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Exclusive to No Film School: Get 'Filmmarketing on The Web' eBook Free from Ryan Gielen & Believe, LTD

This is a guest post by filmmaker Ryan Gielen.

Ryan Gielen - Filmmarketing on The Web

In 2009, the digital options for film releasing were exploding, theatrical attendance was dipping, alternate screening venues were popping up everywhere, and audiences were just starting to explore and develop their new viewing habits — watching content when and where they wanted, on demand. My first feature, The Graduates, played in a few festivals and won a couple of awards, but we didn’t receive a single distribution offer. This is not unique. A tiny percentage of the thousands of feature films that are made every year receive distribution. My producers and I believed in the film, however, and were determined to see it both in theaters, and on the major digital platforms.

We had to develop a plan largely from scratch. There were not a ton of examples to follow, or paths already cleared, because the digital space was changing too rapidly and this was early in the process. What we discovered was that with good planning, research and hustle, any film can succeed.

Over the intervening four years, The Graduates has been seen by over a million people across the major digital platforms, in a handful of theaters, and on cable VOD. This tiny film with no stars and no marketing budget is still in the top 15 comedies of all-time on Hulu. We were so successful we got to make and release two new features, Drinking Games (July, 2013), and Turtle Hill, Brooklyn (available exclusively on iTunes through July 1, then moving onto all major platforms).

We’ve now combined all of this experience and everything we learned over the last four years into a free e-book, Filmmarketing on The Web. The focus of the book is not on tips and tricks in creating Facebook ads, for instance, it’s on rewiring how we as independent filmmakers think about film releasing in the digital era, with real-world examples from our experience supporting each premise.

Ryan Gielen - Goal of eBook

Ryan Gielen - FTW eBook Recap

I hope you find FTW helpful, informative, and eye-opening. If you have questions, I’ll be happy to answer them. The e-book is completely free, so I hope you share it with anyone who could benefit from it. We believe in the power of the community, and are proud to participate in helping to bring your next film to its audience.

Link: Filmmarketing on The Web — BelieveLTD

Ryan Gielen photoRyan Gielen‘s films have won awards in festivals around the country for writing, direction, and vision, and have been featured in The New York Times, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Wholphin, Filmmaker Magazine, The Village Voice, Gawker, The Washington Post, and over 200 local print, radio, and television outlets. His first film, The Graduates, was self-distributed and became one of the most successful DIY indie releases of the last five years, debuting at #1 on Hulu and remaining in the top ten comedies for the last four years. His current release, Turtle Hill, Brooklyn, opened in theaters on May 3rd and is currently available exclusively on iTunes. His production and distribution company BelieveLTD is a two-time WEBBY winner, specializing in creating and building audiences for short form web content.


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Great PDF, thanks for that.

  • Thanks so much, and congrats!

  • Great post and perfect timing, literally just finished our feature film and had our first screening. This information will help tremendously in creating our battle plan!

  • Thank you so much for sharing your ebook. Congratulations on your success, I hope to be learning from it!

  • You guys are doing a fantastic job showing us how to market our selves. even in this post you did a great job at showing how to do the very things in your book. Right on! It’s smart and much appreciated.

  • Congratulations on your achievements and your sharing attitude. You are an example in so many ways. Thank you.

  • Hi all- thank you for the kind words, and for checking out the ebook. Hope it helps! Feel free to post here or email me with any questions, comments, thoughts… Cheers.

    • Michelle Jensen on 10.23.13 @ 5:33PM

      I cannot access the pdf of the ebook??:( Can you please provide a link; thank you and thanks for making it availalble!

  • Getting your movie distributed is like getting into the NBA. Neither are difficult. If you’re a great basketball player, there’s a system in place to get you noticed, get drafted, and get onto an NBA team. The difficult part is being good enough. The same goes for filmmaking. If you make a great movie that people WANT to watch, then distribution will take care of itself. Audiences will demand it, and people/organizations will get onboard to make that happen because, simply, there’s money to be made. The hard part is making a great movie. We spend a lot of time dialoguing about how to market indy movies and how difficult securing any kind of distribution is, but that’s not the real problem. The problem is that we’re not making movies that audiences want to watch. That isn’t a terrible thing in itself, but if we decide to make a movie that doesn’t necessarily attract a broad audience, then we also can’t be surprised when we have to spend 2-3 years self-distributing our films. The world of indy filmmaking is extremely exciting right now because the availability of resources is allowing anyone to make their story into an actual movie, but it’s also producing poorly written stories. Ten years ago these screenplays would have required better writing because nobody would finance them otherwise. Nowadays we’re making screenplays that really aren’t ready to be made into films, but we’re making them anyways because we have the ability to do so. That’s a triumph in itself, but it isn’t resulting in good filmmaking, and therefore many indy filmmakers are spending several years struggling to get anybody to watch their movies. Movies don’t get watched simply because they are made…they get watched because they’re good.

