My friend Charles Judson wrote a recent post chastising filmmakers about their marketing materials. In a post entitled “Your Film’s Marketing Materials SUCK at Helping Audiences Find You,” he explains why filmmakers have a poor understanding of how films are found in online search results and why it doesn’t bode well for their chances at festival inclusion, distribution offers, further career opportunities and, ultimately, audience sales.With his permission, we are reprinting some of his points.

“A film no one has heard of may not exactly be burning news for the average person searching the web. However, no matter what hat I wear [festival programmer, blogger, critic], this is information relevant to me. It’s likely going to be the same for the Georgia film critics and bloggers covering film. Festival directors who track news on festivals they love – and often share programming philosophy with– would be interested. Filmmakers who have their trailer, website, Facebook page and Twitter account ready to go before they begin submitting their film to festivals are light-years ahead of their peers. But having just those materials is not enough. The vast majority of filmmakers overlook the crucial step of crafting language that can improve their chances to be discovered online, as well as differentiate their films from others.”  Takeaway: Lots of different audiences are looking for information on your work, not only the viewing audience. Waiting to build up awareness of your work until right before premiere or release is a very outdated idea. There is no time like the present to start connecting with people online.

“Increasing the specificity and variation of the words chosen should be a priority for every bit of marketing material you create. Carefully thinking about how your potential audience interacts, talks and searches online shouldn’t be skipped or undervalued. First, scrutinize your film’s story, theme and genre. Who are the core fans of your film? What is your film’s niche? Then move out from there.” Takeaway: In my workshop sessions, I talk a lot about this too. If you don’t have a clear picture of who your potential audience is, that problem will plague your efforts in the marketplace. If anything, start with analyzing yourself as the model audience member because something drew you to the story you are telling.You can move wider once you are well connected with a certain audience. Don’t try to hit a wide, vague audience all at once.

photo credit M Car

photo credit M Car

“Begin generating a Language List for your film. The words and phrases you’re adding are the ones that would catch the attention of the audience you’re going after. I’m using the term “Language List” as opposed to keywords to reinforce that this is about creating a conversation. This should be an extension of how you will share and talk about your work offline, as well as online. With that goal in mind, the places to use this “Language List” will go beyond your website’s metadata. Examples of list headings would be Emotions and Emotional Words; Movies similar to this film; Genre and Genre related words/phrases; Character traits; Character actions; Character motivations; Character types; Character relationships; Character names; Themes; Setting; Influences (directors, films, etc); Film Title(s); People Connected to the film; Cast; Crew; Shooting locations; Cast and Crew’s past film credits; Production companies.

As you build your list, Google is the one-click away buddy you should rely on when you’re stumped for language. Searching the term “emotions”, I found a page on Sonoma.edu with 265 words. Wikipedia’s List of Genres includes descriptions and their subgenres. Don’t use I-couldn’t-think-of-anything as an excuse. Research films, novels and TV shows similar to your movie. Go to the sites your audience frequents and look for words that stand out, that show up repeatedly. Note how your audience identifies itself.

These questions should be in your mind as your list grows:

Who is my primary target audience?

Who are the different audiences that would be interested in my film?

What makes this movie different?

Who would spend money to see this movie?

Who would come see this movie opening weekend (pretend you scored that distribution deal)?

Where does my audience get its information?

As you build your list, it may begin to look like this example:

Emotions: devastated, insecure, distracted, temperamental

Movies similar to this film:* Fargo, In Bruges, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Character motivations: greed, fame, love

Character archetypes: tortured artist, comic mentor, shapeshifter, the judge

Settings:  Minneapolis, car dealership, Fargo, North Dakota

Influences (directors, films, etc.): Preston Sturges, Howard Hawks, screwball comedy, film noir

Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare. Jerry Lundegaard

Crew: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Roger Deakins

Shooting locations: Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, Chanhassen, Minnesota, USA

Past Film Credits: Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing

* Use your list of Similar Movies judiciously. Comparing your film to a well known film can turn off people. It can raise expectations to a level you will never meet. So, inside metadata, in the about section of a website, and after the plot synopsis, are good places to use those titles. Placed up front, before you’ve allowed your audience to make up their own mind about your film, is dangerous. Until an audience has seen your film, they may not always peg what kind of movie they are reading up on. Compared to a well-known film or two, your audience may get a bead on the tone and feel of your movie. That’s okay.”   Takeaway: By actually sitting down and writing out a list of words your audience might be looking for online, you will get a better understanding of your audience’s intent to see the film you are making. As Charles said, these words are not only used in the online space, but also in your publicity efforts and in helping you frame that language you use when speaking about your film in the offline space (such as festivals or pitch meetings). You can also use these terms in Google Keyword Planner to get an estimate of how much online traffic they could attract to your website and alternate words to use. The keyword planner is also used for PPC advertising campaigns which is helpful in your film’s release phase.

Ultimately, anything you can do to make it easy to find your film online will help you in the long run. Don’t just think of marketing materials as poster and trailer, there are many different audiences looking for your film besides viewers (journalists, festival programmers, cinema programmers, agents, grant making organizations, financiers etc) so be sure to include as many potential keywords as you can think of that will fulfill the search needs of all kinds of audiences.

 

 

February 20th, 2014

Posted In: Digital Distribution, education, Film Festivals, Marketing, Publicity, Social Network Marketing

Tags: , , , , ,

Written by Keo Woolford, edited by Jeffrey Winter

EDITORS NOTE: Anyone who has read the TFC blog or heard us speak in public knows that strategies for monetizing independent film through audience engagement, focused niche marketing, grassroots outreach and DIY/hybrid release techniques are the tenets of what we teach and preach. Too many filmmakers get lost in the dream that their film should be seen by everyone, so they forget to identify and target (or they willfully ignore) the core demographic for their film. 

Every once in a while, however, a film comes along that grows organically from a community, and through careful nurturing by the filmmakers, manages to excite true buzz in its core audience. TFC member film THE HAUMANA, a 2013 film about a high school boy’s hula troupe by filmmaker/actor/hula dancer Keo Woolford, is a perfect model for this kind of niche DIY strategy, born from genuine community spirit.

This month on the blog, we have been advising those headed into the Winter and Spring festivals. If you still haven’t identified the core audience of your film, this post should give you something to think about.

As an actor, I’ve lived and worked in London, New York and Los Angeles. Wherever I go, I take my culture and home with me. I am a proud hula dancer and I would get a little defensive when people would flap their hands at me or ask me, “Where’s your hoop?” It was amazing to me how little people knew about hula and that men even danced hula. This perspective was coming from intelligent and esteemed circles of people, including educators at the University level.

