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Film Marketing During an Indie Film Production

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Film marketing for indie films is not the "exception"; it is the "rule." There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The key to a successful indie film's run is to start early in the production process-- develop your marketing strategy, and stay focused on converting strangers into a paying audience.

The Role of Marketing During a Film Production

As an independent filmmaker, before you can effectively implement a marketing strategy for your project, you first have to be aware of who makes up your audience and how to reach them. In parts one and two of "The Basic Principles of Film Marketing," you learned about the fundamental pillars of "Identifying your Audience" and the principles of "Engaging and Understanding your Audience."


Let's do a quick recap of those two processes:

  • It is crucial to start preparing your marketing strategy and promotional materials very early in the filmmaking process's development phase.

  • Audience demographics, specifically break down into these groups: Target audience, Secondary audience, Tertiary audience.

  • Other audience considerations are psychographics which speak to the audience's lifestyle, income, political inclination, shopping interest, and a host of other factors.

  • Two essential functions of film marketing are: Audience Awareness and Audience Interest.

  • Three types of media that bring awareness to your movie: Paid, Earned, and Owned Media.

  • Targeted Marketing refers to an audience with a specific interest in your movie.

  • Market Research consists of collecting opinions and other feedback from consumers about their interest in your movie's concept, messaging, and themes.

"Identifying your Audience" and "Engaging and Understanding your Audience" is a precursor to this blog, so you might want to read those articles first.


PS: Some of these are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I may get a commission for recommending the product to you.


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Now that you're all caught up on "Identifying your Audience" and "Engaging and Understanding your Audience," let's dive into "Marketing's Role During an Indie Film Production."


Marketing on an indie film project is typically one of the last things a novice filmmaker thinks about. However, it should be one of the first considerations when choosing an idea or optioning a screenplay. There are several questions that you need to ask yourself when considering a project to produce. The most important one:


Is this concept marketable?

Here are the sub-group of questions that can help you answer this question:

What Does Marketable Mean?

As you can see, film marketing has its own eco-system, and you must be prepared to address all of those questions if you want to have a successful marketing campaign.


"Making a movie without advertising is like screaming for attention on a deserted island. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does."

If you successfully answered those questions for your project, you can now move on to marketing's role during the production process.


FILM MARKETING'S DURING PRODUCTION


On bigger budget studio films, there's typically a marketing department that consists of a team of 75-100 people. On mini-major independent films, the marketing team can consist of 5-10 people. And on micro-budget films, the marketing department consists of YOU!

Yeah, you… the producer.


I know you just got this overwhelming tingly feeling in your tummy. Like, I just wanted to make a cool movie. I didn't want to become a marketing executive. 😏


I know the feeling.

However, as an indie filmmaker, you must become comfortable with this "Do-it-Yourself" process, even if you only plan on distributing your movie through film festivals or just uploading a short film on YouTube or Vimeo.


Likewise, if you secure a traditional distributor that primarily releases small indie projects, a lot of times, they won't spend a dime on advertising your project. So, you need to start thinking early on how you will self-promote your movie.


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As an independent producer, you will wear a lot of different hats.


Don't get me wrong, you can still outsource some of these marketing tasks that are above and beyond your skillset, or you're just exhausted from doing every single thing. Just be prepared to add it to your budget.


So, let's take a look at some of the film marketing activities that should take place during the production process:

  • Branding – This type of film marketing does not focus directly on selling the movie's tickets or rental purchases but rather on selling the story behind the film. Stories are what people connect with best. The audience needs to feel an emotional connection to the content. Branding is not just about creating a sales tool-- it serves a much greater purpose.

Early in the development process, you should create a social media account for your movie where the brand's story will be a dynamic feature of your film's online chatter.



What is the story, you ask?

It's the message/theme that your film is trying to convey. For instance, if your movie is about immigration, create content about that topic. By the time your motion picture is released, you will have built up a following supporting the brand's story. So, your followers will organically become consumers of your film.

