Have you ever felt like promoting your independent film is tougher than making it? Trust me, I’ve been there.
My directorial debut feature film, Spin The Wheel, has found distribution and will be released on streaming platforms in 2024. You can take a look at our film website here to get an idea of some of the marketing techniques that we are using for this film!
In this article, I’ll lead you through the steps to creating a marketing strategy that works for your unique film. We used (or will use when the film premieres!) almost all of these steps during the past two years as we wrote, shot, filmed and now need to promote our film. Let’s get started!
How Do I Market A Film?
- Create A Remarkable Film: Ensure your film has unique elements to stand out.
- Define Your Target Audience: Understand and cater to the specific demographics and interests of potential viewers.
- Create a Movie Website: Set up a central hub for all film-related content, including trailers and behind-the-scenes.
- Create a Film Trailer: Develop a trailer that captures the film’s essence.
- Social Media Promotion: Use platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
- Press Releases and Interviews: Engage with media outlets, sharing insights and generating buzz.
- Get Your Movie Screened at Festivals: Research and attend festivals, actively promoting your film during the event.
- Advertising and Paid Promotion: Use diverse advertising methods, from print to online ads, to reach a broader audience.
- Offer Rewards and Contests: Create engagement opportunities with contests and incentives.
- Collaborate with Influencers and Film Bloggers: Partner with key figures to amplify your film’s reach.
The 10 Steps for Developing a Film Marketing Plan
Step 1: Create A Remarkable Film
When you are developing a film marketing plan, the first step is the most important: create a fantastic film!
In a world where so many mainstream movies and independent films are released every year, it’s important to have something that is unique in some way and that tells a great story.
Maybe your film’s screenplay has a never-before-seen twist or a memorable character that viewers will instantly fall in love with. Or it has fantastic stunt work or practical effects. Whatever it may be, make sure it’s unique and memorable enough to make your independent film stand out.
Not only will this make your movie more appealing to audiences, but it can also lead to free publicity and word-of-mouth marketing. Let your inspiration and creativity run wild and create something that will captivate your audience from start to finish!
Step 2: Define Your Target Audience
The next step is defining your target audience. After all, you can’t have a successful marketing plan if you don’t know who you’re trying to reach!
Defining your audience can also help you tailor your message and marketing strategies to their interests and needs.
So, how can you identify your target audience? Consider:
- Demographics: Age range, gender, income level, location.
- Interests: Hobbies (e.g. sports enthusiasts for a sports-themed movie) or specific niches within genres (e.g. sci-fi fans who enjoy time travel stories).
- Values: Think of the themes and issues that your target audience might be interested in.
- Potential viewership: Estimate how many people fit into these categories based on research data and audience trends.
Remember, the more you know about your audience, the better you can connect with them through your marketing efforts.
Step 3: Create a Movie Website
Creating a website should be at the top of your marketing plan list.
Your film website should be the go-to destination for all things related to your movie, featuring exciting trailers, behind-the-scenes content, dynamic graphics and stills, and a cast and crew list that will get your audience buzzing with anticipation.
It also helps your independent film marketing campaign to showcase your successes, such as notable reviews, awards, and film festival showings.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on your analytics – tracking how many people are visiting and interacting with your site will give you valuable insights into how to adjust and improve your promotion strategy.
Last but not least, it’s important to have a contact page and to link your social media pages to your website to give your audience different ways to connect with your movie’s journey and give their feedback and insights.
Step 4: Create a Film Trailer
The next step in the independent film marketing process is developing an interesting film trailer.
Your trailer should be a carefully crafted presentation of your film’s story, characters, tone, and style, all aimed at drawing in your target audience.
The art of creating a trailer lies in selecting the perfect clips, music (these days, you can even use an AI music generator for easy, unique music for your film), and sound effects and stitching them together in a way that leaves your viewers wanting more.
You should also make sure to include a trailer on your website, as well as social media promotion on YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and others. This will help you to reach a wider audience and create awareness to get more people interested in your movie.
A film trailer can be a powerful marketing tool that sets the stage for the success of your film.
Here’s the teaser trailer for my latest feature film, Spin The Wheel.
Step 5: Social Media Promotion
Each social media platform offers unique features that cater to different audiences and content types.
To make the most of your promotional efforts and social media strategy, you must first identify which platforms are best suited for showcasing your film’s genre, target audience, and overall theme. For instance:
- Facebook: Ideal for sharing trailers, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with cast members or filmmakers.
