Tonight at midnight Hunter Weeks and Mike Dion launch a 2711 minute free access to their film “Ride the Divide” on You Tube to coincide with LiveStrong Day on October 2nd. The film is about three riders as they traverse the 2711 miles of the continental divide from Banff Canada to the Mexican border. I wanted to write about this film because of the smart use of free online content – the limited access actually creates an online event around which the filmmakers can generate publicity (this will actually be the subject of a later post.
In addition, I have a personal interest in the film because as Hunter told me, their strategy was kickstarted when I live workshopped the Slamdance Filmmaker Summit this past January. In that workshop I walked them through developing a distribution and marketing strategy (with the participation of the audience) based on the system that I developed for filmmakers in Think Outside the Box Office. I enjoyed that workshop so much, I then incorporated it into nearly all the workshops that I have done since then.
In my interview with Hunter on Tuesday, he was very revealing about the success of their film – in real dollars – which is very rare these days. Everything I want to say about this film won’t all fit into one post – so this will be Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 and 3 next week.
Here is the approach we took in Park City (and one that I use for all of my workshops):
1. Determine your goals. It was interesting that Hunter and Mike did not realize that they had conflicting goals for their release until I asked them what they were (I suggest all teams get on the same page – it is vital to keep your release focused and on track!). Hunter wanted to launch another film (Career), Mike wanted to earn enough money to repay the investors and perhaps turn a profit (Money). They chose to go for the money. In fact because of their subsequent focus on this goal, they have paid back their investor, garnerned a lot of attention, both of which will help Hunter launch his next project (although he “left a couple jobs on the on the table over the past year to focus on the release.”)
2. Audience Identification. This is the next crucial step in the distribution and marketing of any film (ideally started from as close to inception as possible). We identified two main niche audiences to focus on: 1. Bike Enthusiasts. The super core of this niche would be people who actually participate in the Tour de Divide race. The next layer out would be mountain bike enthusiasts. The next layer (secondary audience) to reach out to – would devoted bike enthusiasts. The large outer tertiary layer of this audience would be people who live life to the fullest, embrace a positive lifestyle. As they left Slamdance, Hunter decided that they had to reach out to Lance Armstrong. (more on this later) (Another related niche to this was People who are involved in endurance contests of one kind or another – but Hunter and Mike decided smartly to focus on bikers)
The second niche audience we identified at the workshop was geographical: People who lived along the Continental Divide, eg the communities along the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico. The core of this niche are those communities who live along the race route itself. A supercore are bike enthusiasts who live along the continental divide. (totally fine to use two ways of looking at audience to identify a core or super core).
3. Audience engagement – Partnerships. It was clear from the start that their niche audiences (especially the first) would be organized into groups – and it would make a lot of sense to partner with these groups to get the word out to their niche. This was tremendously successful for Ride the Divide as they engaged a two prong strategy: 1) National organizations for awareness and 2) local organizations to promote specific events and screenings (more on this in the 2nd post)
Their list of national organizations is impressive: LiveStrong. SmartWool. People for Bikes. Adventure Cycling Association. Siren Bicycles. Spot. Ergon.
Note that Hunter and Mike approached working with these organizations with a win win scenario in mind. Not only does the film speak to these audiences constituencies, but Ride the Divide partnered with Livestrong so that from 9/22 to 10/2, they are donating 50% of proceeds from DVD, Blu-Ray and iTunes sales to LIVESTRONG. This gives an incentive for the consumer to buy the film – because it is not just a film, it is a cause! Note that they give 50% of the profits to LiveStrong – not 5% or 10%. In addition, this motivates the partners to help the film.
Next up: Live Events!