Tag Archives: DIY distribution

The Online Presence

I’m going to change gears a little bit with DIY distribution to talk more about online presence. At Ingen Pictures, we are filming our first web series now. It has been an exciting process, and we hope that it will better our company. We will be airing it on youtube, but decided to do a hybrid between youtube styled video and a television show to accommodate our mixed targeted audience of youtubers and traditionals. So, I decided to not only write about our experience of making this new series and how it works out in the long run but to also write about all of the research I will be doing regarding that series. So here it goes…

I think one of the greatest things about making online content is you are not controlled by the network OR by distributors OR by the market. If you’ve ever worked with a television network, you know that they have the final say and will manipulate the content however they please. It is a VERY frustrating process for the artist. It’s about what will sell for the highest ratings. With the internet, all of sudden we have a freedom to develop content that no one has ever seen before…ORIGINAL. If you are passionate about one thing in particular, create content around that. Go with what you know and what you love when you write the story.

Next, who is your audience? It’s always best to have a niche audience to target. You can start with that niche audience and then hope it grows outward from there. Come up with a plan before you start filming….or as soon as possible.

The Tom Cruise blog is a great read. When talking about how important the story is, it states:

Mike Ajakwe jr, founder and Executive Director of The LA Web Series Festival, has watched more than 500 web series. He’s endured and enjoyed more web originals than most mortals, and he is unequivocal about what works: “The story has to move. The same rules of film, television and theater apply. You want a three-act structure—a beginning, a middle and an end. Every scene must mean something, must drive the story forward,” he says. ”You can have a show that looks great, but if it’s not about anything, then it’s not taking your audience anywhere.”

Felicia Day is the creator of probably the most successful webseries to date, the Guild. In her blog  she writes that four questions should be asked before you start. How is my project unique to the Web? How is my series unique to ME? Who is my audience and how will I reach them? Do I Know what I’m getting into?

A great quote clarifying just how important the audience is from Felicia Day’s blog: “If you can’t sit down and easily identify what kind of person will like your show and name 5 places that person might go to on the internet, you will have a hard time getting the word out, no matter how good it is.”

Two great guides are: How to Build An Audience For Your Web Series and Youtube Creator Playbook. You can download both of these books. I will write separate articles about these reads coming up.

Michael Henry’s blog post about the formation of his production company Quandary Productions and the making/promotion of his latest film “I Work” is a great read about the importance of online presence and the importance of getting creative with your advertisement. They took their advertising to another level of creativity. And…it seemed to work. He made a great point: he took a much needed break after filming to travel. It gave him some time to gain inspiration and motivation again to push through post production. After he finished post, he had a one time premiere at a local school. At that point, he had only promoted the film locally, but directly after the screening, he set off to travel Southeast Asia for 7 months. He was able to build his plan over those 7 months, not to mention the reach expanded to worldwide while he met people from all over the world on his trip. Michael Henry posts, “Over the course of the seven months I slowly built a strong Twitter following, set up the Quandary Productions Filmmaker Support Scheme, made the decision to support charities around the world which we had visited, with 5% of all our profits, and made a thorough list of promotional material I would release in order to get the film the attention we felt it deserved. When we returned, all the hard work paid off. We made back the (modest) budget in the first ten minutes of release, and ‘I WORK’ has started to receive something of a cult-following online.”

Now they are using their online following to support a kickstarter (but on their personal website) for their future projects. In this article, he writes about utilizing social media at every step of production. People love to watch behind the scenes, so even before filming begins, flood (or generously post) about casting announcements, crew announcements, thoughts, or any message pertaining to the film. During production, keeping an on-set blog up-to-date peaking interests. Post messages, announcements, pictures, anecdotes, actor and crew profiles or even short clips of video. Make sure to have varieties of high resolution press photos, allowing the media to easily write up a story about the production. Remember publicity is free advertisement!

Coming to the bottom line, online presence is what will propel your filmmaking products beyond anything in the past. If you utilize to its potential, you can truly make something powerful move. Remember as filmmakers, all we dream for is to get as many people as possible to view our work. Now we have the opportunity via the world wide web. Let’s figure out how to make it work for us.

Have you had the web help you with your film? Or have you heard of it hurting someone’s film? Do you know of any success stories? Looking forward to your comments below.

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Next Up for DIY Distribution

Last week I touched on an article written by Jon Reiss to follow my discussion on DIY distribution through theatrical, online, and DVD release. I continued researching him this week, finding many more articles about his experiences.

One at filmmakermagazine.com goes a little more in depth about DVD distribution. He was lucky to find a reliable company for DVD distribution rights ONLY, fully allowing him to continue selling his film online and do the theatrical distribution route….although most of his theatrical showings were prior to releasing the DVD. Definitely check out this article if you will be negotiating DVD distribution deals in the future.

He recommends asking yourself these questions before you begin preparation for DIY distribution. “What is its best market? Who is its audience? How are you best going to reach them? Will you potentially sell to libraries and universities as much as or more than you will to individuals? Is there pressure to release your film in a timely way (will it be dated, is there another film you are racing to beat to market)? Answering these questions will help to fashion your DVD release strategy.”

Note: In these articles he used the company Neoflix. This distribution company has shut down due to not paying filmmakers.

