Preproduction Audience Connection

People in the film industry want to know what drives distribution value. Preproduction is the perfect time to start thinking about distribution. Planning in advance will allow you to start doing things that will give your film a better chance of being distributed worldwide once it is made. This is also knows as “distribution in reverse.”

Historically distribution in reverse was called “presales.” In the 1990s, it was not uncommon for an independent film to get preproduction distribution deals in foreign markets. Today it is different because some distributors got burned in the past with films that were never made or were poorly made.  Today it is rare for a low budget film to get presales. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t steps you can take to insure that you have a better chance of post-filming distribution.

The first thing to do during preproduction is ask yourself, “Who is my target audience?” Identify the audience, or market, for your film first and then go through the creation process. There are two reasons to do so. First, traditional distributors pick a film based on what their marketing hook will be.

Distributors want a clear target audience. Defining a target audience helps the distributor decide if they can efficiently and cheaply market the film. The more money they can save on marketing, the more profit they will make. Second, you may not get a traditional distributor. In this case, you will have to market the film yourself and, just like a traditional distributor, you will want to do it as cheaply and efficiently as possible.

If you do not identify your target audience early, you are essentially shooting yourself in the foot. You cannot post a movie on iTunes or put a DVD for sale on a website and have people immediately checking it out and buying it. You need a very specific target audience instead of a broad one. Narrowing down your target audience, or niche audience, and marketing to them can take a long time, so the earlier you start the better it will be for you in distributing your film once it is made.

Filmmakers find it difficult to start a campaign preproduction because they think nothing is happening yet. Instead of thinking of it as a campaign, think of it as finding connections. What kind of social media, if any, does your target audience use? Consider asking your audience questions.

Find out what they are interested in and see if you can get ideas to make your film better. In fact, do not talk about yourself or your film more than 20 percent of the time. Instead, talk about things that your audience finds interesting or entertaining. You will be surprised at what you can learn.

Connecting with your audience, both preproduction and postproduction, is a huge task. Unless  making that connection is assigned to a specific person or team, then it will often not get done. The recommendation is to assign someone early on (again, preferably preproduction) to handle the task of connecting to the target audience. This person is called the Producer of Marketing and Distribution and is the point person for all connections with audience.