Money and a Market: Requirements for Successful Filmmaking

Indie feature films need two things to be a success: Money and a Market. You may have money to spend on talent, crew, equipment, design, etc., but without a channel for marketing, the money is trapped inside a DVD disc that sits on your shelf. You may have a large and eager market who awaits your masterpiece, but without the financial resources to create a worthy picture, you will under deliver and lose your audience. Money and Market go hand in hand, and with the right finesse, you will begin to see your dream of cashing in on a passion/hobby/job become a reality.

Means to an End

Money is not magic, it won’t write your script or shoot your film, but it does provide a means to accomplish various stages of production. Without money, you are limited to freebies, favors, and selling your soul. Many films are made with super limited budgets, but any filmmaker worth his color-correcting knows that there’s no such thing as a “no budget” production.

Marketing is the avenue through which you hope to recoup your production costs, at the very least. Without it, there is very little hope that you’ll pull in anything. And for clarity sake, Facebook and YouTube posting don’t count as legit marketing. Although it’s great to get your film venture out there in hopes that someone will find your treasure and offer you a multi-figure distro deal, the reality is that the current market is saturated with indie DVDs of every genre. Unless you have a marketing strategy, with resources (people and organizations) to promote your film, you’ll just end up with “hits” and likes,” and those don’t translate into dollars.

Finding money is a difficult task, one that requires people skills, a strong business sense, and/or rich relatives. There are many books and articles out there on funding a film, so I won’t pretend to know more than the next guy. If you’re looking for tips, see what tips are selling.

Marketing is something each of us can manage more readily. There are principles to marketing that matter before you begin pre-production. Knowing what you can hope to recoup on the back end, assuming you create a product worthy of an audience, should determine what you spend on the film, therefore it’s best to acquire a basic understanding of how marketing works.

Marketing is about one thing: who wants to see your product? Or more importantly, who wants to see your product enough to hand over cash for that privilege? You can typically count on family and close friends to make an investment through the purchase of a DVD, although they might also expect a free copy because they are family/close friends. But beyond the familial ties, who out there is willing to spend 1.5 hours plus of their life sitting through your creation, or dropping $20 on a DVD, and why does it matter to them? What are you “selling” that appeals to them? Knowing your market and its Achilles tendon is hitting closer to center.

How To Start Your Own Production Company

Any filmmakers out there looking to start your own film production company? It can be an intimidating process, but with a bit of research, it’s certainly within your reach.

Film production companies are established to either finance and produce one film, develop and package screenplays for capital investment, or as the production entity, actually hiring the team of below-the-line talent to physically make films. Developing screenplays means attaching actors, directors and key department heads. The below-the-line talent are the union employees in different departments that build sets, run the camera or do effects. Regardless of what your production company will do, each type of production company relies on the other types to ultimately create and produce any one film.

Step 1 Pick what type of film production company you are establishing. This is often determined by the experience and resources you already have but is not required. For example, if you have 10 years experience as a line producer, you know the nuts and bolts of physically putting a film together and have the Rolodex to do so with a few phone calls; this is a production services company. If you have relationships with investment bankers or film distributors, your company may initially be more inclined to package or finance productions.
Step 2 Research the tax incentives in different states (and countries) to determine where you will set up your company. Some states give larger tax breaks than others to encourage filmmakers to bring work into the state. Keep in mind that you can establish your company in one state and still film in another to receive the tax incentives. The tax incentives are available during physical production periods and are not part of the day-to-day tax structure of a production company.
Step 3 Name your company and establish your business entity. Establishing an entity is done through the secretary of state of the state in which your company resides. Corporations or limited liability companies reduce the risk exposure to company owners in the event of financial or legal liability. Many states allow entity filing through an online portal and pay the filing fees with a credit card.
Step 4 Obtain financing for the company depending on the type of production company you have formed. Development and financing companies are constantly seeking venture capital for new projects, ranging anywhere from $50,000 to $100 million dollars. A production company that does the physical work of making the film does not need a large operating budget until production starts, since the work is contracted out as needed.
Step 5 Talk to an insurance agent regarding the insurance needed for different production companies. If you have regular employees, you will need basic liability and worker’s compensation insurance. You will also need to increase insurance coverage for physical production periods on equipment, workers and liabilities.

