(L-R) Daniel Perlaky and Jess Fuselier speak at the Sundance Institute Creative Distribution Workshop: St. Paul. © 2017 Sundance Institute | Photo by Tomas Leal
Throughout the process of making a film it’s nearly impossible to do everything yourself. No matter how big or small, you assemble a team for every phase of production. The ability to assemble a hardworking, supportive team is crucial to the efficiency of making your art. Independent film distribution and marketing should be approached no differently.
Let’s take some time to dive deeper into the realm of feedback loops and how they apply to the formation of your distribution and marketing team. In my last article we highlighted specific examples of feedback loops found in the independent film distribution process. Now let’s discuss service providers you can bring into the fold of your marketing and distribution team that give access to data that can help you identify additional feedback loops.
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We Spoke to Dozens of Distributors; This Is What They Want in a Film
Revenue reporting, viewer trend information, and audience-building information are three insightful data categories that filmmakers can use to create feedback loops within their marketing and distribution strategies. For example, access to detailed revenue reports could show you your audience tends to buy on one platform over another. Access to ticket buyer demographics, like location, could influence the choice to add or decrease theatrical markets.
Just a small amount of access to data can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your release strategy and how you go about releasing your future work. Below we’ve put together a list of service providers we’ve worked with who give filmmakers access to this type of information. We welcome you to tell us about data transparency friendly companies you’ve worked with during the release of your work. Email us at email@example.com.
Revenue Reports and Viewer Trend Data
When filmmakers are given access to revenue reports and viewer trend data they can use that information to optimize their release. For instance, when aggregators give filmmakers revenue reports broken down by platform, filmmakers can identify the best performing platform and drive more of their marketing spend to those outlets.
Or when a VOD platform gives viewer trend information, such as what parts of your content viewers are engaging with the most, filmmakers can use that feedback and restructure their marketing campaign creative assets, such as stills and short clips for social media, to include more of that content. Here’s a list of the feedback these data sets can provide:
- Where your audience is buying your work
- The split each platform takes
- The efficacy of your digital marketing campaign (Are those facebook ads driving people to purchase your film on iTunes?)
Viewer Demographic & Trend Information:
- Amount of plays
- Assessing what parts of your film your audience is engaging with the most
- Assessing how your audience is consuming your content: Are they watching it in one sitting or in chunks?
- Where your audience is located
Here’s a list of platforms and service providers that give filmmakers access to revenue reports and viewer trend data.
Quiver is Sundance Institute’s digital distribution partner. They also work with our fellowship films and have the ability to deliver content to most subscription VOD, transactional VOD, cable VOD, and satellite platforms. Quiver gives storytellers access to a revenue reporting dashboard. This shows you where the majority of your sales happen, and what platforms your content is performing best on.
Other noteworthy aggregators: Distribber, Giant Interactive
VOD (Video On Demand) platforms:
Amazon Video Direct allows content creators to directly upload their work to the platform, gives them the ability to choose a royalties or revenue share model, and provides access to sales and viewer data. Through their analytics dashboard, you can view how many subscribers you have, the duration of content watched, and sales history.
Similar to AVD, Vimeo allows content creators to directly upload their content to the platform and set their own price through a rental, purchase, or subscription model. In addition to number of viewers, minutes watched, and sales history, for an upgrade they’ll provide analytics on viewer location, how viewers are engaging with your content (what they like and what they’re skipping over), and will allow you to export a csv / spreadsheet of all of this data. Vimeo is also very transparent about their simple 90/10 split.
We’d like to highlight The Orchard because they seem to be one the most transparent allies in the indie distribution space right now. For each of their clients, they provide access to an analytics dashboard that breaks down the revenue and expense information for the film. They also break down how each title performs per platform.
These detailed dashboards are quite a step up in transparency compared to the basic, vague reporting most distributors provide. In addition to revenue and expense reporting, The Orchard also provides their clients with a heat map of where their viewers are located, which is a great segue to our second data set, audience-building information.
All of the platforms and service providers below give access to data that can help filmmakers build and maintain their audience. Whether collecting email addresses to build your fanbase or monitoring the location of ticket buyers to determine what markets your film has the most traction in, the data provided by the platforms below is rich with feedback about your audience, where they’re located, and whether or not your release and marketing strategies are reaching them. Here’s the type of feedback this data provides:
- Email addresses to build a list of active fans (or quantify your reach as a storyteller)
- Where the majority of your audience is located and your top-performing markets
- Details about who’s visiting your website and traffic frequency
Movie Tickets Platform:
Powster is a full-service creative studio, though we know them best for their movie ticketing platform. Their team built parts of our fellowship film Unrest’s website, including their ticketing page. Powster’s ticketing platform pulls in theatrical and community screening information to present it in a geo-located interface on your website, meaning when you go to the ticketing page it pulls up screenings in your area and you can also search based on other locations.
When you click on “buy tickets,” it will take you directly to the ticketing provider for that theater. Beyond the simple user experience, Powster provides their clients with a robust analytics dashboard that includes real-time data on referrals (how people are getting to the ticketing page, i.e. clicking on a facebook ad or a link in your newsletter), sales history, user analytics (what users are clicking on), and theater ranking based on number of “buy tickets” click-throughs.
Crowdfunding / Crowdsourcing platforms:
In the Creative Distribution Initiative, we’re big fans of crowdfunding. We’ve helped almost 400 titles successfully crowdfund their work on Kickstarter. Beyond the obvious fundraising benefit, Kickstarter provides their content creators with analytics on campaign progress and backer information, specifically email addresses. These email addresses are invaluable for audience building.
Crowdsourced theatrical is a great creative solution for independent film theatrical distribution. Think of it as cinema on demand, where fans can choose to bring your film to a theater in their area—if enough people buy tickets for the event within a certain window of time, the screening will happen.
This is a way for communities and groups to champion your film, allowing localized interest to generate word of mouth and eventize the showing. Beyond the ticket sales, Tugg gives their content creators access to the email addresses of everyone who buys a ticket, and allows for additional engagement through merch sales and a fundraising tool.
Other noteworthy crowdfunding and theatrical crowdsourcing platforms: Indiegogo, SeedandSpark, Gathr
Assemble helps filmmakers build websites that are tailored to their film’s release. They can serve up different site versions based on release strategies and windowing in different territories and assist with social media and email promotion. Beyond their independent film-minded website functionality, they provide a geo-located e-commerce system with theatrical and community screening information that integrates with social media, advertising, trailer embeds, email and fulfillment services
The Numbers, Stephen Follows, Slated, Polygraph’s Pudding
These are some of our favorite editorial sources that are using data to shed a light on different areas of the independent film industry. From distribution case studies and box office analysis, to the success of different genres and film dialog analysis based on gender, these sources are helping filmmakers understand the industry in a thoughtful, quantitative way.
All of these companies are contributing to data transparency within the industry: whether it’s through revenue reports, viewer data, audience building information, or data-driven editorial insights, they’re peeling the curtain back and giving filmmakers access to insights that can be used to create more effective distribution and marketing strategies. We’d love to hear about the data transparency friendly companies you’ve worked with during the release of your film and the feedback loops you’ve constructed. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.