Moving beyond the super core fans of your film

July 5, 2012
posted by sheric

This is the final post of a series dedicated to explaining the marketing of the documentary film, Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance. Previous posts can be found here, here and here 

Now that we gained the support of many people who make up our super core fans (Joffrey alumni) of our film, we didn’t ignore that there were other core audiences to target for a film essentially about American ballet history. One such core were the fans of the Joffrey Ballet who never danced with the company, but attend performances today or have seen them in their younger days. Another core were writers and groups who are interested in the topic of ballet, dance education and dance history. Even within those groups, there are fans of the Joffrey Ballet who never danced with the company. Notice that the target audience circle is progressively growing bigger, we aren’t going after “dance fans” which would include every type of dance and everywhere in the world. Primarily we are staying in the ballet genre and within the US, though the internet is global so anyone may see our promotional efforts.

Google searches turned up  posts written by Joffrey fans, following keywords on Twitter also helped to uncover these fans and many times lead to 140 character conversations. They especially wanted to know when the film would play their cities. This is when it is advisable to have a distribution plan in place so those questions can be answered and to have that plan be flexible so one can add screenings (or allow for fan hosted screenings). I would find out from them which cities, tell them where and when we had booked and solicit recommendations on venues.  The same thing happened on Facebook. This also lead to an uptick in email signups as those fans wanted more news on the film and an eventual uptick in sales in our estore.

Some Joffrey fans are writers too which has been great for publicity in Dance Magazine (editor in chief Wendy Perron used to take class with Mr. Joffrey) , Huffington PostEasyReader, The Faster Times and  Dance Channel TV and on blogs such as 4Dancers, Elite Dance Network, Dance Advantage (we participated in a giveaway contest with them), Tendus Under a Palm Tree and My Son Can Dance.

I also researched US based dance schools, University dance departments and arts societies in cities where I knew the film would be playing (again using Google) and notify them of the upcoming screening. I would look for any instructors who may have trained with the Joffrey or with a Joffrey alum or another choreographer associated with the Joffrey by reading each website’s About page or Staff bio page. These are usually located in the navigation at the top of a website or at the bottom and when I made contact with them, I pointed out this association so they would see what relevance our film had to their lives. Note that I did not send the same email blast message to everyone. This was tedious, labor intensive work and usually not the kind of thing your distributor or publicist is going to do for you. To be honest, it is better that way because they usually do not have in depth knowledge of the interests of your audience so their communication tends to be very self promotional and could potentially come off as spam.

Since we are still making interview podcasts with alumni, I am contacting dance historians at societies and universities to make sure they know we have this repository of Joffrey history that they may listen to for free. This communication helps to bring those people to our website where they not only may listen to the podcasts, but see that we have the DVD for sale and we still have screenings going on.

In addition to this micro level outreach, we also used a publicity firm for reviews and coverage in mainstream media (widening out awareness to the broader, but more diffuse circle);  invested in Facebook advertising with very laser targeted keywords and some newsletter advertising with sites such as Eventful and SeeChicagoDance.com for our screenings; and used a booking agency to help us book venues. This has been a multi pronged approach with a small team of dedicated people who have devoted many hours specifically to this film so that it would succeed. I don’t want to give readers the impression that we only used one form of audience building and that this can/should be done with no budget. It can’t and it shouldn’t.

Now that the film is available on Amazon, iTunes and will have its US broadcast premiere on PBS American Masters in December 2012, all of this outreach and publicity helps to drive more awareness and sales revenue. It has been a lot of effort and at times quite tedious, but as the long tail of sales continue, I know it will continue to pay off.

Sheri on Google+

I recently answered a few questions for the kind folks over at Fanbridge for their blog. Below is an excerpt from that post…more to come.

First, filmmakers should start by knowing for whom their story is. NO, it isn’t for everyone. You can’t reach “everyone” so really narrow it down, even beyond demographic characteristics, to interest levels. What would this person wear to your screening? Really get down into that kind of detail. Start with yourself: why do you like this story, what draws you to tell it? From there you will know where to find people similar to yourself and how to speak to them.

