Film Festival Marketing Musts

Congratulations! Your film got into a film festival! Next stop: the Oscars.

Ok, maybe not. But there’s plenty to get excited about when you’re headed to a film festival. And there are plenty of ways to ensure you’ve checked every box on the Festival Marketing Musts checklist below. Covering these bases is the best way to get local audiences interested in your film and keep them in the loop for its future success, too.

Image - FF Mktg Musts.png

Email Capture

In the world of digital marketing, the only dependable connection is an email address. All the Facebook fans and Twitter followers in the world could go away tomorrow if those services decided to start charging per post. But if you’ve got their email address, you can always reach them. Include an email capture field or pop-over on your website, and circulate a pen and sign-up form at every screening. Then, you know, use them. Send updates about screenings, great reviews, awards and any exciting news about the movie as it happens.

Resource: MailChimp is the clear leader in this space, with easy-to-use features and loads of integrations. Also, free!

Social Media

A no-brainer, you’re probably already on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Also consider Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube and any channel that makes sense for your film (though don’t overdo it - you have to keep up all those accounts!). Go the extra mile and establish a content strategy, a plan you’ll be grateful for when screenings and events really start to pick up. Use a simple spreadsheet to plan out the kinds of content you can share - behind-the-scenes images, teaser clips, press coverage - and when. 

And don't forget to include your social media profiles on all your marketing materials! Like the film website's URL, you'll want to always make sure people know where to find the film on their favorite platform.

Resource: Use this handy Editorial Calendar Template to help plan out your social media strategy.

Niche Outreach

Once your screenings are scheduled, get to work researching the region for niche organizations and media outlets that align with your film. Every movie has a niche, and tapping into it to find local audiences can make all the difference. Art documentary? Contact the local art museums. Coming of age story about a Polish immigrant? Reach out to the Polish-American groups in the area. A simple email making them aware of the film festival and your film can open the door to extra promotion and new audiences.

Your outreach would look something like this:

  • Festival selection! Celebrate!
  • Research, research, research. You’re looking for local organizations, community groups, even stores and restaurants that fit with the themes and subject of your film
  • First contact, including a simple introduction, a link to the trailer and social profiles, plus festival showtimes if you have them.
  • Second contact, probably when tickets are on sale. Ask if they’ll let you come by with postcards or a mini-poster.
  • Third contact, just before the screening. Don’t pester, but send a friendly reminder that it’s the last chance to see a film they’re sure to enjoy!

Resource: Google, plus the local film office.

Group Sales

With that door open, go in for the kill. That is, the sale. First confirm with the festival their group sales policies, and then put them to work with your outreach. Single ticket sales are amazing, but promoting the discounts included in bringing a group is a win/win: they get the break on tickets, you get more butts in seats. (And don’t forget to pass around that email sign-up sheet!)

Resource: Your festival contact for policy info, and a great sales pitch (see above).

Community Calendars

When you’re screening in a new city, Google is your new best friend. A quick search for “[city name] community calendar” will reveal a laundry list of options for listing your film screenings with tourism offices, local news stations and micro-local websites. Some may require a simple sign-up to post your listing, but it’s worth it. The more places you can share that your film is screening, the better.

Resource: has sites for communities all over the country.

Postcards and Mini-Posters

If you plan on being at the festival a day or two before your screening, consider using an online service to get a quantity of postcards and mini-posters (11x14) printed and distribute them to coffee shops, book stores, libraries and other public venues near the festival. These can also always go out at the theater, but remember, the goal is to get people to the film. Once they’re there, shift your focus to the long-term connection so they’ll tell their friends in the next town to check you out.

Resource: Use Canva to create a great piece, then a site like VistaPrint to print on a budget.

These ideas just scratch the surface of the marketing potential at film festivals. There’s always more that can be done, and creative ways to do it. Think about what makes your film unique and play off that. Got a story about a washed-up jazz musician getting back in the game? Launch a pop-up free concert at a spot near the theater to generate buzz.

A solid strategy takes advantage of the many layers available even on a budget, since it’s the combination of all of them that makes an impact. For instance, email address capture is always integrated into the most effective campaigns, from the website to your mini-posters and everything in between. If you keep at it, before you know it, you’ll have thousands of actual, real-life people who want to hear from you when you have news about your film.

Incorporating these marketing musts is a sure-fire way to get the ball rolling and fill the theaters where your film is headed.

This is the fourth in a series of articles by Lisa Trifone, a longtime veteran of film festivals and marketing for the independent film industry. Here's the full list of articles:

Part 1: Press Kit Essentials
Part 2: Five Reasons Your Press Release Sucks
Part 3: When to Start Marketing Your Film
Part 4: Film Festival Marketing Musts
Part 5: Do I Need a Film Publicist?

Looking for custom marketing ideas for your film? Contact Lisa Trifone at 11th Street Lot Marketing & Publicity