Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Film Marketing / PR Tips and Tricks


On the "Big Monster TV" post, Nanny, one of our viewers stated:

"Your film is such an inspiration to so many people for its special effects, storytelling, and acting on low budget. However, no one seems to point out your greatest talent of marketing the film when it was done. Lots of fan films are made year in and year out. You somehow got a tidal wave of press (free, I assume).On a future post, could you detail the tactics and steps you took to get the word out about your film? Three million downloads for a free product in a few months time is an amazing feat. "

So this post is for you Nanny, and anyone else out there that wants my insight on press, PR and marketing your film, as Nanny makes a good point. Yes our PR and marketing was FREE.

Now that being said as I started to write this post in helping explain marketing and so forth for film I started writing here pages and pages of info and realized this was to much for a blog, and I didn't want to bore you to much and I am sure you guys do not want to read for the length of a bible on the subject. Perhaps I should write a book on it and my experience to share with everyone. I don't know what do you think?
Anyway, I tend to ramble so I will try and just condense ideas and thoughts for you to hopefully be useful and not to damn long.

So, the first point, and let not kid our self, the biggest advantage "Revelations" has in marketing and PR appeal is the fact it's Star Wars! You say these two words and people come out of the woodwork. This includes the media and press . This already has a huge advantage over your film say, "Killer Bunnies from Hell"

Second, I intentionally for a marketing strategy Premiered "Revelations" in a big venue right before the release of the last Star Wars film "Revenge of the Sith" knowing that news would be looking for local interest stories and small lead-in stories that the news does anytime they do a large story like covering Episode III.
Now, what separates "Revelations" for say other star wars films? The product! The end result of the film. "Revelations" is a huge achievement in amateur film making in which to the common man and press it looks almost as close to what Hollywood can do, but for a fraction of the cost. That is news!

I created a marketing hook for "Revelations" of first; it's star wars, its about the little guy doing something big, about a home grown film all made by volunteers from around the world, CG FX done by amateurs with home computer solutions and affordable off-the-shelf software achieving stellar results, and coordinated online in an open source film making approach. These type of statements are news and can appeal to many many different media and press venues such as:

-Internet solutions and providers like Verizon (RESULTS)
- Affordable software solutions: Like Adobe (RESULTS)
- Large news coverage networks doing interest stories and lead-in stories (RESULTS: CNN, CBS, MSNBC)
- Print news covering the phenomenon of the little guy and new film achievements (USA Today, Knight Ridder)
- Online forums and sites looking for quality content and news: (Inside-Report, Theforce.net)
- and even local media coverage like local news and local cable show coverage (RESULTS: CineMaryland)
(just to name a few)

You can go on to forums and news and start to create a grapevine and start pulling people to come look at your site and your film. If it's good people will talk about it, if it's really good people will refer their friends to it, and post it on their sites and blogs and next thing you know you are slash dotted (we were twice.. if you don't know what this is read here. i didn't know what it was till it happened to us)

News monitors the web and have services like a hotline that watches for things that create buzz or stirs. For you the internet is a powerful, useful and FREE tool to do just this for you. But you product HAS TO BE GOOD, or it's moot.

I was also lucky, but it was the product that attracted the press and media as well as the timing of the release right there at the buzz of Star Wars, and the marketing of us presenting ourselves professionally. You do not have to be big and rich to present yourself smart and professional. If you present your product and your production as something that is NOT serious then that is how you will be viewed and perceived. simple as that. And why would someone what to cover it?

You as the producer and director of a film are in most regards the spokesman and salesman for the film. So all excitement, believe in the film and selling it as it is the greatest thing, all has to come from you, and you have to believe in it! Then you have to work to make the sale of what you are showing. It's that simple :)

So look at your film and think about a marketing approach to it. What does it have that sets it a part from other films? Perhaps it's just a really stunning film and ahead of the curve of art and technical advancement. Use that! Maybe it showcases the community and heart and soul of people. make the film appeal to the press and media as something that makes a different to people that gives them hope and courage. Heartstrings are always powerful appeal to the media. You just have to think about news and think like they do. Then find something in your film you can market. Again this starts with the product. If it's not there, then it's not there and your screwed, so maybe your film "Killer Bunnies from Hell" doesn't have anything you can find to market.. hmm there must be something. Perhaps it's the genius market approach like "Blair Witch" in which you market that maybe the killer bunnies are REAL and it's not a movie but a documentary that really happened and the audience can not figure out if these bunnies are just a movie trick or real rabbits from around the world who are killing people for REAL.. people are not safe in their own homes! Well, it could happen LOL
But do not use the "Blair Witch" technique. It was lightning in a bottle and it's been done. Move on and do something new!

