encoding of digital products, iphone/Android apps etc.
10. Modify and adjust the distribution and marketing plan as the film progresses as information about audience, market, new opportunities, partnerships arise.
11. When appropriate, engage the distribution process, which includes the release of:
• Live Event Theatrical – Booking, delivery, of all forms of public exhibition of the film including all elements that make the screenings special events (appearances, live performance etc.)
• Merchandise – Distribution of all hard good physical products created for the film.
• Digitally – oversee all sales of the film in the form of 0s and 1s: TV/Cable/VOD/Mobile/Broadband/Video games etc.
• This not just in the home territory – but also internationally.
• Some of these activities may be handled in conjunction with a distribution partner in which case the PMD would be supervising the execution in conjunction with that partner.
12. Ramp up the marketing of the film to coincide with the release, which includes:
• Social Media
• Organizational Relationships
• Sponsorship Relationships
• Affiliate and Email Marketing
• Media Buys (as warranted)
• Pushing Trailers and other video content
• Any specific marketing especially tailored to the film.
• Promoting and releasing trailers and other forms of video material
• Transmedia campaigns
This list should indicate how it would be difficult, if not impossible to expect existing traditional crew categories to accomplish or even coordinate the work outlined above. In addition while some of the work above is “quantifiable”, much of it is not – just like much of what a producer or even director does is not “quantifiable”.
As many of you know, my good friend Jon Reiss coined the term PMD (Producer of Marketing and Distribution) in his book Think Outside The Box Office. Recently, there have been many questions on exactly what is the role of this person on a film’s production crew, how much should they be paid, who oversees them and how crucial is it to actually have such a person? Jon will be answering these questions individually over the next few weeks and I will carry those answers here too. Enjoy!
PMD FAQ 1: What is the purpose of having a PMD?
The purpose of the PMD is for one person on a filmmaking team to be responsible for audience engagement (aka distribution and marketing). It derives from the recognition that filmmakers (filmmaking teams) need to own the audience engagement process and that this process should start as early as possible – either at inception or no later than the beginning of pre-production for the best results.
The need for a PMD also results from the recognition that audience engagement is a lot of work (perhaps as much or more work than actually making a film) and that traditional filmmakers (writers, directors, producers etc) are already busy with the task of making a great film. These traditional members of a filmmaking team rarely have the extra time to devote to distribution and marketing (so it often falls by the wayside). In addition, many traditional filmmakers are not suited or interested in the kinds of tasks that audience engagement requires.
I look forward to hearing what you think about the concept of the PMD. You can comment on this post by clicking here. Here is the complete list of PMD FAQs forthcoming:
• What are the responsibilities of a PMD?
• What skill sets and experience are necessary for a PMD?
• Doesn’t having a PMD make me a slave of the marketplace and crush the passion and vision of independent film?
• Who oversees a PMD or is this role part of the executive (decision making) level?
• How is a PMD different than a Producer?
• Can’t filmmakers be their own PMD?
• Can a PMD be a fellow filmmaker too?
• Can PMDs actively work on many different projects at the same time?
• How do you pay a PMD?
• Does a PMD work by themselves – or is there a Marketing and Distribution team?
For as long as it lasts, DVD is a key example of where a hybrid approach (mixture of self and distributor distribution) can be critical. Sometimes the filmmaker’s traffic on his/her own site is significant (and that is the goal after all). At times, direct sales can match sales to retailers via a distributor so reserve the right to sell direct off your site or at least have a good AFFILIATE FEE (where you get an extra commission for referring your direct customers to your distributor or Amazon). Certain films may get into WalMart or Blockbuster (while it’s still around) and that level of sale needs to happen via a distributor, but the direct sales can be very significant.
TFC negotiates contracts for clients through DVD distributors, we don’t distribute DVD’s ourselves. We have facilitated hybrid deals for clients and know of other filmmakers employing this strategy. We will get numbers for our forthcoming case-studies. One negotiation deal we did was for “Prodigal Sons” with First Run Features. That film is a perfect example of a film that employed hybrid distribution(some DIY & and some licensing)… and Kim Reed got on Oprah!
Each film is unique and requires its own individual distribution and marketing strategy. A comedy about stoners will not have the same audience as a documentary about Aids orphans in Tanzania. Similarly each filmmaker has a different set of goals, needs, and resources. While the studio one size fits all model worked well for some independent films over the last 20 years – it was a disaster for others. With the new hybrid model of distribution you can craft a distribution and marketing strategy that makes the most sense for your film. You have a unique vision. Use that vision to engage your audience in a unique manner. This will help separate you from the media noise that surrounds us every day.
What do you think?
In today’s indieWire, there was an article by Peter Broderick, the person who coined the term “hybrid distribution.” I am going to reprint his 10 principles here because they are of such vital importance to you as an independent filmmaker in navigating the New World of indie film distribution. You can access the full article here.
“The following ten principles are distilled from the experience of filmmakers I have worked with across the country and overseas. As their distribution strategist, I have been by their side as they have explored the New World of Distribution.
