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?
Let me clarify some of my feelings about the PMD. I will add my universal caveat that every film and situation is different. But here are some important guidelines:
1. The best case scenario is that a PMD is on board as a full collaborator and worker from as close to inception of the film as possible. No later than beginning of prep. This allows for, what I feel, the optimum of the integration of audience connection and engagement (which is what distribution and marketing is at its essence). If you wait till you have finished your film – you are in a world of hurt (I’ve said that before, but I don’t think I can say it enough) because this connection building and engagement take time and effort and cannot be hurried.
2. The best marketing is as creative as traditional filmmaking now – and frankly the line is blurred between what is the “film” and what is marketing. This is a de facto state of things since the rise of transmedia. If anyone just wants to make a traditional feature these days – that is great,– I am not going to tell anyone what his or her creative output should or should not be, but I am only pointing out that there is a tremendous amount of creative potential that focusing only on feature films ignores. I feel as a film community we should embrace it – and many filmmakers are. It is tremendously exciting. Look at what Lance Weiler is doing. I was fortunate enough to be at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh yesterday – and many things struck me (more blog posts coming on this subject) – but he was one of the first transmedia artists – we can learn a lot from him about what it means to be a creative person AND what it means to connect with audience. (And Sheri Candler – yes he was an incredible leader of a tribe – another post on that coming too). I know for many of you this is old news – but I still feel there is a battle being waged about this – one that is a waste of time in my opinion.
3. As a result, the PMD is not just a social marketer, a dealmaker, a festival publicist, a line producer, a distributor, a publicist – he or she needs to understand all aspects of the marketing and distribution of a film and conceptualize, develop and oversee its execution over the full life of a film. To do all of the above is a tremendous amount of work – akin to being the sole producer of a film in a crew of 3 (and at times this will happen – just as micro budget films have been produced in this way). But I do advise that there be a distribution and marketing team (I took a whole chapter of TOTBO to outline this crew and even that should be supplemented now (another blog post later). The PMD is the one who oversees all of the pieces (but as in the case of all who work on indie films – they will be working full time and busting their butt in the trenches like everyone else – because there is never enough money to hire as many people as anyone would ever like).
4. Just as people cut their teeth in indie film by taking on smaller tasks and working their way up – so it will be with PMDs. Electrics become gaffers become DPs. Social media assistants become social media strategists become PMDs. (as an example) While people work up the ladder – if they want to be the top creative in the department – they will learn ALL aspects of that department on their way up. It is an intense learning curve – but people who want it – do it.
5. When people cut their teeth in indie film – they usually work for free or for little money to have a chance to prove themselves. Money, work, and credit are always negotiated in independent film. I don’t see that changing with the PMD. Film has always been an apprenticeship system. Even with film schools (and PMD training is on its way – more future blog posts) – most film students discover that they still need to apprentice out of school. This is not just true for film – but for all arts not only in the US now – but throughout the world and throughout time.
6. An alternative to this is a group of filmmakers who band together as a team – all chipping in resources and skills – to make a film. They usually divide up responsibilities and credits. But each member of the team has his or her own sweat equity skin in the game. This is where you have new producers, directors, DPs born who have not worked through the apprentice system. But they take the risk on a project and prove themselves.
7. The last alternative (which usually involves apprenticeship as well) is to get a lower level paid gig in an established, commercially based company (e.g. a publicity firm, social media establishment, transmedia commercial company etc) and get paid for doing lower level work on commercial projects. Often people do this and learn all the ropes, change jobs to learn a different skill (again paid for commercial work) until they have enough skills to strike out on their own.
8. All of the above goes to say that I feel that if you want to be a PMD in the indie world – it will be difficult to ask to be paid without a track record. Like all other people in the indie world – you need to pay your dues – work on films – build a reputation, resume, reel – to show what you are worth. Most people in indie film – especially when they are starting out – have multiple jobs and find multiple ways to make a living.
9. If you are in film – especially indie film – to make money – I suggest finding another career. There are many other ways to make money more simply. Chances are you’ll make more money per hour at McDonalds than from working on any indie film. The world of film and media are for people who love film and media and cannot live without it. It is a tough life except for a very few. (Again from Warhol: “Life is very hard”).
