Further Lessons On Distribution

Dreams-Selection-2013-Black-Border2

First up: we’re going to Buffalo next week! Found In Time will make its New York State premiere at the Buffalo Dreams Film Festival!
WHERE: Dipson Theaters, Amherst I-III, 3500 Main St., Buffalo NY
WHEN: Tuesday, November 12th @ 4:30pm
TIX: Hit up the official website for tickets and schedule info.

So you’ve finished your film! That’s great. Got distribution! Awesome! Are you done? Nope. Not by a long shot. In today’s world, it’s incumbent on the filmmaker, not the distributor, to pull the audience in. Not that distributors have stopped doing that, exactly… rather, it’s that they really don’t have much incentive to do so for your film. They’re working with the old models, of “how do I push this onto an audience.” Their tools are casting and/or genre. The new model is “how do I pull the audience toward the film.” This is more exciting in some ways – we can, maybe, finally, kinda, sorta, get beyond the “star” mentality which, as Ted Hope predicted (back in 1995) would wreck the indie film world. But it also puts more pressure on filmmakers, many of whom (myself included) got into this field because we didn’t want to “buy, sell or process anything” but rather MAKE things that other people more skilled than us would then buy and sell and process.

This is part of the dilemma of making films in today’s world. You have to keep working on them after you’re “done.” The past year or so has been one of non-stop anxiety for me, as I’ve waited for each festival, sales agent, and distributor acceptance/rejection email. The hours that I’ve spent adding reviews to the website, updating the key art, burning screener DVDs, keeping the Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn feeds alive, and reaching out to schools, theaters, conventions, festivals, review sites, etc. is all time that I could have put toward my next project. And before you say “get an intern to do it,” what, exactly would keep an intern working on this for more than a week? While I have an overall strategy I’m still making this up as I go. I’d still have to do the research before I told said intern who/what to contact. I’d have to approve the line art. So what’s the time savings?

Also, I think it’s actually good to see a project through this stage. For one thing, you’ll learn how to reach out to audiences, how the distribution game works, and whether the film even fits where you initially thought it did. I initially thought I had a fantasy/indie art-house film on my hands, but it’s found it’s greatest success among sci-fi/horror fans and sci-fi-related film festivals. So I’m steered away from calling it a fantasy and emphasized the sci-fi aspects of the film. I’m also starting to target sci-fi conventions, meetup groups, and clubs – they’re my fan base, and I’m trying to reach out to them through event screenings and special Q&As.

I’m also building tools for the next project – an intake procedure for the dozens of business cards I end up with after each festival; a distribution/promotion database that will cut down on the time spent writing cover letters and make tracking screeners and phone calls easier; a more efficient method for producing “behind-the-scenes” clips and interviews; a tool for generating eblasts without having to hand-code everything; and so on. If you can leverage your experience on one film, then the next one will, in theory, go smoother.

LESSONS LEARNED

A few things I’ve learned during this process:

  • It’s never too early to put your deliverables together. I should have cut the last two behind-the-scenes interviews and the DVD commentary together long before the distribution deal came through. Ditto with revising the DVD sleeve art. On the other hand, the poster art, stills, trailer, and almost everything else was just about ready to go.
  • Reach out to your peeps. Once you have a distribution deal (and it’s okay to announce it), drop an email to the folks at the festivals you played at. Let them know what’s going on. Do the same with the cast and crew. Once you have a street date, send another one. If the festivals have an email blast, ask if you can advertise in it, so people can go and buy your DVD/stream your film when it comes out.
  • Don’t wait to figure out your e-commerce site. I’m still experimenting with the right WordPress plug-in but I feel like I’ve got it down to one of three. These take time to set up and experiment with so don’t wait until after you get your first sell-through DVD shipment. People will want to buy your film right away if they can.

Well, that’s it for now. By next month, we will hopefully have a street date for Found In Time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *