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Jon Reiss on “What Are A Producer of Marketing And Distribution’s Responsibilities?” Part 2 of 2

Jon Reiss on "What Are A Producer of Marketing And Distribution's Responsibilities?" Part 2 of 2

Yesterday, Jon Reiss explained why indie films need a “PMD” — and if words don’t work for you — just look at Tuesday’s list of all the new tools and services available that we can’t afford to miss. Today, Jon takes it further, and tries to lay out the job description for both experienced and aspiring marketing & distribution collaborators.

The responsibilities of a PMD are wide and varied. Not all films will utilize all of these elements (since every film is different and will have a unique approach to marketing and distribution), but each should be considered when strategizing and planning for the film’s release.

1. Identify, research and engage with the audience for the film.

2. Develop a distribution and marketing strategy and plan for the film in conjunction with the key principles of the filmmaking team. Integrate this plan into the business plan for the film. This should also be done as early as possible and should be incorporated into your business plan. This helps your investors, donors, potential grant committees know that you have a clear idea of what your goals are and how you will achieve those goals.

3. Create a budget for the M&D plan.

4. As needed and appropriate, strategize and implement fundraising from the audience of the film in conjunction with or in place of traditional financing which would include: crowdfunding, organizational partnerships, sponsorships and even modified versions of traditional fundraising.

5. Assemble and supervise the necessary team/crew elements to carry out the plan which can include social media, publicity, M&D production crew for extra diagetic material, key artists, web developers, trailer editors, bookers etc.

6. Audience research, outreach and relationship building through organizations, blogs, social media (including email collection), influencers, online and traditional publications.

7. Supervise the creation of promotional content and work with the development of trans media elements in either coordination with a Transmedia Producer, or in the case where the production is small – their might be one person who fills both roles, PMD and Transmedia Producer. Other elements to be created: the films website and social media sites, production stills, video assets – both behind the scenes and trans media, promotional copy and art/key art. Plus the PMD devises an organized content calendar to plan out what elements are released when and how they will disseminate online.

Just FYI – nearly all of the above and much of 8 & 9 happen before the film is finished.

8. Outreach to potential distribution and marketing partners including film festivals, theatrical service companies, community theatrical bookers, DVD distributors, Digital and VOD aggregators, TV sales agents, foreign sales agents as well as sponsors and promotional partners. The advantage of having the PMD on board is that it gives the filmmaking team many more options for distribution and marketing. No longer do filmmakers have to give up all rights just to get help in releasing their films. Filmmaking teams can create split rights scenarios that can be much more favorable to achieving their goals than many typical distribution deals. It puts the artistic team in the drivers seat instead of being dependent on taking any deal offered.

9. Coordinate, organize and supervise the creation of traditional deliverables in addition to creation of all media needed for the execution of the release as needed including:
• Live event/theatrical: Prints either 35 or Disk or Drive. Any other physical prep for event screenings.
• Merchandise: All hard good physical products including DVDs and any special packaging (authoring and replication) and all other forms of merchandise: books, apparel, toys, reproductions of props etc, and hard versions of games.
• Digital products: encoding of digital products, iPhone/Android apps etc.

10. Modify and adjust the marketing and distribution plan as new opportunities present themselves during the film’s life span regarding information about audience, market, and partnerships arise.

11. When appropriate, engage the distribution process, which includes the release of:
• Live Event Theatrical – Booking, delivery, of all forms of public exhibition of the film including all elements that make the screenings special events (appearances, live performance, discussion panels etc.)
• Merchandise – Distribution of all hard good physical products created for the film.
• Digitally – oversee all sales of the film in the form of 0s and 1s: TV/Cable/VOD/Mobile/Broadband/Video games etc.
• This not just in the home territory – but also internationally.
• Some of these activities may be handled in conjunction with a distribution partner in which case the PMD would be supervising the execution in conjunction with that partner.

12. Ramp up the marketing of the film to coincide with the release, which includes:
• Content rollout
• Additional Social Media activities such as contests, soliciting screening demands, posting press mentions .
• Publicity including feature stories, interviews, reviews
• Organizational Relationships
• Sponsorship Relationships
• Affiliate and Email Marketing
• Promotions
• Media Buys (as warranted)
• Seeding trailers and other video content.
• Any specific marketing especially tailored to the film.

This list should indicate how it would be difficult, if not impossible, to expect existing traditional crew categories to accomplish or even coordinate the work outlined above. In addition, while some of the work above is “quantifiable”, much of it is not – just like much of what a producer or even director does is not “quantifiable”. All efforts working in tandem produces the ROI.

Jon Reiss is a filmmaker and author of Think Outside the Box Office. His new book, Selling Film Without Selling Your Soul, cowritten with The Film Collaborative’s Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winter with social media marketer Sheri Candler, is sponsored by Prescreen, Area23a Movie Events and Dynamo Player available September 13, 2011 via Apple iBooks, followed by Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, a printed edition and free ePub version.

He can be reached at:
You can order Think Outside the Box Office here, or on Amazon.

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Gerald Heller

Bob, before dismissing my views as “the same shit”, it might help if you actually got to an indie movie theater for the first time, and familiarized yourself with other elements of the indie world, such as the festival world and the seminar industry. But we’ll say that your moviegoing experience is irrelevant to the dispute.

