From the beginning, it’s been my goal to avoid what are perhaps some of the most common pitfalls in independent movie distribution, and in self-releasing. I haven’t really had a model to follow. I guess, more often, I’ve had models not to follow. I still don’t know how it will shake out. (By the time this publishes, it will be May 1, the date of our theatrical launch.) But I have stumbled upon a few things that I think could be useful to the next person that decides to go this way:
1. Ticket Pre-Sells
Of anything, this one concept seems to be key. I’m not sure, honestly, how many independent movies have the opportunity to pre-sell their tickets online, but our tickets became available three and a half weeks before our launch. And this has proven to be very important.
Being able to pre-sell tickets takes a good amount of the uncertainty out of the process. In fact, I’m hoping to pre-sell our entire weekend. It’s nerve-racking enough tracking ticket sales and trying to hit certain numbers; I can’t imagine being involved in this process and just hoping that people will buy a ticket and show up during premiere weekend.
The more I do this, the more I see the similarities between self-releasing and running a political campaign. Pre-selling tickets is like early voting: I’m trying to get enough votes early to win the election before Election Day even arrives.
2. Tickets On Hand
Another thing I’ve done that’s proven very effective is buy my own set of tickets and have them on me at all times. I continue to do a good number of speaking engagements and now, as part of my talk, I mention that people can buy tickets directly from me if they already know the showtime they want to attend. I’ve already sold a great number of tickets this way. I don’t know much, but I’m fairly confident that people like for you to make things easy on them.
3. Group Sales
This part hasn’t been the easiest to take on, but it has worked quite well. I have been calling business owners that I know in the area and seeing if they will buy a block of tickets. I really encourage them to buy a block of tickets for one show and do it as a sort of field trip for the office. To top things off, I’ve offered to buy the tickets for them and deliver them. Once again, make it as easy as you can for people and sometimes you’ll be amazed at the result.
We’ve been grassroots. By the time of our launch, as with so many independent movies, we will hit the theaters without ever having paid for a newspaper, magazine or television ad. We’ve relied on speaking engagements, yard signs, Facebook, a monthly update list and some free media exposure (print, TV and radio interviews).
But I’ll tell you what, there was something very satisfying I learned this week. I had a table set up outside the movie theater to sell T-shirts and tickets. And I can’t tell you how many people I approached who said, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard about that.” I think that recognition is what the studios are trying to achieve when they flood the marketplace with their ads. And, that recognition could be key now as we try to harvest the last four months of our marketing efforts.
Wish me luck. Pray for me. By the time you read this, it’ll be the start of the culmination of 10 years of work. And hopefully the beginning of a long, successful run, self-releasing The Last Lullaby.
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors.