The Gate – 2018 Case Study

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2018 – A Year in a Glimpse

This last year has been busy, busy, busy!    Hot off the presses – we are super excited that one of the projects we have been acting as consulting producer and distribution advisor on, Stuart Swezey’s film debut Desolation Center, just got selected for its US Premiere at Slamdance 2019 following a healthy 2018 international run including CPH:DOX, Sheffield International Doc Fest, Cork, Docx, Dokufest, Indie Lisboa, and more. The feature doc is about a series of Reagan-era guerrilla punk and industrial desert happenings in Southern California which are now recognized as the inspirations for Burning Man, Lollapalooza, and Coachella. Interviews and rare performance footage of Sonic Youth, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Swans and more.

In addition we worked with our first non-film non-profit Next7.org created by one of the co-founders of Food Democracy Now.  We not only advised and helped with the launch of Next7.org but helped run their first campaign Protect Organic.

Not to mention running the marketing and distribution campaigns for a number of other films this year:

Father’s Kingdom, directed by Lenny Feinberg, about the little know civil rights leader Father Divine who declared himself god. 

Generation Zapped, directed by Sabine el Gemayel, on the dangers of cell phone and wifi radiation.

American Visionary, directed by Karen Everett, about the mother of conscious evolution Barbara Marx Hubbard.

The Gate: Dawn of the Baha’i Faith, directed by Bob Hercules, about the origins of the Baha’i faith.

A Case Study The Gate: Dawn of the Baha’i Faith

For the last 6 months, our company has been managing the global release for the film The Gate: Dawn of the Baha’i Faith, directed by Peabody Award winner Bob Hercules. The release premiered in LA and Chicago followed by broadcasts on ABC affiliates rolling through July.  It was a particularly intense release because we weren’t able to start marketing it until the first week of April and it wasn’t finished until the end of April.   Hybrid Cinema managed the entire campaign including all marketing, social media, outreach and screenings, advertising, creation of all marketing elements (website, key art, trailer and lots of extra video content), publicity.  We also handled all distribution: screenings, broadcast, digital and DVD.

I want to share the beginnings of our case study on this project:

Goals and Strategy – The Gate

I know I am a broken record on this – but you can’t release a film (or any project) without knowing your goal(s).   With this film, the most important goal was to spread awareness for the film and the Baha’i faith to both Baha’i and non-Baha’is. Additionally, this film had a unique secondary goal, to build an engaged core fanbase that could be carried to planned future projects, as the production company plans to produce and release three more films. These two goals included strategic moves that of course overlap. Over the next few sections, I will quickly breakdown our work overview.

Distribution – The Gate

The film started with large premieres in Chicago and Los Angeles, quickly followed by the launch of the ABC broadcasts in May, that eventually reached between 2-3 million people. Although having the public broadcast so front-loaded might narrow more traditional distribution avenues (festivals and films sales) – and create all kinds of windowing problems and other difficulties – it was a key component in achieving the main goal of audience reach.  It is hard to argue with the power of traditional broadcast.

Even though the film was available for free – we found that the audience still wanted to book the film for community screenings – which 6 months later still continue.  We have sold over 450 screening licenses in over 20 different countries. All of these sales not only funnelled into our database but we strongly encouraged the screenings organizers to use our Eventbrite account which gave us access to the email addresses of all who signed up for the screenings.    We were able to track the results of our Facebook advertising through the sales on Eventbrite so we could target ads to screenings that needed a bit of help. (I’m not saying I love Eventbrite – but it has tools that are helpful – I am looking for a better platform for ticket sales). Finally we were able to survey the hosts and attendees which gave us important information for our ROI.  

We eventually started selling the film off the proprietary website and eventually transactionally on iTunes, Amazon etc. (We have had a very good experience with Distribber but we are going direct to Amazon through Prime Direct).  There will be a blog post coming about why it is still important to sell from your own website even if you aren’t building an email list.

Marketing – The Gate

Our marketing was a blend of outreach, social, advertising,  publicity and content.

Outreach has had their hands full servicing the core audience’s screenings for the past number of months and we are just getting able now to expand into the wider interfaith community (hence the trip to the Parliament of World Religions – one of the largest interfaith gatherings in the world). We have also attended the largest Persian conference in the US as well as the Religious News Association conference.

We have had great success with the content/social media and social advertising part of the campaign.   Based on early test screenings, we knew that most audiences wanted to learn more about the Baha’i community today, as this film is primarily focused on the history of the Baha’i. With that new information in hand, we created a cross media campaign to broaden the scope of the project.   We shot additional material and brought on a content producer and editor creating over 40 new short pieces of content for social channels.

We quickly discovered that most of our audience was on Facebook and doubled down on that platform.  While our organic reach was very strong – Facebook is now a pay for play platform that does give you incredible targeting and measurement of your campaigns.  In our first six months we reached 14 million people through our Facebook page

Our 6 month social stats were off the charts: 12 million reached through organic and paid social an additional 6 million reached through advertising, 10,000 followers on Facebook, another 1500+ on Instagram, 300,000 100% views of our short form content and over 380,000 engagements (emojis/likes/comments/shares).   I’ll be diving deeper into this data – especially the ad component in further posts.

Short Wrap Up – The Gate:

Even at the midpoint of the release (we plan to expand SVOD in late 2018 or 2019 and we have a number of other broadcast opportunities in 2019), the film has reached a huge audience and continues to do so.  The film is coming out on Cable VOD (Comcast, Direct TV and Dish) and wide to to large retailers through Passion River on DVD in November. We are just starting the educational release through Outcast.

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