So as I can see already from this post it's still getting long despite me trying to keep it short so let me try and throw out more stuff for you as I still have whole bunch more
(maybe I SHOULD write that book!)

Anyway, network! Get your film seen. The best way to get the media attention is create as big of a wave as you can so they CAN NOT miss it. That was one thing we also did with "Revelations"
We used the internet as distribution for the film, and it's free, powerful and very large! Use it. Get your trailer or film show on as many sites as you can. Preferably ones that have large amounts of traffic. There are tons of sites out there needing good content to show. Help them to help you. TheForce.net was a great portal for us, but in the end couldn't even handle the large traffic we create, despite their reassurance that "your little movie will not hurt our bandwidth, we can handle your traffic" LOL

You also use forums, and as many as you can to talk about your film, create hype and interest.

Create a professional website and have features on it that update and are new each week to keep people coming back and getting more and more excited about your film, and inviting their friends to come to your site and "check out what these guys are doing" . Entice them.

Start a video blog about production, or a fanzine with articles and interviews with the film makers and actors. Share with your audience what's going on and involve them in the magic and adventure of your film making. Post pictures of pre-production, production, post-production.
Share snipets of music, of CG animatics.

You can also create your own community on your site. Perhaps start your own forum to the film but offer more then just talk about the film. Give articles and resources about film making, share with the community and your audience how they can do it, how you did it, what others have done. By making a community you create your own in house audience and fanbase.

Start a newsletter from your website and people who sign up for this you create a database. Before you know it you have a large mailing list established in which you can get news released to your fans and followers quickly which in turn will pass it along, and it creates a snowball. Eventually if you can you soon have a roaring avalanche of press, media and hype pouring down behind you film!

Another element to add are press kits. This is when your film is actually done and you have created beautiful DVD covers and art along with a creative DVD menu on the disk, you add in quality stills or promo shots from the film, perhaps a 8X10 poster of the film, a professional letter, and maybe other media and press articles who are praising your film, you then package that up in a nice presentation and send it to other studios of interest, & press and media. A press kit is something the large studios do and you are no different. In fact you can do better then the big budget film press kits, as they are usually not the impressive. It's like they do not even take the time with them, but it is something they have to do.

(a word of caution: Hype is good and all but it is a double edge sword. When you create hype people set an expectation so vast and huge nothing could come close to what is in their mind, and in the end they will feel betray by you and disappointed.) Some felt this way with "Revelations" but the funny thing is that I didn't create the hype, I got the ball started in saying, "hey check out what we are doing" and "come see our trailer" but people then started hyping it for us, people I don;t even know and then it created a wildfire I didn't even know about. And then you have those snobby people who if anything is hyped they frown or turn their over scifi/fantasy cultured nose up at it. "The Matrix" is a great example of that. Buy hype is good just be careful and a good technique is to down play the hype but let it resume. If someone states "Killer Bunnies from hell is the be all end all film of all time!!" come back and say " come on guys, it's not all that! We are proud of it but it's still just a small independent film made by people just like you. We are no different. 'Killer Bunnies' is something we hope you will enjoy but let's not make it something it's not. It is what it is, and thanks for the support" be modest and appreciate.

Word of mouth is the strongest force and even big advertisers know this, plus word of mouth is free, but hard to establish. Again your product does this and the way you have presented it to people.

Go to conventions that has an appeal to your film subject. Ours was Star Wars .. scifi so we attended many conventions meeting fans, giving panels, having a table to show the trailer and market our film, give out business cards (BTW, get good quality business cards in a quality card stock weight.. don't print them yourself. but this is just a pet peeve of mine)
This is a great way to talk and meet your audience and also meet other filmmakers or people interested in what you are doing. Plus it's fun!

