A producer recently inquired as to how much she should allocate to the Producer of Marketing & Distribution (PMD), in her film’s budget. Seriously? Another producer title?! While initially dismissive of that concept, I’ve actually come to terms with the viability and necessity of such a role, given the inability of most independent films to acquire distribution in the United States, which is mostly due to:
- Prohibitively expensive Marketing, Advertising and Distribution costs (if you’re not spending at least $25m on a national campaign, then you probably shouldn’t spend anything at all);
- An overall dearth of independent US distributors (due to the high cost of marketing);
- Studios shifting their focus to a few blockbusters and franchises, rather than indies.
It used to be quasi-acceptable to assume in a film’s Finance Plan that 20% of a film’s budget would come from exploitation of U.S. theatrical, video, and TV rights. Now the U.S. can only be reasonably relied upon for a $150-$250k “fire sale” price, for Direct-to-DVD/VOD rights — regardless of whether the film was made for $2m or $25m. With this measure of uncertainty in the air, it makes sense to have somebody at the Producer level who is focused solely on developing and executing a marketing and advertising campaign, starting from the first day of pre-production, until the film is delivered to the distributors.
Most films have a Unit Publicist, who works on-set with the Still Photographer and a small video unit, to put together basic marketing materials like footage and interviews for DVD extras and press-junkets, all of which is necessary for facilitating the delivery of some standard/basic marketing materials for U.S. and international distributors. The Producer of Marketing & Distribution, however, would operate on a much higher level:
- Creating and managing the social marketing campaigns (which start on the first day of each cast and crew member’s hiring, including the writer, director and producers.)
- Generating an overall marketing and distribution strategy and implementation plan;
- Wooing investors who specialize in financing Prints & Advertising (P&A);
- Making sure that key executives at every distribution company are aware and kept abreast of the project (building anticipation for possible acquisition.)
I believe that an actor’s social media stats (the number of Facebook friends, Twittter followers and Linked-in connections, along with the overall frequency of social media activity) are as important as their head-shot, resume, and demo reel. Agents and managers need to start including their clients’ Social Stats on resumes: this is as true for writers, directors, producers and actors as it is for cinematographers, production designers, grips and other crew members. All of this falls under the purview of the Producer of Marketing & Distribution.
Traditionally, this higher-level marketing strategy fell within The Producer’s role, but speaking from experience, most producers are too mired in the daily demands of physical production, post-production, and delivery demands to have the time and clarity to contemplate all the facets of a film’s marketing campaign, which means it gets put-off until the film is completed, which is way too late in the game.
Most indie films (of any budget) would benefit from having a Creative Producer, Production Producer, Financing Producer, and Marketing/Distribution Producer, all of whom report to The Producer of record: the person who gets the Produced By credit and all the accolades. This may sound like a saturation and further dilution of the Producer role/title, but it really does take a village to make a movie. It’s also important that the film not be comprised of all Generals, with no soldiers. Independent films that don’t have the luxury of being backed by studios, mini-majors, or large production companies (that already have an internal infrastructure of creative, production, financing, and marketing executives and staff) will benefit in the long-run from the delegation and compartmentalization of these core Producing functions. [see the last 2 paragraphs of my previous post on producing credits.]
It’s important to remember that each film is both a start-up company and an initial product launch. Like a start-up, it has development and financing stages; and like a product launch is has a production stage, marketing stage, and a distribution/retail stage. If the CEO of a start-up claimed he could manage all the start-up and product launch phases by himself, he would be dismissed as too naive to run his business. Yet most independent producers set out to do just that — then they wonder why the buyers weren’t interested and the film didn’t recoup its money.
So back to the initial question: how much should The Producer allocate to the PMD? The answer is: the allocation is inversely proportional to how inherently commercial the film is (at home and abroad). Put another way: how important is making your investor’s money back?