There is a growing movement in independent film to incorporate a new position, the Producer of Marketing and Distribution, into a films production team. Filmmaker/author Jon Reiss has coined the term and I believe is responsible for the birth of the position. This is an important step forward for the DIY filmmaker who wants to retain his films rights and control his own destiny through self-marketing. However, there are a few obstacles to overcome for this position to be successful. Here are the marketing responsibilities Jon has listed for the PMD.
What are the qualifications needed for this new position?
To perform the job successfully the PMD will need to posses or have an understanding of the following skill set:
Implementation of tactical plans
Social media marketing
Campaign tracking and measurement
Like any discussion about indie film marketing budget must be brought into the conversation. Is this new role for a micro-budget film or an indie film at the $1M level or both? If you have a marketing budget at what budget are you better off hiring a PMD to fulfill these various roles versus a marketing company that staffs people with the expertise needed to perform all the varied jobs well? If the PMD is merely supervising a marketing team “to carry out the plan” how does the cost/benefit play out for that? Can a producer fill that role?
My fear is that this terrific idea will not get a chance to spread due to unrealistic expectations placed on the position or a lack of understanding of what the job requires. We all know how often marketing gets blamed for a weak performance at the box office. Poor performances by under qualified PMD’s or a lack of understanding by producers might kill this position before it ever gets established.
Each production will have to figure out what to budget for this position. As a good producer and/or director you know how to put a crew together and what to pay them. You know the right people through experience and trusted recommendations. Hiring a marketing person or marketing company is probably not currently a part of your experience.
So here are a few thoughts to keep in mind when considering hiring a PMD for your indie film.
1. Define success
Know what you want from the marketing. It’s up to you as the producer or director to know what you want from your film. Is it a career builder? An income stream? Be a good client. Have a clear understanding of how you will measure success.
2. What does the PMD bring to the table? .
Ask for a proposal. Once you know what success will look like ask the applicant how they will succeed in getting you there. You wouldn’t hire a DP you didn’t know without looking at their reel.
Don’t match the job to the person’s abilities. If you’ve decided that profit is the most important factor hire someone who has the necessary skills (conversion marketing, SEO/SEM, etc). Finding one person who has expertise in all the skill sets required for this job is unlikely. Be clear in what you want from your marketing and then you will know if you have the right candidate with the right skill set to achieve your goals.
3. What is the cost/benefit analysis for a PMD?
Does it make financial sense to have a full time PMD or a PMD as a consultant?
Do you vary the contract depending on the different phases of the film; pre-pro, production, post, release?
Is the PMD taking on the bulk of the work? Do they have a thorough knowledge of how to perform market research or do they just Google it? Are they good strategic planners or do they just know how to update Facebook/Twitter accounts?
How much is outsourced and what is the budget for that?
The skill set required will vary greatly depending on which way you decide. You might end up hiring multiple candidates for different phases of your film.
4. Length of the contract
Marketing is not a build and leave it situation. The stated recommendation is to hire during pre production if not sooner. This means your PMD could be employed for over a year before your film is released. At what point is the contract terminated? If your film has a three-year distribution plan for investment recoup is the PMD on retainer for four years? You must budget accordingly, it could be years, and understand the commitment required for this to have an impact.
In production there is a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished on a daily basis. You either made your pages that day or you didn’t. If you didn’t you know who is accountable. Marketing is less measurable that way. It’s difficult to measure word of mouth and the quality of your fans. However, just like in production, ask for reports. Some things you can measure and this will help keep the PMD accountable.
The bonus feature:
6. What authority does the PMD have?
The job is obviously above the line but what is the hierarchy with this position? Film production is based on hierarchy. This is how 200 people who have never met before can begin a job and on day one know exactly what is expected from them. Only the military comes close to the efficiency of a great film crew. Of course no one is shooting at the film crew. Usually.
Who does he report to? Is he autonomous? This may seem minor but as we know once production starts and exhaustion sets in everyone knowing their role is critical for success.
What are your thoughts on the role of PMD and how best to hire one?
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