10. The people whom I have met who want to be PMDs around the world – have a love of film – but feel that they have a set of skills more geared toward marketing than actual production – and are excited by having a way to work in the field they love (film and media) and use their special talents. They are not doing it primarily for money. They are doing it because everything else besides film is unsatisfying – and while they do need to find a way to make a living – they need to be involved with film.
11. The hope is of course – with everyone in independent film – is to find a way to do what you love and sustain yourself. There are many, many ways that people find to do this. It is of course tougher than ever now – especially as we are in this transitional period. I don’t feel I have all the answers – but I am excited by what the future holds, by having discussions with passionate people who care about our world and I feel together we will all find a way to make this work. I don’t feel that we as filmmakers are alone in this. All media content creators and artists are facing the same conundrum – musicians, journalists, authors, artists, photo journalists, graphic artists, game designers (massive layoffs in Australia in the months prior to my visit). We are all facing the same challenges and I feel that we can all learn from each other.
This was an awesome post in Fast Company and I have to share it here. In the quest to either find a PMD to work with or to become a PMD, it may not be possible to find all of the qualities or work experience needed from just one person. It is reasonable to expect just as corporations have multiple marketing team members responsible for the myriad of duties that need to be fulfilled, a full marketing team will need to be assembled under the careful guidance of a PMD. Here is how the article explained as it related to INCEPTION:
Cobb, The Extractor, (The PMD): Executive responsible for the film brand in large. This person is also required to not only extract ideas to form the messages about the product (the film and related content), but also introduce the new ideas that empower consumers to relate to it and pass along the message. He/she may also lead teams or individuals into each social intiative. Will also be responsible for plotting the distribution path.
Ariadne, the Architect, (Graphic designers, web developers, applications developers, writers): Build and define the online experience as well as the bridges (and Penrose stairs) that connect the dots. This might include transmedia story extensions and building those worlds around the original content.
Arthur, the Point Man, (web analytics, message analysis and propagation): Data and research analysts who gather information and intelligence and present it to the various teams for incorporation into strategies and supporting tactics.
Yusuf, the Chemist, (more technical skills, but could be done under the Architect): Social technicians and alchemists who bring architecture to life through apps, landing pages, interactive media platforms, custom tabs and the like.
Eames, the Forger, (the voice of your production that the audience responds to): Brand representative who serves as the personality and voice on the front lines in communities.
Mr. Saito, the Tourist (the influencers your team attracts and builds relationships with): Symbolic of the influencers who serve online communities as overseers and moderators.
Miles, Cobb’s mentor (the mentality the team must have to form meaningful and lasting relationships): The ethics that serve as the inspiration for meaningful social media programs and engagement. If the mentality is purely selfish, there will be no meaningful relationships.
Fischer, the Mark: The audiences and people with whom the film’s brand hope to connect and convince to see or purchase the film.
Needless to say, there is more than enough work here for one person to handle full time for a long period of time. It could take a team of people working tirelessly to bring attention and build community around your film. Still think the person heading this effort up doesn’t deserve a producer title?
Today’s guest post is from Tyler Weaver; editor in chief of the amazing blogozine Multihyphenate and practicing PMD.
Sitting in a music business class at a shall-not-be-named institution (rhymes with “Jerklee”) during the death of the music industry as we knew it was fascinating. This was in 2003-04, and it was a sad time to be in “the industry.” Nonetheless, we clung to our hardcover and expensive door stops, taking in each lesson as we were told. But the writing was on the wall: you’re learning stuff that was out of date yesterday. Thanks for the tuition check.
As I sat there, staring blankly at what was going on in front of me, one remark the “professor” made stuck with me: “Those who control the trucks control what’s out there and what isn’t.”