    • Allan- I totally see where you’re coming from, and I do believe that’s part of the equation. However, I think the idea of a “good” movie is so nebulous, variable and subjective that I could never endorse the idea that if a film is “good” enough, distribution will take care of itself. The *sole* reason I got to make two more movies to date is because when every gatekeeper passed on The Graduates for not being good enough from their subjective viewpoint, my team and I spent two-three years working hard to grow the audience for it. I believe it’s a very good film that would’ve died when distribution didn’t take care of itself. I encourage ALL filmmakers to take their future into their own hands and market the hell out of their films.

      Further, every studio big or small has a marketing department that works on every single movie they release/distribute… are they all good movies? No way. Not even close. They’re products just like ours that each have a different audience, and that audience needs to be reached through marketing. If the people who make billions making and releasing films believe that marketing is as important as filmmaking, shouldn’t we?

      I think it’s a critical part of the process to learn and value marketing, because it’s a way for indies to protect themselves and their future. Good is too subjective a concept. Plenty of people will tell you your film is not good. So what? If you build (not find, but build) an audience for it, you’ll get to make more and more films, and eventually you’ll make films that are so good they can’t be ignored. But the only way to get to that point is through audience building, marketing, promotion…

      • Alan (and Ryan), I would respectfully submit that nothing can be left to sort itself out. Distribution is the other half of the equation for every product coming out of the West Coast. And the whole concept is morphing again. When Stanley Kubrick sent “2001 A Space Odyssey” out on its voyage, it sat in the theaters like a lump for months–nothing. Then, a slow trickle of young people started to come into the theaters to watch, and the trickle became a flow, and then it blew the doors off the theaters. Today, it would likely have been yanked and put on DVD long before that success happened. Maybe, maybe a cult classic after that, but maybe not. 2001! As a documentary maker in the making, I have no illusions about selling product–it will take the same shoe leather it always has, but I have to watch the market like a hawk, because the industry is changing faster than ever before. Thanks for the great site, and for letting me chime in!

        • Ryan Gielen on 06.16.13 @ 10:40AM

          Great point- there are literally hundreds of examples like that, including Easy Rider, A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life… Indie and studio pics alike…

          Best of luck!

  • Already downloading, will read later.

    However, on a side note, how good does Turtle Hill, Brooklyn look?

    Seriously, I can’t wait to see the film now.

  • The link page doesn’t seem to be opening

  • Please, where is the link for this ebook?

    • Hi Ed,

      Not sure what’s up, are you in the US? It seems to be opening fine. Might just take a couple minutes because the files about 10 MB, I think…

  • Had a nice email exchange w/ Alan from, and we agreed to post it here in case other people had the same questions:

    ALAN: I have one point of confusion. You say you had $0 in marketing expense. Yet, you mention using things like Facebook Ads and Google Ads. I am imagining that you just mentioned those things as options, but that you did not pursue those.

    ME: Both. As we developed our audience and checks came in for sales of the film, streaming, and DVD purchases, we funneled that money back into marketing, for one example, with FB ads and AdWords. What we learned and what we talk about all the time now is if you’re serious about being an indie feature director/producer, and it’s importan to you that people see your film, we believe you should match the shooting budget with your marketing budget. The biggest problem is reaching the end of the festival run and having no money and no deal. It’s understandably hard for filmmakers to feel inspired/motivated by their prospects if they let themselves reach that point.

    ALAN: Outside of marketing, how much would you say it cost in time/money to execute your distribution plan? I am imagining that there were time and dollar costs associated with building a website, getting onto services like Hulu and iTunes, travelling to various beaches and screeings, etc.

    ME: This is hugely variable. We would plan and budget each event/promotion/release and would then plan and budget a few marketing options to support that event/promotion/release, but there are so many- and so many we didn’t do, but wanted to- that it would be impossible to give a useful answer. Like any company planning a release paired with promotion you just have to prepare, research and most importantly haggle with every single vendor, person, theater, service provider you talk to…

  • Thanks for sharing this! I’ve also learned making a movie isn’t good enough. You have to market your film too but really it’s not hard to do if you know your audience and are willing to work at it to connect with them.

    I did notice a couple spelling errors right off the bat. Sorry I don’t mean to be a dick by pointing them out. I just know if I made them (and I do… everybody does), I’d want to know about them so I could fix them especially with this going out to so many people. But I really do appreciate your work! So thanks again!

    On page 4 near the top, you wrote “self-distirbuting our first feature film” when it should be “self-distributing.”

    On page 6, “doens’t get seen” should be “doesn’t get seen.”

    Actually though, those are all the typos! Just a shame they happen on the first few pages. But this eBook is awesome! Thanks again!

  • Sorry I found one more.

    On page 15, “- Challening, stimulating material” should be “- Challenging.”

    But really, that’s impressive! 24 pages and only 3 spelling mistakes! The last script I wrote had far more.