In this final installment of The Industry Newbie series, I am going to review the key principles that you should know about marketing, distribution, and press for your project. Please note that as with post-production, these are not my areas of expertise. However, I am including these topics in this series because it is important to be aware that in many cases your project does not end with the completion of the film deliverables. You have created the project for a reason—to show to industry contacts as a sample of your acting/directing/writing/producing work, to build an audience for your next project, to gain press attention for your skill set, to be seen at a particular festival, to share with your next project’s potential investors as an example of your work, or any number of other reasons. To get the most bang for your buck (that ‘buck’ includes your and your cast and crew’s time, effort, money, blood, sweat, and tears to make the project), you will want to get the project out into the world and not just sitting on a drive in your room. And this is where marketing, distribution, and press (or public relations, aka PR) come in.
Q: When Should I Start Thinking about Marketing, Distribution, and Press?
A: The moment you start working on your project. Because this is your first project, you probably will not know exactly how you want to market your project when you first start working on it. However, you should have these steps in mind from the beginning so that as you progress through the various stages of production, your plan can take shape and you can start preparing.
It is also important to note that you will want to set aside a portion of your budget for marketing and distribution efforts. In particular, this will often include film festival submission costs.
Q: What are the Key Principles I Should Know about Marketing, Distribution, and Press?
A: Marketing – The key with marketing is to know the audience for your project. Is it 20-something artists figuring out their lives or 50-something sci-fi geeks looking for their next escape? Your audience can be anyone, but identifying it early on is the key to driving your marketing efforts. Knowing your audience helps you make decisions about characters and story, target investors, shape the production, set the tone for your social media, and guide your press efforts. Once you know your audience, you can research where these communities get their film content, build and enhance your connections in those communities, and become a part of those channels, so those people can help you raise awareness, money, resources, and eventually viewership.
Distribution – There are many resources out there for learning about distribution options. Please research them as again, this is an area where I have only minimal experience. The key principle I want to highlight is that where you plan to distribute can affect the development of your project. HBO’s content is very different from Netflix’s. A theatrical release will have different requirements from an online one. Some online platforms specialize in certain kinds of content and may be a perfect fit to get your project attention, despite having a smaller audience. The earlier you know what your distribution goal is, the better you can make decisions about where to spend your time and money, what tone the project and its marketing collateral should have, what your social media should look like, and ultimately what kind of project you need to create in order to get the kind of distribution you want.
Press – Media outlets are constantly looking for content and press is a wonderful way to get attention for your project. The key principles to remember are that recent or upcoming events are the primary hook to get press, and you should plan for a four- to eight-week lead time to get an item published. So, whenever anything new happens on the project (e.g. a key cast or crew member joins, a particular stage of production begins or is completed, the project wins a grant) or whenever an event is upcoming (e.g. a live or online launch), you can write a press release and reach out to media outlets. Contact them early during development because typically by the time a project is completed all of the newsworthy events are old and not ‘news’ anymore. To learn more about how to get press for your project, I highly recommend Tammy Lynn’s blog at Spotlight PR Company.
There is so much more to learn about producing projects, but my goal has been to help make your first experience smoother, let you know it is beyond okay not to know everything (no one ever does), and take the fear out of jumping in and getting your project made. I really hope you have enjoyed this Industry Newbie series. Now go out and make some art!