Packaging Your FilmCreators of visual media content have the ability to produce and sell a wide variety of products in stores and on their websites nowadays. A comparable field for film marketing is music, and filmmakers can get ideas by looking at what popular musicians have done to expand their brands beyond the music itself.

Some ideas for additional marketing and revenue that musicians have explored include DVDs, boxed sets, T-shirts, hoodies, books, stickers, and posters. The website for the highly popular group Nine Inch Nails is a great example of musicians who know how to reach out and connect with their fans. Their website includes a NIN-centered social network, updates from the band’s tours, a huge selection of merchandise, and even a place where fans can remix NIN music.

Although independent filmmakers obviously tend to have a much smaller fan base than a powerhouse group like Nine Inch Nails, they would be remiss not to see the ways that this type of website could translate into something useful for them. If a filmmaker has a fan base, he or she should definitely provide them with a product to reinforce that relationship.

DVDs

As a filmmaker, the packaging of your DVD can be as important as your actual film when it comes to selling it. Usually, filmmakers package their DVDs in as cheap a way as possible, typically in a black plastic DVD case with a full-color insert. When you have a growing fan base, however, you may find that it is beneficial to produce collectors’ editions of your films, perhaps something formatted along the lines of the Criterion Collection.

Once again turning to the music industry and Nine Inch Nails for a good model, we can see how NIN has created different versions of their CDs with different pricing structures. They have already recognized what many filmmakers still need to see: that when consumers buy their product, they want to interact with a physical product as much as they want the digital content. Among the options sold by NIN, then, are the following:

  • 9 tracks downloadable in a DRM-free file, with a downloadable PDF. Price: Free.
  • 36 tracks downloadable in various digital formats, with a 40-page PDF. Price: $5.00.
  • A 2-CD set in a 6-panel Digipak, with a 16-page booklet. Price: $10.00.
  • The Deluxe Edition Package – 2 audio CDs, 1 data DVD with 36 tracks in multi-track format, a Blu-ray disc with Ghosts I-IV in high-def 96/24 stereo, and a second book of photographs – all packaged in a hardcover fabric slipcase. Price: $75.00.
  • The Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package – Everything in the Deluxe Edition Package, plus two more books, one of which has 48 pages of music-inspired photos, the other of which contains two photos as art prints. Only 2500 of this package were produced and numbered. Price: $300.00.

If all that mattered were the music, then consumers wouldn’t buy anything beyond the first few items in this list of NIN products. Certainly the last two items on this list – the Deluxe and Ultra-Deluxe Packages would never sell. The fact that these products not only sell, but have a high market demand among NIN’s fan base, demonstrates the critical importance of product packaging.

Packages

When you produce your own merchandise, you should take advantage of the ability to offer that merchandise in package deals with your DVD. By doing this, you give consumers the incentive to buy the DVD from your website instead of from Amazon. The best way to lure people to your site is to offer them something that they can’t get on Amazon. Offer your DVD at the same or slightly lower price as Amazon, and then include a free item with its purchase (a T-shirt or a poster, for example). Talk to your fulfilment company and discuss how to get a special shipping-and-handling combined rate for your product. By doing this, you accomplish several things:

  • The extra, free item will motivate people to buy your DVD rather than obtaining a free download from somewhere else.
  • In cases where people would have bought the DVD elsewhere, you receive a higher profit margin by making the sale directly through your own site.
  • You can gather customer information from your fulfilment company; information which you would not otherwize be able to obtain from Amazon or other merchants. Use this information to promote other specials on your site or your upcoming films.

That being said, let’s look at some of the options for additional merchandise that you can either include as a free item with your DVD, or that you can sell separately on your website:

Signed DVDs – These can be highly popular in the case of filmmakers or films that have a strong fan base. Make sure you get a stack of DVD inserts from the DVD replicator, sign them, and then return them to the replicator to be inserted into the packaging before they get sealed. (This way, you avoid having to bother with opening DVDs, signing them, and then figuring out where to get them resealed). Be sure to sign the insert, not the DVD itself, since the ink can damage the disc.

Posters, Signed and Unsigned – After signed DVDs, posters will be the most cost efficient and easiest way of providing additional merchandise to your film’s fans. It is likely that you will have a bunch of these left over from the film’s theatrical release You can either sell these posters on your website, include them with your DVD sales, or give them away in promotions. With any of these options, you can sign the posters to increase their value or leave them unsigned.

T-shirts – Use a local printer to make up some T-shirts. Akin to the posters, you can sell these, give them as promotions, or include them in package deals. Printers who use oil-based ink and who keep blank T-shirts in stock will be the best and most cost efficient option. Keep in mind that you’ll pay extra for each additional color used in the design on your T-shirt. Ideally, you should end up paying an average of $5 for the shirt and printing combined.

Graphic Novels and Books – Self publish these to save on royalties. Two possible companies that you can use to print your graphic novels and books on demand are CreateSpace and Lulu.

Games and Toys – Weiler has been working to make it easier for anyone to create a game. With some research and creativity on the independent filmmaker’s part, this level of merchandising does not need to be limited to the big studios.

Soundtracks and Digital Downloads – These are at the bottom of this merchandising list, because they are actually the most difficult forms of additional merchandise to link to a film. Unless your film’s music was composed under a work-for-hire agreement, you may find yourself caught up in the legality of royalties and music rights. In fact, you may find that you can end up losing money instead of earning it if you try to sell music from your film’s soundtrack. Check with a lawyer and be aware of initial contract agreements if you think you may want to go this route.