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Friday, January 13, 2012

Promoting your Micro-Budget Movie

When making a micro-budget movie there’s hardly enough money to make a movie, let alone marketing and promotion. Any good producer will set aside a portion of the budget for these things, but when things go wrong in production or post whatever little bit was saved for promotion gets spent. I’ve yet to work on a movie (with a budget under 50k) that had anything left for promotion once it was completed.

So how do you promote when you have no money for a PR company? You have to become your own PR machine.

The 1st step is to start making contacts with press. I’ve spent the better part of 7 years cultivating different print and online press contacts, starting with my 1st movie Rise of the Undead back in 2005. ROTU was a horror flick so I started by researching print and online publications that specialized in horror, particularly ultra-low budget horror. I spent weeks just looking up sites and magazines. A good place to start online is to look up similar movies to yours on IMDB. Look for movies with several critic reviews. Then find the contacts for those reviewers. Next, I started sending inquires; letters to the magazines and emails to the sites. I must have sent out over 200 inquires, from those I got maybe a 25 percent response rate and out of those 40 percent agreed to print articles or to take a look at a screener. In the end, I got maybe 6 online reviews and a couple a dozen short articles (more like blurbs.) It seemed like a lot of work for so little pay-off. However, a few years later when I did my 2nd movie, I already had some relationships established. I had kept all the contacts from my 1st time around. I started with the ones that actually printed stuff for me and I started sending them “exclusive” content (stuff no other press had.) They reciprocated by printing more detailed stories and more stories in general. This time around I started sending stuff out right after the movie wrapped; early screenshots, trailers, production news ect. Then I went through my old list of non-response and reached out again, adding newfound sites to the list. This time around my response rate jumped to 40 or 50 percent. By the time I got to Monsters in the Woods, about 70 percent of the press I reached out to responded. That in addition to my established contacts makes for a pretty good media blitz with no money in (aside from duplication costs and postage for screeners).

The 2nd step is to make use of social media. I pretty much stick with Facebook and twitter these days. In addition to my personal pages, I set up new ones for each movie I put out.
****One word of warning. Watch for over saturation and duplicate posts from your personal and movie pages. Don’t over-clutter people’s news feeds. I try (for the most part) to keep the movie stuff compartmentalized. I do usually post interviews and blog posts on my personal pages, because they’re about me personally. But, I keep the bulk of the specific movie news to the movie pages. Of course, that’s just a guideline that I don’t always follow myself. For example I got a really good review the other day and posted it everywhere.

3rd step. Ask for help. I’ve done just about 100 percent of the promotion for all of my movies up to Monsters in the Woods. On Monsters, the executive producer is helping quite a bit. And I’m getting to the point now where to get more or better press I need to make the kind of contacts you can’t get by cold calling. I need referrals ect.  So I try to find individuals who work in the PR game and pick their brain or feel them out. If they’re open to doing a favor I ask them.

Self-promotion is tough, especially since it seems narcissistic and self-serving. Unfortunately that’s what it is and on a micro it’s exactly what you have to do.


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