PMD FAQ 1: What is the purpose of having a PMD?

The purpose of the PMD is for one person on a filmmaking team to be responsible for audience engagement (aka distribution and marketing). It derives from the recognition that filmmakers (filmmaking teams) need to own the audience engagement process and that this process should start as early as possible – either at inception or no later than the beginning of pre-production for the best results.

The need for a PMD also results from the recognition that audience engagement is a lot of work (perhaps as much or more work than actually making a film) and that traditional filmmakers (writers, directors, producers etc) are already busy with the task of making a great film. These traditional members of a filmmaking team rarely have the extra time to devote to distribution and marketing (so it often falls by the wayside). In addition, many traditional filmmakers are not suited or interested in the kinds of tasks that audience engagement requires.

I look forward to hearing what you think about the concept of the PMD. You can comment on this post by clicking here. Here is the complete list of PMD FAQs forthcoming:

• What are the responsibilities of a PMD?
• What skill sets and experience are necessary for a PMD?
• Doesn’t having a PMD make me a slave of the marketplace and crush the passion and vision of independent film?
• Who oversees a PMD or is this role part of the executive (decision making) level?
• How is a PMD different than a Producer?
• Can’t filmmakers be their own PMD?
• Can a PMD be a fellow filmmaker too?
• Can PMDs actively work on many different projects at the same time?
• How do you pay a PMD?
• Does a PMD work by themselves – or is there a Marketing and Distribution team?

What are your thoughts?

25 Responses

  1. Just discover you (I guess I will plant a flag) and I glad to see what I am looking for has a name (PMD). I had a blog a few weeks ago about looking for someone to play this role ( for my upcoming 3D animation production (previs here ). This is a full time job and as I get set to start a campaign I need to person as soon as possible. So far most so-called social media people just seem want to sell a brand or product and without a budget few takers so far (a few I don’t want). I’ll try and see if I can see you at IFC – Thanks for the info (I guess I need your book – hope I can find it for my iPad)


  2. i agree jon–so much that i took your advice. we hired a PMD for Kitty Kitty. we’re just beginning our marketing/distro phase so i’m excited to see how things plays out.

    if you’re a writer/director, having a PMD makes sense, since the marketing phase of your film tends to overlap with the time when you would normally be writing your next film.

  3. Thanks Michael and good luck with your premiere this week! Actually I think the marketing starts when you are actually at least in production or better yet prep – so you really need someone then.

  4. I am very grateful for this post, and the ones coming down the pike. We are just starting pre-pro now on a $150k budget film, and I am, at this point, going to be filling the role of PMD. I am also a co-producer on the film, so thinking of pulling someone else in for this role full on. I believe this position is SO important, which is one of the reasons I want to fill it. On our first film, we had nothing like this and we made our film for $28k and premiered at Toronto ’09 ( ). There was a big story just in how we made the film that we didn’t have the chance to exploit because we did not have the resources or time ourselves. Eagerly awaiting the next posts on the PMD, they can’t come soon enough! Thank you again, Jon.

  5. Brooks,

    Good to hear from you – hope you are well! Quantification is very difficult – when these days no one will give figures on anything because the world is so tough in general. I wrote another post on renumeration for PMDs which you can access on the “On The PMD” Category on this page (as well as the Totbo FB page. But for a very short answer – I’ve always imagined the PMD as part of a filmmaking team – so how do you quantify what a producer did – or director or DP – That’s the short answer for now. its a new position – there will be experimentation – and choosing a PMD is much like choosing other crew people – you see if they have good ideas for the film – you check what they have done before etc.

  6. John – you are welcome of course – there are other posts I’ve written on the PMD that are no in the “On the PMD” category – as I told Brooks. You should also check out the Totbo FB page -which should be linked here normally – there is a box/note where a lot of PMDs have posted themselves for hire. Keep in touch and I look forward to your comments on future posts.

  7. It’s safe to assume just about everyone in the industry acknowledges the need for an audience development and engagement strategy for every film at every budget level, and the fact that this role is a very labor-intensive undertaking for an independent film should warrant and justify the need for a Producer devoted to this purpose. Whether or not filmmakers feel they can absorb these added responsibilities or divvy them out among individuals on the existing production team is where many filmmakers miss the point and the added value this responsibility affords their production.