Funnily enough, my training in business and creative marketing didn’t come from a music business course. It came from majoring in music composition, where self-distribution is the way of life. No one is going to pluck you out of obscurity when you’re writing obscure pieces of new absolute music. You have to bootstrap (as this is Sheri’s blog, I can’t let my first post go by here without mentioning the equally ubiquitous Seth Godin). You have to find your own musicians. You have to find your own performance venues (even if it’s a dude with a guitar in a subway station), and you have to get it out there.
It was during my time there that I learned the most important lesson of creativity: It doesn’t matter how good you think you are, if no one knows about you, you’re worthless. Creativity is not only a collaboration with other creatives, it’s a collaboration with your audience as you reel them into your work and make your work part of their lives.
When I made the career switch to film in the middle noughties, that sensibility carried over. I’ve never been a patient person, so I have no interest in waiting for others to swoop in and get people to see my work. I was hard-wired for self-distribution because it was the only way to survive.
When I worked at a non-profit, I used no-budget video documentaries to bring in new eyes to bad news and increase readership and site usage. The videos could stand on their own, but were meant to highlight individual stories within the purview of the NPO’s mission and cause.
So what, you may be asking, does all of this have to do with the newly coined (and rapidly burgeoning) position of “Producer of Marketing & Distribution?” If my time as a music composer hard-wired me to self-distribution as “Plan A,” my film and NPO experience taught me the most important lesson of marketing:
Never market something you don’t feel passionate about.
I cared about the NPO’s mission greatly. But I was never as passionate about it as I should have been. For awhile, it was greatly successful, but then the recession hit HARD and the competition for purse strings skewed the direction of more heart-tugging causes. Failure after failure piled up, and weighed heavily. By the end, I felt like the guy trying to market the Titanic as sink-proof after the iceberg.
As a filmmaker, I would never take on a project that I wasn’t completely, unabashedly, 100% passionate about. I would never take on a project if the script wasn’t wonderful, if it didn’t make me well up with tears at the thought of someone else making this movie. As a PMD, I would never take on a project if I didn’t have the same feelings for your project. I owe you that.
But what stirs up those feelings? A great story.
My love of marketing comes from a love of storytelling – and in spite of my seemingly haphazard career jumping, I have always been a storyteller, be it in music, film, or marketing. Your career is a story. Your film is a story. The making of your film is a story. I want to help you tell your story.
Orson Welles famously said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” I’ve seen stories stop at sad endings, and at happy ones. And I’ve been responsible for both outcomes.
In today’s wild west media landscape where truly, as William Goldman remarked, “Nobody knows anything,” filmmakers and creatives are in a position of power. Our careers are in our hands now. Gone are the days where the magical distributor will discover you like a Tarantino or Rodriguez; we are no longer in the age of “making it,” but in the age of “getting it made and getting it seen.” It’s the latter part of your story that I’m excited to be a part of.
I’m a creative because I want to see cool stuff. I want to tell a great story. I want to be engaged. I want to be told a great story. And now, I want to make sure your great story is seen and heard. We’re all truck drivers now. Our cargo: our stories. It’s my job to make sure they get where they need to go – the eyes and ears of the audience. It doesn’t matter how great you are, if you don’t bring in the last collaborator – the audience – your story is never fully told.
And that’s not a happy ending.
TYLER WEAVER is a storyteller whose chosen medium happens to be that expensive form called film. He’s made some stuff, like THE FOURTEEN MINUTE GAP, IL MIO CANTO LIBERO, and GATHER ‘ROUND THE MIC. He lets the world knows what he thinks as the founder and EIC of Multi-Hyphenate and takes great joy in helping other people tell their stories as a PMD and marketing strategist. He’s currently developing a transmedia project called WHIZ!BAM!POW! that pays tribute to his lifelong love of comic books. Because he’s slightly insane, he’s simultaneously developing a new documentary. He yaks about that and more on Twitter under the creative guise of @tylerweaver
I am so excited to see that the crew position my friend Jon Reiss coined in his book Think Outside the Box Office is being embraced by people all over the globe. There seems to be a lot of interest in this kind of work that is mostly forgotten about or avoided by the average indie filmmaker in the hopes that a distributor will come, give them a big check and take that baby off their hands. I was always a huge champion of the position when I was given Jon’s book as a draft copy and I am glad to see that he is now inspiring so many people to take up this work. But I do have some concerns and advice to share.