Social media is about authentic voice and speaking to real people, not faceless masses. If you only have a vague idea of who your audience is at the beginning, it will stay vague and you won’t effectively be able to reach them or anyone. This work cannot be done from the outside; you can’t just hire a marketing company to tweet for your film. They have no idea what to say to someone who actually starts a dialog. This work needs to be done by someone embedded both within the production and within the audience community of your film. This doesn’t mean you as a director or producer are totally off the hook to connect with people, and you shouldn’t want that anyway, but having what Jon Reiss would call a PMD (Producer of Marketing and Distribution) to help alleviate the total burden of connecting with an audience [burden in the context of generating content that keeps them engaged] and determining the most lucrative and efficient method to release the film is a smart idea.

This work cannot wait until the film is in post because social relationships take time to build and only giving it a month or two of attention isn’t going to result in much awareness. It also takes time to prepare for distribution outlets whether you are going to use the festival circuit as your theatrical or book community screenings, or book traditional theaters. Whether you will release online at the same time, or soon after and which outlets will you use? How much will you charge? What publications do you need to develop relationships with to get great coverage, what is the website going to look like and how will it change during the production process (yes, it will change)? There will be a need for extra content, more than one trailer or a series of clips, sourcing other content or creating it. These are all jobs that cannot be done in a hurry and someone needs to be on it. What about sponsorship? Who will handle the sponsorship proposals and logistics?

These are not the skills of typical film producers but someone now needs to be overseeing it and not involved with the filmmaking process. It isn’t work that falls within the realm of traditional publicist, unit publicist or the average distribution company, so someone needs to be handling this from very early on and that someone is a member of the film team. Also, taking on the responsibility gives you more leverage. You know who your audience is, how they will consume what you make, you are in contact with them every day and you don’t need to give up rights or revenue in order to sell to them, so why would you sign away your rights to do this? It doesn’t make sense.

To read the entire piece, click here.

How Can SEO Build Your Personal Brand? Pt 1

June 9, 2011
posted by sheric

This guest post series is from my friend PJ Christie, a Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD) and expert SEO strategist. I am not an SEO strategist so I found his advice informative and easy to follow and I hope you will too.

I’m going to write this as a three part series. One of the problems with the topic is that I think every filmmaker wants to first know they can reach Page 1 on Google Search.  Part 2 Not every filmmaker wants to blog and be social so this part willl be for them. Part 3 will be more about how to build an integrated campaign to the creative project.

How Can SEO Build Your Personal Brand?

If you, the indie filmmaker, want to make sure that you have a Personal Brand, the place to start is know what Google is saying about you. I’m going to teach you how to get on page 1.

SEO means Search Engine Optimization. I’ve done it hundreds of times and I’m really good at it. Your Personal Brand. Your online reputation. It’s the same thing. But you can’t do it if you’re not on page 1.

The first thing you want to do is to actually search for your professional name in Google, and your goal is to own as many of the entries on the first page as possible with a positive image of you as a filmmaker. For those of you with an uncommon name that’s going to be easy. My clients are lucky in that regard.

It makes sense to begin with determining your official branded professional moniker. The one that will follow you through your career.  Ideally you should have accounts using the same name at:

LinkedIn
Facebook
Twitter
IMDB – this is the most important for you long term
Google Profile
Vimeo
Youtube
About.me

All of these sites will allow you to have a custom url using yourbrandedname. And you should have a website that uses yourbrandedname.com that links out to all of these sites. Every time you comment on a blog, send an e-mail, put up an official movie site, you will use this. On each of these sites, you want to make sure all the personalized url’s are always used.

On yourbrandedname.com, make sure that in the <head> content, you are optimizing the Title tag, the Description tag, and the Keyword tag to put your branded name first.

That looks like this:

<title>Your Branded Name – City, State</title>
<meta name=”copyright” content=”Your Branded Name, year” />
<meta name=”keywords” content=”your, branded, name, filmmaker, independent, movies” />
<meta name=”description” content=”Your Branded Name is a filmmaker based in City, State. My creative mission to blank, blank, and blank” />

You will own the page one listings assuming there is nobody with your name making movies. Now that you are using SEO, how will that build your personal brand?
I say focus on your creative mission. There should be no more than three and these are the foundations for your brand. For me, my personal brand is PJ Christie entrepreneurship, music, and marketing in Austin Texas. Everywhere you see my name online it is related to those three things.

Words of warning, generally speaking.