I was blessed to have been commissioned to write and perform a one-man show, directed by Roberta Uno and supported by other sympathetic people and organizations in New York that would expose the struggle of holding on to tradition in post-modern Hawai`i, far from the misconception and misrepresentation of our culture in the global mass media. The show toured for about three years across the United States and also to Manila. Inevitably, audience members would ask if I was going to make a movie about this.

Seed planted.

Cut to a few years later, in between acting gigs, and the conception of the screenplay was born. I originally wrote the lead role for myself. But as time for production crept up, I knew it was my responsibility to oversee the project to keep my vision intact.

The screenplay and film were created for the culture I feel so proud to be a part of; the hula community, both in Hawai`i and outside of Hawai`i. It was also for the local Hawai`i population and the diaspora of Hawaiians and former residents of Hawai`i who still maintain a strong connection to their home and for the people who want to know a little bit more about our culture. It was a goal of mine to show this side of our culture from an insider’s perspective versus someone’s “idea” of what our culture is about. At the same time, I wanted to entertain the audience and not be didactic or documentary about the approach.

Haumana movie

I won’t say too much about the budget except that this would be considered a micro-budget feature. I put up most of the money and my best friend helped me raise the bulk of the rest by getting friends to invest for producer points. We did an Indiegogo campaign, which raised a couple of thousand extra. More than anything, though, it was the generosity of the community, crew and cast that kept our budget so low. Everyone worked for reduced or base rates, and the rest of the resources, work, time and talents were enthusiastically “donated.”

This was my first venture in such an undertaking. I have no college or film school degree, and no previous experience in writing, directing or producing such a project. I just had the burning passion to show the world a little more about our culture and assumed the hula and Hawaiian community at home and at large felt the same way about seeing something like that. Therefore, although I didn’t think about it much at first, I always knew that there was a core audience I could draw on, and hoped this film would speak to them.

My initial idea was to get into all the big festivals. Deadlines were coming up quickly and I sent them unfinished versions of the film (which I will never, ever, ever do again, even if they say they accept unfinished submissions). One by one, I was denied. I didn’t mind so much. It drove me to make the film better and gave me that much more time to finish my film the way I wanted. And in the end, I realized I needed every extra minute.

Finally, a programmer named Anderson Le who works for both the Hawaii International Film Festival and Los Angeles Asian-Pacific Film Festival approached me about submitting to these two festivals [editor’s note: Hawaii International (HIFF) and LAAPFF are unquestionably two of the most important showcases for Asian/Asian-American/Pacific Islander film in North America. HIFF also includes many other kinds of cinema as well, but is particularly well known as a “gateway to Asia.” It is important to remember that many “niche” films may find better premieres in specialty festivals than in the large, generic ones.] At that point, I had really become gun shy about submitting an unfinished cut, but ended up giving him the latest version to screen. This time proved to be a charm.

Haumana key art

THE HAUMANA was accepted into both festivals and ended up winning the Audience Award at both festivals. It made history at HIFF by being only the second film to ever sell out the 1400-seat Hawaii Theatre (the first was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and it was HIFF’s Official Closing Night Film. We also won a Special Jury Prize for Best First Feature from LAAPFF. Since then, it has played in a handful of other film festivals and won another Audience Award at the Philadelphia Asian Film Festival and was nominated for Best Film and Best Ensemble at the Orlando Film Festival.

With the support of these festivals, the word of mouth has spread quickly. From the success we garnered at HIFF, the film was picked up for a run at a small theatrical cinema on O`ahu, where the opening weekend gross was around $10,000. It just completed it’s 9th week at the theater. It is also available On-Demand to all Hawai`i residents

The parent company of the theater in O’ahu (Pearlridge Consolidated) was so enthusiastic about the numbers that they also invited the film to open at a theater they own in New York City, the well-known Village East Cinema. I originally assumed they wanted it for a single screening, but then they told me they wanted it for a one-week limited engagement! And then it was extended for a second week! I don’t have the grosses at the moment, but hope they will give them to me soon.

In addition, the film has also been playing a combination of four-wall screenings and Gathr screenings across the county, selling out the majority of the screenings where the average net is approximately $1500-$2000 per four-wall event.

The strategy has been simple. Hit the core target audience of the film and let the word of mouth carry it even further. Wherever the film has played, the word of mouth has been incredibly strong. The community is passionate about their culture and hungry for work that represents them in a positive and authentic light. I know this, because I am one of them. I have the same passion and hunger for my culture.

Most of the marketing has come from social media. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I didn’t start a Facebook page until about a year after we wrapped principle photography! But once I realized the power of social media, I went all in and I am amazed at how quickly the word spread about the film through Facebook alone. I also have a dear friend, Tracy Larrua, who is my PR person. She has been extremely hardworking and effective in getting the news out about the film into TV and press in various forms. And I had a trailer made as a teaser and then as a 30-second TV spot that played Hawai’i for 5 weeks, which has also been well-received on YouTube.

Through Facebook, I had been getting many inquiries on our page about screenings in a bunch of locations around the world. I did some research on four-walling and once the film made it’s Hawai`i premiere, I wanted to get it out to as many places as I could. The handful of festivals the film was invited to didn’t reach many areas the inquiries were coming from, so I put up a page on our website that allowed anyone who wanted to set up a screening or fundraiser event to contact us to arrange one.

The emails flooded in. Most were from Hālau (hula schools) around the country who wanted to use the film as a fundraiser to raise awareness about hula and our culture. There are several thousand hula schools across the U.S. alone, and these have been an invaluable resource for four-walled community screenings of the film. In general for fundraisers, we split the cost of the theater and then split the revenue from ticket sales. The average costs of the theaters have been about $850. The average net from the screenings has been about $1200. [Editor’s note: on an earlier film TFC worked on, another Hawaii-themed film called PRINCESS KAIULANI, we also used the Halau network for word-of mouth outreach. You can get a taste of what that network looks like at http://www.mele.com/resources/hula.html. It was easily found via Google. It is worth noting that many niche films have some sort of network like this that can be identified, although certainly not always as loyal as this one!]

I was also very fortunate to have a grant from the Ford Foundation pay for the flights and accommodations for the screenings when my travel wasn’t paid. Now we are signed with Gathr, a Theatrical On-Demand company that arranges screenings anywhere in the country. I still do the fundraiser model for the groups that still want to do those.

As of this writing, I plan to continue to do Gathr and fundraiser/four-wall screenings across the country and then pursue a similar model in Japan and Mexico where the hula communities are even larger than in the United States. I have been getting requests on our website and Facebook page from around the world about the film and hope to reach them somehow as well. A DVD release is planned sometime in the middle of 2014 for the States, after we get the word out a little bit more through the screenings and grassroots tour. There are a couple of other festivals that the film will play in as well.