Step 6 Set up the financial structure of the company. A production company with several films in production will create a subsidiary LLC for each production to account for profits and losses on each project. Productions budgets are based on each department with stars, directors, producers and screenwriters considered above-the-line talent and everyone doing the physical production work considered below-the-line talent.
Step 7 Design a logo, a website and video clips. The website should provide a background of the key people in the company with a reel of any quality work they have performed. A reel is a three to five minute montage of clips. The reel does not need to be work done by the company but can be of its key people prior to establishing the production company.
Step 8 Execute your business objectives. For those in development, this means reading and optioning screenplays then finding stars to sign on while seeking funding. Production companies that provide production services must market to development companies that offer below-the-line talent and services. Film financing companies must partner with development projects. In the end, the development company needs a financier and both need the production services company to make the film.

Super Bowl Commercials Take Creative Marketing to a New Level

creative-marketing-super-bowlThere’s no better way to capture the attention of your prospective customers and stand out from your competition than a creative marketing campaign through TV commercial studio in Dubai.It’s no wonder why businesses turn to specialty advertising and marketing companies to develop these creative promotions.The most obvious examples of Super Bowl advertisements. In 2013, Super Bowl advertisers spent around $3.8 million for 30-seconds of commercial air time. That doesn’t account for the cost of the commercial concepts and production, nor the supporting marketing materials. This is way more than most of us would ever consider spending on a single promotional campaign for our business.

Imagine, sitting down and watching a movie or TV show with your family. Not wanting to miss a single minute, you wait for a commercial before getting a snack or taking a break. Not true for Super Bowl viewers, because the commercials have become as interesting and entertaining as the game itself — with some viewers only watching the game to see the commercials!

How creative marketing can kill your business

Viral-Marketing-spreading-the-WordI can’t even believe I said it. I consider my own creativity to be one of my strongest skills and personal characteristics. I’ve nurtured my creativity for a lifetime. Spent my career in a creative field. Even got a master’s degree in “creative writing.”

So how in God’s green earth could I besmirch the concept of “creative marketing”?  Isn’t that the holy grail of marketing and PR firms? Just google the term and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of firms claiming the word “creative” in their name.  Ad agencies hang their shingles on being creative. They even nounicize that adjective and call their work by the name “creative,” as in, the “creative for that campaign will cost $250,000.”
So here’s the deal. The dirty little secret.
Creative marketing is overrated.OK, OK … before you creative types jump down my throat, let me back up. Yes, I agree.  There must be some creativity in marketing or else nobody would pay any attention to you at all. You must have an attractive, well-designed logo, website, social media, etc. And it helps a lot to have some surprisingly creative aspects to your brand.

For example, the branding of Cuties, a seedless, sweet, easy-to-peel mandarin orange as a children’s fruit has been wildly successful. Who would have thought about taking a plain old orange – a commodity – and giving it a name? That’s great creative marketing.

On the other hand, too many businesses are throwing money down the tube – the boob tube — on “creative” marketing.  Case in point: the TV commercial studio in Dubai — arguably the most creative advertising out there. They’re wonderful entertainment! They are the only reason I watch the Super Bowl. But a study by the research firm Communicus suggests that 80 percent of the ads don’t sell stuff.

The firm conducted more than 1,000 interviews before and after the game, asking people what they’d bought recently and what they intended to buy in the advertising categories of the Super Bowl advertiser base. It checked back with the same group weeks later and asked similar questions.

The researchers said that the ads did better than average in ad awareness, with 44 percent of people remembering they’d seen an ad vs. 32 percent for other ads. But, here’s where it gets interesting. Because the creative focused less on the brands themselves, people remembered the brands less often in the Super Bowl ads. People who remembered a Super Bowl ad, recalled the brand only 35 percent of the time vs. about half the time for other ads.

So what’s going on here? Why are people dishing out millions of dollars for this “creative marketing”? Well, I have my theories.

Ad agencies are full of creative people. Unfortunately, many have the silly and immature notion that they are there to self-actualize through their creativity rather than to help clients sell their products and services. They love to show off for each other, and they love to win awards. It’s fun. So do I.

But seldom are results taken into consideration for awards – or if so, it plays a token role. In fact, there are awards for creative that clients didn’t buy. That’s right, clients. I bet you didn’t know that, did you? The stuff that you were smart enough to reject because you knew it wouldn’t work for you? They give awards out for that, too.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is good work out there, too. And when it matches your strategic objectives and speaks to your audience, that’s terrific. But often it doesn’t. It’s just creative. And that doesn’t do you a bit of good. It just builds an ad agency’s portfolio and sucks you dry.

Often the most “creative” agencies are the most expensive. They have the toniest addresses, the nicest offices, the largest staffs. It’s all a mirage to make you think you’re getting your money’s worth. They make you feel like a rock star so you don’t notice that loud sucking sound coming from your bank account.

