Why Hire a Producer of Marketing, Distribution

Jon Reiss July 27, 2010

As a filmmaker, I know how difficult adopting these new tasks of marketing and distribution are.  I also know how they can interfere with making new films—and there have been a fair amount of complaints lately from filmmakers about being responsible for doing this additional work.

However, just like most filmmakers do not make their films on their own, they should not be distributing and marketing those films on their own. I would argue that from now on, every film needs one person devoted to the distribution and marketing of the film from the start, just as they have a line producer, assistant director, or editor. This person is part of your team from the very beginning, not tacked on at the end of the process.

This is why last autumn, just before sending Think Outside the Box Office to print, I came up with the concept of the Producer of Marketing and Distribution or the PMD. I gave this crew position an official title of PMD because, without an official position, this work will continue to not get done.  I gave this position the title of producer because it is that important. (For someone learning the ropes, you can start them at coordinator then move them up to associate producer and so on).

Creating a crew position will cause people to seek jobs as a PMD, train to become a PMD, and apprentice as a PMD just as people do this for any film crew position. (I’ve already received emails from people excited to become PMDs.) Without a title, it won’t happen. The creation of this crew position should spur schools and institutes to create curricula in order to train people to fill this role, and other people will write books about it (just as there are a plethora of books on how to be a line producer).

I look forward to a near future in which filmmakers/directors will be able to put out calls for PMDs just as they do for DPs and editors—and that they will get an equal volume of applications.  Directors will develop long-term relationships with PMDs that “get them” just as they do with DPs, editors, and producers.

Responsibilities of the PMD include:

1. Identify and engage with the audience for a film.
2. Develop a distribution and marketing strategy/plan for a film in conjunction with the entire team.
3. Create a budget for said plan.
4. Assemble and supervise the necessary team/crew elements to carry out the plan.
5. Reach out to audiences through organizations, blogs, social networking, online radio etc.
6. Supervise the creation of promotional and (if necessary due to the lack of a separate transmedia coordinator) transmedia elements, including the film's web site script and concept for transmedia, production stills, video assets (both behind-the-scenes and transmedia), promotional copy, and art.
7. Reach out to potential distribution and marketing partners such as sponsors, promotional partners, various distribution entities, publicists.
8. Engage the distribution process as designed, when appropriate.
9. Supervise the creation of deliverables.

I have created a number of educational activities to help recognize the creation of this position and help filmmakers take control of the distribution and marketing of their films. The first was the book mentioned above which I feel is the first training manual for the PMD. The second is a series of Think Outside the Box Office (TOTBO) Workshops throughout the world that began this past May. You can find out about the book and workshops at the TOTBO site.  All of these resources should help define the position and the duties of the PMD and I encourage filmmakers to take advantage of these opportunities to learn and grow in their abilities and their craft.

Jon Reiss, named one of 10 Digital Directors to Watch by Daily Variety, has produced and directed three feature films, most recently Bomb It about graffiti, street art and the battle over visual public space throughout the world. His experience releasing Bomb It with a hybrid strategy was the inspiration for writing Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution in the Digital Era. Reiss is now working with numerous film organizations, film schools and festivals to bring a variety of distribution labs and workshops around the world. For more information go to: www.thinkoutsidetheboxoffice.com; www.jonreiss.com/blog; (email) reiss.jon@gmail.com; www.facebook.com/thinkoutsidetheboxoffice; www.twitter.com/Jon_Reiss; and www.bombit-themovie.com/blog.