-Flash is not your friend.
-Choose one consistent method of contact that you can manage that is yourname@yourbrandedname.com. AOL e-mails are to be avoided at all costs.
-Be honest everywhere, don’t feel like you need to exaggerate or apologize for where you are in your career.
-It might not happen instantly, but within a couple weeks you should start to see improved rankings.
-Contrary to what some will say, it isn’t important to blog regularly when you have nothing to say. In fact, blogging for me is always secondary to creative and professional projects.
-You will leverage this personal brand at key times in your career.
-You may already have these social networks created. At a minimum each should have at least 3 pieces of content and your profile should be 100% complete.
-Every account should be managed by the same email address and use the same password.

If you are concerned with keeping personal and professional lives separate, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Filmmakers interested in building a personal brand on the web do not have the luxury of anonymity.

A good product is your best reputation.


Your Content Strategy

March 9, 2011
posted by sheric

You’ve heard me (and many other inbound marketing strategists) say that marketing is more about providing value to your audience; giving them information and knowledge they can use in exchange for keeping their attention; than it is about blasting out one way messages. The value you offer should not be all about you and your project. So, how in the heck to do you find other things to talk/write about? I’m reading a very useful book at the moment called Curation Nation by Steven Rosenbaum and there is a chapter devoted to this question. For those working as PMDs, this book will really help in implementing a content strategy.

Your Content Strategy

While you may not see yourself or your projects as a form of curation, the key to creating a community is taking a leadership role and you do it by being a guide. You and your team should become a resource for interesting content that surrounds your project without overwhelming people with self centered information. These are the steps to setting up a good content strategy.

1) Pick a blog platform-Rosenbaum recommends WordPress, Movable Type and Blogger (I recommend WordPress.org with your own URL). Or if you are more of a micro blogger, Tumblr.

2)Find your keywords- He recommends doing keyword searches if you are looking for strong SEO on your posts. Tools he suggested for this are SEMRush (which costs $49.95 per month), Compete.com (there are free and paid options), Rank Tracker (free version up to $249 for enterprise version) and Word Tracker (free version and $69 per month version). You can also use Google Keyword Tool for free.

3)Using RSS feeds-Really Simple Syndication for newbies. These tools search the internet for content that is of interest to your audience and send it directly to you rather than having to search the internet manually. A tool I didn’t know about is called FastFlip, a kind of customized magazine of topics you have chosen. Just put in a keyword you want to find info on and it brings up a page of posts in graphical form. You can do essentially the same things using Google Alerts and Google Reader. It depends on how you process information really. You can use these stories to populate your Facebook feed, your Twitter feed, your Tumblr account or as inspiration to write a blog post. This system is really the heart of your content calendar. Once you decide on what topics to cover for the month, you can start searching for posts that will provide information or inspiration to riff on in your writing. I also use Diigo to bookmark links that I think will be useful to me later, you can even highlight text on the page and save it to your library and tag it with words to help you remember what you have collected on certain topics.

4)Using Twitter-Rosenbaum says consider Twitter your uber-aggregator. It will help you find links to stories AND the people who are sending these around so you can be sure to follow them and strike up a conversation. He recommends TweetAlarm to monitor your keywords, your project mentions, your @mentions. I use TweetDeck, but whatever.

5)Provide a mix-You don’t have to create every piece of content yourself. It can come from guest bloggers, your audience, videos someone else has made, a Flickr feed of photos etc. You and your team will set the tone based on your personality and the characteristics of your project. Is it casual and fun, serious and mission oriented, informative and technical? This tone will serve as guidance to others on what to expect from their experience on your site.

Ideally, you will have someone devoted to doing this work (hence the PMD reference above) because I understand you don’t have time to do this every day or even a few times a week. Having new content is imperative if you plan on keeping your audience interested in your projects over the long term and getting in the habit of servicing that interest by using tools to make it easier will pay off in not having to start over again every time you have new work to release.

Why Build an Audience?

February 23, 2011
posted by sheric

More from REWORK, this time on building an audience.

