With major film festivals being extremely competitive, you might think that after getting in a selection of festivals, the hardest job is done – your film will get seen and hopefully that will bring all the indie film buzz you wish for. But how do you know that people will watch your film?
I’ll use Raindance as an example. As an independent film festival, the majority of the audience won’t know about the existence of most of the films in advance of the festival. With 247 films in programme, our main goal is to increase people’s awareness of the festival, while giving every film a fair chance at having a successful screening. Your marketing efforts as a filmmaker, however, are crucial in ensuring that your screening gets filled. Here are 6 steps to take to avoid your festival nightmare – an empty World Premiere screening.
1) Have your assets ready
When promoting the films screened at Raindance, I sometimes struggled to find the trailers online, which is a big drawback. One of the attendees even told me that they avoided films that didn’t have a trailer as they felt like they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to watch the film or not! Not only you should make sure that the festival you’re submitting to has your trailer, you should also make it your most important asset when you’re promoting your film, together with promotional and behind the scenes stills. A film website is also a great to redirect people to during your festival run, as well as social media accounts for the film.
2) Have a Facebook event for the screening(s)
Creating your own Facebook event is the crucial to give visibility to your film. When creating the event, make sure to:
- Add the festival’s Facebook page as co-host, so that it will appear on their page, too, once they accept the co-hosting request
- Include the laurel from the festival in the event image. You can also choose your trailer as event banner instead of an image
- Include the name of the festival and the premiere status of the film in the title (World Premiere, European Premiere, UK Premiere, etc) ex: “[film] [premiere status] at [festival]”
- Add info about any Q+As in the title (“+Q&A”) as well as in the event description – do you know who will be in attendance?
- In the case of multiple screenings, add the time of both
- Link the event to the page where people can book tickets on the festival’s website (if available) in the tickets section
- Include any already existing review snippets in the event description
- Post updates about the event (trailers, reviews, behind the scenes, bios) using your film’s Facebook account
- Post a thank-you note after the screening, with any images from the screening (do the same on Twitter/Instagram) as well as info about any additional screenings or newsletter signups.
3) Promote the screening before the festival
- Use Facebook Ads from your film’s Facebook page to promote the event to targeted people (geographical location, gender, age, specific interests). You don’t need a huge budget for this – anything from £10 onwards helps! To increase engagement, you can include the trailer in the ad. If you’re working with a larger budget, you can retarget the users who have already watched the trailer on the page, as they’re more likely to get tickets. Facebook has some useful guidelines on how to create ads.
- Share the event with any relevant groups and associations via Facebook, Meetup, email, etc (ex: Italians living in London if your film is Italian, feminist groups if it tackles feminist topics, etc), and invite them to the screening after-party if you’re organising one.
4) Create a ticket competition
Buy a few tickets to your screening and give them out in a competition on social media. Competitions are great to create buzz around your film, but you might want to make sure that they result in actual ticket sales. An example could be to give out a free ticket to people who have purchased one already, to bring a friend. Do ticket competitions only if the festival gives out e-tickets, as it will otherwise be difficult to give the ticket to the winner(s).
5) Be there!
There are many reasons (including budget!) why you might not be able to attend your film screening, and that’s ok. If you’re going to attend, make sure to arrive to the festival in advance (if possible) to spread the word about your film.
- Have some promotional material. Postcards are quite common but they can be effective, especially if you include the screening times for the specific festival you’re at, as well as eye-catching visuals and review snippets, if available. You’re generally allowed to distribute flyers and postcards within the premises of the cinema (including the entrance of the venue), but not out on the streets. Some venues might allow posters, but you should always check with the festival in advance of the screening. In any case, aim to have something that people can take home before the day of your screening.
- If you have the budget, look for more creative materials such as badges, stickers, film strips, or any object that can be related to the film. We might make the example of The Blair Witch Project too often, but an element of their innovative marketing campaign was that during the festival run, the filmmakers distributed flyers asking viewers to come forward with any information about the “missing” students. If your film focuses on a wider issue, you could create informational brochures to increase awareness, while linking them to the film. For example, the promotional material for 120 BPM included flyers with an overview of the history of AIDS activism, plus a poster of the film.
- Don’t miss out on networking events, whether they’re organised by the festival directly, or they’re after-parties of specific screenings. Don’t be too pushy about promoting your film – just have some postcards ready if anyone is interested in the film, or exchange business cards.
Many festivals will screen each film more than once, and you want to make the most of this opportunity, for example by being available for a Q&A at both screenings (if possible), or just by continuing your marketing efforts (social media, flyering, networking) after the first screening. Share any feedback, reviews or photos from the first screening to attract any followers who might have missed it, and don’t forget that word of mouth is crucial.
For your next festival, make sure to go through each of these steps while making any changes based on the feedback from the previous festival. Use any materials (photos, videos, reviews) from the previous festival screening to promote your next one. Finally, don’t forget that your festival marketing is just a part of your general marketing campaign!
Ready to get your film out there? Submit to Raindance Film Festival today!