Tag: Audience Engagement

Top 10 Things Learned in the IFP PMD LAB

 

Jon talking Merchandise at the IFP PMD Lab

Top 10 Things Learned in the IFP PMD LAB

By Jon Reiss

I have had the good fortune to be involved in IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs for the past several years now and I have seen innumerable benefits to the films and filmmakers who participate.  The Labs provide an opportunity for first-time filmmakers to not only receive feedback on their films from their peers and experienced filmmakers but it is the first lab to prepare filmmakers for the essential work of distribution and marketing.

This year we launched the IFP PMD LAB (Producer of Marketing and Distribution) the first of its kind.  This year, the PMD Lab worked in conjunction with the Filmmaker Labs, with all the participating PMDs attached to a film in the Filmmaker Labs.

Since the end of the year if full of 10 best lists – I thought I would compile the 10 best results of the inaugural year of the PMD Lab.

1.  Defining What A PMD Is. I think this is of critical importance as this nascent crew position develops.   A PMD is not just a social media manager.  To be a PMD a person must be involved in all aspects of a film’s distribution and marketing, including audience identification and engagement, creating a distribution and marketing plan, budgeting that plan, creating marketing elements, creating and managing other assets to help promote the film, etc. All of this in concert with the filmmakers.    See this post for more.     I think the PMD trainees were amazed and excited about the scope of this position.

2.  Learning how to identify audience.  After understanding the goals of the team, the first assignment for the trainees was to identify the audience for their film.  Many of the films had already started this process in the spring Filmmaker Labs sessions.  But rarely do first-time filmmakers fully understand their audiences in the first go round.  It also takes time for the notion of niche vs. core audience to sink in – and how to view how audiences can expand from a core. See this clip from one of my workshops for reference. 

3.  Learning how to engage that audience.    This is a career-long process and can be daunting at first.   It is important again that it is not just about social media – we stress that it is crucial to know how each particular audience learns about films and then to target that source – influencers, social media, organizations, traditional media – whatever works.

4.  Develop marketing tools for the film (after understanding who the audience is).   We have the PMD trainees (and in fact all Lab films) create initial marketing materials most of which are essentials for a press kit: logline, one line synopsis, short synopsis, key art, website and, if possible and appropriate, trailer and social media sites.

5.  Workshop those marketing tools.   One my favorite parts of the Filmmaker Labs and PMD Labs are the Marketing Labs held right before IFPs Independent Film Week.  Each team presents the marketing plan for the film and it is workshopped with a panel of professionals.  Some heated discussions result.  The process either helps crystallize the beginnings of a plan for the team – or makes them realize they have a ways to go.  Either way I find that they are so much further along than most filmmakers by starting this process in post.

6.  Writing a distribution and marketing plan for their films.  The last assignment for the PMDs was to write a distribution and marketing plan for their films.  I am a broken record on this: every film is different and needs a unique plan.  It is essential that PMDs learn not only how to write these plans – but to understand all of the aspects contained within.  It is hard to teach this in a crash course (which we had in September and December).  But what I found most instructive was:

7.  Evaluating different distribution options.   In the December Distribution Labs, we had the opportunity to see each of the 20 filmmaking teams present their distribution plan, and to have that discussed by incredible experts in emerging distribution models. It became very apparent what types of distribution options are available to filmmakers and how those can be crafted for each individual film.

8. Learning how to budget that plan.   In order to execute a plan you have to figure out how much money you need to execute the plan.   Going through an extensive distribution and marketing budget can be daunting – but it is also important to know what you need to pay for in order to achieve that film’s goals.

9.  Creating a community of PMDs.  The trainees told me that one of the best outcomes of the PMD Lab was the community that they created amongst themselves.  While we had monthly phone sessions and 2 separate Lab meetings, the trainees would contact each other on a regular basis, which has continued even after the Lab’s completion.  They are even supporting other films from the Labs that did not have PMD trainees.   Several of the trainees have been so excited by the concept that they will be participating in the PMD website that we intend to put on the IFP site next year and to determine a way that PMDs around the world can find community (stay tuned!).

10.  Learning how to develop a career as a PMD.  This was a strong interest for the trainees – naturally.  What I stressed is that the PMD is just like any other film position.  You have to start small to build your way up – finding any way to gain experience.  Little by little filmmakers are realizing that they need to budget for this crew position.   One of the goals of the above mentioned site is to provide a centralized place that filmmakers can find PMDs for their projects.

If you think you can be a PMD please feel free to contact me so that I can keep you abreast of these developments.

 

Launching New TOTBO Workshop Webclips

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I am kicking off a series of excerpts from my Think Outside the Box Office Master Classes today on my new YouTube Channel TheJonReiss. I am rebooting my YouTube channel because even though I had some decent views on YouTube.com/jfilm1 – it didn’t feel like that accurate or searchable. Since I am going to start releasing regular content not only from my workshops, but also interviews with filmmakers, artists and people on the cutting edge of audience engagement, I thought it was time to start fresh. On the channel you can also see excerpts from my film and music video work as well. I look forward to your thoughts on the clips as they roll out.

