Marketing Your FilmIndependent filmmakers can increase interest among potential audience members by focusing on individual localities. Apply to film festivals in cities other than your own, and when you find your film selected to be shown in one of them, follow these guidelines to ensure that it will have a full and engaged audience.

Don’t wait until the last minute

Procrastination is a film promoter’s greatest mistake. Don’t start calling local organizations a week before the film festival. Give them time to disseminate information about your film, especially if they have pre-scheduled ways of reaching the public (such as a monthly newsletter). In addition to giving the local organizations time to support your film, your timely promotional strategy will cement your reputation as a serious and reliable filmmaker.

Look into screening your film at local schools or universities

Start by calling schools that you have attended yourself. This will give the school the added motivation to work with you and show your film. Not only will it be a learning experience for their students, but it will also add positively to the school’s own reputation by highlighting a graduate’s success.

Once you’ve successfully shown your film as a school alumnus, you can then expand to bigger institutions. Make sure that you get testimonials from every school or university where you screen, since you can use these to support your pitch to other schools. Hire a photographer and a videographer for your screening. This way, you can get some great photos into your press kit and include videos of your speech or post-screening discussion on your website. Steps like these increase your professional appearance and will make other schools more likely to hire you. Screenings at bigger universities can pay between $500 and $3000, depending on the school, and often your travel costs will also be covered.

Once a school or university has agreed to screen your film, don’t forget to do everything in your power to get the word out. In addition to advertising in local and online newspapers, you should also get in touch with the campus press and radio station (if there is one). With these, you are guaranteed to have access to your target audience, the student population.

Get on Television

You don’t need to be on Good Morning America to get the word out about your film screening. Local TV shows and news programs can be a great way to reach your target audience, and they are far easier to schedule. Usually you will need to get in touch with a TV show at least two months in advance in order to coordinate your television appearance with your film’s release or screening.

Be discerning when you decide where to promote your film. Remember that every television show is different. Shows in the daytime tend to promote conflict; they want a dramatic approach to the topic of your film. Evening shows often look for controversy, or they may want to consider humorous approaches to your topic. Keep in mind to whom you are sending your film and what angle they will want to pursue. Most importantly, never risk jeopardizing your film’s integrity just to get onto a show –this can backfire and hurt your reputation in the long run.

After you send the press release, follow up via email or telephone to open a dialogue with the show’s producer. You’ll want to sell yourself to the producer to convince him or her to include your film on the show. Consider whether your film can coincide with some current event topic, which can range from current social issues to national holidays and events (like Black History Month, Earth Day, or Diabetes Awareness Week, to name a few examples).

Look into Local Radio Shows or Podcasts

Local radio and podcasts are a great alternative to television, especially if you can’t travel away from home for the interview. Two possible ways to utilize the radio are a scheduled interview or a repeating commercial.

As with television, you shouldn’t contact radio stations blindly. You want to determine who your target film audience will be and choose not only your radio stations and podcasts accordingly, but also the time slot(s) when you’ll be on air. For example, if your film is in the horror genre, you will find that evening listeners will be much more interested in knowing more about your film. If your film is about a hard rock band, you may find that the West Coast demographic (which tends to listen to rock more than East Coast listeners) will be your go-to audience. Ultimately, a radio station’s manager will be able to guide you to appropriate time slots and shows.

If you plan to do a radio interview, then you will need to write up some radio scripts (short commercials) that the radio host can read during the day in order to garner audience interest in your interview. Don’t write just one script for all of your interviews. Each individual radio station script should be individually tailored for its particular demographic.

To prepare for the interview itself, you need to give the interviewer a sheet with the main selling points of your film’s story. Include bullet point information with the cast names, your target audience, the location of the film screening, and (optionally) a humorous anecdote. The radio host will use this sheet to augment your interview. You will also want to prepare a sheet for yourself during the interview, with the radio host’s name, the name of the radio station (how embarrassing would it be if you said the wrong name during your interview!?), the name of the producer, and the station’s phone number (in case you get disconnected during the interview).

At the time of the interview, ensure that you are in a quiet, distraction-free room. Turn off any potential noise-making devices, such as your cell phone or Skype. Be careful not to give away too much of your film’s storyline during the interview, either.  Your audience won’t be motivated to see your film if they already know what will happen! Mention the title of your film from time to time, but don’t make it seem obvious or tacky.

Lastly, offer free DVDs of your film to the radio station as a giveaway. If you can’t afford this, cheaper giveaway alternatives include signed photographs, T-shirts, or discounted screening tickets. This will foster increased interest and raise the likelihood that audience members will listen to your interview.

As for radio commercials, you can use the audio from your teasers and trailers. Radio spots tend to be either 15, 30, or 45 seconds long. Keep your information short and to-the-point. At the end of your commercial, include information about where to see or buy your film. Be aware of the potential cost of radio commercials, too. The price can vary widely based upon location and may cost as much as $5000 for airing a 30-second spot ten times.