- Twitter: Great for real-time updates on screenings or events related to the film; engaging with fans through Q&A sessions or live-tweeting during premieres.
- Instagram: Perfect for visually appealing content like posters, stills from the movie set, or exclusive sneak peeks into production design elements. As noted in this article, you’ll also want to create a branded hashtag for your movie to track engagement.
- YouTube and/or TikTok: Host video content related to the film, from official trailers and teasers to behind-the-scenes footage of the filmmaking process or interviews with cast and crew members.
- Pinterest: Feature pins of posters and stills from the movie set on boards that focus on the film’s themes or target audience interests.
Step 6: Press Releases and Interviews
Press releases and interviews can be powerful tools for indie filmmakers to generate buzz around their films in both the film industry and audiences at large. A press release is a written statement that is sent out to media outlets, such as newspapers, websites, and magazines, to announce important news.
Interviews, on the other hand, can be conducted with the filmmakers, cast members, or crew to share insights about the making of the film and behind-the-scenes details.
Writing a press release requires a unique and newsworthy angle that stands out in a crowded marketplace.
You should highlight key selling points of the film, such as its unique storyline, talented cast, or cinematic style. By pitching these points in an exciting way, you can increase your chances of getting picked up by the fickle media!
Similarly, interviews can help build relationships with the media and connect them with the film’s message and story.
Interviews can offer a deeper understanding of the inspiration for the film, what the creative process was like, and the challenges of making an indie feature. They can also showcase the personalities of the cast and crew, make a film more personal, and lead to better audience engagement.
By breaking through the noise of the media landscape and engaging in thoughtful and strategic outreach, filmmakers can increase their chances of success and attract more attention to their films.
Step 7: Get Your Movie Screened at Festivals
Film festivals are an excellent way for indie filmmakers to showcase their films and attract attention from the press, industry professionals, the film industry, and audience members alike. Winning awards or getting positive reviews at a festival can create press buzz, generate word-of-mouth marketing, and even lead to distribution deals.
To get your film shown at film festivals, start by researching festivals that are a good fit for your film’s genre and theme. Consider the size of the festival, as well as the submission deadlines, fees, and requirements.
As an indie film, your chances of getting into the big festivals such as Sundance or Cannes are miniscule. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t try. But temper your expectations with grounded goals, and submit to smaller or local or genre festivals as well, where the lack of a big budget or star power might not be as much of a hindrance.
Once you have identified the festivals that you want to submit to, make sure you prepare a strong submission package that includes a high-quality screener, trailer, synopsis, and press kit. It’s also important to write a cover letter that highlights the key selling points of your film and why it would be a good fit for the festival.
Finally, make sure you are ready to promote your film at the festival itself. Attend screenings, participate in Q&A sessions, network with other filmmakers and members of the press, and make sure to have plenty of promotional materials on hand, such as posters, flyers, and business cards.
I used Canva to help me create many of my promotional materials for an upcoming film.
Many filmmakers I know have also created T-shirts, fridge magnets, water bottles, and many other promotional items to help drum up interest in their films, as well as to use as a keepsake for attendees once they leave the festival and remember their film in a positive light.
Getting your film shown at film festivals can be an effective part of your overall film marketing strategy. It can help you gain exposure, build your reputation, and connect with others in the industry.
Just be sure to budget for these items as part of your film’s post-production budget. Otherwise, you might not be able to afford more than the bare bones in terms of a few select festival entry fees or promotional materials!
Let’s take a look at some notable films that benefited from premiering at a film festival.
- Whiplash: This movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, where it won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize. The buzz generated at the festival helped the movie secure distribution and later win three Oscars.
- Beasts of the Southern Wild: This indie drama premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 and won the Grand Jury Prize. The movie went on to win numerous awards and nominations, including four Academy Award nominations.
- Moonlight: This critically acclaimed coming-of-age drama premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and went on to win the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016. The buzz generated at these festivals helped propel the movie to win three Oscars, including Best Picture.
- Lady Bird: This coming-of-age dramedy premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in 2017 and went on to play at several other festivals, including Toronto, New York, and London. The buzz generated at these festivals helped the movie break box office records and earned it five Oscar nominations.
These movies demonstrate that film festivals can be a valuable way for independent films to gain recognition and success.