In the beginning, I was just hoping the film would get into a couple of festivals. And now I am traveling to so many places and seeing how people are affected by the film. It has turned out to be so much more than I had expected in so many ways. I am continually humbled and overwhelmed by the response of the film and am so grateful for every experience it has brought me.

EDITOR’S POSTSCRIPT: We posted this blog not to try and trick anyone into thinking that ALL indie films can find niche success in this manner – of course not all films lend themselves to this kind of passionate niche marketing. But rather THE HAUMANA serves as a mirror that all films should at least take a long look into, asking yourself the all-important question….who is the audience for my film?

December 30th, 2013

Posted In: Distribution, Film Festivals, Marketing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

horror key art

As mentioned in the last post, the two most important marketing pieces that will gain audience attention for your film are the trailer and the key art, the film’s poster image. This image sets the audience expectation of what they will see before they even look at who is in the film, what it is about, and whether they will pay further attention to its advertising. It is very important to get this piece right.

I spoke with Mark Crawford of Blood and Chocolate, a boutique design firm in Los Angeles specializing in entertainment advertising, to learn how they work with studios and producers to create the visual identity of a film.

SC: Where do you start when coming up with design concepts? Do you watch the film?  Is there usually a brief that includes the marketing goals? Do you talk about the sensibilities of the audience the film is trying to reach? 

MC: “There is no set way to begin the development of a key art image for a motion picture. It is as fluid as the actual production of the film, and is equally as much a collaborative effort.

On some projects, we are brought on before the film has even begun shooting and we may begin developing conceptual ideas from the script or photo-shoot concepts that can be covered when the production begins. With this approach, important scenes can be extensively covered in the unit photography, assuring we have good images with which to work. But in most cases, the film is in production or completed.

The actual beginning of developing images usually starts with a direction meeting with the studio executive overseeing the project. Having been involved with the producers, film makers and other studio executives since the inception of the project, he or she communicates the positioning and tone that the studio feels is the best way to sell the movie. These would include everything from the actors to be featured on the 1-sheet to the message communicated in the copy line.

Based on the direction, we develop a series of poster images, usually anywhere from 25 to 50, that explore a wide range of imagery and tone that could represent the film.”

horror key art

SC: How does Blood and Chocolate keep horror designs fresh? Very often a wall of horror “posters” or thumbnail images starts looking the same when viewed in the iTunes store (dark backgrounds, old houses, a knife and blood).  

MC: “Horror is a very widely exploited genre, making the mission to stand out even more of a challenge. The goal is to develop an image that will stop people in their tracks.

The first place to start is the film. There may be scenes within the movie that provide the inspiration we are looking for. What are the unique aspects of this film that I can draw upon to create an image that is specific to to this movie? Or is there an establishing shot that just hints something very intense is about to happen. A very simple image, with a provocative copy line, can let the viewer connect the dots.

Sometimes, there is imagery within the film that can be used as inspiration to create an iconic poster-something not even in the movie but supports the concept.

Ultimately, the technique of the final artwork is crucial.”

SC: Is the real purpose behind the key art to tell the film’s story in a visual way? Or to give an emotional resonance that draws one into investigating further? 

MC: “We feel that the purpose of the key art is to pique your interest in a film, not try to tell the entire story. It is the single image that represents the journey that the film maker will take you on.”

SC: Where do you stand on having several different art designs for a film campaign? Should there be the same design for theatrical release, digital release, DVD release so the audience becomes familiar with it? Or is it effective to have variations on that theme to suit the medium that is selling the film? 

MC: “There should be one primary image to represent the film- one image that becomes the signature. However, the internet offers an amazing forum to feature secondary images that can broaden out the impression of the film.

Ultimately, it is important to have a focused campaign that can expand out.”

SC: Does the key art usually lead when it comes to other advertising elements like outdoor, web design and even trailers and TV spots?

MC: “Depending upon the budget and the scope of the marketing plan, sometimes teaser posters are created in advance to promote certain aspects of a film.They can feature the characters or be based on the concept of the movie. It can be a provocative way to build awareness. These ultimately lead to the key art which is the image that will represent the movie.”

SC: Is it part of your work to come up with taglines or other text as well or is that a separate entity’s work? How about other technical considerations like credit blocks? What size font, what kind of font, placement on the poster? Is that dictated in a certain way (WGA, PGA, DGA rules?)

MC: “Development of copy directions is part of the first phase 1-sheet presentation. It is very much an integral part of the poster and must work hand-in-hand with the visual. It is not unusual to develop teaser images that are copy alone.

As far as the billing block, those are provided by the studio and represent the legal credits called out by the different guilds. Their size on a poster is dictated by the size of the title.”

SC: Are images used in the design work created on set or does Blood and Chocolate usually arrange their own photo shoot to suit the proposed design?

MC: “Images used in one-sheets come from a variety of places. Often they are from unit photography that is taken during production or special shoots of the talent done later. Often times, Blood & Chocolate will special shoot specific images if they are needed for specific concepts. Photographic stock agencies are another resource.”

SC: When you are hired to create the design, who owns the design? From a standpoint of possibly wanting to sell the artwork as a separate function than purely promotional, does the client have the right to do that without further compensation to you?

MC: “Once the key art image is finished and delivered, it is owned by the studio. They can use it any way they choose to promote the movie.”

SC:Name one design in particular and illustrate how you approached it?

MC: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

Blair Witch Project design

“It was the first of the reality-based modern horror movies. The entire movie is the tension of not knowing exactly where it is going. Ultimately, the haunting feeling is the absence of anything you can actually see, just their fear.

The poster conveys the same feeling. It is a low-angle shot – almost like someone laying on the ground, but we see no one. The only image is the woods, shown as a negative image. The documentary-style copy delivers an ominous message. No words like ‘terror’ or ‘horror,’ nothing cliche. It just says how their footage was found. Open ended and haunting.”

SC: Can you give a ballpark estimate for design cost for key art?

MC: “The cost of key art depends a number of factors. For smaller independent movies, the budget is usually smaller. They require fewer concepts and make fewer changes.For larger movies, the budget is bigger, as is the scope of work to be done to get to a final poster.”

Sheri Candler

October 31st, 2013

Posted In: Creative, Key Art, Marketing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One of the absolute strongest pieces of marketing you will create for your film is its trailer. The other is the key art. I wish more filmmakers appreciated how important having a kick ass trailer is and stop trying to save money by editing it themselves or having their feature editor do it. A horror film audience is typically younger and very distracted. A trailer that fails to capture attention in less than 5 seconds is easily turned off in the quest to find something more interesting.

I spoke with professional trailer editor Michael Kurthy of Ye Olde Trailer Shoppe, Inc. about what goes into editing film trailers, especially horror trailers.

SC:What is the first thing you do when you sit down to edit? How do you evaluate the film to choose the elements that will go into a compelling trailer? 