Network with the pulse of the industry. Just because you are not a professional doesn't mean you can not talk to them. Get feedback from them, network, get your name and your film out there in the stream and it will start to create talk that you do not even know is going on behind close doors (hopefully good talk)

For you if the media and press do not come to you, then you go to them. research papers and news online and see who is writing what, then email them and show them what you are doing. Don't be pushy just do a "hey, just thought this might interest you" and then add in your powerful marketing slant you created for your film like " This film was made purely by Franklin monks and over 3 million people from around the world have converted due to this films affect" or something better than that :)
(we got lucky in which I didn't have to go to the press but they came to me. I think what started the ball rolling was a reporter and now good friend, Tish Wells, who had been following our story and going to our talks and panels for like 2 years, then when it came time to premiere the film she made herself known to me and did a great article. She did the research for two years and she had a good story to tell. This was the first article to come out on our film and I think it was Tish that got the media snowball rolling and I have to thank her for that. She saw something in us and believed in what we were doing enough to do a story on the event. Love ya Tish!
(You can read that first article here)

Studios spend millions on film making and it is a huge business and one that is very important and can make a film much more successful. You can market and get your film better PR without spending millions. The difference is that it take a good deal of energy and time on your part, and there are no guarantees your brilliant plan will work. But I believe with hard work comes great reward, or so the fortune cookies tell me and I have to believe in something!
Hope this helped you guys some (there would be better layout and organization in my book)

Sorry the post came out longer then I had hoped. I guess there is a lot to cover and I still have more. I think this will sufficefor you.

6 comments:

Manny said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Manny said...

Shane,

Wow! Thanks for taking my request on details of marketing your film with such enthusiasim and speed.

You covered a lot of ground. I would love to read your future book on the making of Revelations, including a large section on its marketing. Perhaps it could be the way to re-coup some of the production expenses for the film. A large portion of the people that downloaded the film may also purchse the making of book. Since you had such a large viewing audience, if you sell the book for say $1 each or even less you could make a good sized profit. Of course, if the cost is higher fewer people will purchase it. Given the large number of people that are aware of you I don't think the cost of the book should be made a barrier. I don't believe Lucasfilm could stop you from earning some revenue on a non-fiction book.

for inspiration, I have found others that have made "home grown" movies and documented there experiences in book form. Helmut Kobler made the short film "Radius" and wrote a book about it called Anatomy of a Guerrilla Film: The Making of RADIUS. Graham Robertson made a feature length film "Able Edwards" and wrote a book called Desktop Cinema.

Both films are not perfect, and their makers are the first to point that out. However, I see their films and yours as a turning point for "home grown" filmmakers everywhere.

Kobler spent $60,000 making his film, but used film instead of miniDV. However, he is making his money back via direct DVD sales and book royalties. His book has some great marketing information that anyone could duplicate.

Robertson spent $30,000 making his film, but he is relying on traditional distribution to make his money back (a mistake, I believe). His book also as some decent information on marketing.

Bye the way, my name is Manny and not Nanny as typed in the blog.

Much future success.

Shane Felux said...

Manny, I am glad you like the post and it is my pleasure to try and help. I hope it helps you and any others out there!
Sorry for the mistype on your name but I so liked the name 'Nanny', can we consider it a pet name from me to you? :) otherwise I will correct

Chris Bouchard said...

Hey Shane, Fascinating stuff, very informative - thank you for posting this!

You should most definately write a book on the making of Revelations. I reckon it would sell by the bucket load, you could charge what you want and publishers would be very interested. I know hundreds of film makers who would love to know your secrets.

It could be called "How to make an internationally successful movie in your basement" with chapters on everything from pre-production, shooting, post-production to marketing.

Great stuff!

Manny said...

Shane,

Great news, people are creating new accounts with Blogger just to make comments to your entries. Cool stuff.

To those mysterious people reading this, let Shane hear more encouragment on creating a making-of book.

To clarify my previous post, in keeping with the "home grown" nature of the film by passing over studio money and distribution. The book could be made as a pdf file and distributed directly by you instead of through the traditional distribution channel chosen by the books mentioned. I mainly made mention of those books to give you ideas on orgainizing the information. The Radius book did a particularly good job in that department.

Anyway, however you do it, I think many people would be interested despite there shyness in expressing it in mass here.

Shane Felux said...

Thanks for the encouragment guys and Chris good to hear from you and thanks for the post!!

One thing at a time for me, a book would be fun, but let me finish production that I am in right now on a comedy short, and then who knows what's next. Not enough hours in the day!