This page and half chapter covers something I have discussed here previously; the need to build your own audience so that you are not starting over again every time you release new work. Starting over is extremely expensive, it is the Hollywood way. Every time they have a film to release, out comes the wallet and millions are spent on pushing that advertising message, often to people who don’t want to hear it. What a waste! It is expensive AND unreliable. You don’t have that luxury I bet, so you’ll need to take the slower, cheaper method (much like you did for making your film). Build up a strong group of enthusiastic fans who can’t wait to see the finished project. They will return time after time to see what you are working on next if you engage them regularly. If they like what you have to say, the valuable knowledge you are willing to share and genuinely enjoy the comaraderie with others on your site, they are much more likely to support you financially when you need it. Just make sure that is not the only reason you talk to them.

The book cites 37signals own experience in doing this. They have a popular blog that has built up a following of tens of thousands of readers every day. The blog doesn’t only talk about 37signals products. They cover design, usability, psychology behind the users of their software, the industry at large. When people get value from what they are sharing, you can bet that leads to financial return for the company. They could have spent millions on advertising in newspapers, radio, trade publications, direct mail to reach many millions of people who largely don’t have the slightest interest in their product, if they have that kind of advertising budget. Even if they do, why should they waste it like that? By building up their own audience, people give them attention, they don’t have to buy it. When they have something new to say or a new product available, their audience is already listening.

So tweet, blog, post to Facebook whatever your strength is. Go build up your own audience.

Building The Community Web Around an Artist

December 12, 2010
posted by sheric

Do you have a community web?

I think I have been promising this post for a while, ever since I wrote the New Independent Filmmaker’s Business Model. If you haven’t read that post, give it a little peruse so you can see what I am on about. The key premise is that all artists should be building a tribe (a Seth Godin term as it relates to marketing) or an engaged audience for their work. One that transitions from one project to the next throughout your career and indeed your life. These supporters will be your friends, your evangelists, your patrons and if you cultivate this relationship, you will not have need to reach a mass in order to make a comfortable living. I have been thinking though that maybe the idea should be compared to a web.

In looking through some other advice on this, I can see why some can be turned off by the idea. It seems most of the advice focuses only on how to lure people in just so you can sell them something, kind of like how the spider spins her web. It’s a strategy I guess, but that isn’t what I am going to tell you to do here. I am a firm believer that self promotion is about helping other people. What I propose is offering value, sharing knowledge and genuinely wanting to connect with people and connect people you know who should know each other. Perhaps it is better described as a web, an interconnected community. One that you lead, but is dependent on everyone’s interactivity. To me that is much more palatable to an artist because it is authentic, no ulterior motive, which is refreshing in today’s society. But reciprocity does happen because it is really human nature to help someone who has helped you, in fact in this scenario, it is expected.

First elements to understand when constructing you community web:

Permission-You must have permission to talk to people. Permission? Yes, you will only be talking to people who have opted in to hear what you have to say. You will NOT be eblasting everyone you ever met once a week. You will NOT be spamming hundreds of strangers who don’t want to hear from you. You will have “the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them.” (Seth Godin).  How do you get permission? It starts simply by communicating with people on a one to one level. Aren’t you doing that now? You should be, that’s what social media is for. Not automated, canned message, advertising social media but real conversations. So think of what online services you can use, that you feel comfortable using for communicating every day. It doesn’t have to be hours every day, but some amount of time every day.

Trust-We need to trust you. We need to know you are listening, you understand us, you will help us as we will help you and each other. We need NOT to feel that you are using us.

It’s not you, it’s we-Although this post is directed at building the web around yourself, it is really more about taking a leadership role that is missing from a community. There are lots of people in the world with similar interests and outlooks on life. Artists can contribute a lot to bringing these people together around ideas and creativity. Without leadership, they are just a crowd, unconnected to one another. You and your work are the catalysts that bring them together, if you actively step up to that role.

Building it, getting them to come

I have been reading a book this weekend by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan called “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead” and it has helped me to think of how you should be looking at building your web. No one can tell you “do these 10 things and you will have a community,” but you can start by setting goals for yourself and thinking through the small steps you can take to achieve them. A goal could be to start building an email list of names so that you can speak directly with your community. This is exactly what The Dead did starting in 1971, long before social media made it easy. They placed a call to action postcard in the album sleeve of the famous “Skull and Roses” asking “Dead Freaks Unite!” by sending in their addresses. The band used this list to communicate directly, gauge where the tours would be booked, offer exclusive content, they even gave priority ticket offers for the live shows to list members. Their list of hundreds of thousands was built over 30 years and continues to this day, despite the fact that the official band no longer exists. The community lives on.

