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Building Your Movie Fanbase

Filmmaking is a Communal Activity

Successful filmmakers don't exist on their own. A film is successful only because an audience likes it. Finding your community of collaborators and audience is an important part of your job as a filmmaker.

Long before you write the first line of your screenplay you should be thinking about who is going to help you make it and how you are going to sell it to an audience.

If you've got a great idea for a screenplay, that's great! But even the best ideas will need refinement during the development process before you are ready to make a film to show to the world. That clever idea you have in your head may not play as well to an audience and the way you find out and fix it is by getting others involved in the process.

More than just getting help with your ideas you want to start building a fan base of your friends and family to begin to spread the word. It takes time for buzz to spread so get it started early. Marketing isn't something you start after the film is in the can. Marketing is a full time job that should be going on all the time. The best filmmakers are also the best promoters.

You never know when someone you talk to turns out to know someone who can help you in a big way.

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Tens of thousands of ideas get pitched in Hollywood to producers but only a handful will every get made into a film. Many of the ideas just aren't as good as others and its amazing how often people come up with the same or similar ideas. Or maybe it's not amazing considering we all read the same papers and book and watch the same shows on TV.

Most film that get made don't make money so it makes sense to be sure you have a great idea and have refined it as much as possible. It makes sense to be sure your film will interest a big enough audience to stand a chance of making money. It makes sense to get started with marketing as early as possible.

A major film in 2006 was Snakes on a Plane. The producers invited the public to contribute ideas for the screenplay which did the double duty of refining the ideas at the same time they created an audience.

Companies today in almost any line of business understand that selling a new product is always harder than creating a new product. Marketing often drives the creation of products in many industries. The danger is just to make sure that marketing goals don't overwhelm artistic goals and create an inferior product.

The Filmmaker's Handbook is the "bible" to creating and distributing your film. The one essential book every filmmaker needs to own.

Filmmakers are small business people creating entertainment for sale. Making a film will take much longer than you ever imagined so take your time up front to get the story right and know you have a big enough audience that your story will appeal to.

A few years ago anything you created would have to be sold to acquisition agents, distribution selling agents, foreign selling agents, domestic and foreign distributors. They were the people who controlled what got shown in theaters or went to DVD for Blockbuster. At least they would pay for a lot of the advertising and marketing.

Well Blockbuster is gone and so is the stranglehold all those distributors and agents used to have. As an independent filmmaker you are going to be finding your own distribition and creating your own marketing.

How to Market an Indie Film

Be brave and objective for a moment. Step back from your great idea ask yourself if there is really going to be a market for the film. If you are creating a comedy is needs to be funny to some audience. A horror film needs to scare somebody. Drama has to be thoughtful and interesting and relate to some group of people.

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Audiences tend to pick films from one or more genres that they have found they enjoy. Independent films are often quirky and hard to fit into any of the accepted genres. Also genres go in and out of fashion all the time. How can you structure your great story idea so it will appeal to the maximum number of people?

I'm not saying you have to compromise you artistic goals but if you can structure your idea so it doesn't insult or bore too many people you will have the potential to make a lot more money. If you aren't following your artistic passion you won't have the energy to follow your film through to completion.

Now while you are being object ask yourself one more question. Is my idea really all that original? Has it been done before, or something very similar? Is my idea original or just a copy of something recently popular (that maybe was done better). Does your idea stand out as unique. Ask your friends if they've ever seen anything like it. Be prepared to learn the worst but maybe you can still turn it into something great.

Be an Enthusiastic Filmmaker

The energy and excitement you show for your projects is a large part of what will sell them. Brooding introverts don't make good filmmakers.

Finally, a good reason to network and get others involved is that you will run into other filmmakers along the way. You can learn from their mistakes and successes. Maybe they know about a new outlet for indie films. Maybe they found a great promotional idea. They may turn out to be a great collaborator or just have some helpful input.


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