Movie marketing is serious business. Effectively marketing your independent film is more important than the blood, sweat, tears and money it takes to make.

There are many possible ways a film will find distribution, but the following assumes that you are marketing and distributing your film yourself.

Planning To Fail

Failure to plan is planning to fail.

I’m sure you’ve all heard this saying, well it is especially true when it comes to marketing your movie, but failing to budget for marketing is budgeting to fail.

Sure, marketing may not be as fun or exciting as shooting your film, and its harder to convince people to financially support marketing efforts than it is to sell them the excitement of a movie set. However if you don’t properly consider your marketing plan, your film will fail.

Art AND Commerce

All of us working outside of the Hollywood studio establishment would enjoy a much healthier and more prosperous industry if the overwhelming obsession we have for “filmmaking” was balanced with “film marketing” as well.

Filmmaking is a business. The majority of independent filmmakers would like to make a living doing what they love.

Yes, the product is hugely important. Content is and will always be king, and for us as narrative storytellers, story itself and the execution of that story visually is of course absolutely critical. No argument there.

However, assuming that we are dealing with excellent product… good, no great stories, well told and delivered to the highest creative and technical standards, then assigning real resources… time and money to market and target that product to as large a potential paying audience as possible is what separates you not only from possible profit, but just breaking even.

In this over-saturated, ultra competitive market place where everything and everyone screams for our attention, even the Hollywood tentpole re-make/sequel factory spends obscene amounts of money marketing a film before they can expect anything back.

You Have No Excuse

Hollywood has A-list actors and cutting edge special effects. I’m guessing you probably don’t.

So why on earth do you think you won’t need to spend a cent marketing your film?

Why, for so many independent film producers is marketing merely an afterthought, something to be thrown together somehow after the film is complete?

We pour everything into raising our precious production budgets just to shoot, without a single line-item dedicated to the months (or years) of full-time dedication required to make effective and strategic use even of the low-cost or “free” platforms and media channels to connect to our audience.

Who is going to do that work?

Who will strategise and analyse, implement, monitor, engage and grow your audience over an extended period of time?

Know Your Limits

Film marketing requires specific skills and knowledge. Do you have what it takes to market your film yourself?

You may have the skills to make a film, maybe even to engage distributors and sales agents, but are you really, honestly equipped to market it yourself? Are you the best person for that task? Do you have the time?

If the answer is yes, then great, you’ll have full control over the destiny of your movie.

If not, nobody with the skills you need is going to work without being paid, and actually, neither should you.

In my experience, many producers don’t budget effectively for post production, let alone thinking beyond simply submitting the completed film to festivals.

Festivals will not magically sell your film. In fact you may receive a soul crushing flood of rejection letters from the major film festivals you really want to be a part of. When a festival does accept your film, they are providing you with an opportunity that you need to leverage as one small part of a much bigger cohesive strategy, they won’t do that for you.

Set Yourself Up For Success

The ultimate success of your film depends on spending real money in the right ways and places to effectively connect your film to your audience.

You have got to be ready to spend money to make money.

In the world of independent film marketing, you may need to assign a considerable percentage of your actual production cost just to marketing your movie. It could be more, it could be less, it really depends on the specific situation. Every film is different.

  1. Taking all of this seriously from the very start will allow you to budget correctly and actually raise the money over and above your production and post budget.
  2. Planning from the beginning will also allow you to leverage the excitement of casting, prep, and production to build momentum and engage a fan base with purpose and strategy as part of a larger cohesive plan.
  3. Don’t be afraid to engage an experienced film marketing professional from the inception of your project to ensure the best chance of success. Listen to them, they know better.

Recommended Resources

I highly recommend a membership to Film Specific and the Startup Filmmaker Blog. Film marketing and distribution for independents is changing and evolving all the time. Film Specific is your source for the most relevant and up to date information.

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