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BSS 2017: Peter Broderick

After discussing the new possibilities for filmmakers to have more control over the distribution process during the Symposium’s opening keynote session, in his solo seminar Peter Broderick expanded on the theme by discussing strategies by which filmmakers can use new, more specifically targeted, ways of reaching an audience.

His first instruction: Have clear goals – and prioritise them.

Criticising his fellow distributors for too often looking into the past – to what worked before – he challenged us with the question: Where are you on the line from “formulaic” to “customized”? From this emerged a major theme, that of targeting interest groups, selling privately “from the garage” as it were. For example, with Napoleon Dynamite they targeted nerds.

In describing avenues of distribution in the USA, Broderick first mentioned festivals and conferences – asserting that conferences that gather together your film’s specific target audience groups have become more important than festivals.

Theatrical is really grim for independent films now, especially for documentaries – which however have a strong growth area in educational sales. TVOD and SVOD are replacing free-to-air television; retail DVD is being supplanted by direct DVD sales, through websites etc, and direct digital sales online.

When it comes to theatrical release, if you can turn out your core audience in the first weekend, then word-of-mouth can help spread publicity.

As an independent, piracy is not a big problem for you (it is for the big studios.) Piracy can actually help spread the word about your film. If piracy does hurt, it usually only hurts that film, not a whole career.

Broderick then went on to contrast the strategies of the Old World of Distribution to the Brave New World we have now. The former places the audience last, while the new places the audience first. In the old, audiences are anonymous; in the new the audiences are identifiable and reachable. Middlemen hold sway in the old world; filmmakers have direct access to the audience in the new. Micro approaches involving communities of interest are replacing macro methods. Conventional advertising is being supplanted by websites and social media. Most importantly, individualized strategies are replacing formulaic campaigns, and active supporters and patrons are taking the place of passive consumers.

In the old way there was production, then distribution. In the new way, the two run in parallel.

In summary:

  1. Control your distribution.
  2. Set goals and target essential audiences. Plus identify potential partners and choose your windows.
  3. Assemble a Distribution Team.

“So many people suffer from the ‘I have to do it all myself’ mentality – that’s disastrous.”

Get someone to do the negotiation for you – they’re an expert, you are not! But do your due diligence on people before hiring them. Remember – having no deal is better than a bad deal. When it comes to an advance versus a bigger split: the split relies on the companies involved being honest!

Bear in mind that the best people are looking for part-time work, not full-time – because they’ve got other stuff on the go.

Moving on to discuss crowd sourcing, Broderick pointed out that you can search this way for things other than money: try ideas, segments of a project, crew, music, website content, translations.

“A website visitor becomes a subscriber, becomes a customer, becomes a patron.”

But a warning: when it comes to social media: 95% of people who say they are good on social media are not!

On the practicalities of crowd funding, Broderick advises that platforms where you set a target and get nothing if it is not reached are the best. If you think you’ll have a problem reaching your target, simply set it lower.

When you are close to your target, it is an incentive to potential donors to help you get over the hump. But nevertheless, have an “uncle” on standby, who, if you are close, will get you over the hump and then be repaid from the disbursement.

Interestingly, the Kiwis in the audience indicated they were very satisfied with New Zealand crowdfunding schemes, such as Boosted and PledgeMe – although the number of NZ projects campaigning via PledgeMe has dropped dramatically since KickStarter expanded its operations.



“There are exciting opportunities today that were not previously available. Be proactive, creative, nimble, tenacious – alter your strategy as you go. Ideally then you can take your audience with you to your next film.”

There is no doubt Broderick connected with his audience. One filmmaker I spoke to afterwards was determined to hire him for her project – “If I can afford his fee!”

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