How to Sell Your Indie Film at Every Stage
You’re going to have to sell your project at every stage. What? Sell?!?! Yes, sell. At least if you want your project to be the most successful it can be. After all, this is a business. Here’s the good news, selling isn’t as difficult as you might think.
Let me back up and explain what I mean by “selling at every stage.” I mean, that in order to get the right producer or director on the project, you’re going to have to sell the script. In order to get the right Director of Photography, you’re going to have to sell the vision. In order to get the right cast and executive producers, you’re going to have to sell your plan for the film.
You get my point. Now that you understand what I mean by selling, let’s talk about how you do it.
The key to doing this successfully is perspective. Or, the ability to look at what you’re selling from the point of view of the person you are trying to get involved in your project. This involves two things;
- You must know what the purpose of your project is.
- You must know as much about the other person’s career and what they’re about as possible.
This concept applies to companies as well as individuals. For example, if you have a really great character piece about two people sitting in a diner having a really intense conversation about life, unless that diner blows up at some point, you wouldn’t pitch it to Universal or Warner Bros. You would pitch it to a smaller, independent production company who has a track record with character pieces.
Let’s break this down with some different perspectives and examples.
If you were to pitch an indie producer on the film I described above, it might look something like this:
“I have this really great film that can be shot at a low budget. It’s marketable aspects are; the ability to get a great cast because the characters go through some real emotional range. I also have a contact to (INSERT NAME ACTOR HERE) who would be willing to do the project at scale. The script also touches on (INSERT HOT BUTTON CAUSE HERE – i.e., cancer, mental health, learning disabilities, etc.) and I feel like (INSERT LARGE NON-PROFIT HERE) would be interested in coming on board to help with the marketing or we can begin a twitter campaign, etc.”
I am not saying your film has to be a “cause” film, I’m only pointing out that you should be thinking of things that make your film sellable after it is shot when you’re pitching a producer because that’s going to make their job easier and your project more appealing overall.
Pitching a director can be very similar to pitching the producer but, you will want to focus in on the great story elements here and maybe not focus so much on the marketing elements. i.e., you’ll want to focus on the characters (and the great actors they might be able to cast), the locations, the story arc, really anything they can sink their teeth into as far as the story elements. Writers think of their projects in much the same way directors do, so, this perspective shift most likely won’t be a “shift.”
My advice is to think of how you would pitch your script to yourself here.
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
You’ll obviously want to focus in on the beautiful settings and locations here. But, if your film is set in a diner-like our example above, maybe you work to get the latest technology on your shoot. On one of my projects, we were able to field test a camera that was brand new and we got our DP to come on board because he would get to work with it.
CAST & EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS
I’m going to mix things up a minute here and lump these two together. Because my experience is that if you look at them the same way, you’ll have an easier time getting both to come onto your project.
The key for cast and investors is to have a plan. You’re probably saying
“I understand how an EP would need a plan, but cast?”
Yes, I want you to begin thinking of the cast’s time as money. They (and their agents and managers – who you’re going to have to convince even more than the actual talent) have spent years building up a “sellable/bankable” brand. Time = money. Therefore, their time is just as important to them as the investor’s money is to him/her.
That’s why you’re going to need to show them a plan where they can see that their investments are going to pay off. How are you going to market/sell the film in order to make that investment (whether it is the investment of time or money) back?
What is it about the film that is going to propel that actor to the next level of their career or make it easier to raise money.
The coolest part about the world we live in now is that implementing the plan can truly be in your hands. The possibility of doing your own theatrical, online, VOD, etc. release exists and if you’re strategic in your planning, you can really show a cast member and investor what their realistic ROI (return on investment) is.
Do you see how shifting your perspective can really help you to create the best possible team to ensure the success of your project? Does “selling” become a little easier this way?
Once you know who you are (or want to be) in the film industry and what your project is and where it’s going, finding the right team to make it a reality is simple and fun.
Jenna Edwards is the creator of Jenna Edwards Media and Indie Movie Mastery. She is a big fan of independent moviemakers, actors, artists, and creatives, and she wants to use her business perspective and her powers of organization to help those wonderful creatives get their movies made.
Filmtrepreneur Library: Required Reading
- Independent Ed: What I Learned from My Career of Big Dreams, Little Movies, and the Twelve Best Days of My Life
- The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking: An Insider’s Guide to Making Movies Outside of Hollywood
- Like Brothers: The Rise of the Duplass Brothers
- Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
- Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player
- The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking: From Preproduction to Festivals and Distribution
- Produce Your Own Damn Movie!
- Get Your Free Filmmaking Audiobook
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Stuff You Need in Your Life:
IFHTV: Indie Film Hustle TV
Book: Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)