Film Independent Tue 2.11.2014

FIND ANSWERS: How to Successfully Market Your Indie Film

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“Oh, how times have changed” when it comes to marketing budgets, says Liz Ogilvie, Director of Marketing Programs at Fandor. Here, Ogilvie shares her expertise on putting together a budget, a team and a plan for getting the word out about your film. Prior to Fandor, Ogilvie founded the marketing agency CrowdStarter, where she worked on release campaigns for a wide range of distribution companies. She has worked in executive roles at Tribeca Film, B-Side Entertainment and New Video Group and serves on the IFP Advisory Board.

How much should I budget for marketing for my $1M film and should it be in place at the onset of pre-production?
Traditionally, feature films have the same amount of money spent on marketing (commonly called “P&A,” which is short for “prints and advertising”) as the budget of the film. If a film cost $1 million to make, then the rule of thumb was to spend $1 million on marketing for a theatrical release. The marketing budget would include theatrical prints, print shipping, a laundry list of advertising (e.g. print, digital, outdoor, radio and TV), advertising materials and all the expenses associated with PR, including publicists, materials and screenings. Oh how times have changed! That marketing “nut” does not have to be in place at the onset of production, but depending on the goals you have identified for the life of your film—whether it’s a multiple city traditional theatrical release or a limited release with revenue generated by community screenings—this “nut” can be dramatically reduced.

In the current marketplace, who are the key people I need to enlist to successfully market my film? What are their roles and how much can I expect to spend on each?
Depending on the release strategy that you have identified for your film, the team will vary, but a few key roles are essential. A social media guru who knows, understands and keeps abreast of the social media landscape is essential ($25-$50 an hour), a grassroots outreach and screening consultant ($3,000-$5,000 a month), a webmaster (upfront costs can run anywhere from $1,000-$2,000 with an hourly update fee (about $60 an hour) as you add functionality, a graphic designer ($60-$100 per hour) and a reputable and experienced publicist who could charge anything from $3,000-$10,000 a month, usually with a three-month minimum. A few enthusiastic interns are always great to have of course.

Create a timeline for your marketing efforts and plan the length of time that you will need your team for. They will be working before any distribution kicks and you have to budget for that time.

My independent film is going to be premiering at a major U.S. film festival in the coming months. What assets are essential to market a low-budget film these days? Do I need a poster, key art, a website, a trailer, etc.?
Regardless if the film is low-budget or not, the following assets are crucial to a successful festival premiere: a trailer, a website, an EPK (electronic press kit) and a poster. The EPK should include good production stills—these are so important as they are a key way to sell and position your film—and a well-written synopsis. Don’t forget the director photo (No sunglasses! This will live eternally online and in the festival program book). The website can be basic but should include a key image, social media icons, contact info and a sign-up area; Build that mailing list and audience from day one. The website can be developed as the film builds momentum at other film festivals and beyond. The poster art does not have to be a masterpiece but should include the credit block and the website URL. Since it will be fly-posted around the film festival it all adds to building awareness.

When conceiving the campaign for my film, how should I be involved in developing an audience for my film and for my career?
From day one of the initial idea for your film, you should start thinking about the audience and who will want to watch, buy, download and share your film. You do not need to execute this yourself, but it is important to have a grasp of the initial audiences (yes, plural) for your film. I can’t emphasize enough the value of an active mailing list and by keeping them informed and engaged. They will help promote your film by word-of-mouth. Much of this audience spends a great deal of time online and that social media guru will be key to strategizing, targeting and capturing that audience for your film. Think of your audience as your fan base (you are the rock star!) who will want to follow you from film to film and support you throughout your career.

 By Lee Jameson / Film Education Coordinator 

  • Suzanne Taylor

    I’m surprised there aren’t a lot of applause for this compendium of essential info. I’ve spent hours in workshops to tease out pieces of this content. Wish I’d had this when I made my movie — it’s a gift for any first time filmmaker.

  • Mickey Cottrell

    Hi Liz…

    So good to see your spirited AND highly comprehensive breakdown of the required Marketing elements of an indie film preparing to debut in a major film fest. There are a couple of things I’d also include. As a film publicist, I’d add to the EPK, the need for the open letter from the filmmaker, Filmmaker’s Comments (aka the high-falutin Director’s Statement, which I don’t prefer), wherein the whys and wherefores of making the film can resonate and in addition, Bios of key cast and crew. Variety and THR also require more extensive cast and crew listings. For cast there should also be a breakdown of top speaking roles, actor and correspondent character name. In addition to a medium length Synopsis, there are the logline (a pithy sentence describing the plot), but also a Brief Synopsis (200 words), which can help a fest program “get it right” without too much work and a Full Synopsis (500 to 1000 words depending on the complexity of the story and secondary plotlines). I’d also note that “Production Stills” usually refers to behind the scenes coverage of the film in production with actors casually or intensely between scenes as well as before a running camera you may see in the foreground or rehearsals or at “lunch”, which is the main meal, served whenever the shooting day reaches it halfway point, day or night. A small handful of these is fine, though these are not essential. The Still Set is the essence of the story’s images, 6-8 is fine, remembering that a publication usually only runs one photo from the film, so any one of these should say enough about the film as is really needed as well as in an eye-catching manner. Unless a secondary character is unusually pivotal, your few shots from the film should be only of your principals, in most cases only your leads. Additional photos can always be provided of secondary characters if the media requests for an interview or other focus given someone other than the leads.

    Love to LIZ!!

  • Stephanie B

    Having LITERALLY just premiered my feature INVERSE at the 39th Boston Sci-Fi Festival I WISH I’d had this article 3 weeks ago. However, I’m pleased to say that we were doing much of what Liz recommends. This additional comment from Mickey is also fantastic as the one thing we’ve been struggling with is our EPK. Thanks for sharing all this important information!

  • Marshal Hunter

    I’ve been in the production business for 13 years now.
    This is the most straight forward blog post I’ve ever read about movie marketing!

  • Bobby Washington

    Awesome info, this will help me with my new film STEEL CHAMBER. You can check out the trailer at

  • Jordan

    Twitter and Facebook have dramatically enhanced the grassroots marketing efforts that a filmmaking team can do. No substitute for a great, spirited PR professional, but you can generate some buzz. In my case, even sales.