First start with you. What’s your story? What can you share with us that helps us to know if we are kindreds? This clearly means that you will not be attracting everybody. Everybody should not be your goal. Everybody isn’t loyal. Trying to attract everybody is like cat wrangling, way more trouble than it is worth. You want the RIGHT people, those who are most open to wanting to contribute to something greater than themselves. Those are the people who are going to enlarge the web, to help you weave it.

Give us the genuine signals that you care and are passionate about what you do. We can sniff out the disingenuous; those who are only in this for money and fame.  Make us believe in you and that you want to know us as people, not as targets. We won’t join you if you want to manipulate us. We have everything we need. We don’t need yet another commodity, another product.  Make us different people for having known you and your stories.

Then, find us. If you know yourself and what you are interested in, you can figure out where we live. Think about your throughline. Many people say that they are interested in many different things, but if they really analyzed all of those seemingly different areas, they will find a commonality. That’s your throughline and those most likely to connect with you will have the same. When you know what characteristics those are, it will be easier to find your community. Start to embed yourself in the places where we already gather.

I have heard some say that it is difficult to move people from one community to another. I personally have found this isn’t the case once they know you and I have advised people on how to embed themselves and have seen their personal community numbers grow. It takes time  and constant attention, but it will work. Your web will become intertwined in others so the goal isn’t to move people, it is to become an extension.

Build the platform. Give yourself a place to speak from and a place for the community to gather. This may be an interactive website, it may just be a blog, it may start with a Facebook page (though ideally you’ll want your own dedicated platform!). You may grow your community by starting in another one, but eventually you need a place of your own, a little place your community can grow and thrive.

Think of ways to delight us, to keep us coming back. As the propagator of your web, you need that connection to stay strong. Sometimes community members are lazy and forget to check back in. There should be a fresh serving of something noteworthy on your site at regular intervals. I saw a great reminder email the other day from a community with which I am involved. Just a message telling me what was going on over there, new discussions that were happening, new members who had joined and an invitation to check back in. It was very effective in catching my attention and letting me know that they had missed me, like they actually know I have been out for a while. Was it somewhat automated? Probably, but it still made me want to check back in and see what was happening. Someone should be thinking up and executing content that will keep the community engaged and involved.

This PMD person, how is this going to help?

This is the person who can keep the content on track and keep the community interested. I don’t think you should turn your personal identity over to a PMD (Producer of Marketing and Distribution), but a PMD can have access your community while helping to spread the web to other influential individuals and groups and help to figure out the best way to get your film out to them. Ideally, the person you choose to help you is either already in your web or someone you introduce to them as a helper to you. Back to the Grateful Dead example, it was Eileen Law who became the community manager for the Dead’s fans. She was one of the band’s earliest fans. Eileen put together the newsletters, collected and organized the fan list, her voice was the one fans would hear on the message machine when they called for priority tickets. The Dead had a record label, but the label wasn’t talking to the fans and much of the turnout to their shows came by word of mouth from the band. You still must keep engaged, but this person will serve as your liaison while you are in the creative process. All in the community must be kept aware of what is happening, transparency is important here. Believe me, once you start getting a community built up who expect regular interaction, this person will be vital.

Next post: Artists who are doing this and a roadmap…


With the increasing interest in my friend Jon Reiss’ term PMD (Producer of Marketing and Distribution) as a vital role in the indie filmmaking team, Jon and I want to highlight people who are actively working as PMDs and have them explain their responsibilities to a film’s  production. These people are integrated into the process early on and they become part of the overall support on a production, hopefully forming long term relationships with the filmmaker on all of his/her work. A PMD doesn’t just handle social networking pages or design a film’s key art or handle festival publicity. They develop the entire marketing strategy for the film and carry out the implementation of it as well as chart a distribution path to release the film.

Today’s guest post is from Joseph Jestus of Trost Moving Pictures.  He is a full member of Trost’s production company who figures out all aspects of marketing and distribution of the projects they produce.

