GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – BRANDING YOUR FILM!

Welcome back to Going Bionic. I hope everyone had a great week. Attending the grand reopening of the Pauley Pavilion arena at UCLA this past Sunday night highlighted my week. As a UCLA alumni, and long time season ticket holder and donor to the UCLA Athletic Department, it was nice to get the “first look” at the newest digs on campus. Last week we discussed ways to brand yourself as a filmmaker, so this week we’re exploring the art of branding to your film. Since we frequently discuss strategies for finished films and films in development, today we are listing branding strategies for both. So, without further ado, let’s do a little bit of branding.

Branding Finished Films

Hide Accomplishments That May Limit Your Film’s Value
Revealing the festivals you’ve played and the deals you’ve made, may decrease your film’s value. While I know this point seems somewhat insane, here’s a recent situation where not revealing a film’s history can clearly benefit the film:

Last week the makers of a hip little indie film that is starting to create a solid fan base contacted me. They’ve already had a few sold-out theatrical screenings in their local market, (which prompted the theater owner to extend the film’s run) they’ve played their first film festival, and they have a DVD distributor on board. Sounds magical, right? Not so much. Here’s why:

1)  The film festival they played at is insignificant in the eyes of the powers-that-be. Thus, not only will larger festivals dismiss this film before giving it a serious look, (since it began it’s run at a small festival, it’s viewed as not being not good enough to play more substantial festivals), but also the film may not get on the radar of distributors and international buyers due to its lack of star power, media attention or top tier film festival pedigree.

2)   The DVD deal on this film is from a distributor who has a history of releasing films that nobody has ever heard of. Simply put, larger “big dog” distributors will likely pass on a film that’s already signed away one of its main income streams to a “little puppy.”

Thus, the film discussed above would greatly benefit from not announcing the festival they played or the name of their DVD distributor on their film’s website. Doing so would allow larger festivals and distributors to focus on what really matters: the fact that this little no-name film is packing the house during there current theatrical run.

Don’t Turn Your Film Into A Film Festival Slut
Saying “no” to festivals that don’t enhance your film’s cache will increase your chances of getting a “yes” from distributors. Since oversaturation can be detrimental to the “shelf life” of your film, playing 37 film festivals will probably deter potential distributors, because all of the markets they would have sold your film to, have already seen your film for free. Thus, you should strategize which festivals you would agree to play in. Remember, less is more, as long as the festivals you play in are established and respected.

Go After A-Listers To Become Your Executive Producer
“It’s never who you know, it’s who knows you.” I love that quote, especially since it’s so appropriate here. Getting an A list actor or director to become your executive producer and hence, put their stamp of approval onto your film, is one of the most significant moves you can make to brand your film. For example, “Precious” (2009), benefitted greatly from having Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry as its executive producers. Yes, “Precious” was very well made, with standout performances and a killer, natural screenplay, but I wonder if the film would have ever had a red carpet premiere at the Cannes Film Festival (I attended that premiere – it was awesome) or if it would have been nominated for and won multiple Oscars (it won Oscars for Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay) without Oprah and Tyler making sure the tiny little film with no stars got an abundance of attention.

Branding Films In Development

Don’t Detach Major Interest By Attaching Yourself
While I’m well aware that most everybody reading this would kill to direct their own film, the worst thing you can do is demand such a scenario when you send your script to a studio, A-list actor, distributor, financier, or any other entity that could your tax bracket overnight. The reason is you’ll kill your script’s potential to catch fire and gain interest if the people you’ve submitted to know you’re attached to direct. Remember, funding your film is a multi-million dollar proposal, and distributing and advertising it is tens of millions more. So, the last thing that any powerful entity wants to hear is your demand to direct – especially if you don’t have a track record of making wildly successful studio films.

The better play here is to submit your script as the writer and see if the place you submitted to responds favorably. If they do, then tell them how you’d kill to direct it. At least then they’ll be invested in your script and so you might have a fighting chance to convince them to let you direct. However, if the place you submitted to passes on your script, then you never have to mention that not allowing you to direct is a deal breaker. This is a smart tactical move, because you’ll keep your relationship with the place you submitted to, for future submissions.

Go After A-Listers To Become Your Executive Producer
For the same reasons listed under this same headline under the “Branding Finished Films” section, getting an A-list level actor, director or producer to come onboard as your executive producer, will clearly enhance the chances of your film getting funded and made. Landing a “name brand” executive producer will also increase the level of talent that will agree to be in your film, because someone they perceive to be at their level of power (or higher) will be executive producing.

Alert Major Film Festivals Of  Your Film Early On
Having a name brand executive producer will make sure that major film festivals will pay attention to your film from it’s development stage, through production, post production and film festival submission process. Of course, having your executive producer get on the phone and call the film festivals that you’re dying to screen at will certainly help your cause. Ultimately, it’s always the film festival’s decision whether to play you or not, but engaging them into your film early on is one way to brand your film as a creative work of art that deserves to play at major, globally respected film festivals.

Okay, people; that’s what I’ve got for you today. As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday! I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.




Posted on October 30, 2012 in Features, Going Bionic by
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