Frustrated With Film Marketing

Just being real for a minute.

I spent a year and a half making a documentary that people in the target audience like. It’s far from perfect, but it’s been very well received. Here’s a short trailer I cut together highlighting some of the viewer reviews:

It’s the best thing I’ve ever made. So far.

So, I did a TVOD release, made it available for rental and sale. I marketed the film, did the email list thing, did the direct marketing to the target audience thing. I used social media to find audiences.

After the sales dried up, I started down the road of SVOD. Specifically focusing on Amazon Prime.

Now, I’ve written before about how terrible Prime royalty rates are. Basically, when people watch my movie all the way through, Amazon gives me $0.12. Twelve cents…

But, hey, everyone says that SVOD is how people want to view indie films. Even the people I know who took a survey about it said the same thing. People are more likely to watch through an SVOD or AVOD platform. So we just have to get more people to watch it.

And that brings me to the biggest frustration. I have not been able to find a way to advertise the movie to a targeted audience in a way that actually makes money.

I’m not talking about getting rich. I’m talking about making back the money it cost to make the film. Generating profit enough to make another one.

I have identified a great audience through Facebook, with about 370,000 members. Every time I run a brand awareness or traffic campaign I get great results. Sounds awesome, right?

Sure, if you can get people to watch for less than $0.12 a view, it’s great. But I have not been able to spend less than $0.40 per click. That’s just per click, it doesn’t mean people who click actually watch the whole thing. And sometimes it costs more, even up to $3.30 per click, using Facebook’s bid/auction placement.

When I ask experts on social media ads, they don’t have an answer. Most of the time they talk about using email lists, and building audiences. That’s great. Good advice when you’re making a movie.

But for this film, I’ve already plucked that low hanging fruit. I am ready to move to the next phase- where people who don’t know about the movie decide to watch it.

Is there no way to reach these people and see results that actually allows me to break even? No one seems to know one. It’s very frustrating.

For fun, I’m currently running a new test ad campaign. I’m limiting the bid to 6 cents per landing page view, and making the landing page the Amazon video page. I will see if FB can figure out how to serve up the ads. And if it will give any decent results.

Update: FB did not serve the ads. So, back to the drawing board.

The Scary World of SVOD

Prime Video

So, I flipped the switch and my feature length documentary is now available on SVOD. Right now that’s Amazon Prime, but hopefully some other platforms will pick it up.


I worked a year an a half on this movie, and now people can see it for basically free. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever produced. It’s not perfect. But it ain’t bad either. In the target audience, it has been well received.
But entering SVOD is scary…


Why is it scary?


Money.
Most people don’t think much about his much the indie films they watch cost to make. They don’t care if a studio make their investment back. They don’t think about whether an indie film might make it back. It just doesn’t enter their mind.


But as a filmmaker who both raised and invested his own money, I think about it. A lot. 


In an ideal world, my film would make back enough to fund the next one. in a realistic world, I’d like to break even. That means it as to earn enough revenues to recoup everything it cost of get it out there. That’s where windowing comes in. 


Big movies launch in theaters, then go to digital TVOD for a while, then physical media, then later it hits SVOD. Self distributed movies may have physical copies, but some, like mine, are only available via digital. So there’s a TVOD window and then an SVOD window.


it’s a balancing act to decide when to switch windows. It’s hard to get people spend money to see an indie film. It’s easier to get them to try one on a subscription service. But the royalty difference between TVOD and SVOD shows just how much easier it is.


I thought long and hard about this issue. I don’t know if it will ever make the money it cost to create back. (That stinks) I do know that I found a really good audience to advertise too. But none of them were tipped into spending cash when I ran the “funnel.” And industry people say that SVOD is where the views are, not TVOD. My own unscientific survey also showed that people my spend money on indie film, but would prefer to watch on a subscription service.


So it makes sense to move it here.


But based on the Amazon royalty for my film right now means that it takes 12 Prime views to equal one $1.99 rental. So to make more money, I have to find 12 people interested enough to watch the film for every person I would have found who would have rented it. This audience better be a good one. Preliminary results are good, but I’m also running ads to drive viewers to the site.


It’s easier to make more movies if you have a track record of success and funds from that success to launch you. SVOD has a long tail, but it’s also the last window… (lumping Advertiser supported VOD in)

Comments and odd reviews
SVOD attracts weird reviews and comments.


When a film is in TVOD a viewer has to really want to see it. Unless it’s just terrible, they probably won’t leave an odd review. They were really interested in it, so much so that they paid money to watch it as a rental or purchase.


However, SVOD users don’t have to be interested to try out a film. I have often clicked and tried films i would never pay money for. Just to see. That also means people who are not your target audience, or who are just trolls who have wandered out from under their bridge might watch and comment or review your film.


i know it’s hard to believe the internet could engender such behavior. I actually stopped making tutorial videos on Youtube partially because the comments were so toxic. There were other reasons, but that environment played into it.


Places like Amazon aren’t quite that bad, but you do get your fair share of weirdness. The comedy short “Carjacked” that I wrote and directed got a 1-star review simply because it was a short comedy. I mean, it’s not a secret. What did the viewer expect? Long drama?


Luckily, a few people have reviewed the film on Amazon (3 as of now) and it’s still at 5 stars. I expect that to change. And frankly, even bad reviews help drive the algorithm. 


It’s scary to be in SVOD. I don’t know what will happen. its like releasing the movie all over again. What if people hate it? What if they don’t?
Well, I like it. I’m proud of it, even with its flaws.


If you want to watch on Amazon, check it out here: amzn.to/2mu5msO


If you like it, leave a review. If you don’t, send me a message telling me how much you hate it.