Merchandise To Accompany Your FilmSigned Merchandise

Especially in cases where a filmmaker has a loyal fan base and ardent supporters, there will be a definite market for signed merchandise. Usually the best types of items to sign are posters and DVDs. In the case of posters, you don’t need to plan ahead. Simply sign the poster, roll it up, and mail it to its customer.

With DVDs however, you’ll want to plan ahead a little bit. Before the final packaging is done, ask your DVD replicator to supply you with a stack of cover inserts. Sign all of the inserts, and then return them to the replicator.

They will insert the signed inserts into the DVD packaging and then seal them. By planning ahead and getting a bunch of DVDs signed in advance this way, you save yourself the trouble of having to open up each individual DVD, pulling out the insert, signing it, putting it back into the case, and then having someone shrink wrap the product all over again. One other detail to keep in mind here also is: make sure you sign the insert, not the actual DVD. Sometimes the ink can eat through the label and end up interfering with the media.

Soundtracks

You may decide to ultimately steer clear of soundtracks as a potential package deal item. The soundtrack royalty clause that you likely have in your music clearances can end up costing you more than it is worth. In most cases, music clearances will have a soundtrack clause providing a pro rata share of a small percentage of the soundtrack’s retail price.

Given that the market for soundtracks is fairly small, this combined royalties share can in fact add up to a tidy sum, ultimately costing you more than you will end up making from the actual CD sales. In addition, even in cases where you give a CD away for free (for example, in your DVD package, or on your website); you’ll still have to pay royalties for those giveaways.

To avoid this problem, you might consider using a flat buyout clause rather than a royalty option for the soundtrack rights. Keep in mind, however, that even when you pay $50 per “side,” you will still actually be paying $100 for every track (every source cue needs two contracts – master and sync).

If you’re talking about a 16 track CD, then you’ll be paying $1,600. That may not seem like very much in comparison to the overall film budget, but you will likely not recover that money from CD sales. Depending on what your relationship with the musicians is like, you might be able to ask for less. Still, if you have already gotten free music out of them, it can be a bit much to follow up by asking for a $10 soundtrack buyout. Nevertheless, it can’t hurt to ask them.

One other alternative would be to omit the soundtrack clause from the initial licensing agreement. Instead, add in a clause stating that the buyout will be negotiated in good faith at a future date. Talk to a lawyer if you think of going this route, and always think about what will ultimately work best for your film.

If half or more of your soundtrack was composed, or if you utilized a work-for-hire composer agreement, then it is usual for the soundtrack rights to be included into those contracts as yours for no additional money.

Digital Downloads

In lieu of mailing out hard copy CD soundtracks, you can also consider offering the soundtrack music as a digital download from your website. Of course, you will still have to pay royalties, and all of the issues discussed above would still apply.

Additional Music Benefits

Putting aside the concerns and legalities listed above, you may still find some benefits in releasing the music from your film on a soundtrack CD or as a digital download. If your audience responds well to your film’s music, then you may find it quite advantageous to promote that music independently of the film on your website. Studios often decide to release movie soundtracks well in advance of a theatrical release in order to build up an audience through word of mouth. You may find that this kind of strategic planning can pay off, especially if your film is oriented toward a youth audience.

Games

If you are selling a game as a piece of physical merchandise, then it certainly counts in the category of film merchandising. Most independent filmmakers tend to believe that making a film-related game is far beyond their own abilities, but this is not necessarily the case. Weiler, for example, has been active in trying to make game creation accessible to everyone. The only real limitation in this category then, is one’s creativity.

Graphic Novels and Books

Don’t waste your money on a publisher for these. The royalties can be staggering. Instead, go the self-publishing route (just as many filmmakers choose to self-publish DVDs). You can get books printed on demand by Lulu and CreateSpace, and the startup cost doesn’t tend to be excessively high.

Toys and Collectibles

Despite first inclinations, this option is also not inaccessible for independent filmmakers. With some research, you should be able to find a manufacturer who can produce your product.

Posters

You may find that you have a number of posters left over from your theatrical release. You should absolutely put these up for sale. Alternatively, you might also use these posters for giveaways and promotions, since they were inexpensive to produce. Also consider signing them. Traditionally, signatures find themselves on the bottom edge of the collectors’ market.

If you have an especially nice piece of key art, then you might also want to think about printing some of your film’s posters onto linen stock. This will produce a much more attractive product that you can subsequently sell at a higher price, either signed or unsigned. You can also print a very limited number of silk-screened posters, sign them, and sell them at much higher prices.

T-Shirts

Always produce at least a small quantity of T-shirts to use in web and radio promotion giveaways. You can also use these as thank you gifts. Unless your film has a very wide fan base, it is not a good idea to do more than one T-shirt design. Additional designs can end up costing a lot of extra money and causing a fair amount of hassle, especially if you opt to use nicer shirts and printing methods.

The easiest way to print your own T-shirts is to hire a local printer who uses oil-based ink and who keeps nice, blank shirts in stock for you to choose from. The main reason to use a local printer is to avoid shipping costs, since T-shirts are heavy and can cost a lot to ship.

You should be able to get T-shirts for about $5 each, including the printing. Your graphic designer will need to modify your key art or alternatively create a new design. This should usually be done in a color-separated Adobe Illustrator file, which will allow the printer to create color-separated films. Don’t forget that each extra color in your design will cost extra.