Sitting down to write this article and looking back it’s hard to believe that just a year ago the independent studio I work for (Trost Moving Pictures) had just one feature film, “Find Me” that was starting to appear in small retail stores and sporadically at that. Fast forward to present day, where we just wrapped principle photography on our third feature film, “The Lamp” a few weeks ago and our second feature film, ”A Christmas Snow” is now in 2,500 Walmart stores around the country and in numerous other stores as well. The last 12 months have been nothing short of a whirlwind and I’d like to share with you some of the things I learned as a PMD (which I didn’t even know existed 12 months ago).

Lesson 1: Placement and Sell Through

Last year when we began looking for a way to get “Find Me” into stores we checked out traditional distributors and kept getting the traditional response: their money goes in last and comes out first and besides a small advance we get an even smaller portion of DVD sales. We thought we could do better, so we hired a consultant/product placement person to work on getting our film into stores and we used a fulfillment house that already had supply chain connections with the stores we were trying to get our DVD placed in.

When thinking about marketing, we all know you have to get people in seats at theaters and people at shelves in stores or having your film in theaters or on shelves is not only pointless but expensive. But what you might not know is that before you can get your film on a store shelf you have to market to the stores and then more often than not, pay for that spot on the shelf through one of two ways and that is what’s known as your placement cost.

Stores aren’t just in the business of selling things, they are in the real estate business and they want to be paid for their space. That end cap, front of store spot, custom display, special doorbuster promotion, even the difference between having your film spine out or face out will cost you. You can pay for this with an upfront placement cost, which can run from hundreds of dollars to millions of dollars depending on if you have ancillary products that go with your film and also how many stores you want your film in. Another option is to give a greater discount to the store on your film to either get the placement cost discounted or reduced. But because it is an independent film, more than likely you’ll have to pay some sort of placement cost, because the store is not sure if it will sell enough product to make up for in margin what they lose in placement fees.

So in order to get into stores, there will be a cost and you’ll need to know who is paying for this and how much are they paying. With “Find Me” we didn’t have a lot of money (surprise, surprise) so we opted to just get it in stores wherever, whereas with “A Christmas Snow” our distributor has paid for better placement and it’s helped with walk in sales. In fact, over this last Black Friday weekend, one chain of stores did a special doorbuster promotion with “A Christmas Snow” and moved 6 times the amount of DVDs another similar chain did, but those sales do come at a cost. This is where the ability to test, learn, and refine your marketing and distribution comes into play. Is it better to move thousands of copies at a lower margin or less copies at a higher margin? Another good point to include in any contract with a distributor is to make sure you get final approval on any major discounts given to a specific retailer. Yes, Walmart may want 20,000 DVDs but at what percentage discount? Does it make sense? This all depends on the goals you have set for your film, as Jon Reiss said in his book, “Think Outside the Box Office” These are all questions that I’ve had to consider on a daily basis as a PMD.

As important as it is being on store shelves (there are some people who still would rather walk into their local store than buy online, not to mention those who still think it’s not a real movie until it’s in a theater or major store – like your relatives and friends), it’s really no better than being in a theater without marketing. Marketing to the consumer to get them to the store to buy you film is called sell through marketing. Without this second type of marketing, placement can become a money pit.

Yes, you have walk in sales and some stores will market your product to their lists and in their catalogs, but once again you probably had to pay for that spot. There are some independent stores that come together under an organization for marketing and you can get in their catalogs as well, but you need to be sure to ask two things from these groups: 1) What does it cost? (then figure out how many DVDs you have to move to break even or make a 20% profit at least) and 2) Are the stores required to carry the products in the catalog? Some organizations require the stores to carry the products and others don’t. So you might spend $2,000 to get into a catalog and then when someone walks into that store asking for your film, they walk out empty handed because the store didn’t carry it.

With “Find Me,” we learned some tough lessons and one of the most important was that stores work on relationships. They have certain fulfillment centers they can use and others they won’t use. Certain distributors they like and others they don’t like – ask around and find someone that is well respected. Our consultant was well respected and a great guy, but because we didn’t have the capital to garner better placement or drive customers into stores we weren’t profitable due to production, replication, and brokering costs. Something had to change for our next film.

For “A Christmas Snow,” we partnered with a publishing house that was looking to get into films. In addition to the film, we created two books. One is a novel of the film written by best-selling author Jim Stovall and the other is a companion teaching book written by the director Tracy J Trost. The companion book, called “Restored” is a journal of one of the main characters and follows them from before the film right through to the end of the movie. With these extra products, we could make a higher margin on the DVDs while our distributor made a higher percentage on the books. We also had a wider reach with placement into larger store chains. That said, we have turned down some well known stores simply because the placement costs were too steep and it didn’t make financial sense, again this is why it’s important you have some say in your distribution.

