Judith Dancoff NewFilmMarketing is a breakthrough consulting service for do-it-yourself film distribution to universities, K-12, libraries, and specialty markets.

We are impassioned to establish the right distribution platform to meet your film's needs and to shape the right strategy. In addition, we offer hourly consultation, coaching, workshops, and an informative blog. Contact us for a free consultation and dates of upcoming workshops. Our focus is on educational and specialty distribution but will share whatever useful information comes our way.

We believe the strongest market and viewership for most documentary filmmakers lies in academic and specialty markets. Let us help you transform that promise into a reality.


Your Film Just Won the Lottery… Now What?

January 27th, 2011


A filmmaker contacted me recently with an interesting dilemma.  His film, just off of several strong festival screenings, was starting to attract tempting distribution offers, including educational distribution from one of the best houses in the country.  Then he heard about Academic DIY and began to wonder if that could offer anything equal.

I gave him my usual rap…how much he’d make per year (after you get up-and-running, as much as $25-$30,000, for several years), the limited amount of up-front work and money required to get started, and so forth.  He wasn’t convinced.  How could Academic DIY compete with a company like the one offering him the contract?  What could I say to convince him?

Then over coffee this morning, the answer came.  Worldcat.org, the international database of all library holdings on earth, held the key.   Any filmmaker considering a distributor should go first on Worldcat, choose several of the distributor’s top titles, and search the number of library and university holdings for each.   Is the distributor actually placing films?    And if it is, how many film placements would be needed, at the cut they’re offering you and film price, to make your annual DIY profit?

Read the rest of this entry »

Around the World in 60 Minutes

January 20th, 2011


Check out my January 6th webcast on the Nuts & Bolts of Academic DIY produced by Doc Talks.  Throw out the rule books and your pre-conceptions.  Academic DIY is NOT what you think it is, it is NOT where films go to retire, and you CAN make money with this stuff, maybe more than with any other method of DIY.  Succeeding, though, takes a clear marketing head, a solid understanding of academia, and most of all, the willingness to try something new.

The webcast reached over 160 listeners from around the world.  Questions ranged from the best time to roll-out academic distribution, to effective websites, to good calendar dates for sales campaigns.  Jilann Spitzmiller of Doc Talks and I both had a blast!

Click here to listen to the entire show!

Ta-Da! I’m So Jazzed, Let Me Blow My Horn!!

December 3rd, 2010

It’s happening again, folks – another NewFilmMarketing course has been scheduled for Los Angeles – and this time it’s FREE!  That’s right, you read that correctly.  Saturday morning January 8th, we’re set for a free workshop at the Santa Monica Public Library from 10:30 to 12:30, with much networking and libations to follow.  In addition, if you sign-up for the class, you’ll get a special, reduced rate for my viewing your film and giving you feedback.  Space is limited, though, so be sure to get in your reservations at info@newfilmmarketing.com.

But wait!  There’s more!  On Thursday evening January 6th, DOC TALKS has me scheduled as their featured speaker of the month.  For December, it’s CrowdFunding with Peter Broderick; for January, it’s ME!!  Learn how to raise funds for your film, then how to sell it.  What more could you ask for?

And the bragging doesn’t stop there.  Tune-in to LA Talk Radio’s great new show “Don’t Get Left In The Dust” at http://www.latalkradio.com/Paula.php this Sunday Dec. 5th at 12 noon.  I will be talking about websites that attract academic buyers, the differences between academic DIY and other distribution models, and taking live calls.  Think of some good questions and we’ll have a great talk.

Slowly but surely, the message is getting out.  It’s gratifying… and good to blow my own horn once in a while!

Tip 4-2Day: How Effective Are Your Sales?

November 26th, 2010

Sales effectiveness on the Net is called the “conversion rate”.  Your website’s conversion rate is the ratio of unique visitors to your site versus the number that actually buy your film.   You can compute this for a week, a month, a year.  Obviously, the longer the time period, the more accurate your statistics.  If you have a low conversion rate, then a lot of the effort that you put in to get visitors to your site is being wasted! Think of a site with a bad conversion rate as a bucket with lots of holes in it. The faster you get visitors pouring into your site, the faster they will escape through the holes, without buying anything.  So achieving success in web marketing is not only based on getting people to your site–you also must get them to buy.

To work out your conversion rate, divide the number of monthly sales on your site by the number of monthly visitors to your site, then multiply by 100 to get the percentage. Good conversion rates tend to hover between 1% and 3%. If your conversion rate is much lower than 1%, or 1 in 100 visitors making a purchase, then there is room for improvement!

So how can you improve the conversion rate?  It helps to think of your website’s sales process as a funnel. Visitors enter the funnel at the top–either your homepage or even earlier with the “cover letter” that you send to librarians and professors, guiding them to the homepage. Each step in the sales process (cover letter, homepage, about page, trailer, purchase link) moves shoppers further down the funnel until they pop out of the end (the sale). Shoppers can abandon the sale at any stage in the funnel, so look at each stage in turn and see what you can do to improve it.

Successful sales are based on fulfilling your buyer’s needs.  Understand the academic market you are selling to and shape your campaign accordingly. Work on plugging the holes!

For more great tips and an overview of the DIY process to the academic market, come to my free class at the Santa Monica Public Library on January 8th.  Space is limited, so email to reserve space.

