TFC Tidbit of the Day 35 Setting up Your Social Networking Strategy From the Start

As previously stated, many distributors will have marketing procedures in place to help sell your film when it is ready for distribution. The true use of a social networking strategy comes long before your film is ready for distribution.

A social networking strategy will take many months to a year to implement and it will be an ongoing effort. This effort starts with you and your team first. You will determine whom you are trying to attract into your community and what you have to offer them of interest. It is NOT all about your film, in fact very little direct mention of your film is best. Follow the 80/20 rule, 80% of your assets are about the interests of your audience, 20% of your assets are telling them about the film. You will build your engagement pages and populate them with interesting and valuable content. You will not be asking your supporters for ANYTHING, merely building a solid base of supportive fans who will be there when you are ready for distribution.

You should never do anything that will make them feel that you have formed the community in order to use it for your own purposes. Companies and filmmakers who do this stand to ruin the very thing they have spent so much time developing; a genuine and authentic community that is very loyal and connected to you and your film. That kind of loyalty is extremely difficult to accomplish with advertising and it is really the ultimate goal of all brands.

TFC Tidbit of the Day 34 Grassroots Promotional Partners and Affiliate Programs

Revisit every place you’ve played your film in advance of release (all film festivals, community screenings, etc.) and consider how you can bring them aboard as a partner to blast or otherwise promote your release. Most film festivals have a vested interest in promoting the success of their alumni films and their careers, so you can likely get inclusion in their newsletter etc that includes a link to purchase your film.

If you are working through an established distributor, find out if they have “affiliate programs” in place  (meaning your promotional partner can share in a percentage,usually 5 -15%, of the revenue generated by the link from their website), and  find out if you can extend those affiliate programs to your promotional partners. You can also set up DIY affiliate programs yourself through services like Amazon Payments, but the set-up charges are not cheap and probably won’t work for a one-off film. However, if you are building yourself as a BRAND, and expect a slate of films that you can promote, affiliate programs are a must.

TFC Tidbit of the Day 33 More on Marketing For Digital

We have mentioned what the platforms offer as far as marketing, but they should not be solely depended on to do this work.

Unless you have a real budget to buy significant internet real estate, you will be connecting with your target market via websites and bloggers. You may find it necessary to incentivize those sites in order to promote your film. The most common tactic is contests and giveaways — meaning you provide the website with something to give away to reward their loyal readers….i.e. merchandise, sponsored travel, or free copies of the film. Creating online games themed around your film are another possibility — but of course not all independent films lend themselves to gaming. And if you’re asking the cast, crew, and everyone else you know to FB, tweet, and blast about your release, consider creating an incentive for them as well.

If you’re working far enough in advance, you MAY be able to find an appropriate brand or agency to sponsor some marketing, but know that you’ll need to start this work many months in advance of release.

TFC Tidbit of the Day 32 What Digital Platforms Offer As Far As Marketing

Studios such as WB and Lionsgate have leverage with the Cable MSOs and work to  get films marketed and New Video has marketing leverage with iTunes. New Video  works via social media outreach by disseminating a release with images & clips  to sites such as Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon and posts a release on PR distribution sites (ClickPress, i-Newswire, eCommWire, The Open Press) along with feed-based announcements on Google blog search, Technorati, Yahoo! News, Topix etc., tagged with keywords for easier discovery. They also claim to do online grassroots outreach, email marketing and trailer and clip tagging.

Gravitas notes that its PR firms and staff release information about new titles to key websites and bloggers and they utilize what they call “VOD Guide Optimization” where they utilize  relationships with operators to raise the profile of certain Gravitas titles.

Distribber makes it clear that the marketing is up to the filmmaker (and they are also referring our TFC Marketing Services), but all the revenue goes to the filmmakers with no backend percentages taken.

CRM cites the marketing it does and we’re not sure what it entails beyond the usual Facebook and Twitter announcements, but we’re looking into it.

Whichever aggregator you choose to work with, make sure you have either a very firm marketing plan in place and committed to and/or know that you need to deploy one yourself.

TFC Tidbit of the Day 31- Aggregators and Distributors to Get Your Film on iTunes

New Video-They are choosy about the films they represent and they charge 15% of all revenue generated.

IndieFlix- They go through New Video and charge a 30% Fee on all revenue generated (we think that’s inclusive of the New Video fee but are waiting to confirm).

Indie Rights- They go through New Video and charge a 20% fee in addition to the New Video fee.

IndieRights and IndieFlix also work with platforms other than iTunes as do we at TFC so that should be factored in when making distribution decisions.

Tunecore-Aggregates straight to iTunes. Distribber uses Tunecore to access iTunes. Distribber charges a flat fee of $1,295 for iTunes and all the revenue flows back to the filmmaker, no backend fees. TFC uses Tunecore and works with Distribber as a partner (we are working with them for no extra charge to filmmakers).