    If audience, attention, distribution and sales determine the success of a film, why not assign a committed professional to affect these factors?

    I believe a PMD can indeed be a fellow filmmaker–hopefully the ame passion will be there! Filmmakers understand the terrain and are hopefully armed with the skillsets needed. I believe one must understand film and the uniqueness of a particular film to be successful in this role, and general marketing types may not grasp this concept as easily.

  8. Thanks Miles. To be honest – I’d rather have someone with some marketing skills who has no skills on set – so that they don’t get pulled off their jobs and put to work making the film! 🙂 Also there are some specialized marketing and distribution skill sets that I think are great added value for a film – that most/many filmmakers don’t have and unfort (many) are not interested in. But there will be another post on this coming soon! Finally – as an integrated member of a crew – these PMDs will be filmmakers since they will be part of the whole creative and filmmaking process – optimally. Thanks for the input!

  9. Hi Jon, I met you at the Melbourne Film festival and I will also be at IFP next week so hope to say hello again there. Your workshop really galvanised me to embrace this new part of the process – well not new exactly as it has always been there, but new to the responsibilities of the producer. My question is, do you think it best to use your company Twitter account to speak about all the films on your slate using hashtags, OR to have separate Twitter accounts for each film? My worry about the later is of course that you will always be building from scratch rather than working on building an existing network. What do you think? Bests, Claire Mundell, Producer

  10. Your PMD idea is great, this is something that has been recognised to be important but the difficult part is the financial side of it. In The Netherlands where I come from, the producer will not reserve budget for these purposes. I have worked as marketeer in distribution for years and allways in between: who will pay me? The producer? The distributor (if he is allready on board) or a funding institution such as the Dutch Filmfund? The time for the specialisation PMD is not (yet) there but hopefully will be!

  11. Helen, I personally think the time has come – but adoption will be a process as always. I know that there is a PMD in the Netherlands who already has that official title on a film there. SAFilm Corp is going to set up an inhouse PMD. “Grassroots”staring Jason Biggs has a PMD (although not official in title) etc. Keep in touch!

  12. Claire – in my mind you need one Twitter account for your company- your brand and then you need one for each film primarlly if they have different audiences. If you are like Woody Allen – and all the films have a similar brand – one feed is probably enough. Hard to say for all situations like this. The more disparate the audiences are – the more need for a separate twitter account to feed that audience.

  13. Claire, I agree with Jon. Ideally you are building your brand around your production company or yourself as a filmmaker so the audience you are building is an audience who would appreciate all of your work, not individual pieces.

    If your films all have very different audiences, it makes sense that you would want to cater to those audiences on separate accounts, but it will be a nightmare to maintain all of that. Really think about what you are trying to do, build up an audience for all of your work or separate audiences starting over each time. I know what I would choose.

    Regarding measurement, there are companies with software that you can use to measure yours/your PMDs progress.
    and many more all do this. They come at a largish (for low budget guys anyway) price, around $3-$5K annually. But if you are adamant about measuring your success before you are ready for sales, these programs will track your metrics in a monthly report and you can test MANY aspects of how you are doing online and offline.

    It tracks mentions, fans, followers, sentiment about your project, how many RTs your messages received, how many views in a period your videos received, who is talking about you etc. I am pondering Vocus as I am now reaching enough clients that this makes sense for me to spread out the cost over several people and I will probably add on a small fee to furnish a detailed report every month. The programs take some time to learn and the more value add you want (such as access to pre-vetted and targeted journo email addresses, press release distribution with SEO built in etc) the more expensive it gets. Most of these programs are used by the big boys in the corporate world, but there is something to be said for having a tool that shows you where you are excelling and where you need to improve and setting benchmarks.
    I have heard that measurement question a lot lately as maybe justification for not hiring a PMD because you can’ t really see what benefit they are.

    Not everything we do is measurable. There is a lot of research, listening to communities, answering questions or leaving comments on other’s posts, overseeing outside vendors like web developers, app developers, printers, graphic design, setting up affiliate deals, vetting potential distribution paths etc. This is all work SOMEONE needs to do on a regular basis and if you the producer can’t handle doing it every day, this is the burden that is lifted by the PMD.

