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 Post, EasyReader, 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.
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.
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:
IMDB – this is the most important for you long term
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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?
Introducing the Producer of Marketing and Distribution or PMD
As a filmmaker, I have thought a lot of about complaints from filmmakers of all these new tasks that we are responsible for in distribution and marketing. This is how I came up with the concept of the Producer of Marketing and Distribution or PMD. Just like you most likely did not make the film on your own, you should not be distributing and marketing the film on your own. I would argue that from now on, every film needs one person devoted to the distribution and marketing of the film from inception, just as they have a line producer, assistant director, or editor. I gave this crew position the official title of PMD since we need to train people to do this task, give classes in it, write books about it, just as people are educated (or learn on their own) to become DPs.
My workshops start this week 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.