Creative Distribution: Connect and Affect
Last week we launched Make Your Market, a brand new initiative that offers training and development for emerging PMDs who will work alongside Producers to develop Marketing and Distribution strategies for new films. SDI Producer Sonja Henrici reflects on her own experiences of working with a PMD.
Almost five years ago, we embarked on our Virtuous Circle project, investigating new business models and new roles in the film industry, in particular, the “PMD” - Producer of Marketing and Distribution (coined by Jon Reiss). We wanted to find out what impact this role would have on our slate of features and what we could learn about technology, digital tools, and the cutting edge of audience engagement, marketing and distribution.
We learned and tried out a lot of tools and strategies. We distributed I Am Breathing, Future My Love and Stem Cell Revolutions in different ways. But of course you also learn about yourself and the part you can play in this “industry” of ours.
You realise that we all make way too many films.
You become impatient to wait for third parties to validate your film; for festivals to give you a slot; for distributors to actually watch your film; for sales agents to find it worth their while.
You might become discouraged by the late decision making processes, making your release schedule (national, international, online, offline) unpredictable, delayed, and tough to plan.
You realise that taking matters in your own hands at the stage of distribution feels really empowering, but is an awful lot of work; at the end of which you can mainly blame yourself for failures or shortcomings, not a third party.
But...you can always blame the lack of money.
You know what you can do for your film, perhaps better than others, but you still find yourself yearning for approval, endorsement, if only this celebrity came on board; if only this critic would write about the film; if only this cinema would help.
You know that time always runs out.
You know that at the end of the day your funders and stakeholders still prefer “official” distributors. And perhaps, you secretly do too? But then you remember that showing the film where it matters, counts, and that to shine, quality engagement stands for something. Communicating stands for something. Guiding the distribution with intention, stands for something. Believing in something - your work, has value.
Collaborating with everyone who believes in you is invaluable. And so, naturally, the work of producers expands. And that’s why I believe in the role of a PMD; someone who enhances your distribution avenues, your impact, someone who specialises in combining new and old stakeholders and ideas. Let’s not forget, we’re both team leaders - and the PMD is not a panacea to your distribution woes.
So where do we go from here? There is no going back. Distribution has changed and keeps changing. One thing is clear: We have to keep up. And every effort you make thinking about your audience early is as important as how you are going to tell the story of your film.
I can’t emphasise enough how creative this effort feels - getting to know your audiences, what they might like and don’t like, and coming up with a way to capture their attention. You know you can’t afford the “spray and pray” effort of mass market appeal. You can truly leave that to the studios. But you can connect your film with the right people. Connect and Affect! That also means getting to know real people, outside the film business!
In the trailer of Seven Songs for a Long Life, which we’re currently distributing with the help of UK Hospices, and charities around end of life matters, we say:
The chance to shape our own story is all that matters in the end.
To make an impact, to be at the bleeding edge of distribution, we have come to realise that we need to build more capacity in the field in Scotland, nationally and internationally; we need to nurture smart people committed to bringing films to audiences; producers, filmmakers, really need this help to make their films stand out from the crowded market - whichever distribution route they are finally going to take.
We’re delighted to be partnering with We Are The Tonic on a brand new training programme Make Your Market, bringing together Scottish producers, filmmakers and emerging PMD talent for the first time across three weekend workshops, including one to one mentoring over 6 months for 4 projects and 2 (paid) PMDs.
We’re proud that Jon Reiss has agreed to headline our first session in January 2016, which will also be open to observers.
We need to validate and develop the creativity involved in distribution and marketing.
And we need to come together collectively more often to share creative, technological and market intelligence.
Audiences will thank you for it.
To find out more about the Make Your Market initiative and learn how to apply, visit: scottishdocinstitute.com/apply/make-your-market
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