As a filmmaker who blogs, I have the advantage of observing both sides of the spectrum. As an indie filmmaker, I know the struggle of trying to promote a movie that no one’s ever heard of. As a blogger, I work with PR firms and publicists to help promote movies that everyone’s heard of. So what can indies learn from the biggies?
While major movies do invest massive amounts of money on advertising, grassroots marketing still constitutes a major part of their promotional efforts. Grassroots is code for no-cost or low-cost. It involves reaching out personally to influencers and getting them to spread the word. Grassroots is work, but in the long run, can bring prove much more effective than advertising. The Erwins and Kendricks are masters at this. Long before their movies are released to the public, they provide free screenings for pastors, church leaders, and media. They know that once the leaders have seen the movie, they’re more likely to promote it. The excitement is contagious. Although it’s not cheap to rent out the theaters, they know the benefits will far outweigh the costs.
So what does all this mean for the low-budget independent filmmaker who can’t afford to rent out theaters? You do blog tours. Authors have long known about blog tours. PR firms and publicists do them all the time. And they work just as effectively for filmmakers on their own.
A blog tour is a set amount of time where your movie is promoted on lots of different blogs. Generally, it’s the weeks right before a release. We’ve done blog tours for years now. I just didn’t know that’s what they were called until recently. And they work!
So how do you set up a blog tour? First, you need to find bloggers who might be interested in your movie. Select already released movies that are similar to yours or appeals to a similar audience and do an online search to find movie reviews and articles about them. Then contact those bloggers or websites. Introduce yourself and your movie, give them the link to your website and trailer, tell them when you’re releasing, then ask if they’d be interested in reviewing your movie and/or interviewing you or your lead actors. Offer to send them a private online screener for them to watch. Not everyone will be interested, but a few will. Plan on half or less actually following through, so be sure to contact lots of media.
Be selective in who you submit to. You’re going to have negative reviews. There’s no getting around it. But you want to start off with glowing reviews and positive stories. So at this stage, focus on bloggers and reviews who are generally positive.
As you expand your reach, look for bloggers who do book reviews in a similar genre of your movie. Contact them to see if they’d consider a movie review. Many will be excited since it’s something different for them.
Now, here’s where a lot of filmmakers fall short. Getting the reviews or articles is only the first step. The next step is to make sure everyone sees it. Any time you get any type of publicity, you need to share it. Promote the links on your social media. Select a one sentence quote and use it on a meme with a screenshot. Post the link on your website. Post the link on Film Freeway and IMDb.
While we did blog tours for The Good Book and Providence, I was much more intentional with Summer of ’67. In the earliest stages of writing the script, I began compiling a list of potential blogs and websites. Any time I heard about a new movie, I followed them and took note of any publicity they received. As soon as we had a theatrical release date, even though we were just releasing in Nashville, I started contacting all the bloggers from my list. Oftentimes, one blog could lead me on a rabbit trail to other similar blogs. I also added in podcasts since many bloggers now podcast as well. By the time Summer of ’67 released, we’d had over 30 articles. The cool thing, though, is that they had a ripple effect. We’re now at over 50 articles and still going strong. When we get near our DVD/home entertainment release, we’ll do another concentrated effort.
Grassroots marketing is not easy. It takes work and persistence, but the effects are worth it. You never know where those connections will take you.
Check out the Summer of ’67 website to see the effects of a blog tour. Next week I’ll share how to do a MOVIE TOUR.