There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” The same can be said of your film’s marketing strategy.
Whether you're a first-time filmmaker or an old(ish) pro, you know there are several stages to bringing a project to life, and every stage brings its own unique marketing opportunities.
There is no wrong time to start your marketing plan; however, the earlier in the process you start, the greater your potential for impact.
The earliest I'd recommend starting to market your film would be as soon as you move into fundraising/development. At the very least, you'll want to grab the social media handles for the name of your project as soon as possible, even if you aren't posting yet. (You'll thank me later.)
Doing your preliminary audience research and curating will also be helpful later on (especially if crowdfunding is any part of your film financing plan) so, really, it's never too soon to start with this legwork.
Even if you haven't nailed down your marketing plan, keep an eye toward content at every stage of production. Audiences love to see behind-the-scenes material (folks outside of the entertainment industry are fascinated by how the sauce is made) so take every opportunity to grab photos and videos of your pre-production meetings (or screenshots if they're happening virtually). Your audience is investing in your team as much as they are your story; let 'em see what makes you guys tick!
Start connecting with your future audiences where they hang out. At the very least, start doing research on where your future audiences hang out. This will be incredibly helpful when you start to move into crowdfunding, which is also -- you guessed it -- marketing.
The crowdfunding phase of production (which is a whole 'nother topic in and of itself) will be your full time job for the duration of your raise. But inside of that time are a tremendous number of opportunities to genuinely connect with your audience and make fans of your project before you've even started principal photography.
If you don't have your film's marketing strategy in place by now you should at least have a marketing strategy in place for your crowdfunding campaign.
Now comes the fun part: principal photography! If you've been implementing a marketing strategy, now is not the time to slack off. And if you have not yet begun marketing your project, now's a great time to start! Make sure you're grabbing lots of on-set pics. Have members of your cast do social media takeovers. If you're absolutely strapped and can't spare any extra time for marketing, build a plan to schedule your posts into your pre-production work. Even with the smallest crews and the tightest deadlines, you can make it work. 😊
Post-production can be a great time to start implementing a marketing strategy (if you haven't already. See? It's never too late!). With the project confidently in the hands of your post team, your production team may now have more bandwidth to help out on the marketing side. You should by now have a wealth of content to tease your audience with, and you may even be in pre-production on some viral video shoots to support the film. (Who doesn't love getting the team back together again?)
Just like film production, marketing has a snowball effect. If you've got a completed film and you're just now thinking about how to market it, you'll probably find it will take a fair amount of lead time before you'll see any tangible results. But it's not impossible! If you have the budget for it, you may wish to hire some professionals to help you at this stage in the game so that you can make the most of your resources at hand.
Marketing is one of the most important things you can do to get your film in front of audiences. It's never a bad time to start, but the sooner you start, the sooner you'll see results.
Have a film marketing success story? We'd love to hear it!
Joanna Bowzer is a growth marketing and audience development strategist as well as a film and content producer. She is a founder of Film Launch, which supports content entrepreneurs in developing and launching their projects. Her Vision.Position.Expand. 12-week career + project accelerator helps actors, writers, and filmmakers bolster their mindset, develop their brand, and create their vision and plans for the next decade.