Marketing

Marketing An Independent Feature Film

(The following article was first posted on the Paul Writer website here.)

Aside from my day job of marketing of software services, I’m also helping a friend to promote his upcoming independent Kannada feature film “A Day In The City”. This film, directed by Venkat Bharadwaj, is a Kannada commercial feature film that is set to hit the screens in the month of August 2014. The film explores how government officers function and talks about topics such as effective governance and national integration. More details about the film can be seen here.

As part of the integrated film marketing campaign so far, we have been featured by the likes of Bangalore Mirror, Citizen Matters, India Glitz, Radio Fever and Times of India. While going through the journey of film marketing, one of the first realizations that I had is that the film is a product. I needed to look at it like a product and needed to use some good old product marketing tactics to sell this film. Here are a few more insights that I have gleaned over the past few weeks, on how marketing a film is a different ball game altogether.

Digital Marketing

Like every new product in the market, we also needed a website that talks about our film. The Kannada film Lucia, that was recently crowd sourced had done a great job with it’s website. We created a simple website using an elementary WordPress template and are able to track user visits. We are able to inform our prospects (viewers) about what our movie is all about and why they should watch the film. On the digital side, we are also working on creating a page on IMDB, SEO and Social Media marketing using the Facebook page. Post the upcoming audio launch, we plan to allow for digital downloads of the songs on various music websites.

Design

Like in all marketing jobs, design and visual representation is key to create an image in the mind of the consumer. We realized that the “first look” poster of the movie needed to arouse curiosity in the mind of the viewer. The trailer also had to be really crisp but impactful. These were the collaterals that we have to showcase to the viewer, a preview of the film and help them make a decision to watch the film.

Distribution Challenges

What we realized is that the movie market is essentially a distribution monopoly. It’s really hard for an independent film to create a dent in this system, unless you are well connected and can pull some strings.

Along with traditional distribution systems, we are also exploring options such as Amazon’s CreateSpace and Video On Demand tools such as iTunes and Reelbox. To curb piracy we will be reaching out to the Anti-Piracy Cell and see how they can help us.

On the television front, we realized that Doordarshan would probably need our film in a DVC Pro format if at all they agree to showcase our film. Theatre owners on the other hand might need us to show them the film in 2K resolution. We are also figuring out how to make our DVD available on Flipkart and other e-commerce channels. Also in the mix is the exploration of the pre-order option.

The film festival route will also be an expensive process, since we would need to spend monies on courier, censor board and conversion to DigiBeta format. A couple of festivals that we are targeting include BFI & Panorama. The best marketing tool for a film, is winning an award. So we are keeping our fingers crossed!

We have decided to not make BluRay discs, since the demand for this is really low in India as of today. Again, this is an example of knowing what the market is like and fine-tuning your approach accordingly.

The other revenue sources include ringtones and satellite rights from television channels. We also plan to send the film to UTV & Anurag Kashyap films and see what they have to say about the film. We also want to explore the route of corporate screenings and see if companies would be willing to use film as a medium for employee engagement.

Important Lessons Learnt

During this journey, we tried to reach out to a few film festival coordinators. The surprising thing that we didn’t expect is they were asking us for a fee to showcase our film in their festival! In another incident, we met up with a Public Relations Officer, who promised us some media attention. He went on to say that we need to do a press screening at a five star hotel, offering each of the journalists a 1500 Rs worth “gift hamper” and dinner! While interacting with radio stations, we realized that reaching out to the Programming Directors of the radio station is the best option, since the final call on content is taken by this person. The other key learning from film marketing is that endorsements by industry stalwarts really add a lot of mileage. The likes of Aamir Khan and APJ Abdul Kalam are usually encouraging of socially relevant films. So in case you are doing a launch party for your film, ensure that you have celebrity around during the release.

In this age of really short attention spans, we also think that 10-second teasers would be a great way to target users who view video content on their mobile phones. We did a press release and that did bring in some amount of traction for us.

Three tips for the discerning film marketer

- Be super responsive to mails. Have your content ready to go, since you never know when a reporter will ask for what!
- Build a fan base. Try and engage with your fans.
- Look at other marketing options such as merchandising and mobile apps to promote the film.

Conclusion

The best marketing tool for any feature film is obviously the word of mouth. For me, this journey of doing marketing for a full-length feature film was new and exciting, since it offered many new challenges. I was also able to apply technology-marketing tactics in film marketing. So this was a great experience and something that you should try too!