This week’s post concerns setting the goals for your release. I am a firm believer that it is essential for filmmakers to have a clear idea of what their goals are for their film’s release and to prioritize one or perhaps 2 specific goals because a film team will use different release strategies to achieve different goals. I see 4 main goals that most filmmakers strive for in their releases:

1. Money (Fortune)

2. A career launch, helping get another film made. (Fame – for a traditional career based on the previous film career paradigm that only exists for a small percentage of filmmakers these days).

3. Audience (some people just want their film to be seen by an audience as wide as possible.

4. Change the World – especially for documentary.

However I encourage most (if not all) filmmakers to consider a fifth goal:

5. A long-term relationship with a potentially sustainable audience/fan base. This is an essential component of any modern media release – yet most filmmakers still do not consider this a primary goal. This goal is different in objective than the old school fame based career launch (Number 2 above). It is not about press, “heat”, ego. Its about connection, engagement and a bringing your fans with you from project to project. This goal is not achievable if you sell your film outright in an all-rights scenario. In that case your distributor has access to your audience data – not you (although most don’t cultivate this data – yet).

Next week’s clip will talk about the importance of prioritizing your goals. In other words you are better off pursuing one goal. If you don’t, you are at the risk of not achieving any of your goals. Upcoming posts will concern identifying and engaging audience, creating events, merchandise, digital rights, timing as well as interviews with artists and filmmakers such as Timo Vuorensola, Molly Crabapple, Corey McAbee and many more.

I’m launching the channel today as part of my Spring Workshop Kickoff. Yesterday I gave a “Strategic Distribution Workshop 202” at Hot Docs Toronto. I will be helping lead the IFP Filmmaker Labs in NYC in May and June. I will also be giving a mini-workshop at Sheffield Doc Fest in June 15th and then in London on June 23, 24th for a newly revamped two day TOTBO Distribution Master Class.

I’ve also created some Hot Docs Specials on my store where you can get a PDF of TOTBO for $4.95 and a hard copy for $9.95.

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Guest Post Simon Pulman: Transmedia for Low Budget Filmmakers

Today’s guest post is from Simon Pulman who writes an incredibly interesting and informative blog on transmedia: Transmythology.

To me transmedia is the future for independent film – and perhaps all film. It is already happening all around us – whether we realize it or not. I essentially backed into transmedia on Bomb It. We knew we were generating way more content than would fit in one feature. In 2005 – our thought was that we would ultimately make 6 features from the material! But we ended up producing a webseries for Babelgum which was became a transmedia extension of Bomb It – realized after the fact. This in turn led to Bomb It 2 which was conceived of as a webseries for Babelgum – but still ties into the Bomb It “brand”. There is no way that I would have done another graffiti feature this past year – but a web series was a much more manageable way to keep exploring the concept of Bomb It. Simon addresses these issues in his post that follows. (BTW – this is a two part post. Part 2 will run next Thursday).

Transmedia for Low Budget Filmmakers

Part I: Why Consider Transmedia?

I’m going to assume for the purposes at this article that you have read Think Outside The Box Office, and are familiar with the principles presented within.  I don’t think an artist of any kind should proceed with a project without at least reading and considering Jon’s ideas.  We’re moving towards an age where personal branding and fan engagement will become increasingly important strategies in differentiating yourself from the crowd.

Due to the difficulties inherent in financing a feature film today, an increasing number of filmmakers are going DIY – foregoing years of fundraising and investor courtship to produce something relatively cheaply using inexpensive cameras and small non-union crews.  This concept should be familiar to anybody who has read Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew.

The downside of this trend for filmmakers is that the proliferation of lower budget films makes it very difficult to stand out from the crowd.  Unlike in Rodriguez’s day, merely making a film cheaply is no longer an interesting enough story to ensure that people pay attention.  The result is that even well scripted and produced low budget films are not guaranteed to find an audience.
Continue reading →

TOTBO Tip of the Day 8 Engage Organizations to Promote Your Film

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Step 2 of Audience Engagement is: Know WHERE your audience derives information/congregates.

Many niche’s have organizations that support those specific topics and interests. Engage those organizations early in your filmmaking process (as early as conception and prep). It is important to have the proper attitude toward your audience and these organizations. You need to think, “What can I give them?” instead of “What can they do for me?” If you think of the former, the latter will flow. People are very busy. You need to give them an incentive to be involved with you. The film is not enough. How will the film service their organization, their lives and the lives of their members? In turn, they will help you promote your film to your direct audience. This has been used by great effect by documentary filmmakers. Narrative filmmakers need to follow their lead.

My live workshops are coming to London on May 8th-9th and Amsterdam on May 12th-13th. Hope to see you there!

I want to know what you think! Comment here or on my blog, or @Jon_Reiss on twitter, or on the TOTBO Facebook page. Check out the book Think Outside the Box Office. I look forward to hearing from you.