The film industry is going through some radical changes in the next 24 months, and filmmakers will have to be aware of not only the technological shifts, but the landscape in which they can distribute and sell their movies.
This list below will give you an overview of what you need to be aware of, and how to avoid some of the common pitfalls. There are many factors outside of our control that can make it difficult to succeed, but ignoring them can be fatal, and films need to be given every chance.
1. Ignoring VOD – Theatrical window collapse
The VOD/ Theatrical window collapse is inevitable and while movie theater owners will be fighting to maintain the status quo, people are already switching to an all VOD experience. That means returns on box office receipts will go down, and as there will be more competition for audiences, quality will have to remain high. 2014 saw a string of big budget movies under-perform, not because there wasn’t demand, but because they were simply not good enough, and audiences have much stronger choices.
Make the best possible story first, don’t focus on winning over an age-demographic or hoping that previous box office numbers prove you have a good formula; because there other producers who are spending much more effort making truly groundbreaking stories.
2. Depending on streaming-only services for money
An all-VOD approach isn’t necessarily going to make a film profitable, particularly for a low budget release with a limited audience. There are still many markets where filmmakers can sell completed features for distribution via TV. Even limited theatrical distribution is a good option for a low budget film release.
Filmmakers should think about all distribution channels and avenues for their film before they shoot the first scene. Securing as many partners, and outlets will strengthen the film’s chances, and bring about bigger returns.
3. Saying no to sponsors for the sake of art
We like to prioritise art and a film can be a very personal journey. The idea of having a sponsor might sound repulsive but if there is an opportunity to match a product with the message of a film, and that brings about significant financial rewards, or helps the film get distributed, it can’t be ignored.
4. Not getting financial help for marketing
This continues to be the biggest problem for filmmakers: Marketing. It’s the one area where indie producers don’t spend enough money on, and their films don’t get enough traction. PR and marketing are vital in bringing a film to a bigger audience. Making sure there is a budget that supports the team in pitching the film to distributors at festivals, securing media coverage and partners is important.
There are always costs prior to securing a distribution deal, and while a distributor will invest in marketing a release, filmmakers should think about allocating money aside to give their film the best possible chance. If it means spending $1000 to go to Berlin or Cannes to meet producers and sell the film, then put that in there.
5. Focusing on film festivals only for recognition
Film Festivals will not make a film successful in most cases. They are events that allow filmmakers to promote a film, to showcase it to an audience, but that alone is not enough.
It’s those conversations and meetings behind closed doors at film markets or with distributors that can secure a film’s future. Also the feedback and reviews from a festival screening can lead to securing other projections or help raise financing to market the completed film, where ultimately it can attain more recognition.
6. Ignoring bloggers and journalists no matter how insignificant
Bloggers and journalists have very little time to care about the thousand of films that surface every day on the web. From viral videos to funny parodies, there’s a lot of competition for attention.
Filmmakers should be aware that any kind of press coverage for a film can completely change the game. Niche publications, and indie bloggers have influence over targeted audiences that can be just as powerful to promote a film as a major broadcaster. In fact, it only takes 1 person to believe in your film to sign a lucrative distribution deal so don’t ignore the little guys (or girls).
7. Failing to secure shooting permits
We’ve seen how disastrous it can be not to secure basic permissions or ignore safety protocols for the sake of filming. The industry is now 100% aware of the safety concerns raised over the past several months following the death of Sarah Jones. Unions are looking proactively, producers are being scrutinzed. Any kind of oversight in this area could end a career.
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