Step 8: Advertising and Paid Promotion
Paid advertising is a commonly used tactic in movie marketing campaigns, but whether it works for your film depends on your marketing strategy, budget, goals, and audience. Here are some potential pros and cons to consider:
- Increased Visibility: Paid advertising can help your movie reach a wider audience than organic efforts. For instance, you can target specific demographics and interests using ad platforms like Facebook Ads or Google Ads.
- Control over Message and Reach: With paid advertising, you have control over the message and reach of your ad campaign. You can experiment with different ads, audiences, and platforms to optimize your promotion efforts.
- Ability to Scale Efforts: If you have the budget, paid advertising can help you quickly scale your promotional efforts for your movie release.
- High Costs: Advertising costs can quickly add up, especially if you don’t set controls or manage your ad campaigns effectively. It can be challenging to measure the ROI of certain ad campaigns, especially for smaller indie films that do not have much to spend on the initial promotion.
- Ad Fatigue: When bombarding potential viewers with ads, people can build a disregard for, or tune out, the ads entirely or even ignore the movie campaign altogether.
- Lack of Trust with Audiences: Some audiences may view paid advertising skeptically or ignore paid advertisements entirely. When audiences feel suspicious, they tend to mistrust the film rather than engage with promotions.
Let’s look at some common types of paid film marketing strategies.
Print advertising, such as newspapers, magazines, posters, and flyers, can help generate awareness about your film among various demographics. To make the most of this medium:
- Select publications that cater to your target audience or are relevant to the theme of your movie.
- Create visually appealing designs with headlines that grab attention.
- Incorporate QR codes or website URLs so readers can easily access more information about the film online.
Radio advertising is an effective way to reach a broad range of listeners while they’re commuting or engaged in other activities. Here’s how you can leverage radio ads to promote films:
- Create engaging audio content like interviews with cast members or snippets from the movie soundtrack.
- Purchase ad spots during prime time slots when listener engagement is at its peak.
Despite the rise of streaming platforms, television advertising remains a powerful tool for reaching large audiences. To create effective TV ads:
- Develop visually engaging content that showcases your film’s unique selling points.
- Select channels and programs that align with your target audience’s interests.
Outdoor advertising, such as billboards, bus stops, and transit ads, can help increase the visibility of your film in high-traffic areas. Consider these tips when creating outdoor advertisements:
- Create eye-catching designs with minimal text to ensure readability from a distance.
- Select strategic locations based on where your target audience will likely frequent or pass by regularly.
Google Ads is an advertising platform that displays ads in Google search results, YouTube, and other partner websites. With Google Ads, you can target people searching for keywords related to your movie, interests, and demographics.
Here are some tips on how to use Google Ads:
- Choose the right keywords: Identify keywords people are searching for related to your film.
- Use engaging ad formats: Use visual storytelling and appealing ad formats to attract attention to your movie.
- Set a budget and track ROI: Determine a budget for Google Ads and use the platform’s built-in tracking tools to monitor performance and adjust campaigns as needed.
Facebook ads are a great way to target specific audiences and build buzz around your movie. Facebook’s audiences are vast, and it allows you to target people based on age, interests, location, and more.
Here are some tips on how to use Facebook Ads:
- Create compelling ad copy: Use persuasive copy to capture interest and attract clicks. My favorite AI copywriting and marketing software programs that you might want to check out to make this quick and easy for you are Jasper and Writesonic.
- Use captivating visuals: Use compelling, upscaled images or video to capture people’s attention and help showcase your film.
- Target the right audience: Identify the people most likely to be interested in watching your movie based on demographics, interests, and online activity.
Step 9: Offer Rewards and Contests
Offering rewards or holding a contest can be an excellent way for indie filmmakers to build buzz and attract attention to their movies. It encourages audience engagement with your film and can extend your reach, resulting in exponential visibility.
The potential for rewards or recognition naturally drives people, and it can be a great way to encourage them to watch your movie and spread the word on your behalf.
Rewards can come in various forms, such as early access to the film, merchandise, or a free movie ticket or copy of the film.
Contests, on the other hand, require people to submit an entry, which could be a video, photo, or written content. The reward could be anything from prizes to recognition.
Offering rewards or holding contests is a fun and effective way to build buzz, strengthen engagement, and drive traffic to your movie. Such promos-personalized contests and rewards entail effort, creativity, and engaging social media marketing plans.
Step 10: Collaborate with Influencers and Film Bloggers
Influencer marketing is a powerful way to amplify your film’s reach by partnering with individuals who have established credibility within their niche communities.
