Got an idea for a film? Time to start marketing it.
Got a script? Time to start marketing it.
Got a rough cut? Yep, it’s time.
Got a date for your world premiere? Definitely time to start marketing the thing.
Wherever you are in the production or release of your film, you should already be marketing it. Build your audience now so when you announce that first screening, they’re all clamoring to buy tickets. After all, making a film is only half the battle. The other half is finding people who want to see it.
Below are various stages of production and a few ideas for how you can get word out about your film.
Pre-production / Kickstarter
If you’ve just started sharing your idea with producers, you’re already marketing. Every time you’re sharing the concept, you’re refining how you talk about it and how you sell it. You’re convincing people to want to see the movie. Take note of what works and what doesn’t, and plan on incorporating this into your future marketing materials, like your press kit and the film’s website.
Planning a Kickstarter to help fund your project? Great! That’s a built in audience, people who've raised their hand and opened their wallet to actually invest, they’re so excited about your movie. Be consistent and informative with your updates, and use this engagement to encourage followers on Facebook, Twitter and any other social media platform you plan to use. These backers are also your the start of your email marketing list, audiences you can reach directly via their inbox.
Whether it’s you, a producer or your brother-in-law, assign someone to be your social media eyes and ears during production. Their main task? Snap the super cool behind-the-scenes stories and happenings on set to share with those early adopters already interested in the film. Tease out character photos, storyboards, anything that might be of interest to people who don’t spend their time on film sets.
BONUS: Social Media Hot Tips
Pick a hashtag, and make it unique. #doomsday could mean anything. #doomsdayfilm is better. #ddayhorrorfilm is unique enough that you can be sure anyone using it is part of your conversation.
Become a social media pro with a few fast tools, including a business page for Facebook (which offers scheduling and insight capabilities), Tweetdeck to schedule and monitor tweets and Later to plan out Instagram posts.
Draft a simple editorial calendar and plan out what you’d like to post. Here’s a template in Google Sheets.
Set aside a few hundred bucks for promoting your Facebook page and key Tweets. These days, it's pay-to-play on these platforms, and by focusing your advertising audience and budget, you can drum up some great exposure for not a lot of coin.
Canva is a free, user-friendly design website perfect for crafting sharp and shareable social images and graphics.
It’s also smart to think about future marketing during production. Review your shooting schedule and select a few days to bring in a photographer, ideally during key scenes. Having great film stills will go a long way in promotions down the road. If you’re planning any kind of digital or physical release (Blu-ray or DVD), consider setting aside time for cast and crew interviews to use later as bonus material.
Once the film is coming together, work on the look and feel of the marketing. What will the title treatment look like? The film poster? Will you use a tagline? Draft up your press kit, and use that exercise as your time to refine the tone of the film, whether it’s “a nuanced dark comedy infused with a modern sensibility” or “a hilarious romp through the world of competitive coin-flipping.” This tone should permeate every piece of your marketing, including the trailer, which you should be cutting at this point, too. Keep your existing audience engaged with timely updates on your progress (“Finished color correction today!”).
As you build out these materials, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Sometimes the way you plan to talk about your film doesn’t work with audiences, and it’s better to find out sooner rather than later. In my work with the Oscar-shortlisted documentary Meru, we went through several iterations of the key art before we found something that balanced the scale of the film (about a team of climbers who are the first to summit the titular mountain) with its humanity. It wasn’t until we started getting input from others that we knew we had to keep refining.
Your first public screening is a huge deal. Don’t let poor marketing keep it from being anything but amazing. As soon as the screening is confirmed, hit the ground running with announcements and outreach. If you’ve hired a film publicist, they’ll alert the press and start securing reviews and interviews. Consider creating a content calendar that leads up to the big day with countdowns, special content and even giveaways for sharing or reaching a milestone with followers.
Purchasing ads in local media can be expensive and, honestly, not always effective. Instead, use an online printer to create postcards and mini-posters you can distribute at coffee shops, libraries and other public spaces near the premiere venue. Check out a more exhaustive list of marketing musts here for even more ways to get the word out about your film.
Being an independent filmmaker often means wearing many hats at once. You’re director, producer, script supervisor, caterer...and you’ve got to be great at all of them. In the controlled chaos, don’t forget to put on your marketing hat. Every stage of making your film is a chance to connect with and build your audience, and it’s never too early to start.
This is the third 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:
Want a custom marketing plan for your film? Contact Lisa Trifone at 11th Street Lot Marketing and Publicity