How to Market Indie Films in a Covid-Shaken World

Michael
9 minute read
19.10.2021

The current state of indie filmmaking is bittersweet. On one hand, the pandemic dealt a solid sucker punch to the movie-making process and the festival culture. On the other hand, the rapid development of streaming platforms and the evolution of online viewership opened a lot of new doors for independent filmmakers. 

Let’s focus on the positive though: With proper prioritization, post-covid independent film marketing can shine. We want to help you figure out what is the post-covid reality of indie filmmaking and how to approach marketing in 2021 and beyond.  

The Rise of Independent Filmmakers? The State of Indie After Covid 

How exactly has the coronavirus reshaped the world of independent films? Well, violently and quickly, but it didn’t break the industry and even opened new doors for it. 

Let’s deal with the bad stuff first. 

On the surface lies the obvious problem: Cinemas get closed and after even reopening, people aren’t eager to return. The pre-covid numbers are far off. Besides, we don’t know for how long the cinemas will stay open. 

But the issues run deeper than that. The filming process itself suffered. With tough new regulations, it became much harder and time-consuming to put a movie together. Doing offline events online, keeping tabs on covid safety measures, pausing because of the illness — all of it makes the shooting process tense, hectic, and cumbersome (or even more so than it already was).

On top of that, a lot of lenders started demanding pricey and hard to get COVID insurance. That’s simply another expense and a bureaucratic hurdle that plenty of indie filmmakers cannot overcome. 

Then, we can’t possibly estimate the toll that anxiety and economic uncertainty have on independent filmmaking. How many amazing movies won’t see the light of day because of the crisis? No one knows. 

But, there’s a huge positive BUT in all this situation. 

First of all, all the challenges posed by COVID haven’t slowed down the independent niche. There are as many wonderful indie movies as ever. 

Secondly, the pandemic pushed the creators to improvise, adapt, and overcome challenges.  It showed the creators new ways of distributing and promoting their movies and reaching new audiences.

Also, the withdrawal of big players “that normally take all the theaters” from the cinemas left more space for indie movies to hit big screens in front of hungry audiences. 

Finally, we’d argue that a massive shift from cinema to streaming services is beneficial for indie. It challenges a limiting status quo, “If your movie wasn’t in the cinema, it’s not a “real” movie.” Also, streaming services make indie movies more accessible to a wider audience. 

To quote Thomas Hughes, CEO of The Americas:

“The stage is set for indie films, and the future is brighter than ever. There is more of everything … more platforms seeking content, more tools to help support indie creators.”

So

Are we witnessing the rise of indie filmmakers? Well, the future will show, but so far the signs are positive. 

How the Marketing has Changed for Indie Movies after Covid?

So how has the marketing for movies changed after the wild ride of the last two years? 

Well, for the behemoths of the industry the answer is straightforward: the studios postponed premiers and started siphoning money into online marketing. That’s a privilege of big budgets, useful connections, and resources. 

On the other hand, indie filmmaking had to embrace its scrappy roots and innovate marketing approaches. 

For example, the creators of “Radium Girls” — the movie about radiation-poisoned women factory employees — gave environmental groups profit cuts for special screenings and their mailing lists. 

Plenty of indie filmmakers started targeting drive-ins and various online events. 

Furthermore, in his book The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking, a successful creator, Dan Mirvish, argues that in a post-covid world, Zoom Q&A and other events will be useful tools for dragging audiences to screenings. 

Overall, post-covid indie film marketing comes down to knowing where your target audience is online and how to hook it

Not much has changed then, eh? 

So

How to Market Indie Film After Covid?

There is this delightful short comment on YouTube to Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness trailer that neatly encapsulates the ultimate goal of successful indie movie marketing. 

With utter excitement, Jacqueline exclaims (or rather types): 

“This has me written all over it!!!!” 

If your trailer inspires four exclamation marks and such an eloquent summary of the viewer’s feelings, you know you did well. 

So 

The task of big studio movies marketing is to prove their movie is a spectacle to as many people as possible. 

The task of indie film marketing is to show the right people “hey, this is the movie that was created for you.”

Example of an Indie Movie Poster Design Example of Gloomy Movie Poster Design
Designs by GetCovers

Today, when identity-based online communities are so ubiquitous and strong, you can easily capitalize on online word-of-mouth to market your movies. It means you should figure out the identity of your viewer and then hit their sensory organs with catchy relevant content on suitable online platforms.

So, your marketing content should somehow tie to the identity of your viewer, showing the topic they care about, relatable character, idea, world, or problem. In this game of niching-down, the genre comes second.

Why do you think Bo Burnham’s Inside became such an instant hit? 