Please note that every contributor here, including Ted, is selling his brand, his films, his books or his consulting services. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it’s not philanthropy, and it’s not “free”. The usefulness of the information offered is also far from proven.

Please also consider the ethics of the marketing efforts on this site. Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year trying to become gainfully employed movie directors. You’d be hard pressed to find any other industry where the hopeful are fleeced quite this brazenly, and where the “experts” are rarely capable of performing the tasks they purport to teach or achieving for themselves the results they claim their methods can produce.

If I recall correctly, the last time this question arose here was Mark Lipsky’s complaint that Ted was giving an implied endorsement to a guy hawking snake-oil here for private gain. But Lipsky was never answered. Unless this blog is viewed as entertainment only, these questions can be troubling. This stuff works or it doesn’t work. It’s proven or unproven. Contributors benefit or don’t benefit personally from pushing their programs. Infomercials have to be distinguishable from knowledge, or we might as well be changing the channel at random.

Bob Germon

Hey U. P.–

Peacemakers are always welcome, solicited or not. I don’t live close enough to Los Angeles to go to a truly ‘Indy’ theater, but I think I’ll have to make an effort just to see what you described.

I completely agree on your 2nd point, most Indie films aren’t going to get a substantial audience regardless of the marketing advice. But they’re going to do it anyway so I say give them all the advice they can handle, especially about crowdfunding. At the micro level that might be the only positive cash flow they ever see.

unsolicited peacemaker

Bob Germon, I can’t speak for Gerald H. and am not sure I’d want to, but stoking the film making frenzy has always been a big part of indie marketing, whether this site serves that purpose or not. If there weren’t thousands of prospective filmmakers, you have to wonder what the size of that audience would be. At some screenings, half the audience appears to be doing market research.

As I see it, there are some perfectly decent intelligent American indies which, no matter you slice it, will never draw a large enough audience to pay the costs of either production or marketing. This is a shame, but it’s hard to see that marketing prescriptions like the one presented above can change that reality.

Bob Germon


The new boss, same as the old boss.
Same shit, different day.
The more things change the more they stay the same.

Nothing outlandish is insinuated by any of these (similar) statements.

Creating a desire for people to want to make movies as a business model? I don’t think you can blame Ted for that. I’d start with the worldwide passion for movies, then go to the camera companies (Sony, Red, Panasonic, Canon), the software companies (Final Cut, iMovie, Avid) and then salespeople selling their ‘How to” seminars. And, don’t forget, all the film schools producing tens of thousands of graduates each year.

This blog gives information out for free… I doubt there’s much money to be made, especially if you factor in all the hours of labor. There are thousands of new graduates that are going to make a movie regardless of the odds, and if they come here to get help on how to do it, why not?

Gerald Heller

Dan Therriault: be advised, there was no boss in either instance. If you’re suggesting my views are so outlandish or offensive that they’d have to be suborned, I can only say, Ted & Co. can talk on all they want about how they don’t actually earn a living (and have you met any consultants lately who actually invest in films, on the strength of the techniques they promote?), but it’s important to remember that for Ted, the talk here is meaningless. Ted has a life. Ted produces movies, lots of them. His ideas about a hypothetical TFF model which he does nothing to materially support are beside the point.

And in case nobody noticed, the entertainment business is predicated on rare and singular success. It’s not predicated on everyone making movies and everyone making money making movies, any more than you can hope to be famous in a world where everyone else is famous. However, it can help to sell indies if everyone ***wants*** to make movies and ***wants*** to make money making movies. This is where Hope For Film comes in, to capitalize on that market. Which should be pretty obvious by now. Just look at the one-sheets to your right.

But why blame Ted? He’s doing what his business model requires. So make a movie. Or don’t make a movie. But listening to this stuff can’t be said to help much.

Adam Daniel Mezei

Gerald, great point this time…well-put.

Dan Therriault

To Gerald Heller:

The new boss, same as the old boss?

Gerald Heller

This is getting very confusing. One day we’re told here that we’re living in a golden age, that for the first time in history the visionaries are free to create and distribute their own movies without the permission of the money men or, for that matter, the indie film people. Technology has put the required tools at our disposal. All that’s needed is initiative and talent.

But even before people start asking where the performances and production values are coming from on their tiny budgets, the next contributor helpfully points out that you need 10,000 twitter followers and had better allocate 50% of the little you do have for promotion, because you’re competing with thousands of other people just like you. Plus, you need to create a movie that people already want to buy. Best thing is to crowd-test it before you even start, kickstarter and the like can be helpful, or rely on an PMD for counsel on which dramatic elements sell and which don’t. Otherwise, you’re making movies for yourself.

In case anyone forgot, making movies for yourself, or at least striving to satisfy an ideal (other than making money) was sort of the point, rather than second-guessing the audience, which the indie business is notoriously bad at anyway.

If “Truly Free Film” really means, “free to try to make commercial movies on the cheap, despite all the evidence that it’s a losing ventur for everyone who isn’t on a retainer”, why not come out and say so, once and for all? At least the claim can then be debated on its real, rather than imaginary, merits.

Chris Horton

This is great, Jon. The groundswell of this info will change the way budgets are considered, ultimately what % of a film’s total budget do you think these costs will occupy for the indie films likely to employ such a strategy?

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