  • Publicity – This may be a task that you would want to outsource. Typically, publicists have access to media outlets that you don't. So, the value is in their connections. A publicist manages the process of submitting press releases to media outlets, including still images, behind-the-scene clips, movie posters, trailers, etc. The publicist is responsible for creating an electronic press kit (EPK) to make the content easy to transmit. You, as the producer, should be gathering all of these promotional assets and placing them in a digital share folder.

  • Product Placement – There may be opportunities for consumer products, special promotional content, and advertiser tie-ins. Product placement could potentially help you save on props or crafty purchases for your production.

Typically, you shouldn't expect any funding from advertisers on indie films, but there could be a possibility for cross-promotion. Cross-promotion is a form of marketing where a customer-base for one product or service is introduced to another product and vice versa.


For instance, your target audience could be introduced to Hewlett-Packard computers while watching your movie. On the other hand, HP could introduce their consumers to your film with creative digital content showcasing your movie on their computer screen.

  • Distribution – Your distributor may ask for a set visit to gen-up interest in your film from exhibition executives. Also, they will request your EPK so they can have access to the movie's promotional materials they will need to solicit buyers and exhibitors.

  • Advertising – This process includes creatively thinking of ideas for your teaser trailer, official trailer, movie poster, and other promotional materials (i.e. Still images, posters, trailers, memes, and videos to create bite-sized content).



The best time to conduct photo shoots and behind-the-scene interviews with the talent is when the picture is still in production and while the actors are still in character. If you wait until after the production wraps, you may have difficulty getting folks back together. Plus, that's an additional expense if you have to fly everyone back to your location just for a photo shoot. On a micro-budget film, you need to save all your coins.


An excellent film marketing plan should utilize all of the activities mentioned above to jump-start a movie campaign's media blitz. The strategy should focus on purposefully driving awareness and interest by finding, targeting, and spending on audiences through creative media content, digital engagement, and publicity.


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Final thoughts…


In this blog, I've shown you how independent filmmakers must initiate their film marketing strategy from conception all the way to the grave. Film marketing never ends. You must consistently think of innovative ways to breathe new life into your baby.

  • You've learned film marketing has its own eco-system.

  • You've learned branding is not just about creating a sales tool. It's about the connection.

  • You've learned a publicist manages the process of submitting press releases to media outlets.

  • You've learned product placement could potentially help you save on prop purchases.

  • You've learned your distributor may ask for a set visit to gen-up interest in your film.

  • And, you've learned advertising includes thinking of ideas for your promotional materials.

An excellent exercise for you would be to create an outline of the marketing activities you will take towards planning your marketing strategy. Generating an outline is a great way to organize your media campaign. Here's a worksheet to help get you started: Marketing Worksheet


Remember, this is not a pointless exercise. Strategizing for your film begins in the development stage. This exercise would be your third step towards figuring out your film's marketing plan.


Good luck!


Oh, and let me know how this exercise works out for your project.


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Of course, Diversity in Cinema Academy has many other resources that I love to share with you, but I wanted to keep this blog strictly about marketing's role during production.


If I had to pick two resources I couldn't live without for my film marketing campaigns, it would be these two tools.


Tool #1 - Canva


Aside from the tools above, I also use many other resources to help me prep for a movie production. Some of them are FREE and some are paid.


You can check out some of the other resources that I love using on Diversity in Cinema Academy's resources page. You can view all of the resources for Filmmakers, Content Creators and Screenwriters from the links provided.


From filmmaking tools, to content creation tools, to screenwriting tools... they all can be found in the tools section of Diversity in Cinema Academy's website. I highly recommend that you check out our tools store! :)


If you like it, please help me to share the resources link with a friend. I would really appreciate it!


Okay, that's all for now. I hope that you have found the information I provided helpful!


Enough information, start planning!


 

ABOUT DIVERSITY IN CINEMA ACADEMY:


Diversity in Cinema Academy is an online digital media company that primarily uses web-based applications, such as an interactive website and social media platforms, to offer aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters an entertaining and educational place to interact with each other and professional filmmakers.


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