Are You Building A Database Of Customers For Your Film?


Have you assumed control of your film’s distribution?

Or put another way – is self-distribution a part of your overall Distribution Strategy?

We’ve seen some terrific case studies lately of filmmakers who have embraced traditional distribution and are enjoying the rewards associated with that. But what about those of us who either can’t get traditional distribution or do not wish to go down that path?

Lucky for us, we’ve got tons of Alternative Distribution options! Everything from direct-to-consumer DVD and digital sales, to working with a digital aggregator for a multi-platform rollout, to doing a theatrical self-release or theatrical tour. There’s lots to keep us busy.

But the common denominator for ALL of these choices is this – since you’ve assumed control of your film’s distribution, you are effectively acting as the distributor, and therefore are fully responsible for the marketing and sales of your film.

What? But I didn’t sign up for that I hear you screaming!

To keep things simple, there are a few key elements though that you should stay focused on when honing in on your marketing strategy. I can tell you from experience and working with many private clients on self-distribution that the devil is indeed in the details. Meaning – if you don’t have an email database or Social Media following to market to, you’re kind of out of luck in getting the word out.

So let’s back up and see – how DO you start getting a database of potential customers together then? Well there’s four ways I like to focus on:

Advertising – FB advertising has worked wonders for a few clients in building up their fan bases fast. Others have successfully advertised on third party ‘affiliated’ websites (ones with a similar target audience to the film)

Off Line Promotions – I have one client now in the midst of a massive post card campaign to local cafes, night clubs, and restaurants where his target audience hangs out, and getting a healthy 20% conversion rate on email sign-ups from the special link provided on the post card

Crowd Funding – yes, in addition to financial gains, crowd funding campaigns are a terrific tool for growing your audience since you get access to the email addresses of those who donate to your campaign

Film Festivals/Other screenings – I’ve had clients gain thousands of new email sign-ups from gathering email addresses at film festival premiers and other targeted screenings of their films


Why care about building your list of potential customers in the first place?

Because that’s who you’re going to sell to later! Whether you’re selling a DVD off your website…. or an iTunes premiere that you need to drive traffic to….. or a theatrical tour you’ve spent all that money on….. you need people to sell to.

It’s for this reason that many filmmakers DON’T go down the self-distribution path because they realize they don’t want to spend their time or energy building up a list of potential customers, and then marketing and selling to them. But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure – and many filmmakers actually prefer doing self-distribution so they can keep control of their earnings. And then others of course, dabble in a little of both and do a hybrid distribution strategy.

So what is it for you then? What has worked well and what hasn’t? And do you have any other creative ideas you’d like to contribute on driving traffic to your site and building up an email list and fan base? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section below!


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  • Doug Mayfield

    Hi Stacey,

    Are the four approaches which you list above, advertising, off line…,etc. used before
    you have a completed film?

    I’m thinking you would have to have art work, a web site with a log line/synopsis, etc. to which oy could refer people in order to try that. If it is a vlaid approach, what in particular would one need?


    Doug Mayfield

    • Stacey Parks

      Preferably yes, but some don’t start the process till post or when the film is completed. However once the film is completed it becomes more stressful!

      Also ideally you would have a website/blog and FB page up during the script stage. Some people do this in the beginning without getting artwork done, so it depends on your budget.

      But remember, if you’re not planning on Self Distribution then you don’t need to focus on all this as much. Some may disagree with that but I’m producing a handful of films that I have no intention of ever doing self distribution for and there’s no point to putting up a website or FB now for those.

      So in my personal opinion, ONLY IF you plan on doing self-distribution OR it’s a back-up plan for distribution should you focus on these. And if you do fit into that category, then building that customer database as early as you can is the ideal way to do it. I have a client who has been working on this for over a year and the film isn’t even out yet!


  • Jon

    Facebook is not approving my ad. It’s simply a picture of the page avatar – a face, and the text that says seeking cast and crew for a June production. I can’t figure out what the problem is and I looked at the guidelines. I did have a post for actors to play a rape scene requiring simulated sex. But I took that down. Does anyone know what’s wrong with my page? Check it out and like it while you’re there:

    • Stacey Parks

      Hi Jon,

      I looked at your FB page and nothing seems to be wrong. That’s strange that they won’t approve your ‘vanilla’ ad? I would keep tweaking it until you can get it approved just to see? Or is there a customer service email you can contact about FB Ads?


      • Jon

        Yeah, thanks. I tried yet again. Maybe it will work this time. Perhaps because the story is about a former porn star, their thinking I’m doing porn or advertising for it. I try the customer service next.

  • Derek

    I would like to suggest that Indie Movie Makers start taking a serious look at Pinterest. You can build up an image-based “mood board” showing interesting aspects of your production / plans / designs / cast, etc, then type in a website link on each image . The viewer only has to click the image to go straight through to your website, Kickstarter campaign, or whatever. It’s possible to pick up serious traction on this site in a relatively short space of time. One brilliant aspect ( which many people may not realize ) is that you can choose to follow anyone – or as many people as you like – and when you hit the follow button – the Pinterest management will send an email with YOUR 8 most recently pinned images to the person you’ve chosen ! So then you have a strong visual promotion landing right in your target’s email box. So would you be surprised if I told you that Oprah Winfrey, President Obama, his wife Michelle, even Arnold the Governator, not to mention Yoko Ono ( John Lennon’s wife ) have all had highly illustrated emails from ME lately ? LOL.This is not connected with a movie, but it gives a hint of the type of inroads you can make – assuming your targets have a Pinterest account. There are over 40 million people on Pinterest now – so if you are prepared to use some elbow grease, you can start spreading the word far and wide – with posters, and even with videos and trailers attached.

    • Jon

      Great idea. I signed up and am posting away. I do this on FB and Twitter anyway so it’s just one more site to hit.