Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Using Festivals as a springboard to a Platform Release

It’s my feeling that the distribution strategy of “hoping to get acquired at a festival” isn’t a strategy. Year after year filmmakers pin all their hopes on being invited to a major festival in search of the elusive 7 figure advance. I think it’s time to change the way we view festivals. I think we use them for what there great for; networking, promotion, travel, seeing new films AND as a way to release a film.

That’s how I’m viewing the festival circuit. I’m planning on using festivals as a springboard to a platform release. When I say platform release I mean the festival becomes the first step in a distribution strategy that I’ve put in place. It becomes a vehicle for promotion, a way to push the publicity and exposure towards monetizing the film. Platform releasing isn’t something new – it’s used by the studios, the mini majors and many independent distributors. But it isn’t something that most filmmakers tend to do when considering their festival strategies. Here’s a breakdown of what I’m planning.

  • Start selling foreign territories at the Cannes Film Market next month
  • Domestic festival screenings early summer through fall
  • Promotional and speaking engagements – horror conventions and various industry conventions starting in May and continuing into the Fall
  • Limited theatrical release on 5 to 8 screens starting a month before the street date of the DVD
  • Fall street date for the DVD which places the film in retail and rental outlets nationwide (I’m also currently working on a deal for the soundtrack, which would place it everywhere from iTunes to retail outlets across the country.) So the DVD and CD would street the same day.
  • International festivals before and after the release of the DVD in the states
  • Attend the AFM in Nov. to continue foreign sales
  • Continue the international festival circuit after US street date for about a year to help push sales overseas
  • Starting NOW and continuing through the end of the platform release I’ll be working the press - pointing everything towards the DVD release date.

So how does one go about creating a platform release? It depends on many factors; who’s the audience, what are your resources, and what do you hope to gain from distributing your film. The above strategy targets a wide audience from horror fans to the general viewing public. It works with a foreign sales agent, a DIY theatrical release combined with smaller DVD and music labels that have national distribution in place. And last but not least it will get the film seen by a large number of people here and abroad, which in the end will help me to make more films.


Sujewa [Blog Admin] said...

Lots of good info. there Lance, thanks a lot, looks like Head Trauma is going
to offer alot of people the chance to see it & buy it in the US & elsewhere. If you ever do a self-distribution workshop in the DC area, let me know, I'll come & check it out,I could probably learn a lot from it.

- Sujewa

Bryan Poyser said...

Very cool plan. I've always thought that a film festival offers a great opportunity to start a theatrical run in whatever town the festival is located.

You get a lot of press and attention for the film thru the fest, but then if folks miss their chance to see it at the 1 or 2 festival screenings, they have to wait months or years for the film to MAYBE get distribution down the road to ever see it. By then, they've forgotten about it or the sense of urgency to see something new is all gone.

It maybe wouldn't make sense for a film's debut festival, or even its first few festivals, but if it's been on "the circuit" for months and no distributors are biting, why not try to set up a small theatrical run in each of the towns where the film plays at a festival? That all takes time, effort, money, advertising, connections, etc., but so does sending the film out to distributors who probably won't want to buy it anyway.

David Lowery said...

"but so does sending the film out to distributors who probably won't want to buy it anyway."

That's for sure.

Blake Calhoun said...

Good plan. I've done AFM and Cannes before with limited success. If you have a genre film (and I guess you do since you mention horror) this could work in your favor. Although, not many film festivals bite (pun intended) on horror films unless they are geared for them.

With my experience though, if you have a good horror film - shot on film or HD with blood, scares and boobs you can sell it to a distributor - especially for a DVD release.