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Arts & Entertainment

How to Promote Your Independent Film

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Dec 20, 2019 • 4 min read

The filmmaking process doesn’t end the moment that a director and producers declare they have a final cut. Long after production wraps and copies of a film are disseminated worldwide, the process shifts to marketing and film promotion. Although film promotion may not be as exciting to directors as writing, pre-production, storyboarding, staging, coaching actors, editing, and adding special effects, it is nonetheless critical to your film’s overall success. Without robust promotion, your film simply will not be seen.

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5 Ways to Promote an Independent Film

It doesn’t matter whether you hope your film will be a critical favorite at independent film festivals or just a widely viewed short film on YouTube or Vimeo. In all of these cases, you will need a movie promotion plan to get eyes on your film. The advent of digital technology has transformed the film industry. In the world of Final Cut, Premiere, and iMovie, more films are now made in a single year than in the first five decades of cinema combined. To make your film stand from the crowd, you need a savvy marketing strategy.

The major studios in Los Angeles and New York have a wide array of financial and business resources for promoting their feature films. As an independent film producer or director, you won’t have such resources, but you can still reach a lot of people. Here’s how:

  1. Create a hook-filled trailer. Even in the digital age, movie trailers still comprise a big part of movie marketing. A good trailer will be gripping (if it’s advertising a thriller), funny (if it’s advertising a comedy), and compelling within the first few seconds. Even if you’ve clearly identified a target audience, you still have to grab them with masterful storytelling.
  2. Roll out your marketing campaign on social media. Major Internet ad platforms allow immense amounts of audience tailoring. Make a list of the types of people you want to reach, citing traits like age, gender, income, and specific interests. When you advertise on digital media, make sure your ad is shown to the types of moviegoers you’ve identified on your list. In today’s media market, online marketing (and specifically social media marketing) has outweighed TV marketing for everything from indie film shorts to big screen superhero franchises.
  3. Create a simple film website. If you have a great trailer and a focused marketing campaign, you want to use them to steer potential audiences to your film’s website. In the early days of the Internet, marketing professionals believed websites needed to be filled with interactive games and exclusive content to stand out from the crowd. Today’s film websites don’t necessarily need such gimmicks. If nothing else, just give yourself a great looking landing page with your film’s trailer and links for viewing it—whether that’s streaming outlets or a showtime at local theaters.
  4. Stage a public event. Everyone is used to seeing filmed advertisements for motion pictures and TV shows. What’s far more rare is seeing a live promotional event. Thus, such events may be far more memorable for a prospective audience member. If you have the marketing budget to pull it off, an event promoting your film could make potential audience members more likely to buy a movie ticket than they would be if they just saw a TV commercial or web ad.
  5. Build word of mouth. Some filmgoers can’t be lured into theaters with just a trailer and a splashy ad campaign. They want to hear from people they know and trust. For many, this means friends and family members, social media influencers, prominent critics, or bloggers. If you can get people talking about your film outside the context of an advertisement, you can draw in audiences you wouldn’t otherwise reach.

3 Important Tips for Promoting Your Film

For some filmmakers and producers, film promotion is exhilarating and gratifying. For others, it’s a chore. Indie film directors and producers have a lot to balance when promoting a film, and it can be overwhelming at times. No matter how you feel about it, it has always been part of the overall process for creating a new movie. Here are three tips to keep you grounded and focused on the task at hand:

  1. Work hard to get good press. Press junkets—which combine press releases, cast interviews, critics screenings, and public events for the media—remain a great way to get critics and journalists writing about your films. If you can get your team members interviewed on television, radio, or a prominent podcast, you can reach massive audiences.
  2. Tap into the fan base of an existing film or TV show. If you think your movie would appeal to fans of another film, reach out to that film’s audience. Social media platforms are great for this. Join the conversation on Twitter, use hashtags on Instagram, and join Facebook groups related to those films. If you put your trailer up on YouTube, fill your description with keywords that connect it to films and shows enjoyed by like-minded people.
  3. Talk to other indie filmmakers. Pick their brains about what worked for them. If you have a close relationship with them and they are generous with their time, ask them to watch your movie and give you any feedback. And if the filmmaker has their own production company, they may even be interested in investing in your film—assuming they really love it.
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