By collaborating with influencers or film bloggers, you can tap into their loyal fan base and increase awareness about your movie. Some strategies include:
- Send them exclusive content like early access to trailers or interviews that they can share with their followers.
- Invite them to special screenings, premieres, or other events related to the film so they can provide live coverage on social media platforms.
- Ask them for reviews or testimonials that you can feature on your official website and promotional materials.
What Is Film Promotion?
Film promotion is a complex blend of marketing tactics aimed at hyping the audience before a movie’s release.
It is the necessary bridge that connects a movie with its audience, bringing it to the forefront of the public’s attention.
Successful film marketing is an art form in itself, one that requires creativity and deep knowledge of the market.
Film promotion can take many forms, from social media campaigns to press junkets, but the ultimate goal is always the same: to create buzz and anticipation for what’s to come!
Why is a Film Promotion Strategy so Important?
A well-thought-out film promotion strategy can be the deciding factor between a blockbuster success and a failed flop.
You want to build buzz by targeting the right audience and ensuring your film reaches them through the correct channels. Beyond the initial opening weekend, a solid promotion plan can keep people’s interest spiked and make sure that people continue going to see the movie for many weeks or months.
It’s in every independent filmmaker’s best interest to learn how to create a successful film marketing strategy before they release their masterpiece into the world!
Examples of Film Marketing
Here are a few examples of movies that ran a successful film marketing campaign that truly resonated with their film audience and led to commercial success:
- The Dark Knight: The viral marketing campaign for this movie included clues and puzzles that led fans to hidden websites and phone numbers with recordings from the Joker, generating tons of buzz before the movie even came out.
- Blair Witch Project: This movie’s fake “documentary” style and mysterious marketing campaign – including actual missing person posters of the film’s characters – left many people wondering if it was real, which only heightened interest and curiosity around the movie.
- Toy Story 3: This movie’s clever marketing campaign included a series of “Lotso” bear commercials that gave audiences a taste of the movie’s villain while generating tons of engagement on social media.
Frequently Asked Questions About Film Marketing
How can you market a film?
To market a film, you can create an effective marketing campaign by identifying your target audience, setting goals and objectives, and determining the best channels to reach your audience. Use social media platforms for promotion, leverage traditional advertising methods like print ads or billboards, create fun content such as trailers and behind-the-scenes videos, collaborate with influencers, and partner with other brands for cross-promotion.
What is the importance of marketing a film?
The importance of marketing a film lies in generating awareness and interest among potential viewers. A well-executed film marketing campaign helps build anticipation around the movie’s release date and establishes its brand identity. This leads to increased ticket sales at theaters or streaming platform subscriptions, downloads, and views when it becomes available online.
What are two ways of marketing a film?
Two popular ways of marketing a film include utilizing social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (X) for targeted promotions and leveraging traditional advertising methods such as print ads in magazines, newspapers, or billboards strategically placed in high-traffic areas. Both approaches help generate buzz around the movie while reaching different segments of the target audience.
What six key elements make a successful film marketing campaign?
1. A clearly defined target audience
2. An engaging trailer that captures attention
3. Social media presence on relevant platforms
4. Influencer partnerships and collaborations
5. Creative promotional materials (posters/banners)
6. Evaluating success through measurable metrics (ticket sales/views)
How can AI help me with my film?
AI technology, exemplified by Cinelytic, offers filmmakers valuable assistance in film analytics and forecasting. It aids in market research by identifying target audiences and assessing market potential. AI can facilitate box office forecasting, enabling better decisions about distribution and budget allocation. AI can also optimize marketing campaigns by analyzing audience behavior and identifying effective strategies.
Final Thoughts on Film Marketing
Marketing a film requires a combination of storytelling, creativity, and smart promotional strategies.
From leveraging social media to submitting your movie to film festivals, offering rewards or holding contests, and using paid advertising on different platforms like Google and Facebook Ads, there are many tools and tactics that indie filmmakers can use to promote their movies effectively.
Regardless of which strategies you choose, the key is to always keep your audience in mind, stay engaged with them, and form long-lasting relationships.
In the end, it is your audience that you are trying to reach and connect with around your movie, and the more they connect, the higher your chances of success.
By following the tips and strategies discussed in this movie promotion guide, independent filmmakers can create buzz around their films, reach new audiences, and increase their chances of success.