This week, to dive deeper, I’d like to discuss DIY web marketing to support your film distribution. In another article by Jon Reiss, he recommends creating your presence on the web by starting a basis with your website. Constantly update your website with intriguing information that is similar to your films or to the audience you are looking to reach. By consistently blogging, you can easily keep traffic frequenting your site. Make sure to tag your blogs. Embed links to your site in your social networks. Also, create relationships with other sites that would find interest in your film or in your blogging. He gives his students this assignment:

Ways to create a relationship with other sites/organizations:

Next he says to create a marketing strategy early, even while you are in the script stage. This is when you have the most energy and are not burnt out on the film.

To read this full article, go here:http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/issues/spring2009/bombit-part3.php

Utilize your social media networks, which seems obvious, but many people do not create a facebook page for their work. Friends and family can be huge advocates for your film. Hit up film bloggers online for reviews of your film. Or even hit up other non-film sites that are related to your subject material for reviews or press. Find a way to cross-promote with other companies. Put a trailer up on youtube or a sample of the material on youtube with a link to buy it. Provide an incentive for people to sign up for your email list. Email them weekly or bi-weekly with updates on new articles or pictures, clips, whatever may be interesting for your audience. Be careful how often you email them. If emails come too often, they will quickly unsubscribe. Then there’s always advertising on the web or through affiliate marketing. Do your research to figure out what routes are best for you.

All of this information is a bit dated, but it provides great ground work to get someone started. Do you have any experience with indie distribution? How did it work or not work for you?

The Changing World of Film Distribution

The old tradition for filmmakers: make your movie, enter film festivals, distributors eat it up, and Waalaa….you make your investor’s money back…and hopefully you put some in your pocket. Today, it seems that is the old man’s way of doing it. If I were to rely on that method, it would be equivalent to putting all my savings into buying lottery tickets. Times have changed. And keep changing. Every day. How do we, as independent filmmakers, keep up?
Many people are running to Netflix and VOD. Is that a better option? Or an addition to the film festival route? So far, I haven’t heard any positive reviews about Netflix experiences. Maybe you know someone who has? VOD seems to be a positive route, but does your film have enough hype around it for VOD to be useful. For that matter, millions are making movies all the time, so how are ours going to stick out of the crowd?
I keep going back to the potential of proper use of the internet. The majority of people are on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE going to the theater, but marketing usually hits me online. Maybe the best route today is finding your niche audience online. Let them enjoy your film.
Thomas Woodrow, the producer of the film Bass Ackwards, came up with one of the first creative distribution solutions after failure to get distribution from a successful festival run. Said Woodrow, “We knew that the only one thing Sundance guaranteed us was a tremendous amount of publicity, a chance for people to hear about the film and to be curious about it. We also knew that we had an anti-commercial film, difficult to market, without an obvious target audience outside of the people that go to film festivals. We knew we had virtually no chance for traditional pick-up, and imagined that if we did things the regular way and waited for other companies to come to us, we’d probably see ourselves on IFC’s digital platform six months later, and nothing else.
We also knew that we had spent so little on the film that we could afford to take risks,” he continues. So we decided to just go for the jugular and to use the publicity generated by Sundance to release the film directly to the audience. We knew we couldn’t wait until people forgot about the Sundance press, so we decided to launch the film as wide as possible immediately after the Festival, meaning February 1st…one day after the Festival concluded.”
After spending $15,000 for the Sundance release, the team also made preparations for the aftermath of the release. Theatrical bookings were being made to run immediately following Sundance. Digital platforms were being armed with the film so that people could see it as soon as they heard about it. DVD release was scheduled immediately after the festival with Amazon.com on pre-orders to ship on Feb 1. Cable VOD was coordinated to work immediately after the Feb 1 release, except it ended up being pushed back 1 month.
For more detail on Bass Ackwards.
Bass Ackwards was the first to take the step into the unknown. Now things have changed considerably, but at least Woodrow made $35K back on his film. Better than nothing. Maybe it was worth it, maybe not.
Curt Hahn, director and producer of the film Deadline, took a unique approach. The film is about two investigative reporters so felt they could get support of the newspaper industry for this movie. Major newspapers hosted premieres of the film in their cities. Not only did they write stories, but they also promoted the film in their ad space, $700,000 worth. They took this grassroots approach and traveled in a tour bus to 46 different premieres in 46 cities. They set up a red carpet every night, which is a big deal in smaller cities and towns. Television stations covered it as well. Genius!
For the interview with Curt Hahn.
For more on the film, visit their website: deadlinefilm.com.
So, what is the best method for you to distribute your film today? I believe that is entirely up to you and your creativity, and how much involvement you want in the distribution process. There is no harm in going the traditional route if you want to hand the job over to someone else. You may not make as much money as you would have several years ago, but you never know.
IF you want to get creative with it, get out there and study study study BEFORE you make your film. If you’ve already made it, it’s never too late to start studying now. Develop your own method, mix and match, pull from other ideas, whatever you have to do to make it happen. There is help in sites built specifically to teach, such as Film Specific who helps in all areas from packaging your film to distribution, or something I found recently on indiemoviemaking.com called Distribber.
It seems somewhat pricey to me, but maybe others have had much success out of it. Has anyone used this before or know someone who has?
I am in the process of piecing together a distribution plan for our “secret” project. It’s not really secret, we are just in the VERY early stages of development and don’t want to release any details until we are further along. I will post details of any projects that have used distribution methods that I find intriguing as I do my research. If you know of any interesting methods, please comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.
Also feel free to make any additions or comments about anything in this article or anything completely random!
Ingen’s out.