The good news for Indie filmmakers, musicians, photographers and new media artists is that technology enables us to take control and distribute our own work to the masses or a more targeted niche audience. The bad news is that even though we are able to reach a global audience without giving the lion’s share of our profits to an agent or distributor – it’s a lot of hard work.
When I completed final production on my first feature documentary, Opening Our Eyes, I knew I was hardly finished with this film, not if I wanted people to see it. Since most filmmakers make their movies to be seen, they need to decide how they want their movies distributed and marketed. As a filmmaker, do you want to delegate this task to a distribution company or do it yourself? Will you be one of the lucky 1% of filmmakers who get their films picked up for distribution? If not, do you have a plan on how to do that?
1. Identify and build audience – Regardless if you decide to sign with a distributor or distribute your work yourself, the most important part of marketing and distributing a film is to identify and build your audience – and you should start building your audience before the film is finished. As soon as I made a commitment to make a film, I started blogging about it. I created a blog specifically about the film where my daughter and I talked about preparing for and taking a 99-day journey around the world. I also wrote about the making of the film on this blog where I talked about gearing up for it as well as the post-production process. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was building our niche audience.
2. Have a social media plan:
- Decide on platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, YouTube, Vimeo
- Carve out the time to engage
- Decide where the content will come from – behind the scenes photos or footage, blogs, podcasts?
- Who and where is your audience? Find other Facebook groups or pages and followers who are interested in the same topic as yours. Collaborate. Build your Twitter followers same way.
3. Finding true fans – Since most filmmakers will most likely NOT have a mega hit with huge profits, the best thing a filmmaker can do is build their “true fan” base. First you should ask yourself how many “true fans” would you need to sustain yourself as a filmmaker? And by true fan, I mean people who are willing to buy whatever you are selling, be it a book, a DVD, a music download or a t-shirt. The key to growing your core “true fans” is to engage them by sharing interesting content as opposed to just selling something.
4. Be consistent and stick with it – Like anything else, building an audience takes time. Be prepared to constantly interact and engage your audience by sharing relevant and interesting content with them. You’re building a tribe or a community.
5. Find likely partners – Making films is a collaborative effort. Similarly, for filmmakers to be successful in marketing their films they need to find their core niche. One great way to find your niche audience is to identify like minded groups and share links. The non-profit my daughter works for partnered with us and we frequently share each other’s news with our followers.