In working with hundreds of filmmakers over the last couple of years, I have found that very few have the desire, skills, or time to take on the task of being in charge of distributing and marketing their own films — even when they have split rights distribution partners involved. There are a lot of films created every year that don’t have anyone to help them get out into the world.
Two weeks before I went to print on my book Think Outside the Box Office in 2010, I coined a new crew position: the Producer of Marketing and Distribution. This concept has taken off in varying fits and starts over the last five years, with people calling themselves and being credited as PMDs in the United States, Europe and Australia.
So, what is it? A Producer of Marketing and Distribution takes charge of and directs the distribution and marketing process to achieve the filmmaking team's goals. It is preferable for a PMD to start as early as possible in the process.
The PMD is an essential crew position for independent films — in my mind, as important as a director of photography. You can make a film without a DP or a PMD (I have shot some of my films and been my own PMD), but all films would be served by having both.
A Producer of Marketing and Distribution is the person on a filmmaking team who takes charge of and directs the distribution and marketing process to achieve the team’s goals.
Why You Need a PMD
Credit: Joshua Scott, Flickr Creative Commons1. You need distribution
Upwards of 98% of independent films do not get traditional all-rights distribution deals. Even with a robust sales market, if the estimates are true that 35,000 - 50,000 films are produced every year, there is no way that traditional (and non-traditional) distributors can handle that volume. Sundance Artist Services was created in part to help the numerous Sundance films that still had not received distribution after the festival.
2. You want to keep the control
Some filmmakers do not want to give away or sell all of the rights to their film to one company. Many companies are doing amazing jobs releasing films, but there are many filmmakers who have become unhappy with how their previous films have been released. Much more common is a split rights scenario where you run the show (and you control your film’s destiny). You can choose the best and most cost effective ways to release and market your film. But you need to do the work. Someone needs to coordinate how the rights will work together, and make sure that all rights that can be exercised are exercised in the proper way.
3. Your film needs to stand out from the pack
There is greater competition for audiences than ever before. You are competing against nearly every piece of entertainment, writing, or art ever created by humankind. The amount of video uploaded to YouTube every minute is increasing exponentially. Three years ago, 48 hours of video was uploaded every minute ; at last report, more than 400 hours is now uploaded every minute. (That's 2,000 years of content every month!)
4. You don't have time to do it yourself
Filmmakers either don’t have the skills to promote and distribute their films or don’t want to. Granted, there are many intrepid filmmakers who are engaging with this process, but even the most notable of these such as Jeanie Finlay has a PMD by her side. Filmmakers don’t have the time to do this work. Many filmmakers know they need to engage audiences before they have finished their films — or at least start the process — but most say they don’t have time. On tight budgets most producers are too busy to do this work. When a film is finished, many of the team either need or want to move onto other projects. Sound familiar?
This blog post and the one that will follow is taken from a keynote that I gave at the Scottish Documentary Institute’s Make Your Marketprogram in which four films are being paired with two PMDs in training. I gave a similar presentation at IDFA in November that was packed with Europeans curious as to how this concept can help them as broadcast funding and other forms of traditional distribution drops. This Sunday I will be on a panel at SXSW. If you are in Austin, come by! And if you are interested in becoming a PMD, email me at email@example.com.
The second post of this series will cover what a PMD is in charge of on a film.
Jon Reiss is an author and media strategist who helps filmmakers and companies navigate the new distribution and marketing landscape. He has worked with and consulted for Paramount Pictures, Screen Australia, Film Independent, Creative Scotland, The South Australian Film Corporation and numerous film schools and festivals to devise ways to educate and help independent filmmakers in the new economic landscape. He has conducted his TOTBO Master Classes over five continents and is the year-round distribution and marketing lab leader at the IFP Filmmaker Labs. Named one of “10 Digital Directors to Watch” by Daily Variety, Jon Reiss is also critically acclaimed filmmaker whose experience releasing his feature Bomb It with a hybrid strategy was the inspiration for writing Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing in the Digital Era (TOTBO), the first step-by-step guide for filmmakers to distribute and market their films. He also co-wrote Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul and Selling Your Film Outside the US. He also teaches at the Film Directing Program at Cal Arts.
Photo Source: Joshua Scott, Flickr Creative Commons