Just remember the line from the famous adman David Ogilvy who said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”  That means that ultimately, a lot of creative marketing isn’t creative after all.

So you’re not playing in that rarefied air of Super Bowl ads and big agency budgets. What’s this talk about relying on creative marketing got to do with you and your small or mid-sized business?

Every day I see businesses struggle with their marketing because they don’t know what to do. They’re all over the map, looking for the magic bullet that’s going to propel their sales into the stratosphere. They try this shiny toy, then that. They don’t have a strategy; they’re just ripe for the picking for the next ad salesman or schemer that comes along.

Just. Stop. It.

It doesn’t matter how “creative” it is. It doesn’t matter how great a deal the next salesman is offering. You’re throwing your money and your business away without: 1) A strategy based on your specific business goals and audience; 2) Consistency; 3) Repetition over the long haul.

Great marketing doesn’t have to be flashy. Gains happen incrementally over time, applied patiently and with purpose. No, of course you don’t want to be boring, but everything you do doesn’t have to produce fireworks. Most businesses don’t fail because they lack creative marketing — they fail because they lack sustained marketing.

It’s a balancing act, yes. But don’t put so much weight on the creative, artzy, fun, inspirational side, that you don’t do the hard stuff. The daily stuff. When you get down to it, marketing is work. But when you do the hard stuff right, marketing works for you.

Steps to Smarter Brainstorming for Creative Marketing

1-shootersmentality-wpIn basketball, a “shooter’s mentality” usually means the player is not going to let missing a shot or two deter them from taking another shot.

Michael Jordan made almost 50% of his shots. That means he missed around 50% too. But he kept shooting. Great shooters do not think about missing. Once the thought of missing shots gets in the player’s head, the chances for success diminish.

In basketball, a “shooter’s mentality” usually means the player is not going to let missing a shot or two deter them from taking another shot.

Michael Jordan made almost 50% of his shots. That means he missed around 50% too. But he kept shooting. Great shooters do not think about missing. Once the thought of missing shots gets in the player’s head, the chances for success diminish.

But speaking of him, how many hours in the gym do you think Michael Jordan spent to develop his shooter’s mentality—to develop the confidence that he can make the shot because he has prepared and practiced it for years, leading up to that moment?

Like making a game-winning shot, great creative is not an accident. We find that a few simple steps can lead to great creative marketing, designed to help grow a business.

1. Do your homework.

Know your brand. Know your audience. Know your objectives.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen firsthand marketing created in a vacuum where the creatives brainstorm something witty and award-winningly clever. Then, they create the backstory of how they got there.

I’m sure you’ve seen it. It may be the TV commercial you laughed at but cannot remember the product or service advertised. That typically means the creative team did not align the core message with the brand. This is why I cannot tell most beer commercials apart; most are funny and enjoyable, but the concept seems to be interchangeable between brands.

The very word “brainstorm” can imply open minded, free thinking to a lot of people and with that, give them the idea that no rules apply. I have been taught just the opposite: that there is freedom (and success) in rules.

Only when you have studied the demographics, compiled the survey results, looked at the history of the category…basically done your best to absorb every resource available to understand the market and objectives can you develop great contextually relevant, branded creative in a “blue-sky” brainstorming session. When all the homework is complied and the objectives are identified the next step is to…

2. Assemble a great team.

No man (or creative) is an island. Like the Marvel Avengers, everyone brings something to the party. This is the “secret sauce” of any great creative marketing team. It helps to have the right mix of idea people and pragmatic or data-driven people. It also might be good to include a ringer, an outsider…maybe a freelance writer or a trusted vendor. We’ve invited improv actors. A sense of humor is always welcome on my team. One thing holds true for everyone in the room…

3. Brainstorm in a safe environment

The idea is to generate ideas. We find the best way to accomplish that is to have a balance between yin and yang, up and down, black and white and most importantly, YES and NO….

No interrupting (let the idea get out!). No poo-pooing ideas (withhold criticism). No hierarchy in the room (everyone’s idea has equal value).

Yes to quantity (get as many ideas out as possible—this is where a “shooter’s mentality” is a real asset). Yes to welcoming an unusual idea (it may be “out there” but spark a hidden solution). Yes to combining, improving or “building” on an idea (also known as 1 + 1 = 3).

In this type of safe brainstorming environment, marketing professionals, like those at idc, can truly shine. We are prepared for the moment, the clock is running, and we are ready to score the winning shot (or develop that business building campaign). 40+ years of practicing successful creative marketing has taught this team a thing or two about winning.