I always saw this as a position for a person trained in marketing or sales. It isn’t enough, in fact isn’t even needed, for a person aspiring to be a PMD to be a filmmaker. This work requires a different mindset and a different set of skills and knowledge that are not acquired in film school or behind a camera. While Jon has often maintained that this is knowledge filmmakers need to have, I have always thought it would be easier to teach a trained marketing person about the business of film than it would be to train a filmmaker to be a business person. The workload of trying to be both is just too overwhelming for each endeavor to be done well. Filmmakers have asked where they can find someone to do this work and potential PMDs have asked how they can find filmmakers to work with? Both are very warranted questions and I am going to share a few thoughts on that coming from the perspective of having done this work.
I have never claimed the title of PMD because I have yet to be involved in a production from the beginning and I am being very careful about the project I pick to work with from conception. Usually projects come to me in the middle of production or more commonly after post, so the work I would have been doing from the start has to be sped up in order to launch properly. Generally this is the work of a publicist, not a PMD. The worst is when a filmmaker comes to me after the film has failed to find an audience or a traditional distributor and now wants me to work miracles. With no money. I do not take those projects because that is unrealistic work, a fool’s errand. Take note of this PMDs! The filmmaker will not have the patience to wait until an audience is built and you will be blamed because you are working with extremely limited financial resources and they will expect sales immediately.
I also don’t think that it is possible for one PMD to take on the work of more than about 2 projects at a time and do them successfully. More than this and the time devoted is too stretched and can’t be done effectively for the amount of time and attention that has to be spent. As a producer, how many films can be produced at one time and do all things necessary to make them successful?
To say you are hanging out a shingle to solicit clients is really the wrong way to look at this job. You aren’t going for volume unless you have an agency with a staff to handle each film. Perhaps in the future there will be PMD agencies, with a staff member to handle the duties of each film project. It is going to take that kind of one on one attention to do this well. My opinion is there are already marketing companies that say they can do this, but this work shouldn’t be outsourced to a company with no connections to a film’s audience. So, they shout at them with messages instead and hope to make enough noise to get some sales. These connections cannot be bought with money, the attention is acquired through spending time with the communities where the audiences live and I don’t know any outside company that can accomplish this because they have to be embedded in the community and it doesn’t scale with a large business. A PMD is part of the filmmaking team just like all of the other crew, maybe more so as their work starts at the beginning and ends long after the tech crew and actors go home.
During a recent interview, I was asked what I thought were good skills and characteristics for a PMD. Here is what I came up with:
-Some kind of marketing and/or sales training. This would be a background in the fundamentals of marketing, advertising, public relations. One of the most important duties of a PMD is being able to draft a marketing plan and budget as well as know distribution pathways for film. Distribution can be figured out relatively easily, negotiating contracts and terms will be done with an attorney if an outside distributor is used and there are those whose work is solely devoted to distribution to help navigate this path. A certain amount of information gathering never hurt though.
-Someone with great communication skills who can speak with knowledge and purpose. By communicate, I don’t just mean someone who likes to talk. There is a lot of listening in this line of work in order to find great communities to connect with, collaborate with, mutually respect. Someone who only knows how to advertise will not make a good PMD. Someone who only knows hard sell techniques will not make a good PMD. This kind of communication is subtle, careful and respectful. Not everyone will love your project and that is ok.
-Someone familiar with online tools and how they are used best. It isn’t enough to be a prolific blogger or have thousands of personal friends on Facebook and Twitter. If one uses these tools as free advertising platforms only, they will yield very limited success. These are tools that demand a strategy behind how they are used. They may not even be useful depending on the audience for the project. They certainly won’t be the only tool to use so don’t be overly dependent on them because they are free.
