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Marketing Your Indie Film: Q&A with Mark Steven Bosko

Caleb Ward
By Caleb Ward
By Caleb Ward

Expert marketeer Mark Steven Bosko shares some great tips for promoting your next film project.

Resources like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have revolutionized the way filmmakers raise support and interact with their audiences, but successful films require much more than good fundraising. They require good marketing. As indie filmmakers we stress over the subtle nuances of production but when it comes to selling our film we are often clueless.

To assist us with this problem we’ve asked Mark Steven Bosko, the founder of the Bosko Group and author of The Complete Independent Movie Marketing Handbook, to answer a few questions we had about marketing indie films.

Q: Let’s start with the basics – the state of indie film. What’s the outlook right now for new filmmakers?

A: We are in an extremely competitive era offering a vast array of entertainment options. Not only do filmmakers have to compete for audiences against other films, but also against offerings such as the Internet and vastly expanded cable offerings blasting content 24/7. The days of gaining eyeballs simply because you finished a feature length film or documentary are over. Everyone has access to the technology, making this situation even more complicated. Thus, the filmmaker that understands marketing – the whos, whats and wheres of their intended audience are those filmmakers that will succeed. A filmmaker who knows how to tap into his/her audience will be better at creating a film that address that audience’s needs, and more importantly, how to get them interested in the film.

Q: How important is marketability when choosing a film to create?

A: Well, an artist always has to stay true to his work, so I wouldn’t promote creating a film specifically for commercial reasons. That being said, however, I can stress enough how vital saleability is to a project. There are so many great interviews with storied directors that note they do some films for money and some films for themselves, so if they get this concept, an indie producer should, too. I am constantly seeking marketable films. I get 10-15 films in our office every week, and less than 10% of those have what it takes for me to get the film into the distribution pipeline.

That doesn’t mean that many of the movies aren’t great – I enjoy many of the movies that I can’t sell. But I run a business, and to stay in business I must offer films to my buyers – the retailers and Internet platforms – that are attractive to their buyers – the audience. When a filmmaker understands how to combine marketability with their vision – that’s when it works great. Those are the films I want to have in my catalog.

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Q:  Should filmmakers wait until the film is complete to begin marketing a film?

A: No. A filmmaker should start selling their films the moment the decide to make one. That doesn’t mean a filmmaker should start calling folks like myself when they write one page of a script, however, I track many films from inception-through-completion, with the producers checking in along the way to ensure they are on track with something marketable. Additionally, to get a film completed, a filmmaker has to constantly market the project to keep folks excited and involved. Selling your vision is a tough job, and requires a lot of energy and work. A dedicated filmmaker gets that and those that can keep the marketing going usually succeed in creating a project that finds its audience. Read about Coppola or Corman – they are the greatest filmmaker/producer/salesmen ever.

Q: Ok so you just finished editing your first feature length indie film, what now?

A: Have an objective audience view it. Not friends or family but people who don’t know you. Let them criticize it, take notes (or have them make notes or record their thoughts). Even if the comments seem ridiculous or nasty – it’s a great learning process and exposes the filmmaker to ideas and views about their project that usually end up being true weaknesses in the story, acting, direction or production value. Its not fun, but a necessary task.

Also send the film to a couple of folks like me who are willing to take a look and offer insight from the business side. I’ve seen films in early cut stages that I could tell with a few changes would make a huge difference in my ability to sell it. Even a change in title can make or break a movie.

Q: What are the most important marketing resources filmmakers should utilize?

A: The Internet and social media. Filmmakers can connect to their audiences like never before through this medium. From finding buyers and potential audiences to access to building fan bases and targeting direct sales, the possibilities are literally endless. Also key art, metadata and the trailer. These are VITAL. I cannot stress that enough. Audiences still judge a book by its cover and make viewing decisions based on a movie’s trailer, and many times simply on its key art and description (metadata). Do not try to create the key art yourself. In 18 years I think we have only used three designs that originated from the filmmaker. Movie posters look great (and similar) for a reason.

Q: In your book you write about the importance of networking as a filmmaker, What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers that aren’t great at networking/communication?

A: Find a team member or champion who can do this. I am a promoter/distributor/salesman – this is what I do. But I meet so many filmmakers that do not have that skill set (much like I don’t have their skill set). So many movies never reach their potential because of the person representing it. They either are too shy, too demanding or too protective. There is a lot of finesse in a sale and making the connections that will get a film sold, and if your front man doesn’t understand how it works, they will simply turn off buyers (or we will forget about you).

Every filmmaker has someone they know or that is working on the film that can be a salesman. Many times I have spoke with an actor, as these folks are naturally outgoing and friendly. Being honest is very important, as is delivering on time. Nothing will squash a deal quicker than missing a deadline. So whoever is out front, be sure they can back up what they are telling people like me.

Mark BoskoMark Steven Bosko is the founder of the Bosko Group a company designed to help filmmakers find distribution and promotion. Mark is also a regular presenter at film festivals and industry events including SXSW, AFM, Moondance, an Reel Inspiration, among others. Thank you for sharing your insights Mark!

Have an indie film marketing question? Ask in the comments below.