PR ON THE GO Febuary 4, 2024

Indie Film PR

The Best Ways To Get Your Indie VOD Movie Seen

Greg Wakeman author portrait

Author: Gregory James Wakeman

Gregory Wakeman is a media and entertainment writer. Previously, he was the entertainment editor for Metro US. In that role, he curated their print and digital coverage of all things film and television. Wakeman's exclusives have been picked up by CNN, the BBC, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. He held a role as the film critic for Cinema Blend and has written as a freelancer for The New York Times, GQ, BBC, The National, Newsweek, Vice, Yahoo Movies UK, Total Film and The Guardian.

Over the last decade the movie-going experience has drastically changed for viewers. Gone are the days when people would regularly flock to their local multiplexes to see the latest releases. Now they can just watch most of the newest films from the comfort of their own homes, using the likes of Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max, Hulu, Disney+ and the myriad of other streaming services.

As a result of the weekly releases from these streamers, viewers have never had more options when it comes to new movies. The problem is, there’s never been as much competition for attention and eyeballs. A contest that the major studios — like Disney, Netflix, Warner Bros., and Universal — always win. Especially as it has never been more expensive to promote these movies, with studios regularly paying half the budget of productions to do so.

“There’s a lot more competition on platforms.”

But what if you’re a smaller producer, production company, studio, or publicist that has a new movie coming out? A movie that you know has an audience. How do you make sure that viewers find your movie in a relentless sea of other releases?

“There’s a lot more competition on platforms,” explains Erik Bright, the President and CEO of Prodigy Public Relations. “It is more critical than ever for a film that's going straight to a streamer or VOD platform that they have PR.”

In recent years, Bright has worked on the likes of Blackberry with Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton, Mending The Line with Brian Cox, Medieval with Ben Foster, Michael Caine, and Matthew Goode, Habit with Bella Thorne, and Dual with Karen Gillan, each of whom have helped to promote their lesser-known movies. “Honestly the success typically relies on the participation of the talent. That's a big deal,” adds Bright. “We support these titles through booking this talent on major national broadcast and radio.”

For Micah Haley, the Director of Development at Intercut Capital, casting a star helps to “mitigate the financial risk” that comes with making independent movies. “At Intercut we essentially want to finance the movie for a safe number based on the genre and the strength of the script and the director,” he explains.

“Distributors will pay people with millions of followers to talk about their movie.”

But the inclusion of a major star like Nicolas Cage, who appeared in Intercut’s 2023 Western The Old Way, allowed them to dismiss the fact that the genre doesn’t have the mainstream appeal of horror and thriller movies. “People the world over want to watch everything he does, regardless of what the movie is,” says Haley. “Getting a big name is its own form of advertising. They give you a large amount of media attention that you don't have to pay for.”

The rise of social media influencers has even lead to publicists and studios trying to incorporate them more and more into their promotion. “Distributors will pay people with millions of followers to talk about their movie,” remarks Haley, who then admits that plans are already afoot to start casting them, too.

“People go to see movies because of who is in them. We don't have a strong example of an influencer being cast in a movie and it making hundreds of millions yet. But it certainly has an impact. You don’t need to cast them in the main role. You can pair them with an established actor. But I do think we are going to see certain TikTok stars ending up as movie stars,” says Haley, who admits that he’ll be eagerly watching the box office figures of Eli Roth’s upcoming horror film Thanksgiving, which has social media star Addison Rae in the main role.

Bright is the first to admit that “it’s really easy to work on a project when you have a major star and critical acclaim,” particularly as a high Rotten Tomatoes score usually helps to convince viewers to watch something. Instead a publicist really has to prove their worth when they have “more obscure titles” to promote. “That’s where the skill set comes in,” adds Bright. “We generate coverage for obscure films by deploying online assets that are intriguing to the demographic of the movie. We then hope to engage the press that cover these sort of movies and hope they can champion them early on.”

“The trailer alone was almost solely responsible for generating buzz and hype.“

One of the way ways to build momentum is the release of a film’s first trailer. At this point, Bright and his team look to ensure that the trailer for Prodigy’s movies are all over the correct websites. “That helps to push these films on the platforms that consumers are scrolling through. Then we can see that it’s generating attention and press,” explains Bright.

This was a key tactic when Prodigy worked on the release of Winnie The Pooh: Blood And Honey, a slasher movie inspired by the legendary literary character, the rights for which had just entered the public domain. “The trailer alone was almost solely responsible for generating buzz and hype. We got a lot of national publicity based on the intellectual property. That was a good surprise.”

But while these movies don’t expect to make that much money theatrically, a run in cinemas is still very important to create anticipation, buzz, and purchases on demand. “Even though some people are eager to proclaim the death of theatrical they're really wrong,” says Haley. “Everybody in the industry knows that getting a theatrical release greatly increases the perceived value of your movie.”

“It’s really up to the marketing and PR to make sure that the awareness is there.”

The exposure of a movie being released in cinemas allows streamers to charge more money on PVOD domestically, while streaming services pay more for its international releases, too. “There are other windows, too, like airline,” continues Haley. “People don't think of them as a window. But they have an exclusive audience. It’s sold just like a territory. You sell to the airlines the same way you would sell to Germany.”

All of which is great for film fans, because there have never been more movies available and more people working to make sure that they’re seen. “These movies are very accessible to the public,” says Haley. “They're really at the tips of everybody's finger. So it's really up to the marketing and PR and social media campaign to make sure that the awareness is there.”


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