Back to selection


A recurring topic all last week at IFP’s Marketing and Distribution Labs was how indie filmmakers can get the most out of their film’s release, both monetarily and in terms of marketing. Friday morning the conversation turned granular (but no less interesting) with lab leaders Jon Reiss, Amy Dotson, and Milton Tabbot discussing the pros and cons of various forms of merchandising.

Stressed repeatedly – the key thing to remember is that each film requires a distinct merchandising campaign. Think about your film’s core audience, and what kinds of products they would most likely be interested in. Then plan accordingly.

Here’s a list of merchandising opportunities that filmmakers should consider when taking their film out on the festival (or screening) circuit.

Sell DVDs at Screenings
If you’ve already had DVDs pressed by the time your film is screening, you should seriously consider selling them directly to the audience after the film. It’s a golden opportunity to reach fans directly, and one of the only instances where you’ll get to keep one hundred percent of the profits. Probably best not to sell at your festival premiere, but at subsequent theatrical screenings, it’s a tactic that could prove lucrative.

Important: If you’re in the process of negotiating DVD distribution, make sure to find out from the distributor if they’ll allow you to sell DVDs in this kind of scenario.

Equally important: You should make sure to negotiate a price below market value at which you can buy mass quantities of your DVD directly from the distributor.

Print Postcards, Business Cards, or Both
This will be essential to the marketing campaign surrounding your festival appearance(s). Make sure your postcards are visually appealing, and that they advertise the time and location of your screening. There was some debate this morning about whether postcards or business cards were ideal for this sort of marketing. Business cards, one filmmaker argued, are less likely to be discarded because of their wallet-friendly size. Whichever option you go with, make sure that your physical marketing materials clearly and effectively get the word out about your film, and about how it can be seen.

Hire a Street Team
Once you’ve got your promotional materials printed, you might want to consider hiring a street team to help distribute. Companies like Range Life Entertainment specialize in these kinds of tactics, which are especially effective at targeting youth audiences. The argument in favor of hiring a street team is that it’s not enough to simply get a postcard into a person’s hands. You need to start a personalized dialogue with that person about your film.

Throw a Party
If you’re premiering at a high-profile festival, and you’re looking to attract a distributor (or just general industry attention), consider throwing a premiere party. During this morning’s session, one filmmaker who’s already had his festival premiere suggested outsourcing the party planning, or bringing in an additional team member to organize. If this party is celebrating you and your film, you’re going to want to be able to network as much as possible, not have to deal with putting out fires. If you’re lucky enough to have a theatrical premiere in New York and/or LA, you should also consider throwing a party in conjunction with that.

Seriously think about other merchandising possibilities
It bears repeating – every film has a unique core audience. Certain demographics are more likely to buy certain types of apparel. If you want to sell t-shirts, make sure that your design will appeal to the type of person likely to buy it.

During today’s discussion, Tim Sutton, director of the upcoming Pavilion (whose innovative website we’ve already blogged about) shared plans for an upcoming DVD Collector’s Edition, which he plans to offer first as a Kickstarter benefit. This collection would not only include a copy of the film itself, but also a book of still photography, and an exclusive EP featuring The Sea and Cake front-man Sam Prekop’s score. After the Kickstarter campaign, Sutton plans to sell this item at screenings, and perhaps even at museum gift shops. Obviously a Collector’s Edition DVD wouldn’t be an ideal piece of merchandise for every film, but for Sutton, whose audience will likely be made up of art-house film buffs, it’s a great idea

© 2016 Filmmaker Magazine
All Rights Reserved
A Publication of IPF