Lesson 2: Get Help

In addition to continuing work on “A Christmas Snow,” I am transitioning to “The Lamp” and on both films we’ve had the pleasure of finding other talented people to add to our team, both salaried and temporary. Everyday, I’m communicating with our contacts at the distributor and our publicist as well. Publicity is another relationship based industry contacts and having a publicist who knows publishing people is key. We’ve learned a lot in regards to publicity including a 6 week tour that I took with my family, my business partner/film director Tracy J Trost and his family – but that’s a story for another day – thousands of miles, 7 kids, and 2 RVs, it sounds like a Disney film.

Most recently, we’ve brought on a Special Events Manager to begin building relationships with charities, churches, and other family based organizations so that we can team up with them for charitable screenings of our films. She’s also taking over some of the daily social networking updates, newsletter, and blogging from me as well so that I can focus more on big picture planning and relationship building. It’s important to find people who are good at what they do and let them do it. In all honesty, the list of what a PMD doesn’t do would probably be much shorter and quicker to write and that’s why it’s imperative you find people who can help out with certain tasks or projects or you’ll quickly fall behind and you won’t catch up. Whether its planning your premiere, updating your site, social networks, getting versions of your film for International distribution and TV broadcast made/shipped, or getting the word out to the press – these things all take time and the more you can empower talented people around you to accomplish these tasks while you oversee the process, the better. After all, what’s the benefit of doing what you love if you’re so worn out at the end you can’t do it again?

Even if you don’t have the capital to hire salaried employees, you need to “start thinking like a studio” as Sheri Candler says. With each project you’ll find people you want to work with again and others that you’re pretty sure you won’t be sending a Christmas card to this year. Either way though you need to get help… or I guess you could move back in with your parents, not have a spouse, kids, or pet and that might work too.

Lesson 3: Adapt and Respond

Another important lesson we learned was in the casting process of “A Christmas Snow,” we had this idea to do an open casting call in December 2009 for every part in the film. Actors and actresses could upload a video of themselves to our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/AChristmasSnow as an audition, not only would it possibly help us find a cast for our film but we thought it would be a great way to get the word out about our film. The director, Tracy J Trost, recorded a video for each part with his vision for the character and his direction for the lines they would need to read. We had hundreds if not thousands of submissions and most people loved the entire process. However, one thing we hadn’t thought of was some actors/actresses didn’t want to put their auditions up publicly for all the world to see, in addition to that, one of the parts was for a 10 year old girl and a few parents were uneasy about uploading their daughters’ audition to our facebook page as well. We hadn’t figured anyone wanting to be a movie star would have an issue with being seen publicly, but we found out they did.

This was one of the many times we found out you will always need to be ready to adapt and respond as you begin to deploy your plans. Some plans will work almost exactly as you had planned and others will look nothing like what you thought and there is one common reason for this: PEOPLE. You can never guarantee what they are going to do, or more importantly, how they are going to see things.

What you thought was a great idea might be a terrible idea to the audience you are trying to reach so you need to be ready to adapt and respond. What you think is a great deal, might seem like a ripoff to your audience and you need to adapt accordingly, all the while keeping the goals you have set for your film in mind.

Look Mom No Hands

These are just three of the many important lessons I’ve learned over the last year as a PMD and quite honestly I wouldn’t change a thing, except for maybe a few more DVD sales :-) But the truth, is if you want to be an experienced PMD, then start getting some experience. There is no right or wrong way to do it, as long as it gets you where you want to go.

So find out where you want to go, take off the training wheels, get out there and start trying something – anything, all the while learning from those along side you who are trying as well. Follow other PMD’s on twitter and befriend them on facebook, when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. I look forward to hearing of your successes and soon to be successes (formerly known as failure) and please above all else, enjoy the ride!

About Joe Jestus: Joe Jestus is currently the PMD at Trost Moving Pictures an independent film studio based in Tulsa, OK and according to his Twitter Bio he’s also a husband, father, and BFF. You can reach him at: Twitter orFacebook but please don’t interrupt his daily epic ping pong match.