1. Design a customized distribution strategy.
Every film needs a customized distribution strategy. Ideally this strategy should be designed before the film is made, increasing the chances of securing financing. To create a strategy, filmmakers must clearly define their goals and priorities, identify the film’s initial core audiences, plan different versions of the film (e.g. theatrical, television, DVD, foreign, educational), determine distribution avenues and a release sequence, identify potential partners, and decide how to initially position the film both online and off. The strategy should be flexible, implemented one stage at a time, and regularly assessed and refined.
2. Split distribution rights.
While in the Old World of Distribution all domestic rights were usually given to one company, hybrid distribution enables rights to be split more finely and effectively. Filmmakers retain direct sales rights, including the right to sell DVDs from their websites and at screenings, and the right to sell downloads and rentals from their sites. Most often filmmakers also retain theatrical and semi-theatrical. VOD, television, and retail DVD deals are usually made with separate distribution partners. Deals are often made with educational partners but some filmmakers are retaining these rights. Digital rights for avenues like iTunes are more complicated—they are sometimes given to the retail DVD distributor or the VOD distributor and sometimes licensed separately.
Rights can be usefully divided into eight domestic and two international categories:
Semi-Theatrical & Non-theatrical
Digital Rental & Download
Other (Theatrical, DVD & Digital)
While splitting up rights is complicated and time consuming, it allows each right to be exploited well, avoids cross-collateralization (where expenses from one area of distribution eat away at revenues from others), and allows a filmmaker to retain overall distribution control.
3. Choose effective distribution partners.
In the Old World where all domestic distribution rights were usually lumped together, certain rights were often poorly utilized or completely overlooked. In the New World, it is important to determine how best to exploit every right without neglecting any of them. Filmmakers can handle some rights most successfully on their own. In other areas, the goal is to find the distribution partner with the skills and experience to be most effective. Ideally this partner has an impressive track record with similar films or particular niche audiences. Before signing any deal with a distribution partner, it is essential to speak with other filmmakers currently or recently in business with the company.
4. Circumscribe rights.
Grant each distribution partner only the specific rights they can handle well. For example, if a company is strong in retail DVD and digital, give them these rights, but do not also give them VOD if they have no experience with VOD.
Carefully limit the rights (scope, term, exclusivity) granted to each partner. Make sure the rights given to different distributors complement each other without conflicting. Make as many deals as possible at the same time so the rights given in one area do not subsequently prevent you from making deals in other areas.
5. Craft win-win deals.
Design deals that will work well for both your distribution partner and you. Divide revenues fairly and define responsibilities clearly. Build in guarantees (e.g. minimum number of cities and marketing spend, performance guarantee), approvals (e.g. deals, marketing, editing), and safeguards (e.g. escape clauses, expense cap, bankruptcy protection, limits on assignment, dispute resolution).
6. Retain direct sales rights.
Retain the domestic and international rights to sell DVDs (from your website and at screenings) and downloads and streams (from your website). Also retain the rights to screen the film theatrically and semi-theatrically.
Direct sales are the lynchpin of a hybrid distribution strategy. They have four significant advantages over third-party sales:
• Higher profit margins – A DVD sold directly from a filmmaker’s website can easily yield profit margins 7-8 times as high as DVDs sold in retail.
• Faster payment – Filmmakers usually receive payments faster from PayPal or a fulfillment company than they would from a distributor.
• Revenues aren’t split with middlemen – Filmmakers receive all of the revenues, after manufacturing and fulfillment costs.
• Customer information – Filmmakers receive data on all customers who make purchases from their websites, but do not get any information on consumers who buy through third-party retailers. This data enables filmmakers to stay in touch with purchasers and offer them other products.
7. Assemble a distribution team. (I especially love this one as it has to do with marketing!)
It is as important to have a distribution team, as it is to have a production team. This team includes some or all of the following: strategist, producer’s rep, foreign sales agent, webmaster, outreach coordinator, theatrical and semi-theatrical bookers, print and online publicists, and fulfillment company.
8. Partner with nonprofits and online communities.
Nonprofits can be indispensable distribution partners. They can build awareness among key core audiences by hosting screenings at national conventions and local chapters, by co-sponsoring house parties, and by promoting films through their publications and websites. Online communities can also increase buzz, audience, and sales (through affiliate marketing), potentially helping your film go viral.
9. Maximize direct revenues.
In addition to selling DVDs directly from their websites, filmmakers can also sell other products they produce (e.g. soundtrack albums, companion books, posters, hats, and t-shirts). Filmmakers can also purchase related products from third parties (e.g. books, DVDs, CDs) that will be of particular interest to their audiences. As online retailers, they can buy these products at wholesale and resell them from their sites at retail.
10. Grow and nurture audiences.
Independents can expand their films’ audiences by building mailing lists, communicating effectively and developing ongoing relationships with subscribers. They should provide them with valuable and engaging content, while keeping sales pitches to a minimum. They should also create a content-rich, dynamic, and interactive website that encourages participation. Their ultimate goal is to develop a core personal audience that can support future projects through contributions and purchases.”
It also occured to me while reading this a lot of musicians, writers and artists could benefit from his advice. It is a whole new DIY world now in the arts and all artists who are looking for commercial success will do well to put these principles into action.