MK: “If I’m working directly with the producer, we usually collaborate on coming up with a marketing direction for the film. The producer usually has some ideas, but is so close to the film that they don’t see the ‘big’ picture on how to sell the film to a wide audience. Every film is different and requires a different approach. I will do a ‘Break down’ of the film prior to cutting the trailer. This is basically deconstructing the entire film shot by shot/dialog line by dialog line. I try to use the footage and dialog to tell a story, but if that can’t be done, I will write or hire a copy writer to tell the story with narration. The trend these days is NOT to use copy. Sometimes we will be working on a film in the early stages of production and we will indeed use a shot that may not make it into the final cut of the released feature.”

SC: Is there a difference between what goes into cutting a trailer for a horror film and cutting any other kind of narrative film? Are there “rules” or conventions that go into marketing a horror film that you follow? Does it depend on what the trailer is supposed to do (IE, sell the film to industry vs sell the film to the consumer)?

MK:”The only difference is that horror is usually paced slower, more pregnant pauses are used to accentuate a particular moment and we like to use more sound FX. When I cut the trailer for The Wizard of Gore, a remake of a 70’s Vincent Price horror film, I chose to skillfully use music and sound FX that would drive the trailer along in a frenetic manner, with lots of stops. I concluded with a high energy rock cue from the feature soundtrack because it worked so well to pull the whole trailer together at the end.”

horror trailers

SC: How important is music in a horror trailer? Where do you source your music from? 

MK: “Music searches are really one of the most important elements in trailer making. The music will set the tone of the piece as well as the mood and what I would like the audience to feel and think. For most of the indy horror film trailers I create, I’m usually handcuffed into using the feature score from the film because of ultra low budgets.This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the score.”

SC: Are there certain fonts or motion graphics that can be used to great effect? Should you have text/graphics or should the scenes play out to demonstrate the full effect of the film? What about using festival laurels or critic quotes? What about foreign films, how do subtitles play in trailers?

MK: “The only reason you need text or graphics in a trailer is because you have to convey another story that can’t be accomplished with using dialogue from the film; or the dialogue from the film isn’t enough to tell the story.

When we use the festival laurels or critic quotes in a cut, we are trying to use the accolades of the film to our advantage. Testing shows that people do respond to awards and such. A lot of times we ‘hide’ foreign films by doing a trailer with no dialogue,it’s very difficult to sell a sub-titled foreign language movie here in the States.”

SC: How is trailer editing different from feature editing? 

MK: “I almost exclusively cut just trailers. I think it really is necessary to hire a professional trailer editor who is not biased on the film. One who can step back and really see the big picture. I recently edited a feature documentary for the first time, a film called The Sound of the Surf about the origins of ‘Surf’ music. Unlike trailers, this feature’s files were so big and daunting, so many things to keep track of ie: photos, interviews, music,flyers etc. With a trailer, one simply has the 1 ½ hr film to be concerned with plus miscellaneous music, graphics and select pulls. Quite frankly, after completing this feature edit, I wonder if I could still cut a trailer for this film, after being so immersed into it.”

SC: Given the audience for horror is usually young (teens), does this dictate the length and style of the trailer? How about different lengths depending on where it is shown (online vs in theater)?

MK: “Less is more in this case. Attention spans have shrunk in recent years probably due to the obliteration of broadcast material out there.There is no official maximum length, but if your trailer is over 2m 30secs, it probably won’t get played in a theater.”

SC: How do you feel about the accusation that trailers “give away the movie”? Is that true? Are there instances where they have to in order to get bums in seats/streams sold?

MK: “A good trailer should never give away the story or ending. However, today a lot of trailers do just that. A lot of this has to do with creatives in charge at the studios.There is a lot of pressure on them to ‘Open’ a film [ie, provide a successful opening weekend of the release] because if they don’t, it’s their job on the line. Being a creative advertising exec at a studio is a very short lived career.”

SC: Now for the question all of our readers will want to know for budgeting purposes, could you give me a range for how much a professional trailer would cost? Also, how far in advance should a producer plan for trailer edit? 

MK: “If you go to a trailer house (large company with many producers, editors, graphics people), you are going to be charged anywhere from $40,000 on up to $75,000. Smaller shops like mine (1 to 5 employees) can bring the price way down. My rate for an indy trailer is around $4000-$5,000.

It’s always a good idea to plan in advance, but unfortunately people wait until the last minute. I have had to cut trailers in ONE DAY!-not fun. Ideally, it takes 1 to 2 weeks to get a great trailer cut that the client likes.”

 

 

Michael Kurthy is an award-winning motion picture marketing veteran who, over a 20 year career, has created successful theatrical campaigns for dozens of block-buster hits including: “Independence Day”, “The Matrix”, and “The Lord of the Rings”.

Currently,he owns Ye Olde Trailer Shoppe Inc., a boutique trailer house, for which he creates quality advertising campaigns for major and independent features. Mike has created campaigns for many horror films including, “The Wizard of Gore”, “Cold Storage”, “Friday the 13th Part Vlll”, “Blackout”, “Close Your Eyes” and “Freddy’s Dead” all of which can be seen at www.michaelkurthy.com

 

Sheri Candler

October 24th, 2013

Posted In: Marketing, Publicity, Trailers, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The month of October seems a good time to look at films in the horror genre and we will be releasing a series of posts all month long that addresses the business of releasing these films.

Long the domain of ultra low budget filmmakers everywhere, horror audiences are now spoiled for choice when it comes to finding a film that terrifies. Yes, everyone with access to a digital camera and buckets of fake blood seems to be honing their craft and turning out product by the thousands. Unfortunately, most of it is high on splatter and low on story and production value. That may have made up the majority of the horror film sales 7 years ago, but distribution advances paid for such films are now exceedingly low (maybe $5K per territory, IF there is a pick up at all) and now the genre is perfect for the torrent sites.Unless you plan to make films as an expensive hobby, the pressure to produce a stellar horror film that people will talk about (see The Conjuring, Insidious, Paranormal Activity) is very high.

horror films

The trouble for filmmakers creating in this genre is there is so much being made of questionable quality, it is like asking audiences to find a needle…in a stack of needles (hat tip to Drew Daywalt). The same challenges for fundraising, marketing, and distribution that plague every production, plague horror films as well. To get good word of mouth, the film HAS to be great and have a significant marketing push.