Well, of course, Bo is a popular and skilled comedian, musician, and apparently, filmmaker. But there’s more to it. His special encapsulates the anxiety-ridden condition of modern youth so well that it’s difficult to ignore. The specials’ vibe was so on-point that the online word-of-mouth did its job very quickly.

The movie promotion poster alone feels like home. For better or for worse. 

After you have the identity and “location” of your viewer down, it’s time to get the right tools for marketing your independent movie.

Listing on relevant blogs, videos, podcasts

No matter how niche your indie project is, there’s some popular blogger, vlogger, or podcaster that works with your target audience. 

One of the best marketing strategies is finding the relevant one and getting your movie into their spotlight. It might be expensive, but let’s be honest here: A solid chink of movies we watch is either a friend’s or an influencer’s recommendation

Partnerships

Following the suit of “Radium Girls” creators, you can find communities or organizations that fight for the cause or uphold the values that are relevant to your movies. You can experiment with different types of agreements. For example, you can offer a cut of profits, fixed-price payments, access to your community, your expertise, etc in exchange for helping you with indie film marketing. 

If you’re not sure where to look after such partnerships, you can also try museums, art organizations, and colleges. There’s an organization that will find your offer tempting and interesting. 

Niche streaming services 

On 3 April, The Queen’s Film Theater in Belfast launched QFT Player on the Vimeo OTT platform. And in a few months, the films there have been watched by 9,000 people from 40 countries. In comparison to the streaming giants, the numbers are tiny, but in the world of indie, that’s a significant audience. 

What we’re saying is —- there are plenty of amazing streaming platforms you may not be aware of. Dig around, and you’ll find a platform that will be a great fit for your indie movie. 

Indie movie promotion posters 

When the poster for The Green Knight dropped on Twitter, it got 16,4K likes and 2,8K retweets, which is a lot for a corporate account. For one thing, it proves the power a catchy still image holds over the imaginations and attention of people. 

On the other hand, it proves the masterfulness of the art. That’s definitely not your average fantasy movie poster. The art, bright yet subtle, breathes character; it’s distinct and unique.

A fine movie promotion poster is a powerful indie marketing tool. Where trailers take 2 minutes, the promo image needs a few seconds — an invaluable quality in a modern digital landscape. 

Indie film poster example Indie film poster example
Designs by GetCovers

Besides, you can get a professional movie poster for $10 to $35 with unlimited free revisions. 

Indie movie trailers

We don’t want to focus on trailers too much because you already know everything. Indie movie trailers remain at the foundation of the marketing pyramid — there isn’t much you can build without them. 

Just remember your trailer needs to sell the movie as it is. Make sure it presents the tone, genre, and core ideas of the movie accurately. False advertising is a dangerous thing

For example, take Aronofsky’s Mother!. The trailer doubled down on the horror aesthetics of the flick, while the movie itself was more psychological and artsy in nature. The result? A lot of frustrated and angered folk leaving bad reviews.

Strong online presence 

You want your indie movie to be Google-able. The easier it is to find — the better. Therefore, make sure to diversify your Internet presence based on your viewer’s identity. We suggest at least two of the following for effective indie movie marketing: 

  • Film website. A simple, business card-like website for your indie movie can help direct potential viewers towards buying or watching your creation. 
  • Social media accounts. Find what social media your target audience prefers and deliver them quality content there. 
  • Podcasting. Starting a podcast is a relatively cheap endeavor that opens new marketing opportunities and boosts your SEO. If you ever wanted to try podcasting, now you have an excuse. As for the content, you can discuss the filming process and the nuances of indie filmmaking or simply share your life anecdotes. Think about what your viewer prefers. 
  • Vlogs. It’s an expensive and time-consuming proposition. But, behind the scene footage, interviews, or even short video essays relevant to the movie can help your indie film marketing and SEO efforts immensely. 

In any case, if you’re working on growing your online presence, you’ll need good content, movie promotion posters, and other catchy visuals. So come prepared

Summing Up

We adapted, but it was painful” — this quote from the article on Bristol’s moviemaking perfectly summarizes the covid’s effect on the indie industry as a whole. But, it seems that indie filmmaking comes out stronger than ever. Not because of the struggles imposed by the pandemic but because the filmmakers fully embraced their plucky, resourceful roots.  And the industry’s resilience makes us happy as indie is where the notions are challenged, daring experiments are undertaken, and the most exciting things happen. 

Still, independent cinema is the industry where each dollar counts and needs to be spent wisely. So, proper marketing prioritization is a must for reaching your audience. We hope you’ll find your footing in the new covid-shapen reality and contribute to the rise of indie filmmakers. The best of luck to you! 

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    Michael

    As a part of Getcovers marketing team, Michael helps indie creatives master their craft. In his free time, Michael likes playing his electric guitar, losing hours in video games, and reading unhealthy amounts of SF&F (and trying to move his body at least a little bit to not transform into a plant).

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