Digital Age/Digital Space 2 – Tips for a Successful Campaign

In my last article I touched upon a company called VHX who is offering a fresh perspective in digital distribution by allowing filmmakers full control over the distribution aspects of their content. To reiterate, this is not the only path for digital distribution. There are many. Every film is different. Every filmmaker is different. Each filmmaker should take the time to carefully consider and conduct the proper research to determine which distribution model is ideal for their particular film before committing to any one of them. If after all is said and done and you as the filmmaker have made the final decision to self-distribute and manage all aspects of how your film is marketed, promoted and distributed, then this article may be useful to you. As manager of an independent VOD distribution company for several years I’ve learned a thing or two about the VOD marketplace. I’ve done the research, I’ve run the analysis and I’ve got a pretty good idea of what sells and what doesn’t.

Before I proceed I must make a disclaimer here. While the research and analysis of hundreds of films in the marketplace has offered some consistent patterns in relation to positive performance of certain films and/or their campaigns, success is never guaranteed. There is no recipe for success and unfortunately the marketplace is often unpredictable. That being said, here are some things to consider when putting the elements of your campaign together.

A striking poster
A poster can make or break a promotional campaign. Most likely one of the first things a potential consumer will lay their eyes on is your movie poster. This element alone holds a considerable amount of weight and could wind up being the deciding factor on whether or not a consumer makes the purchase. If the budget allows I strongly recommend hiring someone or at the very least consulting with someone that has experience in designing dynamic movie posters. However, should you decide to take on this challenge yourself here’s a few pointers.

Your poster design should reflect the genre and tone of your movie. Do not mislead your audience. There’s nothing worse than renting or purchasing what someone believes is a Drama, only to discover they got a Horror instead.

Be original. Try to avoid throwing up the movie’s title in big bold letters against a boring background or covering the poster with a bunch of the actor’s headshots, or any combination thereof. Design something that’s eye-catching, triggers an emotional response, is captivating or intriguing. Make the consumer want to know more.

If the film made its rounds at film festivals and picked up any awards along the way it wouldn’t hurt to add festival award laurels to the poster. Positive quotes by reviewers or critics also help to add credibility to the poster.

Let’s face it – sex sells. If the movie’s theme or plot involves sex in any way then don’t hesitate to emphasize it. Trust me when I say it’s proven to work.

To illustrate these points here are a few examples of what I would consider strong poster artwork.

Rewind This!

Spark: A Burning Man Story

Act Naturally

The Startup Kids|

An engaging trailer
This is another area where, if the budget allows, a professional editor with movie trailer experience would be extremely helpful.  A trailer should make a strong impact with your audience. Remember to put your best foot forward. Edit together a series of your films most dynamic scenes that hints to what the film is about without giving too much away. The goal is to keep your audience wanting more. Shorter is always better. Don’t give your audience time to get bored or lose interest. A runtime of two to two and a half minutes is plenty. Using an underlying song or score will undoubtedly heighten the emotional impact of your trailer. If you decide to include music of any kind I recommend finding an independent artist and asking permission to feature their music in your trailer. Licensing fees can get pretty outrageous for well-known artists and their music.

Below are two trailers that exemplify the above-mentioned points.

We Are Legion

Coffee Town

BTS and other extras
Offer added value to the consumer. If you’re offering a good product the viewer will be left wanting more. There are plenty of extra’s that can wet the appetite of the consumer. Try offering a couple candid behind the scenes moments with the director working with the actors or some bloopers. Interviews and deleted scenes are also make excellent extras.

A strong synopsis
Here’s another very important element that’s been proven to directly influence a consumers decision to purchase or pass. A good synopsis should capture the essence of what the film is about and entice the consumer to want to learn more. When writing the synopsis include strong adjectives that compliment the genre, ie riveting, shocking, clever, absorbing, charming, etc. Similar to the poster, it wouldn’t hurt to include any festival awards or any notable talent that may be attached to the film.

Here are a couple well-written synopsis’.

Charles Swan III

Brooklyn Castle

Marketing on social media platforms
You could have one of the most original, kick-ass posters ever conceived, a mind-blowing trailer and a synopsis written by a world famous author. Unfortunately none of that would mean squat if no one knows your film exists. It’s up to you and your team to market and promote the hell out of your film. Exploiting social media platforms is crucial to getting the word out. I could write pages upon pages of social media strategies that could be useful to your campaign, but seriously, why bother. There are plenty of great articles on the Internet that offer advice on how to self-promote and self-market your film. So cancel your weekend plans, grab a notebook, sit in front of your computer and start Googling.

So there you have it. A handful of campaign tips to point you in the right direction.  Good luck and may the odds of a successful launch be forever in your favor.

-Stephen Reilly


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