At a recent event hosted at the LA Film School by Screen Craft entitled Horror Filmmaking: The Guts of the Craft, several involved in the horror genre talked about budgeting and distributing indie horror films. All agreed the production value bar has to be raised so much higher than everything else in the market in order to get people to part with their money for a ticket when competing with studio films. Talent manager Andrew Wilson of Zero Gravity Management pointed out that comments like the film did a lot with so little doesn’t hold water with audiences outside of the festival circuit. “You still need it to be good enough to get someone to come into a theater and pay $12…the guy who is going to pay $12 doesn’t care that you did a lot for a little bit of money. They want to see a film that is as good as the big Warner Bros release because they are paying the same amount of money to see it.” While you may be thinking, “I don’t need my film to play in a theater,” and that may be, the films seeing the most revenue in this genre are the ones that do.

The panel also addressed selling horror films into foreign territories. While horror does travel much better than American drama or comedy, there are horror films being made all over the world and some are much more innovative than their American counterparts. France, Japan and Korea were cited as countries producing fantastically creative horror films. American filmmakers with aspirations of distributing their films overseas need to be aware of the competition not just with fellow countrymen, but with foreign talent as well.

Other film distributors are candidly talking about the complete decimation of the market for horror, largely brought on by the internet and piracy, but also a change in consumer habits. Why buy a copy to own of that low grade splatterfest when you can easily stream it (for pay or not) and move on to the next one? More where that came from. There was once big money in fooling audiences to buy a $20 DVD with a good slasher poster and trailer, but now they are wise to the junk vying for their attention and don’t see the need to pay much money for it.

In a talk given last year at the Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend in Orlando, sales agent/distributor Stephen Biro of Unearthed Films actually warned the audience of filmmakers not to get into horror if money was what they were seeking.”The whole system is rigged for the distributors and retailers. You will have to make the movie of a lifetime, something that will stand the test of time.”  He confirmed DVD for horror is dead. Titles that might have shipped 10, 000 copies to retailers are now only shipping maybe 2,000. Some stores will only take 40 copies, see how they sell and order more if needed in order to cut down on dealing with returns. Of the big box stores left standing, few are interested in low budget horror titles. Netflix too is stepping away from low budget indie horror on the DVD side. They may offer distributors a 2 year streaming deal for six titles at $24,000 total, but there will be a cost to get them QC’d properly (which comes out of your cut, after the middlemen take their share of course!).

As for iTunes, there are standards barring graphic sex for films in the US and in some countries, they are now requiring a rating from the local ratings authority in order to sell from the iTunes Movie store. The cost of this can run into the thousands (based on run time) per country. Also, subtitling will be required for English language films, another cost.

The major companies in cable VOD (Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon etc) are now requiring a significant theatrical release (about 15 cities) before showing interest in working with a title. They are predominantly interested in titles with significant marketing effort behind them. The cable operators often do not offer advances and you must go through an aggregator like Gravitas Ventures to access. If the aggregator refuses your film, that’s it.

Selling from your own site via DVD or digital through Vimeo or Distrify is still an option, and the cut of revenue is certainly larger. But unless there is a budget and plan in place to market the site, traffic won’t just materialize. Still, for ultra, ultra low budget films (like made for less than $5,000) with a clear marketing strategy and small advertising budget, selling direct is the way to go. Certainly better than giving all rights away for free, for 7 years and seeing nothing. At least your film can access a global audience.

Here is Biro’s talk from Orlando. It runs almost an hour

If after reading this, you are still set to wade into the market with your horror film, stay tuned to future posts looking at the numbers behind some recent horror films and what options you’ll have on the festival circuit.

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/markybon/102406173/”>MarkyBon</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

 

Sheri Candler

October 3rd, 2013

Posted In: Cable, Digital Distribution, Distribution, International Sales, iTunes, Long Tail & Glut of Content, Marketing, Netflix, Theatrical

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Next week (September 15 – 19) marks IFP’s annual “Independent FIlm Week” in NYC, herein dozens of fresh-faced and “emerging” filmmakers will once again pitch their shiny new projects in various states of development to jaded Industry executives who believe they’ve seen and heard it all.

conference

Most of you reading this already know that pitching a film in development can be difficult, frustrating work…often because the passion and clarity of your filmmaking vision is often countered by the cloudy cynicism of those who are first hearing about your project. After all, we all know that for every IFP Week success story (and there are many including Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, Courtney Hunt’s Frozen River, Dee Rees’ Pariah, Lauren Greenfield’s The Queen of Versailles, Stacie Passon’s Concussion etc…), there are many, many more films in development that either never get made or never find their way into significant distribution or, god forbid, profit mode.

So what keeps filmmaker’s coming back year after year to events like this? Well, the simple answer is “hope” of course….hope, belief, a passion for storytelling, the conviction that a good story can change the world, and the pure excitement of the possibilities of the unknown.

Which is why I found a recent poll hosted on IFP’s Independent Film Week website [right sidebar of the page] so interesting and so telling….in part because the result of the poll runs so counter to my own feelings on the state of independent film distribution.

On its site, IFP asks the following question:

IFP voting

 

Before you view results so far, answer the question….Which excites YOU the most? Now go vote and see what everyone else said.

** SPOILER ALERT — Do Not Read Forward Until You’ve Actually Voted**

 

IFP result

What I find so curious about this is in my role as a independent film distribution educator at The Film Collaborative, I would have voted exactly the other way.

I suspect that a key factor in IFP Filmmakers voting differently than I has something to do with a factor I identified earlier, which I called “the pure excitement of the possibilities of the unknown.” I’m guessing most filmmakers called the thing most “exciting” that they knew the least about. After all 1) “Crowdsourcing” seems familiar to most right now, and therefore almost routine to today’s filmmakers….no matter how amazing the results often are. 2) “Television As a Platform for Auteurs” is also as familiar as clicking on the HBO GO App….even despite the fact that truly independent voices like Lena Dunham have used the platform to become household names. 3) Cross Media Story Telling remains a huge mystery for most filmmakers outside the genre sci-fi and horror realms….especially for independent narrative filmmakers making art house character-driven films. It should be noted that most documentary filmmakers understand it at least a little better. And 4) Digital Distribution Opportunities…of course this is the big one. The Wild West. The place where anything and everything seems possible…even if the evidence proclaiming its success for independents STILL isn’t in, even this many years after we’ve started talking about it.

But still we hope.

From our POV at The Film Collaborative, we see a lot of sales reports of exactly how well our truly independent films are performing on digital platforms….and for the most part I can tell you the results aren’t exactly exciting. Most upsetting is the feeling (and the data to back it) that major digital distribution platforms like Cable VOD, Netflix, iTunes etc are actually increasing the long-tail for STUDIO films, and leaving even less room than before for unknown independents. Yes, of course there are exceptions — for example our TFC member Jonathan Lisecki’s Gayby soared to the top of iTunes during Gay Pride week in June, hitting #1 on iTunes’ indie charts, #3 on their comedy charts, and #5 overall—above such movie-star-studded studio releases as Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained. But we all know the saying that the exception can prove the rule.

