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The audience for American films is expanding, particularly in television. One of the major questions you will have to answer when you begin marketing your film is "What will make your audience want to see your film or rent your video over other movies and videos?" You need to be able to answer this question to determine how to compete if and when your film finally gets out there. You need to create feelings and expectations, portraying images that your potential audience will be attracted to and therefore attract them to your movie. 

Listen closely to what the distributor says. The distributors know their particular markets. They know what sells and what doesn't. Since they may someday handle a film of yours, they should be very willing to discuss your project with you. The information they provide can help tremendously in the planning stages. This does not mean that you should go and tell everyone about your ideas. By doing that you may be setting yourself up to have your idea taken and utilized by someone else. Keep your ideas and thoughts mainly to yourself; don't squander your energy and focus. What you can do is learn as much about marketing as possible and establish valuable distribution contacts for later.

Is theatrical distribution a reality for your film? Examine other independent films that made it to the big screen. Remember that of approximately 4,000 films that are made each year only about 400 are released theatrically. Will yours be one of them? If it will, do you think it will gross $1 million or $10 million at the box office? If your film will only generate $1million at the box office, then your budget should be adjusted accordingly. 

You should not overspend on your film unless you can demonstrate that the money will be returned from the various markets. You will need to do your income projections and really determine what the real market for your film is.

One almost genius marketing strategy utilized by the makers of The Blair Witch Project would best be described as mischief marketing. How was this accomplished? 

First, the makers used an 8-minute trailer seemingly so real that it fooled a veteran observer of the indie scene. This strategy is called the Vulcan Tactic, a tried-and-true technique that can be used to sell products and ideas. 

Next, in the vicinity of the Cannes Film Festival, amidst the huge billboards for other movies showing at the time, the filmmakers mounted small posters that appeared to be about real events. 

Once sold, Artisan Entertainment wouldn't let the actors of the film give interviews, because they wanted moviegoers to think they were actually dead. The producers also used artificially aged film cans and other objects so they would look like they were really "found" by archaeologists. Through all these marketing strategies, moviegoers were not really sure if they were seeing a movie or some type of documentary. People were convinced that the Blair Witch was actually real and that the film was actual events. Word of mouth spread and the film exploded onto the big screen.
Festival strategies
The more you can gather from talking with and listening to different distributors, the better your understanding will be of how exhibition and distribution work. It's not enough to know your own needs; you have to understand a distributors needs and whether or not your film can fulfill those needs. 

Believe it or not, most agreed that in many ways, Sundance is an awful environment to gauge your film. The audience is made up of industry-savvy, hip professionals whose tastes are not those of the general movie-going public. Nevertheless, Sundance audiences love films and distributors use the buzz generated at the festival to select their films. They check the word of mouth on films, then get the candid opinions of reviewers and critics. Distributors will, if they can, wait until a month or so after Sundance to buy films when the filmmaker is in the dumps and expectations have crashed. It's then that the distributor can make a better deal (e.g. pay less money) than in the heat of Sundance. 

Distributors don't like films they are working on to appear in festivals everywhere. Some distributors expressed the feeling that showing in too many festivals gives a film a used goods feel. If you are going to show at festivals, pick the ones that will give you the most industry exposure such as Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, Cannes, the AFI festival, or the LA films Festival. This way, praise by a limited number of movie fans, along with studio executives will raise interest and spread the word of the film, but it will not be over-exposed from the get-go. Others say that you should show your film wherever you have the opportunity. This way, you will spread word of mouth without using up the precious ink of film reviews that you will need later. 
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