Ever worry about investing all your juice into the wrong thing? About chasing a spurious goal or getting to the end of a journey only to realize you arrived at the wrong place?
I’m often asked this by filmmakers who are curious to know if what they’re doing is the most correct strategy to pursue. They’re rightly concerned how technology is changing so quixotically, and how all of their expenditures today — time and money outlays, that is — will somehow come to naught. They’re worried about expending rocket fuel while aiming for the wrong celestial body. That they’ll end up getting there and realizing…this is it?!
Quick note about logos: that’s not really my logo above, but it might very well have been. Or it might very well be in the future, depending on how you look at these things. Spy my present logo here, but my point was to emphasize the degree to which the sandbox we’re frolicking in is ever-changing.
None of us back in the early naughts could have predicted how the market was going to be. I mean, who could have said back in 2002 that within a decade’s time the independent film marketplace would be this chaotic? I suspect in another five years none of us is going to recognize the indie film marketplace either.
Bottom line is that none of us is a fortune teller.
What I basically see happening quickly is how just one of the many VOD platforms – presently a welter of options, price points (eg. VOD, SVOD, AVOD) and cannibalizing websites – will mightily consolidate, very much how Facebook did circa 2005. One of the VOD channels will assume the role of de facto standard as indies will prostrate themselves in hosannas of joy signing up en masse to become first in line to sample the spoils of the online VOD wars.
Will PMDs be necessary in such a viewing environment? And, moreover, what role will an audience engagement specialist have to play in a radically-changed marketplace where the human element of the direct-to-fan process plays an almost negligible part?
One thing’s for certain, audience engagement will always remain the name of the game, regardless of how it’s pursued.
If there’s any duty we PMDs presently drill into our client-filmmakers which is paramount and static, it’s this: drive relentlessly to the beating heart of what moves your audiences and engage them like hell for the long-term.
Filmmaking is a calling, a career, and indies don’t produce films in isolation. Projects are no longer to be treated like start-up operations, with colossal efforts marshaled at coaxing the lumbering ship of indie up to maximum knottage, then, just as soon as the destination is reached, filmmakers abandon the boat to rot and capsize in the rolling surf, a fossil, a relic, a museum piece. Those days are over.
On the contrary…what we PMDs attempt to teach our clients is how your fans will make the journey with you from project to project (to — hopefully — project). They will not only support the work you do as a creative, watching the films you make, but will also be first in the queue when you descend on the market with newer – and ever-bolder – artistic endeavors.
Like the word conveys, they’ll virally infect their circles of influence with news of your latest project’s advent, talking up the merits of your vision, attending your live events, and burning up the social media airwaves as news of your latest film ricochets around the interwebs.
Regardless of what happens technologically, the moral of this rapidly-altering landscape and contentious story of the “platform wars” is this: filmmakers who neglect their direct-to-fan connections today are surely doomed tomorrow.
There is no more “filmmaking in a vacuum.” There is no more “that’s a distributor’s job.” There is no more of this “I hate all that business-y” stuff because you were no longer in limited company at festivals. You are no longer the belle of the ball. There are a lot of people making movies today internationally. Cameras are cheap, everyone’s an editor, and all you need to call yourself a filmmaker is a cheap editing suite and a scenario.
But, despite all this, here’s what I can commit to. I believe the “D” portion of the PMD’s present role is going to change for all-time.
Distribution will soon become so super sophisticated, though astonishingly user-friendly, that filmmakers themselves won’t require the intervention of an outside third-party to swoop in like superheroes to advise them on best practices. The path towards budget recoup and some degree of profitability for those truly excellent films amongst the crop of new releases will become as achievable as the day is long. And there won’t be that presently bewildering farrago of options, either. Filmmakers will know where and how to orient their team’s compass. They will find their north with ease. And it will be as simple as child’s play.
Having a “PMD” around in these new circumstance will seem quite antiquated, actually, the equivalent to a laggard in the Law of Distribution of Innovation curve.
What PMDs will be known for at that time are their relative abilities at getting to filmmakers’ target audiences quickly and effectively. They’ll be able to deploy a content generation plan with little lag. They’ll also be able to swiftly whip up a lavish stew of options with even the most spartan of ingredients, all because they reside in that space and will know how to effectively leverage what filmmakers have and don’t have in order to hammer the former’s respective creative goals. They will have successfully done this for a variety of other indies and the talented PMDs who are still around by the turn of the decade will have been sharing their expertise for several years running. They won’t have to advertise these services either, because their reputations — as the saying goes — will precede them.
I can understand how some PMDs may be intimidated by this. But the way I see it? Bring it on!
It’s always been survival of the fittest in our business. Present era not excluded.
Adam Daniel Mezei, PMD | Producer of Marketing and Distribution
Indie Audience Engagement Services for Independent Feature Films and Documentaries
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