Yes, more independent film than ever is available on digital platforms, but the marketing conundrums posed by the glut of available content is often making it even harder than ever to get noticed and turn a profit. While Gayby benefited from some clever Pride Week-themed promotions that a major player like iTunes can engineer, this is not easily replicated by individual filmmakers.

For further discussion of the state of independent digital distribution, I queried my colleague Orly Ravid, TFC’s in house guru of the digital distro space. Here’s how she put it:

“I think the word ‘exciting’ is dangerous if filmmakers do not realize that platforms do not sell films, filmmakers / films do.

What *is* exciting is the *access*.

The flip side of that, however, is the decline in inflation of value that happened as a result of middle men competing for films and not knowing for sure how they would perform.

What I mean by that is, what once drove bigger / more deals in the past, is much less present today. I’m leaving theatrical out of this discussion because the point is to compare ‘home entertainment.’

In the past, a distributor would predict what the video stores would buy. Video stores bought, in advance often, based on what they thought would sell and rent well. Sure there were returns but, in general, there was a lot of business done that was based on expectation, not necessarily reality. Money flowed between middle men and distributors and stores etc… and down to the sellers of films. Now, the EXCITING trend is that anyone can distribute one’s film digitally and access a worldwide audience. There are flat fee and low commission services to access key mainstream platforms and also great developing DIY services.

The problem is, that since anyone can do this, so many do it. An abundance of choice and less marketing real estate to compel consumption. Additionally, there is so much less of money changing hands because of anticipation or expectation. Your film either performs on the platforms or on your site or Facebook page, or it does not. Apple does not pay up front. Netflix pays a fee sort of like TV stations do, but only based on solid information regarding demand. And Cable VOD is as marquee-driven and not thriving for the small film as ever.

The increasing need to actually prove your concept is going to put pressure on whomever is willing to take on the marketing. And if no one is, most films under the impact of no marketing will, most likely, make almost no impact. So it’s exciting but deceptive. The developments in digital distribution have given more power to filmmakers not to be at the mercy of gatekeepers. However, even if you can get into key digital stores, you will only reach as many people and make as much money as you have marketed for or authentically connected to.”

Now, don’t we all feel excited? Well maybe that’s not exactly the word….but I would still say “hopeful.”

To further lighten the mood, I’d like to add a word or two about my choice for the emerging trend I find most exciting — and that is crowdsourcing. This term is meant to encompass all activities that include the crowd–crowdfunding, soliciting help from the crowd in regard to time or talent in order to make work, or distributing with the crowd’s help. Primarily, I am going to discuss it in terms of raising money.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still remember the day (like a couple of years ago) when raising the money to make a film or distribute it was by far the hardest part of the equation. If filmmakers work within ultra-realistic budget parameters, crowd-sourcing can and usually does take a huge role in lessening the financial burdens these days. The fact is, with an excellently conceived, planned and executed crowdsourcing campaign, the money is now there for the taking…as long as the filmmaker’s vision is strong enough. No longer is the cloudy cynicism of Industry gatekeepers the key factor in raising money….or even the maximum limit on your credit cards.

I’m not implying that crowdsourcing makes it easy to raise the money….to do it right is a whole job unto itself, and much hard work is involved. But these factors are within a filmmaker’s own control, and by setting realistic goals and working hard towards them, the desired result is achieved with a startling success rate. And it makes the whole money-raising part seem a lot less like gambling than it used to….and you usually don’t have to pay that money back.

To me, that is nothing short of miraculous. And the fact that it is democratic / populist in philosophical nature, and tends to favor films with a strong social message truly thrills me. Less thrilling is the trend towards celebrities crowdsourcing for their pet projects (not going to name names here), but I don’t subscribe to a zero-sum market theory here which will leave the rest of us fighting over the crumbs….so if well-known filmmakers need to use their “brand” to create the films they are most passionate about…I won’t bash them for it.

In fact, there is something about this “brand-oriented” approach to crowdsourcing that may be the MOST instructive “emerging trend” that today’s IFP filmmakers should be paying attention to…as a way to possibly tie digital distribution possibilities directly to the the lessons of crowdsourcing. The problem with digital distribution is the “tree-falls-in-the-forest” phenomenon….i.e. you can put a film on a digital platform, but no-one will know it exists. But crowdsourcing uses the exact opposite principal….it creates FANS of your work who are so moved by your work that they want to give you MONEY.

So, what if you could bring your crowdsourcing community all the way through to digital distribution, where they can be the first audience for your film when it is released? This end-to-end digital solution is really bursting with opportunity…although I’ll admit right here that the work involved is daunting, especially for a filmmaker who just wants to make films.

As a result, a host of new services and platforms are emerging to explore this trend, for example Chill. The idea behind this platform (and others) is promising in that it encourages a “social window” to find and engage your audience before your traditional digital window. Chill can service just the social window, or you can choose also to have them service the traditional digital window. Crowdfunding integration is also built in, which offers you a way to service your obligations to your Kickstarter or Indiegogo backers. They also launched “Insider Access” recently, which helps bridge the window between the end of the Kickstarter campaign and the release.

Perhaps it is not surprising therefore, that in fact, the most intriguing of all would be a way to make all of the “emerging trends” work together to create a new integrated whole. I can’t picture what that looks like just yet…and I guess that is what makes it all part of the “excitement of the possibilities of the unknown.”

Jeffrey Winter will be attending IFP Week as a panelist and participant in the Meet the Decision Makers Artists Services sessions.

September 12th, 2013

Posted In: crowdfunding, Digital Distribution, DIY, Film Festivals, iTunes, Long Tail & Glut of Content, Marketing

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Do you have an email database of supporters for your work? Everywhere you turn, from industry events to industry publications to individual consultants, you should be hearing that an email database is one key to success for your film. Fundraising, niche marketing and distribution are all heavily dependent on having a sizable list.

i want email

But let’s address some excuses artists use for not starting a list.

Email lists start from zero and it will take too much time to get a big enough list. Everyone starts at zero. No one was born with an email list! I know it is really hard to face having an account that looks empty, especially when you think of yourself as an established artist. It takes time and effort to build up a good list. Most people don’t like the long term pay off of list building and social media tools. The effort is usually started when they need something NOW.  Come to terms with the long tail! Get started now, when you DON’T need anything and, over time, you will have a big enough list.

Email collection feels spammy, exploitive. If the only time you contact your database is when you NEED something, then yes, you are being exploitive. People sign up to your list because you offer them something of value to their lives and they are giving you permission to keep talking to them. This is like GOLD DUST! Don’t underestimate this asset. They are looking for your unique perspective on the world, some interesting tools or events they should know about that you recommend that are not directly related to your work, as well as news about what your are working on. They do admire your work after all, so don’t keep them in the dark.

