At Cult Celebrities, we dive deep into the world of underground film every single day. Although our bread & butter around here is reviewing weird old movies from the 80s and 90s (usually the sorts of films you see on late-night television, or strange VHS videotapes you find in K-mart bargain bins) we’ve also done our fair share of reviews of new indie films and underground directors.
There’s a whole world of independent film producers who direct movies on no- to low-budgets, and then go on to see significant success in the community. Usually these producers are genre specific (indie horror films are a huge part of folks who come here) but also in other genres like sci-fi or fantasy.
Between the two of us (Gil & Stu) we’ve had more years of experience in marketing and movies than we’d like to admit. And we’ve seen some interesting patterns in how a film is successfully marketed.
And here’s the deal: promoting your movie doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive!
While having a marketing budget definitely helps your chances (and, let’s be honest, you won’t really be able to market your movie successfully without spending something) there are some solid movie promotion ideas that work great. You just have to have a long-term approach to your movie promotion strategy. And, not to mention, be willing to put in some hard work.F
Let’s go over some of the best film promotion ideas for those on a strict budget.
1) Create Your Own Website For Your Movies
We’re not talking about social media pages. We’re also not talking about free Blogspot blogs or Tumblr accounts. We’re talking about real, established, long-term websites with a real .com domain.
The good news is, if you’re the sort of person who is shooting and editing films, you also have the tech savviness to register a domain and set up a WordPress site.
The main importance of doing this is that you fully control everything on the website. Your film promotion strategy should not be dependent upon the whims of Facebook or Twitter, who can (and do) change their algorithms and guidelines at any time. You will get hardly any organic (non-paid) reach on most social media platforms, so building your own site is crucial to long-term success.
2) Build An Email List For Your Fans
It sounds old-school, but building & maintaining an email list is one of the most underrated forms of movie marketing. It’s very powerful. Wonder why? Because every single person on the internet has an email address. There isn’t a more universal medium, and especially not one which you can fully control. First message your friends & family to get them on the list, follow up with the cast and crew from your films, and then post messages on your social platforms to get people to sign up. Then, make sure the website that you created in step 1 has an email signup button, so all the visitors to your site have the chance to sign up to your list.
3) Use Social Media To Promote Your Films
Yes, in the above two points we dropped some hints about how social media isn’t the end-all for movie promotion. And it’s true, it’s not perfect. But you absolutely do need to have a presence, because many people will interact and like your pages. Make sure to set up cross-posting (so that if you post a blog article, for example, it shoots over automatically to Twitter or Tumblr, for example). You’ve find that sometimes, getting traction on a platform like Facebook means you have to spend money to boost a post.
4) Get Press Coverage For Your Local Production
This is an easy way to get some local interest drummed up in your film. Since you’re likely paying local people to be on the crew, and local up-and-coming stars are appearing in your film, it’s a really good way to get some serious attention from the community.
Here’s the secret: don’t pay anyone who promises to get you some news articles. It’s really easy to do it yourself, no need to pay a “PR person” to do it. Here’s why: local papers are always excited to get some local news in their pages. Call up every single paper and magazine and niche publication in your area (even in a small city, there will be dozens) and pitch them your production. Someone will bite, and you’ll find you get some nice links to your website and some people messaging you about helping out with the movie.
5) Advertise your movie trailer with YouTube pre-roll ads
This is one of the least-used and most-underrated forms of advertising your film. You might think that it costs a lot of money, but that’s not the case. Advertising online can be risky if you’re doing it for the first time or if you have a limited budget, but if your campaign is set up correctly, and targeted towards the correct demographics you can get a view for $0.05 to $0.10.
If you’ve got a $1000 trailer advertising budget, that means you could get upwards of 20,000 people seeing your film. If you use advanced placements, you can put it in front of other, similar clips on YouTube so that you can get super targeted views: for example, 20,000 horror movie fans in the midwest seeing your trailer!
6) In-person indie film festivals
Most of the movie production ideas so far have been digital, but you can’t forget showing up to a film festival and meeting a lot of folks face to face. It can be a little expensive, but it’s totally worth it. You will get plugged in to the local scene in a way you can’t ever do online.
If you can get your film into a festival, even better.
7) Get Early Reviews For Your Film
And last but not least, getting early reviews for your film is huge, and if done appropriately this can generate a lot of pre-release buzz for your movie. You know those quotes in the trailers of every indie film, sort of like “A harrowing tale of Southern Gothic justice. – Atlanta Herald”. Here’s how to get reviews for your film:
First, talk to local press and try to get them to review your films. This really only works if the publication has a dedicated film critic or a culture section, and if your film is big enough for them to invest their time and effort into reviewing it. It shouldn’t cost anything, but it can be really hard to get your film reviewed.
Get a movie review website to review your film. Make sure they’re reputable, have a big readership, and check to see what their other reviews are like. Usually it does cost (for example, as of 2019 here at Cult Celebrities we review movies for $35) but hey, we gotta make money somehow. Contact us if you’re interested, yo.
We hope that this selection of movie promotion ideas has been helpful. We’ve done our fair share of film marketing (from YouTube pre-roll, to showing up to festivals, to running one of the most popular B-movie sites on the planet! Got any of your own? Shoot them over to us!
Gil has a bachelor’s in communication, and attended film school in Los Angeles. He worked in film & media production for several years, traveling to over 45 countries, before cofounding a marketing company. Obsessed with feel-good 80s teen comedies, sword-and-sorcery films, and gritty sci fi noir, Gildner is a fan of the weird and campy. His favorite films include Blade Runner, Alien, Mad Max, and Drive.