-Someone with research skills. This is definitely important and strangely the job often given to the most inexperienced intern. Not only must online and offline communities be researched and evaluated, they also have to be contacted and, through the research, a determination will be made as to what motivates these groups, who is the most influential in the circle to convince so that the contact will be done in a respectful and genuine way. No one likes to be contacted out of the blue. The first instinct is trepidation about the motivation. How can communication be genuine if you haven’t done the research yourself? The key to this research is narrowing down the scope of the audience, to really get to the core of the interest in your film. Without a significant media budget, a wide audience cannot be reached and time and effort will be wasted to try. Start small, grow wider as you go. Better still, research niche groups of a special interest where there is a need for content and make that content for them. Again, if you can’t genuinely connect with that audience, do not try this method or it will fail.
Another note about research. You will be researching to find interesting topics to provide for your audience. As I said, your communication cannot only be about your project. It gets boring to hear about you, you, you all the time. You will also need to be a resource for your film’s community. This means constant surveillance on topics of interest, the latest news stories appropriate to both the audience and the film, interesting video content that is not footage of the film. You will populate your site and networking pages with this information and it has to be relevant.
-Someone who can write. There is a ton of writing in this work. Blog posts, feature articles, web content, press releases, synopsis, biographies, social networking content, email blasts, advertising copy. A PMD must be a great writer and have mastery of the basics of grammar and spelling.
-Someone with technical skills like web or widget design is a bonus but that mentality very rarely mixes with the other attributes and it is too easy to find people who are experts at just this. Use them, don’t try to learn these skills too. You’ll have plenty to do on the project.
First and foremost think of yourself as the ambassador of the film. You will be providing the voice the audience hears for the project, figuratively as it will be most likely be online but perhaps it will be off as well at events, meetups, screenings, festivals etc. If a project is presented to you, really evaluate the fit. If you can’t stand zombie films, for example, you will not be effective in presenting that film. Pass and find a more suitable project. This goes for filmmakers as well. Look at the personal interests of the PMD you are considering because they are going to represent the voice of the film in all the work to be done. If they have no discernible interest in your topic, if they aren’t a member of any target audience groups for the film or able to connect with them on some level, find someone who is.
Notice I didn’t say they should have lots of experience. In looking through these skills and attributes, this isn’t a role many people have worked in previously. I can’t think of many publicists, distribution execs, or sales agents that can claim that they were ambassadors for one film, solely. They have worked on some aspect, usually after the film was finished but they didn’t do the end to end job of marketing a film by themselves. Not to worry, most of all this job is about passion, connection building and the ability to learn new things. Most filmmakers who come to me are new too and I don’t judge them because of their inexperience, but if I can’t connect with the project or I see the outcome of the film and decide it won’t be successful no matter how much marketing is done, I will pass.
Most of all a PMD is NOT a consultant. A consultant only provides advice and tells someone else what to do. A PMD actually does the work. I hope to connect with all of you at some point to see what you are working on and if ever you need someone to talk to, I am here.
Hiring PMDs in these early days
I look forward to a near future in which filmmakers/directors will be able to put out calls for PMDs just as they do for DPs and Editors – and that they will get an equal volume of applications. Directors will develop long term relationships with PMDs that “get them” just as they do with DPs, Editors, and Producers etc.
These people don’t exist yet – but the work is monumental. I was talking to a director at a party just this week about this issue. All of the producers who helped her make the film had moved on to paying work – they loved the film but couldn’t afford to be involved any more. I asked her if her credits were locked yet, she said no. I said – go post for a low paid position – but offer an associate producer credit (or Associate PMD credit). This doesn’t have to be a film student – or someone working in film. It can be that person you know that is a great salesperson, great with social networking, is organized, is interested in film but has no interest being on a set – they do exist. That is someone who can help you get this work done.
Two of the Co-Producers on Bomb It started working on the film six months after we premiered the film at Tribeca. I couldn’t get them on the credits of the film – but they are on the credits of the PAL DVD, and I will back up their credit on IMDB and in references any day – and that is ultimately what matters – a verifiable credit to someone coming up.
My workshops start tomorrow in London and next week in Amsterdam. Check out the TOTBO site for more information. Sign up for London HERE. Comment here or on my blog, or @Jon_Reiss on twitter, or on the TOTBO Facebook page. Check out the book here. I look forward to hearing from you.