Email service providers cost money. Many email service providers do not charge monthly fees until you reach a certain number of subscribers (2000) or you are sending a certain volume of emails per month. If you are trying to build a list in order to earn a living at some point, you must invest a little bit. Come on, we’re talking like $30 a month here! Is this your profession or a hobby?

Just one more thing that takes me away from making my art. True, but you can view this as a different form of expressing your creativity as well. Monthly communication with an audience shouldn’t be viewed as an inconvenience. Your audience is what enables you to keep making your art; having an audience makes you valuable, both to yourself (a feeling of accomplishment) and to the market. You make art to be seen right? The newsletter doesn’t have to be long, but it needs to be creative and engaging, things art should be at a minimum.

I don’t need a list because someone else is going to sell my work to an audience. Ok, Ms Old School filmmaker! We’re in the second decade of the millennium and about 5 years along in the indie film distribution revolution. At what point are you going to accept the fact that FEW (like a hand full) of filmmakers have this luxury? And even they don’t have it to a reliable degree. You are wasting all of the new distribution and marketing tools now available to you if you have no one to contact directly.

In my next post, I will give some tips about accumulating emails and how to keep that list healthy and happy to hear from you.

Sheri Candler

August 8th, 2013

Posted In: Marketing

Tags: , , ,

I feel like a broken record. There is nothing I am writing here that I have not said and written many times before. Still. After all that has gone on in distribution. The willful blindness of filmmakers believing in the Oz fairytale of going to a festival, A-list or otherwise, without putting in the work of building an audience around their film, with the hope of a big sale. It is an unsupported hope of a deal that does not merit the delay of doing the work to connect with fans. They may go with a very skilled sales agent, and yet the sale that is made, if any, is one that the filmmaker could have done directly without giving up rights to their film and possibly even have done without signing such agreements because the offer was too low.

yellow brick road 2

There is no Yellow Brick Road for independent films

To be honest, we’re big fans of doing distribution deals in tandem with direct distribution by the filmmaker, so it’s not doing the deal that bothers me, especially not if it’s a good offer and additional work is going to be performed by the distribution company in service of the film.  What is a big deal is the lost marketing opportunity that comes from waiting for this mythical deal for too long. The failure to capitalize on all the buzz and press that happens at a festival which gives a small film the launch it needs to resonate with fans and convert them to purchasers. Too many times, the filmmaker is told (by the industry) to hold out for an offer that never comes. The real indie film landscape looks much more like Kansas after the tornado, rather than the Emerald City. There is no yellow brick road that leads everyone to “the wizard” with the money. We are all building our own road.

This myth of waiting for the big offer is perpetuated in the press and by the industry. A few films get lucky and go to Sundance, SXSW, Cannes etc., and, for one reason or another, a distributor pays a lot of money to buy them. Why does that happen? Sometimes “festival fever” is high among the buyers to compete with each other and  pressure to make higher bids than they should. Sometimes it’s a new distribution company trying to prove itself by outbidding more established players.  Sometimes it’s personal like wanting to produce the director’s next film. Sometimes a film warrants paying good money for it, so sure is the buyer that they have an audience winner, or film that will be critically acclaimed or a major award winner. In any case, that happens very few times a year to be sure.  MOST deals these days (relative to the number of films made and even shown at festivals) are not like that.

Generally, the money offered upfront does not even make the investors whole. The money ultimately remitted to the investors does not yield a profit most of the time for films without big name cast or at the top of their genre category. It seems to me filmmakers focus on the exceptions, the success stories, and ignore the rest of the data.

I was asked via our Facebook page to estimate what the budget for LGBT films should be because it is the kind of films we have A LOT of experience handling. Based on all our work in that space, I can say if you make your film for more than $150,000, you are taking a big risk of remaining in the red. It may still be a risk that at that price, but if it has decent production value, a very good story and pops at the right festivals, you can do deals and DIY and monetize all revenue fronts to make that budget back… maybe even as much as $250,000. But again, that is the exception, not the rule because there are a lot of Ifs in that last sentence. Often the revenue outcome is less in fact. Time to get to know the real story, not the ones being perpetuated to show financial success as the norm.

What I am urging now is to be MINDFUL OF TIME and LOST OPPORTUNITY and not just search for the yellow brick road expecting the wizard to make magic happen for your film. There’s just not that much magic left. While there still is some talent “getting discovered” (and to be honest this is often happening first in lab programs, not at prestigious festivals), big deals being done, careers being made (this happens annually at Sundance and even SXSW), you need to be honest with yourself about where your work lies in that realm of possibility based on the elements you have in place right now. At least have a back up plan put into action that sets up the film for capitalizing on the audience you have been building and continue to build at first shot out in public. So many films lose that chance and it will never come again for them. The task is too arduous to start all over again after the glare of the initial media and attention dies down.

This would not be a Film Collaborative post if I did not share some data with you about what is happening with films that are building their own roads to “Oz.” More specifics will be provided in the next post because we are waiting for it to come in, but for now let’s take a look at one avenue that filmmakers are still questioning, selling streams from their own website.

At Sheffield DocFest, Sheri Candler talked to DIY platform DISTRIFY with whom TFC works as does Wolfe Video, for example.  Filmmakers should think about using services such as Distrify for both the purpose of selling off one’s site(s) and/or if one’s conventional distributor partners with the service (in which case hopefully the filmmaker has an affiliate relationship and receives a healthy percentage from any sales they make from their own website). Distrify cautions that for the most part filmmakers think they can put a film on a platform and wait for the cash to roll in. “We have probably 3,000 films on the service now and I’d reckon that nearly half have never sold at all- because they’ve never told anyone that they are there!,” said Peter Gerard, co founder of Distrify. For stronger films that appeal to an identifiable niche, if filmmakers make the effort to audience-build and market to that audience, Gerard says those films sell a few thousand units…  For the UK, for example, these numbers are compatible with conventional DVD sales and the market as a whole.  A market that is a fraction of the one in the US.

Gerard also says “Mailing lists are still the most effective way to sell – our data shows that a well-written and well-targeted mail-shot converts at a much higher ratio than Facebook or Twitter posts. Gathering Facebook likes or followers is maybe somewhat helpful, but is primarily a vanity exercise. The top-performing films focus on direct links with people via emails, blogs, and real-life events.” All this stuff TFC’s been shouting about for years (build an email list, build relationships with fans etc) can be verified in the data!  We want to add that building your Facebook and Twitter accounts can demonstrate appeal to distributors seeking to assess a title to buy so we still recommend it if you are looking to make a sale.  And, in the US, it may help drive awareness for the sake of building demand on commercial platforms such as Netflix.