Gravitas- A VOD / digital aggregator (who often goes through Warner Bros), they will handle your iTunes submission, but that’s two fees (each at 15% as we understand it and they claim that Warner Bros and studios in general get better revenue even from Apple).

Warner Bros and Lionsgate- TFC works with Lionsgate and it seems that both have more marketing leverage (as does New Video)  to get best promotion possible on iTunes. This can make a big difference and should be factored in along with analysis of backend splits and fees.

TFC works with both the flat fee and commission models because of the fact that when cable VOD or even sometimes DVD is a valuable option, regular digital often goes with them.

TFC Tidbit of the Day 30 URGENT: Build Some Distribution Expenses into Your Production Budget

Nothing is more disconcerting than filmmakers who spend $100K (or whatever) to make their film, but now have nothing left to make screeners, exhibition masters, hire publicists, set up buyer screenings, hire a team to oversee their web presence, etc. A film in the can is only a tree toppling in the forest, and if you have nothing left in the bank then your tree will certainly fall silently on deaf ears.

Remember that everything AFTER you complete your film will still cost some money, even if it is only Festival submission fees; the postage and assistance to get the film out there; a few key trips to important Festivals and markets where you can promote your film; and distribution deliverables (including MUSIC CLEARANCES). A good guideline minimum is 10% – 20% of your production budget to help you start the distribution process…so if you are thinking your film will cost $100K to make, then make the budget 110 or 120K at least.

Don’t get caught in the ultimate trap that so many filmmakers find themselves in; a film in the can with nothing more they can do with it. You didn’t max your credit cards to end up in this dilemma! Think about distribution expenses IN CONJUNCTION with production expenses. Please!

TFC Tidbit of the Day 29 Find a Fellow Filmmaker to Share Your Four Wall Screens

If you need to qualify your film for Academy consideration, or your SAG contract stipulates you need to play theatrically for a week or so, you can often cut your cost in half by sharing those screens with another filmmaker in the same position.

For example, Academy qualifications require a film to screen 2 times a day for one week in NYC and LA, but that means there are at least two other screening times a day that another film can take. That way you can share theater rental, equipment rentals, and union projectionist fees. Make sure each of you get at least one prime screening time each day and drive your audiences to those times (in other words, don’t take 12 noon and 2 p.m…..but 12 noon and 7 p.m. is ok!). Obviously you can’t maximize your grosses by sharing screens,  but at least you can  meet your qualification requirements at a reduced price.

TFC Tidbit of the Day 28- Know Your Blogger Community

Whatever subject matter and themes you are tackling in your film, chances are pretty good there are prominent (and not so prominent) bloggers already writing about these topics and targeting folks who will care about your film.

Unlike the traditional mainstream press, you don’t need an expensive publicist to reach them….just find their contact info on their blogs and reach out directly with a nice personal note that includes your synopsis, your web links, and your offer to send them a screener or trailer if they want one. None of this is brain surgery. Within a few days of google research you should be able to identify most of the major players in your niche.

Theme and topic aside, there are also of course many bloggers out there just writing about quality independent film, so remember to reach out to those folks as well.

One additional hint — find a way to INCENTIVIZE the blogger to write about your film! A contest to give away a way a few free DVDS of your film is often the best. It gives the blogger a prize to offer his or her readers and gets you the free viral press you need!

TFC Tidbit of the Day 27-Don’t Reinvent the Wheel When Reaching Out to Pre Interested/Niche Audiences

Chances are that whatever your subject matter/theme/niche audience for your film, there have been other films in recent years that targeted the same audiences. Most filmmakers feel some camaraderie with each other and many may offer you advice on how they reached their audiences.

Connect to fellow filmmakers and don’t be shy about asking them to at least mention your film on FB to their folks, or tweet about your film. We can’t emphasize enough how many filmmakers find themselves building lists of organizations and emails from scratch when someone else probably has already created a similar list. Consider the community spirit of DIY filmmaking and ask for a little help, or offer to compensate a filmmaker for their efforts on your behalf.

This is the idea behind TFC’s The Film Collaborators site, a place where filmmakers can share resources.

TFC Tidbit of the Day 26-Planting your marketing seeds

Plant your marketing and distribution seeds at pre-production / production stage. Think about your audience in advance of making your film and think about your title carefully from a marketing point of view too. Do a little research to see if the title has been used recently and might cause confusion with another film currently in the market.

Buy up all related and possibly desired urls and start on the site, draw in traffic and collect names and contact info.  Make sure your set photography is top-notch from a marketing and publicity point-of-view. Start building community around your brand as a filmmaker and the film itself, and possibly even sharing parts of the content with your future audience.

TFC has a marketing services menu that includes options for access to a DIY Marketing Toolkit to guide microbudget filmmakers in their own marketing initiatives.


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