Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Jon Reiss on "Why A Producer of Marketing And Distribution?" Part 1

By Ted Hope | Hope for Film August 31, 2011 at 12:30PM

Yesterday's HFF post on the plethora of new platforms & options for truly free filmmakers should have made you leap for joy and run for the cliff simultaneously. It is wonderful that filmmakers have SO many great tools and services at their disposal. But how does anyone take advantage of this situation. The choice is overwhelming. Sure the rewards could be great -- but so is the risk. Well, the answer, my friend, is... best explained by Jon Reiss.
14

Yesterday's HFF post on the plethora of new platforms & options for truly free filmmakers should have made you leap for joy and run for the cliff simultaneously. It is wonderful that filmmakers have SO many great tools and services at their disposal. But how does anyone take advantage of this situation. The choice is overwhelming. Sure the rewards could be great -- but so is the risk. Well, the answer, my friend, is... best explained by Jon Reiss.

The Producer of Marketing and Distribution and The New 50/50

On the recent discussion concerning the Producer of Marketing and Distribution on Ted’s blog recently, there was some confusion as to what are the responsibilities of the Producer of Marketing Responsibilities. I offered Ted the list of responsibilities that I wrote for the introduction of a book that I am writing on the PMD. Ted offered to post the entire introduction in three parts. This first part concerns why I think a PMD is useful to independent filmmakers. The second post concerns responsibilities of the PMD. The third post will look at how the PMD is currently being adopted and what kind of training could help not only people who want to be PMDs, but also the filmmakers who want to have them as part of their teams. Here is the introduction.

As a filmmaker myself, I am well aware of the paradigm shift that has occurred in the last several years as independent filmmakers try to get their films distributed. Through my own work – and talking to countless filmmakers - I have become a firm believer that filmmaking is a two part process. The first part is creating the film – the second part is connecting that film with an audience. There is still a strong belief in the independent film world that filmmakers are only responsible for creating the film – someone else will take care of distribution and marketing. For a very few filmmakers this might still happen. But for the vast majority of filmmakers – and all artists and media content creators – it won’t.

Loose estimates range that there are between 5,000-17,000 feature films made in North America every year and that approximately 35,000 feature films are on the international festival circuit. Most of these are looking for, hoping for, a company to give them a check in exchange for the right to distribute their films. Even in an excellent year of acquisitions – only a relative handful of films will have some form of distribution entity “take their films off their hands”. (Whether having a distributor is the best course for any film is another debate – I am also a firm believer that every film is different and each film thus needs its own unique distribution and marketing strategy and implementation – but that is for another chapter.)

So it is up to filmmakers and artists to not only own the means of production – but also to own the means of distribution and marketing.

Hence the New 50/50 is as follows:

50 percent of an artist’s time and resources should be devoted to creating a film or artistic work. 50 percent of their time and resources should be devoted to getting the film/artistic work out to its audience, aka distribution and marketing.

This is not a hard-and-fast rule. Rather, it is a guide to changing our preconceptions.

In the year and a half since I coined “the New 50/50” I feel that it creates too much of a dichotomy between creation of a film and the distribution and marketing of a film. In the best of circumstances – these two “halves” should be integrated into an organic whole. Audience engagement needs to start as close to inception as possible – and with advances in technology – mainly Internet and mobile technology, it is more possible than ever.

I believe that this integration allows for not only much better results in filmmakers achieving their goals of their releases (whatever those may be) – but also allows for the distribution and marketing process to open up to new forms of creativity as well. Distribution and marketing can be as creative as the filmmaking process – even to the point where they become indistinguishable. This should not be scoffed at, as some form of branded entertainment – rather should be embraced as a revolution of artistic possibility. (However it is actually branded entertainment in which the artis is the brand.)

The Birth of the Producer of Marketing and Distribution

I find that most filmmakers (directors and producers both) I speak to are so overwhelmed with the amount of work involved in creating “a film” –they don’t have the time to connect with audiences or create additional assets during production to aid in later marketing efforts (or as creative extensions of the project). Further, many filmmakers (especially directors) do not have the skill set or inclination to engage directly with audiences. As a filmmaker, I can relate to these feelings myself.

In addition, just like you most likely did not make the film on your own, you should not be distributing and marketing the film on your own. I would propose that from now on, every film needs one person devoted to the distribution and marketing of the film from inception, just as they have a line producer, assistant director, or DP.

Just before sending Think Outside the Box Office to print, I came up with the concept of the Producer of Marketing and Distribution or the PMD. I gave this crew position an official title of PMD because without an official position, this work will continue to not get done. I gave this position the title of producer because it is that important.

In addition, in doing the work as a PMD for my own film as well as consulting on a number of other films, (and having produced three feature films myself) I can state that this work is producorial in nature.

The purpose of the PMD is for one person on a filmmaking team to be responsible for audience engagement. {Note that I use “distribution and marketing” and “audience engagement” interchangeably. I do this so that filmmakers will start to view distribution and marketing (the whole process from beginning to end) as audience engagement. E.g. Audience engagement starts at awareness – and keeps going through consumption and beyond to the future. }

To continue: the purpose of the PMD derives from the recognition that filmmakers (filmmaking teams) need to own the audience engagement process and that this process should start as early as possible – either at inception or no later than the beginning of pre-production for the best results.

The need for a PMD also results from the recognition that audience engagement is a lot of work (perhaps as much or more work than actually making a film) and that traditional filmmakers (writers, directors, producers etc) are already busy with the task of making a great film. These traditional members of a filmmaking team rarely have the extra time to devote to distribution and marketing (so it often falls by the wayside). In addition, many traditional filmmakers are not suited or interested in the kinds of tasks that audience engagement requires. It also recognizes that most split rights distribution partners and some traditional distributors will not spend adequate time or money on promotion when the film is ready for distribution. The earlier in the process this is started, the more successful it will be for everyone involved.

Jon Reiss is a filmmaker and author of Think Outside the Box Office. His new book, Selling Film Without Selling Your Soul, co written with The Film Collaborative’s Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winter with social media marketer Sheri Candler, is sponsored by Prescreen, Area23a Movie Events and Dynamo Player available September 13, 2011 via Apple iBooks, followed by Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, a printed edition and free ePub version.

He can be reached at:

jonreiss.com/blog

twitter.com/Jon_Reiss

facebook.com/reiss.jon

You can order Think Outside the Box Office here, or on Amazon.

This article is related to: Producing, Social Media , Guest Posts, Promotion