Gerard goes on to note: “I don’t think it helps most people to say this movie made $40k or this one made $20k. I think that can be misleading because I firmly believe there is no such thing as an “average low budget film” nor a “usual amount of marketing”. We work with a wide gamut of films, and success is measured very differently depending on a range of factors. We’ve had some filmmakers earning a few hundred bucks a week and re-investing that immediately into low-budget production of serial dramas or new films. We’ve paid Nigerian filmmakers 4-figure sums recently. A first-time filmmaker earned $10k in a few weeks on a super-niche short documentary and re-invested the profits into both charity donations and DVD production for selling on the ground via real-life social networks. All of these are considered big successes for the people involved.” One of TFC’s filmmakers will be a case study down the line as the film has been a standout performer on Distrify, but that is because of the filmmakers’ efforts, her long-standing brand, and also efforts of her distribution partner.

In another future post, we will be highlighting a filmmaker who has taken a completely different path to releasing his work. Rather than living in NYC or LA, he lives in Memphis, TN, a way cheaper place to live and to film in. He has built a respectable following of his own because he’s tapped into a specific niche (not LGBT) audience that is large enough to support the films he is making.

He seems happy and his sustainable filmmaking career is a refreshing reminder that it is possible to turn away from conventional wisdom on how things in the film business work. He’s is building his own road and it might never lead to Oz, but he is the wizard pulling the levers for his work in  the “post tornado Kansas” that is today’s indie film landscape.

 

July 18th, 2013

Posted In: Distribution, DIY, Film Festivals, Marketing

Tags: , , , , , ,

Part 5, the final in our series on social media tools. Find the rest of the series on these links  Mindset Change, Myths, Facebook, Twitter

In its 8 short years of existence, Youtube has managed to become a powerhouse online destination for all things video and, according to Nielsen, reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network. However, 70% of Youtube traffic comes from outside of the US. The site is so active, over 100 hours of video are uploaded every MINUTE and over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—almost an hour for every person on Earth!

Setting up a Youtube account and channel is fairly straightforward. It is generally based on having a Gmail account, which is free, and Youtube channels are also linked to a Google Plus account. Here is a video on creating a Youtube channel

Here is a video on how to create a Youtube channel if you DO NOT want to use a Gmail account:

http://youtu.be/NHRkpYbvSys

In March, Youtube started implementing their new channel layout so if you have a channel that was launched before this time, you will probably find that it looks very different now. Now, there is only one large cover image, just like on Facebook, and it matches the dimensions seen on G+ 2120px by 1192px. All channels have this layout and it is supposed to make it easier for mobile devices to see the channels in a uniform way. Pay special attention to the middle section of your image because on mobile devices, that is what will primarily be seen. Those measurements will be 1280px by 350px.

Your cover image is the face of the channel brand. Choose an image that tells a viewer exactly what she is in for when she visits your channel (your brand personality) and what to expect from the project. Also Youtube will prominently display a little “intro to your channel” video for those who haven’t subscribed to your channel yet. It is like a channel trailer or pitch video which lets you highlight your channel’s value and encourages subscribing.

Examples of personality branding on Youtube channels:

Conan on YT

Kevin Smith on YT

As with most things online, you will want to integrate all of your online channels so that the viewer is aware you have them. Add in links to your Youtube channel that include your main website, iTunes URL, Amazon URL, Facebook, Twitter etc. Don’t forget to add new ones all through your production process since you won’t initially have  iTunes/Amazon/Hulu etc links.

Be sure to include a call to action on your videos. This can be “subscribe to our channel” “join our email list” with a URL to the sign up page, or “Like us on Facebook.” These calls are best used as speech bubble annotations that flash on the screen while the video plays. You can set this up inside the Youtube video manager setting.

When you don’t yet have a large stockpile of videos created, build up playlists of videos that were not created by you, but suit the interests of your core audience. You can elect to feature these playlists when viewers visit your channel. There is the ability to configure what viewers see on your channel when they visit. Here is a tutorial on how to configure your channel sections:

Ultimately you are trying to build up subscribers on your channel, not just views. In fact, Youtube has recently redone their algorithm to favor videos from channels with a lot of subscribers because they want viewers to keep coming back to the site. If you plan to have a trailer and that’s all on your Youtube channel, you won’t attract many subscribers and you could be penalized in Youtube search. Also, subscribers give you the ability to be in contact with those who liked your video. They can be notified via email and within their homepage news feed when you have uploaded a new video.

A factor in making sure that your video can be found in Youtube search is tagging. Upon uploading a new video, you will be asked to add a title and description for your video. Write titles using a relevant and, hopefully, unique keyword. You can look for keywords using Google Keyword Tool. These same keywords will be used for your tags. Place the most important keywords and keyword phrases at the start of your tags fields. Include common and specific keywords (but not spam) and their misspellings because you want your videos to be found in any way they could possibly be spelled into the search bar. Write 12 or more tags and use as much of the characters as possible. Be sure to use appropriate keywords that will attract interest from potential viewers in your core audience.

Youtube is social, just as all social media is. Interacting with other channels, leaving  comments on other’s videos, subscribing to channels, answering comments on your page will help you see better results than simply using the site to host your trailer. If you have other channels hosting your trailer (ie MovieClips or a distributor’s channel), be sure to drop in to those channels and answer comments there too. The most common question is “When can we see this film?” and it will be surprising how little those comments receive an answer. You want people to know when and where the film will be available right? Be sure to answer! Engage your audience!

Having a lot of video responses in your comment section, as opposed to only text comments, will also help indicate to YouTube that your video is popular and relevant and will help with rankings. Respond to comments in the first hours after your video is published because building comments early helps build rankings in YouTube search.

Of course, everyone likes to see their videos getting a lot of views. In fact, having millions of views can turn into media coverage and reaching the trending topics section of Youtube which then perpetuate even more views. There are paid services you can use (see Virool.com or Channel Factory) to help seed your important videos across a network of online sites. These services can be very expensive to use (often $.10-$.15 a click with very high minimums to reach), but this is the way many corporations and Hollywood studios get millions of views to their videos and trailers in a very short amount of time. You didn’t REALLY think that was all organic, did you? Video seeding in essence is paid advertising, but if you need your trailer to go viral, this is the quickest way.

Youtube can be a source of revenue for your production company via embedded advertising if you are generating a lot of views. Revenue will only be significant if you are dedicated to creating video on a consistent basis and growing your subscriber base. For distribution companies, this should be something to add to their revenue streams since they are likely to have the ability to generate a lot of video. Check into joining the Youtube Partner Program for more information.

Youtube has created The Creators Playbook with all kinds of useful information regarding using the site.  The Playbook is free and updated regularly.

Sheri Candler

June 26th, 2013

Posted In: Marketing, Social Network Marketing

Tags: , , , ,

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