  14. Jon,

    I love the idea that you have put a title to the role I feel I am trying to fulfill for a film that is now in post production. My question to you is do you feel fundraising can or should be encompassed in this role? Due to the nature of the film I am working on (a-political) but military related, our “target audience” the audience I am trying to grow and engage is actually a very closely knit community, the military community, wounded worriers, gold star families, etc… they are amazing when it comes to spreading the word and can also be very helpful when it comes to raising money for a cause they feel is invaluable to their community(I know this as I have done other fundraising within this community.)In taking on the position of PMD, do you feel it is wrong not only to reach out and attempt to create a solid core audience, but to ask for their help in raising funds for your film as well?

  15. Yes – I think in many cases fundraising can be a part of a PMD’s responsibility or at least should be involved in that. In TOTBO I used J Todd Harris as an example who was raising funds from the lacrosse community for a film about lacrosse. You’ll see in FAQ2 coming tomorrow that I include that as one of the points. You have to do it strategically and with an understanding of your audience.

  16. with regards to having a PMD (Producer of Marketing and Distribution) when working on the DIY model, or new business model, let me introduce you to what future artists does,

    future artists realised the importance of the audience – story teller while researching a film on soldiers, who fought in afghanistan, by creating a solid research base using all social media platforms and spaces where these communitys hang out and creating a relationship with the audience that was personal, this enabled us on release to financialy make our money back on the film, experiment with new methods of reaching the audience and creating a two way dialogue between audience/community and story teller/ director,

    now we did’nt use a PMD – the director Mark Ashmore became a PMD or transmedia director and this skill became another asset to his directing/ producing tool kit,

    lessons learnt here, have gone on to become the basis of future artists as a virtual film studio – just google ‘mark ashmore and future artists’ and you will see how working as your own PMD creates a groundswell of interested parties willing to investigate you and your project further, thus creating a larger audience,

    i think transmedia producer and director is a better turn of phase to use for this job title also,

    at future artists we would also be more inclined to hire an actor who has a large social media presence, over another unknown actor with no social media presence. the more PMDs you have in your team, the better the marketing on social media, and with companies like in manchester, uk allowing your fans to become reps and sell your movie tickets, you have nothing to loose, and everything to gain,

    follow us on twitter @ future artists , search for us on facebook/futureartists and join our mailer at cheers for reading, i’m also happy to field any questions ask away on facebook and twitter.


  17. Hi Jon and Everybody,
    I’m currently workng as a PMD. I think that films where the audience is clearly identifiable and reachable (such as for documentaries and genre pictures) it can pay off. I think its important to have someone who understands the film industry and audience building do the work. Believe me, you dont want to put your intern in charge of this! It takes a lot of dedicated work. I think the problem might be that having another staff member on a small film raises the budget substantially, and that might be a hard pill to swallow. I’ll be teaching the marketing and distribution section of Raindance NY documentary certificate coming up in October. Jon, I hope to make it to your class and say hi!

  18. Hi Jon,

    I have a handful of PMDing experiences from this past Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) which I should compile somewhere else (and which I’d mentioned to you), though I’ll cite just one example for your readers.

    One of the great benefits from this past fest was how I got to work on my PMDing “elevator pitch.” Often, I’d only have about a second to or two — literally! — coming down a cinema escalator to explain what a PMD does before that fateful exchange of business cards…these are some of the lines I’d used (fellow PMDs take note!):

    “The PMD is your dedicated crew person with the exclusive job of making your budget back as quickly as possible, and getting you into profitability as soon as possible.”

    “The PMD is responsible for all aspects of your marketing and distribution strategy.”

    Q: “What do you do?”
    A: “I’m a PMD.”
    Q: “A what?!”
    A: “Wait a second, you don’t know what a PMD is?! And you’re in the movie business?”
    Q: “Oh, sorry, should I know? Is it like a private investigator?” ::: I was wearing a suit and tie for most of TIFF, so this might have been the reason for it. :::
    A: “No, it’s a producer of marketing and distribution…”

    …which was a perfect segue into the exchange of cards, taking Jon’s book out of my bag (I did this at least five times), and describing more about what we PMDs do.

    Other examples:

    Q: “So what do you do?”
    A: “I’m a distributor.”
    Q: “Really, for which company?”
    A: “No, I’m a PMD…you know what a PMD is, right?”

    …which leads into a great discussion about the position, unsheathing Jon’s book, and the rest of it.

    What are some of the pitches you use?