In my experience, marketing or publicity is often ignored in an independent film’s production budget. Are Producers thinking it's just something for the Sales Agent or Distributor to worry about? Well.. that will come back to bite you. Marketing is a critical component needed to deliver the movie to its audience at all stages of its life-cycle, lasting from pre-production right the way through to home consumption.
Here's five reasons (plus a little bonus) why filmmakers need to be involving a marketing resource from the very start.
1. How do you want the film to be seen?
Marketing is the liaison between the outside world and your film. Crafting the film's image from the start is crucial in the audience-building process. And that audience varies throughout the life-cycle. Initially you may just be looking to get a Director on board. Latterly you could be self-distributing and having to position your film to a cinema-going audience. In between you will always need something that can be passed on to third parties that reflects the film the way you want it seen. Having marketing materials ready and positioned the way you want them is essential.
2. Who is going to collect and manage the assets?
Deliverables: stills, behind the scenes images and footage, press kits - the all-important materials that must be made available to the studio, sales reps, festival or distributor or that Producers need themselves in order to move the production forward. The person best placed to create these things is someone who has lived and breathed every frame. Is that a Producer? Yes undoubtedly, but are they trying to juggle a hundred things to get a film made or focused primarily on ensuring that every deliverable is ready in a timely manner and is deployed as effectively as possible?
And what about all the other material that is created throughout the production and on to distribution? Viral clips, social media posts and images, special interviews, b-roll from a particular location, material for strategic partners, press and catalogue information, trailers and posters?
Someone needs to not only create it all... with a purpose in mind... but to keep track of all these assets, fulfill all agreements and effectively market the film going forward.
3. Who manages the process on set?
Stills photographers and videographers should be capturing, editing and uploading great images and have a good working relationship with the 1st AD and the Director to get those shots. They shouldn't be having to deal with with producers, talent agents or studios as well. And who tells them what to shoot (and what not to shoot)? An an on-set marketeer will know which shots are priorities because s/he knows what will be important in later marketing efforts. They know what promotional partners will need and ensure opportunities are not missed.
Marketing and publicists field the communication from media, fans, local community organizations, film commissions, etc. Can you juggle getting journalists on set to interview actors, a councilperson making an official visit to the set and a special photo shoot? And, by being a part of the production with daily access to the set and filmmakers, a unit publicist/marketeer is not only able to schedule opportunities effectively, they share anecdotes with media or VIPs during or following production, cultivating their interest in the movie and placing the project firmly on their radar.
And who is troubleshooting? Things happen throughout the film-making process that are unforeseen and that could result in good or bad outcomes. Marketing fields the phone calls and issues statements, disseminates the “party line” to cast and crew, puts a lid on misinformation, finesses the opportunity…and takes the hit for any fall-out.
4. Are you a marketing expert?
A Producer is a conductor, bringing all sorts of skilled elements together in a magical creative process. Marketing is one of those elements. There's quite enough to do in making a film without a Producer having to manage a 24 x 7 x 365 social media presence, prep posts, develop an outreach schedule and manage social media assets; know what materials will work with the audience... and when... and then deliver them appropriately; communicate (or know when to not communicate) with the media (and which media to communicate with); get interviews, quotes and write a knowledgeable press kit with exciting nuggets of information that media will pick up on; prepare sales/festival/distribution assets; design a poster and cut a trailer that speaks to an audience that has already been cultivated and identified.
It's all part of creating the finished package that is your film and making sure it's messaging is targeting the right people at the right time, building a momentum that ensures you have an audience already in place when you go to your first festival or get picked up for distribution. In fact it could be the reason you get picked up for distribution in the first place.
5. You are saving money in the long run
Filmmakers often spend several years getting the film made without giving a thought to developing the basic marketing materials that will help secure distribution. What does it say about a film if no publicity materials were developed during production and that the available assets do not adequately describe the making of the film, its target audience, or the information needed to develop its marketing campaign?
Bad materials won’t get used. It’s a competitive world and you are fighting for air with hundreds of other productions. A well-written log line might get you a meeting with a sales agent, but a screen capture won’t get you that 4 page behind the scenes spread that tells an audience about your film.
Being upfront about engaging marketing expertise is a cost that is small compared to all other production outlays and can significantly increase the odds of recovering your initial investment. If you have to go back to recreate assets it adds a cost far in excess of what it would have at the time. And how many times have Producers seen their anticipated revenues swallowed up by "marketing costs" from Agents and Distributors for things they have no control over?
And finally... A legacy is a terrible thing to preclude. Who knows if your first time actor is a future Star of Tomorrow? (It's happened to me.) Ensure that your film will have the materials to support its legacy. You owe it to yourself and to show your grandchildren.