Film Independent Tue 2.11.2014

FIND ANSWERS: How to Successfully Market Your Indie Film

“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