Anatomy of a Prescreen Launch
By Jeff Orgill for Hope For Film
Back in August Sheri Candler introduced us to the new curating and distribution service here. Today, we get the inside view from a filmmaker's perspective how one might make best use the service from JUNKIE NURSE's Jeff Orgill.
We’ve all been wondering if somebody would figure out a way to successfully release films online. Shari Candler’s recent article on this site mentioned that Prescreen was taking a stab at it. I sent in our movie Junkie Nurse (Boppin’ at The Glue Factory).
Lee from Prescreen called and said they wanted JUNKIE NURSE. I was jazzed about being featured. I’d been mired in some contractual BS and this was the kick in the pants I needed to get back into the groove. I had an attorney review the contract, he gave me the thumbs up, and I got to work.
Shari Candler looked at our film’s materials and gave detailed suggestions for preparing our release. Her biggest note was get our website up to speed.
I'd met a web designer / filmmaker, John Irwin @Robison Hope Creative, through a FIND meeting in LA. He'd done the site for Jon Reiss' doc BOMB IT. Irwin suggested a customizable Wordpress site which would be easy to update myself down the line.
I’d seen lots of sites that were very focused on selling. They felt empty -- if I wasn’t ready to buy immediately there was little to snag my interest. A hard sell tone could be a turn off to a first time visitor. The “come explore” tone of our new site really suited JUNKIE NURSE’s tone of dialoguing with the audience rather than just talking at them. This is the kind of film I loved to see, wanted to make, and our site reflected that. Check it out here: JUNKIE NURSE
People love movies! But they are carefully hunted by big budget marketing. It's a special animal who seeks out and takes a risk on a tiny film like Junkie Nurse.
If indie filmmakers think of marketing their film as wooing their audience, as a flirtation, it becomes clear that you’re not after a one-night stand or drunk sex here, you want a deeper relationship with your audience.
With all this in mind, and a full time job in tow, I decided to get help with marketing and publicity.
Another Hope For Film blog post had a list of PMD's for hire. I started calling, and Audrey Ewell understood what I needed to do. She created a press release, and an important thing she did right away was to set a goal. Another film on Prescreen had just set a record for the first day -- 100 buys. Our goal – beat 100 buys.
Marketing techniques I learned from Audrey:
1 • TWITTER: follow people with interests related to your film. For Junkie Nurse I Twitter searched addiction, rehab, narcotics, nursing, senior living, elder care, indie film, filmmaking, jazz, swing, big band, Bebop and other related terms and followed the Tweeters (Twits?) I found. There was a gold mine in nursing and elder care which are two key issues Junkie Nurse skewers. Several of these people and orgs followed back. Others read our description and learned about our film.
2 • FACEBOOK: message FB friends with a brief request that is Tweet friendly (under 140 characters) i.e. JUNKIE NURSE, relevant info, the link and a joke in the tone of the film. I left the joke in or took it out depending on who I was sending it to. At first I was shy about asking, thinking it was embarrassing to even ask. But YOU HAVE TO ASK! The 36 people who directly re-posted the link from my request had over 23,000 FB friends amongst them. Not to mention all the other posting and re-linking and "likes" that start flying around when you have that kind of chatter going on. I noticed that each time somebody posted our link we'd get another buy on Prescreen.com. We marched toward our goal click by click.
At about 6pm on launch day my brother Jayson swooped in with both marketing barrels a blazin'!
3 • TEXT: A phone contact, even a text, can cut through the noise. Jayson texted everybody in his iPhone about JUNKIE NURSE.
4 • PARTY: create an event around your premiere. Jayson threw an impromptu Friday night Worldwide Online Premiere bash at his place inviting all his friends over for drinks to celebrate our launch and asking them to buy our film online right there at the party.
5 • EMAIL: On our new site I needed an email sign up. My producer B.Scott O’Malley suggested MailChimp – it’s free! With the Chimps help I did 3 emailings - one before launch and 2 on day of - to my existing personal list of about 1400.
6 • INVITE: The day of the launch I discovered that Prescreen had implemented a new feature called INVITE which allowed users to send a link to buy the film to their Facebook, Gmail, AOL and other contact lists. If you get 3 users to buy a film on Prescreen you would get a credit for a free film. Now there was a real incentive for strangers to promote films to their social networks.
We worked hard launching JUNKIE NURSE on Prescreen.com. I hired a web designer and a PMD. I took 3 days off work. Two brothers and a sister pounded the FB pavement, and I spent about $1,600. I know, it’s not the millions a studio can spend, but it was what we had and we worked it best we could.
And worked it did! JUNKIE NURSE is Prescreen’s biggest seller yet and our conversion rate from our trailer views to purchases was 24% -- the highest of all the 19 films on their site. No new lesson here: your trailer is still key in convincing people to watch your movie.
• Exceeded our goal of 100 buys
• Guest blogging for two of my favorite film blogs (No Film School and Hope for Film)
• Social network chatter grew from 12 to 180 conversations (we only made 36 direct contacts so it expanded on it’s own)
Things I’ll do differently next time:
• Bring marketing / press person on “the earlier , the better” to pitch press and do blog outreach. We’ve barely scratched the surface of potential interest groups for JUNKIE NURSE (search terms above)
• Enlist and coordinate cast, crew, family and close friends on social networking techniques above
• Instruct the team on using Prescreen INVITE function
• Test your MailChimp emails and have others check them, especially the links.
The goal of Prescreen is not an end all for the run of your film -- it's a first step in determining your audience and your marketing plan. At the end of our 60 day run on Prescreen they will send me a "Performance Report" outlining the audience that did buy JUNKIE NURSE including things such as: age range, gender, top cities, favorite websites, top keywords, and many other stats that you'd use in further marketing with Google and Facebook ads, Youtube tags, SEO and so forth. This is the main reason I got on board – I’m partnering with an internet savvy company mining demographic data about our film’s audience that I'll use to best situate our film in the long tail for the long haul.
There is an audience out there for our films. We just need to find out who they are, hunt them down, and drag them to see our films.
JUNKIE NURSE (Boppin’ at The Glue Factory) has its Worldwide Online Premiere on Prescreen through December 7th.