DistributionWhen attempting to market and distribute a film you have made, the task can seem overwhelming, especially if it doesn’t begin well.  It’s easy to lose confidence in the picture and start to despair that all of your hard work and effort has been for nothing.  When investing so much of yourself in a project, it can be difficult sometimes to maintain perspective and say honestly what is going wrong.  The vision and passion you have for your film may be clouding your judgement and stopping you from looking at the situation objectively, so if you are offered criticism, constructive or otherwise, listen to it with good grace and use it to your advantage.

The worst-case scenario is that the finished film is the problem, but in this business you need to be optimistic and there are many other avenues to explore before condemning all of your work to the cutting room floor.  Perhaps the approach to marketing your film wasn’t quite right, or the strategy for its publicity went off track.  Something as simple as commissioning a new advertising poster can have a massive impact on the audience’s perception of the film and is worth considering.  There is no shortage of strategies to adopt and we’ll explore some of these here.

What is the way forward?

To begin with, look at the simple things.  If you believe in your film, and it’s just a matter of encouraging people or buyers to watch it, then it’s the first impression which counts.  Aspects such as the title, poster art and tagline are the first point of contact between you and your audience.  Does your title really do the job you need it to?  Or is your picture called that just because it always has been?  Does your tagline really stay in the mind?  Does your poster artwork attract the right attention?  Making these changes has relatively few financial implications, and it can make a big difference.

Marketing and Publicity in the Internet Age

Another perspective from which to consider the problem is that of marketing and publicity.  Did your film have a strong enough marketing strategy?  In one sense, creating a successful campaign has never been easier in an age where communication tools like the internet (including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter) allow rapid dissemination of material globally and instantly.  And yet, with everyone having access to these tools, standing out from the crowd is then the issue.

Using the web must be a key element in the publicity of any product.  Create a free website for your film and post regular updates about progress during and after filming, interviews with the cast and crew, mini-documentaries and links to sites relevant to your film’s characters and content.  Investigate the internet habits of your target audience and approach websites about linking their site to yours.

Viral videos are the dynamite of modern media campaigns so create one which highlights your film, or yourself.  They’re cheap to make and using Twitter and Facebook in a coordinated effort with your promotional video could launch you and most importantly, your film, onto the global stage.  This may sound like a high effort strategy, and it is.  If you really don’t want to start making new promotional videos, then there’s also a lot to be said for making the most of what you already have…

How many times did something unexpected happen or go wrong on set?  Though they may have made you want to tear your hair out at the time, turn them to your advantage.  Release a gag-reel or an entertaining interview with the leading cast members; rework footage into a series of short teasers to generate interest about different aspects of your film; create twitter tags to really get a buzz going around your film.  Of course, you can always use extra unseen footage as special material on a DVD later on too.

Is it worth acting as my own distributor?

Film Marketing and Distribution

If you are acting as your own distributor, which is likely to be the case if you are releasing one of your first films, there is nothing to stop you dealing face to face with TV stations in an effort to sell your film.  Unfortunately for the novices out there, you’ll be playing with the big boys and prices offered for independent films (with rarely any room for negotiation) can come as a bit of a shock.

The TV execs wield all the power.  Another consideration to bear in mind when approaching TV channels is the matter of deliverables.  They are usually managed by the distributor, and dealing with them yourself can prove to be a headache, and a costly one too.  Another general point on deliverables is that if you change your film too much, you’ll need to amend these too, and that’s another argument why tweaking and pushing a fierce advertising campaign is financially preferable to reshooting scenes or making big changes.

With regard to deliverables, another important consideration of a legal nature springs to mind: that of insurance.  As part of the agreement between you and your distributor, provided that you are insured for errors and omissions (E&O), it is the distribution company who will be liable in any future claims made as a result of your film’s release.

However, if you decide to go it alone, this liability remains with you and presents the rather daunting possibility of facing potential lawsuits for what can often be claims entirely without foundation.  Whilst we’re on the subject of legalities, it is worth mentioning the effect being your own distributor has on your interactions with the Screen Actors Guild.  If an SAG agreement was involved in the production of your film, check it carefully as it is often very specific about how a film can be distributed and the relative payments it expects from you.

Established film distribution companies attend film markets and these can be fantastic learning environments for budding film makers; they often feature lectures on various aspects of the industry which could provide you with valuable insight.  You can often make contacts at these events which could lead to opportunities in financing of future film projects.

Exposure to industry professionals at the larger film markets make them an attractive prospect, but again, entry is pricey and so think carefully about what you want to get out of them.  Face to face interaction with people is a really positive aspect to using markets as an avenue for publicity, and even selling.  Whilst the majority of the larger film markets may be out of your reach financially, you can apply the same idea and attend events or shows which relate to the subject of your film.

If it’s about motherhood, then attend a mother and baby event; if it’s about Christmas, then a fayre where people are searching for gifts would present an excellent opportunity to sell or promote.  Think creatively!

Onwards and upwards…

You should also expand your thinking from the local to the international.  Popularity in film genre varies enormously across the world.  If it’s a quirky comedy, then a British audience might respond more positively to it than others.  Whatever the subject matter, you could be ignoring thousands of potential fans by unintentionally limiting your film’s scope.  Establishing a cult following is a sure way to give your film longevity.  Some of the world’s most loved movies were poorly received at the time of their first release, so don’t lose your faith in your creation.

If you feel passionate about it, then it’s just a matter of finding the thousands of other people on the planet who agree with you.