How to Market Your Indie Film

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

Congratulations, you did it! You finished your indie film. But, now you need to get people to SEE it. That’s where Smarthouse Creative enters the picture. We’ve worked with hundreds of independent filmmakers around the world to help them craft unique creative distribution strategies, while also supplying world-class film marketing and publicity services. The following is a breakdown of what you’ll need to successfully market your film.

Setting Your Film Up for Success

The most important part of marketing your film is effectively communicating its themes, “hooks,” and other selling points to the right audience in the right place at the right time. That’s creative distribution strategy in a nutshell. Once you correctly identify those elements, the rest almost takes care of itself. The hard part is correctly identifying those elements. And by elements, we mean the following:

    • Tagline: A short, clever hook for your movie that provides additional context for the title
    • Logline: A one-to-two sentence “elevator pitch” for your film.
  • Poster: Create a poster for your film using imagery and design elements that are familiar and speak to your target audience.
  • EPK: An electronic press kit that contains your movie poster, tagline, logline, a longer description, hi-res images, director and actor bios, and any other info you want to include about your film.
  • Trailer: Craft a trailer <60 seconds with a compelling narrative about your film that doesn’t give away any big surprises.
  • Content: Graphics, photos, video clips, etc. that can be used as content for your social media channels and On Demand landing pages.

Planning a 360° Marketing Strategy

Advertising is just one piece of the whole strategy you’ll need to build in order to market your indie film. Depending on your goals (i.e. filling theater seats or selling on-demand copies), you’ll want to craft a marketing plan that includes some combination of the following:

  • Ads: This might be a mix of both print and digital, depending on your campaign goals
  • Audiences: Craft 1-3 different audience groups using age, geographical location, and interests that match people who would be interested in your films’ message.
  • Publicity: Targeted outreach to publications and influencers that can help spread the word about your film.
  • Social Media: Having a social presence in place on the channels that make sense for your target audience -- and making sure those channels are updated and active.
  • Posters & Fliers: Someone from your team can hit the streets, or you can easily hire a company to tack posters around town and drop of fliers at busy coffee shops, etc.
  • Word-of-Mouth: Utilize your existing fan base (which usually includes friends & family!) by asking them to share your social posts or emails about your film screenings and on-demand launch.

Figuring Out Your Campaign Budget

Once you have your creative elements and campaign strategy figured out, it’s time to plan how much to put into your advertising budget. This is a tough question because there isn’t a simple, one-size-fits-all answer. Of course, it would be great to have unlimited resources but, as I’m sure many of you reading this already know, that is almost never the case when it comes to independent artists.

With that in mind, we created the Smarthouse Online Ad Budget Calculator. This free tool is primarily designed to support independent filmmakers and artists launching their content, but the Video on Demand option could also work for product launches, album and book releases, and similar creative endeavors.

The Video on Demand ad calculator operates on a simple break-even framework that takes into account a variety of essential variables, including filmmaker split, pricing strategy, budget, cost-per-click, and target conversion rate. Each variable is controlled by its respective slider, which updates the expected outcomes in real time.

The Theatrical/Event ad calculator functions on the same break-even principle as the VOD calculator but also introduces two ticket inventory variables (Total Tickets Available Per Screening and Total Screenings in the Run) to better reflect the “revenue ceiling” inherent in a real world, time-sensitive event.

Try it out here.

Together with the right creative elements in place and a solid marketing plan, the Ad Calculator tool will help you estimate the optimal budget required to successfully launch your new project. It will also help ensure you maximize the ROI of each advertising dollar that you spend to get the word out about your project.

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About the Author

Amie Simon
Amie Simon is the Director of Marketing at Smarthouse Creative, a marketing and publicity firm specializing in film and creative projects. She has 12+ years of marketing experience as a content strategizer, creator, and copywriter for social, web, and print. She knows the ins-and-outs of campaigns, taglines, brand voice, social media, community building, targeted ads, and #squadgoals. Amie’s loved film ever since she saw an Imperial Star Destroyer loom across the UA 150 screen in 1977 and has applied that love to Seattle’s since 2009, leading TIG’s film festival coverage and obsessing over which movie soundtracks are the best. She also slays at ‘80s trivia.

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