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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Turning your festival experience into cash

Alright, so you make an indie film. Maybe, like me, you are self-distributing thus you do not care about some distrib exec watching yer film at the fest & picking it up & possibly making you rich (well, at least a tiny, tiny bit more than before) & the movie famous (at least a little). So, on that front you can ignore fests & go on with your DIY screenings. BUT, there are many, many, many, many, many festivals. And festivals are a gathering place for film enthusiasts and the press (also hot, intelligent members of the gender you like to play with who think indie filmmakers are sexy?). So, participating in a festival maybe fun (i have not been attracted enough to festivals to try to participate in them thus far with Date Number One, but i have done a few group screenings in the past with other movies, & those were fun) and you may get a cool critic at a big local paper writing a nice review about your little film out of the deal. From what I can tell most indie film fests, at this point, do not share a percentage of their ticket sales with the filmmakers - the people who have created the reason for festivals to exist. Which to me sounds very absurd, but that seems to be the current state of things. Maybe that will change, or can be changed, in the future. But in the meantime, there may be some benefits to participating in fests. BUT it may cost you some to a lot of money (submission fees, travel fees if fests can't pay it, other travel related costs maybe - food, etc., loss of work time & pay from the day job, etc.), so what are some things that you may be able to do in order to try to make some money out of the festival experience. Here are some ideas that I just thought up, feel free to submit your own:

1. Merchandise: make all kinds of cool stuff related to your film to sell at the fest. T-shirts, buttons, books, all manner of clothing, lunch boxes, and whatever makes sense for your movie.
This, after all, is how George Lucas got rich (through merchandise, not selling them at indie fests though, as far as I know :).

2. DVDs - if the fest is cool with you selling & signing DVDs, that is another way to make some $s.

3. Posters - this would fall under merch, but these you have to make anyway, might as well make a couple hundred extra in case some peeps want to buy them at the fest.

4. movie soundtrack CDs - again, more merch.

5. Set up a DIY screening to follow the fest screening. Right after the fest screening is over (not like the same night, maybe a week or more later), set up a DIY screening. Unlike at the fest, you get to keep all or some of the ticket sales $s from this. And another chance to sell merch. Maybe having played the fest will help lower your publicity costs.

6. Use the fest play & trip to the fest as a scouting trip for future biz opportunities: visit the local indie theaters, say hello to the programmers, tell them that your awesome flick is playing in the local fest & that maybe later they might want to take a look at the movie for a possible booking. visit the local indie record, DVD & other relevant retail folks, get yourself set up for future business dealings with them. same with local press.

7. After the fest, promote the movie through local media & advertise the DVD. Perhaps the fest generated some press that can be used in the promotion, or the fact that the film was selected to the fest may be enough. If locals heard about the film through the fest but missed it, perhaps this will be an opportunity for them to check out the film on DVD/for you to make some cash.

8. I wonder if you can get small business or corporate sponsors for your fest appearance. Hmmm. Like maybe they'll get to advertise on yer site, blog, film promo material like posters & flyers, your clothing or whatever in exchange for them paying you some money. Maybe complicated, but maybe worth looking into.

9. Great fest coverage at your blog: may drive up your number of visitors, and that may help with any affiliate programs & advertising revenue stuff that you may have going on at your blog.
Check out a bunch of films, talk to people at the fest - filmmakers & audiences, load up some photos & video & do the DIY journalist thing.

So I guess the possibly indirect ways to make some money from the fest experiences boil down to: 1. merchandise, 2. getting to know future business partners/collaborators (of course you should follow up later and get the movie into the venues & get sales), 3. post-fest screenings maybe, 4. perhaps some $s through reporting on the fest, and 5. possibly sponsorship/advertising.

Indie filmmaking is time consuming & thus can be expensive, and distribution, at any level, is both time consuming & expensive, so, being on the lookout for cash generating opportunities is a very good idea.

If you've got some ideas to add to this list, post 'em in Comments. Thanks!

- Sujewa

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