Eyes Wide Shut – Why Does It Hurt So Much To Sell Our Work?

November 11th, 2010

The best thing I’ve ever heard about the struggle of selling one’s work was at a class I took at the Center for Cultural Innovation in downtown Los Angeles.  The speaker, a business consultant who specializes in helping artists, explained that too many artists visualize the distance between their work and their buyer as a simple, straight line, from A to B. Just hang the painting on the wall, mail the screenplay to an agent, or send information about your film to a university professor, and, fingers crossed, they’ll buy.

Too much of the time, of course, they don’t, or not for the right price, and the artist scuttles back to the drawing board, since they’re artists afterall, and all they really want to do is make their art  The problem, of course, is that the mystery of how one succeeds then becomes even more hidden, and for independent filmmakers with fewer traditional distribution outlets to fall back on, more daunting.

Luckily, the CCI consultant had an answer, for those of us with the fortitude to listen: the A to B line was not a straight line after all, she said, but rather a graph of hills and valleys, peaks and low points, that mapped a journey fraught with rejection and dead-end turns.   Each wrong turn, however, was a precious tool for re-calibrating our compass if we just had the courage to learn from it.

How does this relate to DIY distribution? Too often the first and last thing filmmakers do in DIY distribution is to buy educational email lists (i.e., addresses to point “B”), without ever considering how their website and advertising will attract their specific academic market.  They want to go from point A to B as quickly as possible (almost with their eyes shut, I sometimes think), and then if they don’t make sales, as many don’t, they can blame the list provider, or better yet, just give up.

Success in DIY distribution is the same as success in any sales field: know your buyer, satisfy his or her needs directly, and you will have a shot at making the sale.  And to find this direct link takes market analysis, testing, and understanding of one’s market.  Simply buying bulk addresses of librarians and professors is the last step, not the first, in a detailed process.

Traveling the road to successful sales can be painful, but the only real way to achieve success.  Eyes wide open is the rule.

Is DIY Distribution to Academia Possible? OR How To Stop Working In Reality TV!

October 19th, 2010

Click HERE to listen to my appearance on LA Talk Radio’s “Don’t Get Left in the Dust” for a full introduction to DIY distribution. Topics covered include my own background in film distribution and how I started NewFilmMarketing, the best website design to attract academic buyers, education lists, and more.

You’ll also get a chance to hear my great personality!

2 Stream or not 2 stream

October 12th, 2010

In a recent discussion list for COLLIB-L, the College Library Section of the American Library Association, a university librarian was fretting about whether or not to retire the VHS machines and videos at her university and asked if others were considering the same. Most librarians responded “Yes”, a few “No”. The videos were still good, they argued, and in addition difficult to duplicate on DVD without the permission of a filmmaker no one could find.   “Why get rid of something that works?”  While filmmakers tend to think the newest technology is required for sales, this is usually not the case in academic distribution.  In addition, many librarians remain concerned, and a bit confused, about the reliability of public performance licenses on streamed media.   A later discussion prompted scores of posts about whether streams such as Netflix could be trusted for public performance licenses.  That question alone seemed enough to kill a sale.

While many filmmakers want to offer streams, they need to think first about the revenue they may be losing in selling $1.99 streams to universities, as well as how to secure a public performance license in the sale.  Here’s a formula I came up with: given that a DVD at a university library will normally last about 3 years, divide your public performance price by 3 ($300/3 =$100) and call that the price of your license.  Payment of that can also provide a code to permit the stream.   To account for the fact that some universities might stream your film hundreds of times in a year, however, while others may only stream it a few times, each individual stream should cost an additional amount, say $0.99.  Your service will set this up with a “gate”charge.  If you’re not sure which service to use, email me for ideas.  I’m also interested in hearing from you.  Post on the comment section of this blog with suggestions.

The upside to streaming is that you stand to make some real money. If several classes use it, and several professors require it as homework, you’re going to do well. The downside is that universities will get actual counts of the number of times your film is used in a year and if the numbers aren’t good, they’re not going to renew. Is this a bandwagon you need to jump on right away? Probably not, at least not for  academic distribution.   Also, because you’re an independent distributor, it’s probably wise to wait and see how the technology develops. Remember, what will make your film saleable to colleges is content—that’s the bottom line—whether it’s in a stream, on a DVD, or some new-fangled device we haven’t even heard of yet.  If it teaches something no other film teaches, and your website shows this, people will buy it.  You are going to make the sale.

Question: How Should I Price My Movie? Answer: What’s the Price of a Bag of Potato Chips?

September 18th, 2010

Ever notice how when you go to the store, all potato chips have more or less the same price?  That’s because no potato chip maker in her right mind would put a product on the shelf without a thorough analysis of the competition. Want to know what to charge for a bag of potato chips? Figure in your cost of slicing and dicing, but the bottom line is what the buyer is willing to pay.

Why should films be any different?

Once you become your own distributor, you are selling a product, just like any other.  Research the competition by going to lots of distributor sites like New Day Films, Women Make Movies, and Icarus Films, and find comparable films. What do they charge for educational copies, and copies for high schools and public libraries?  Your film should be right in the mix, and if it isn’t, you better have a darn good reason.

Are librarians going to respond to a DVD priced significantly lower than others in the same category?  How do you respond when you see a bag of potato chips, half the price of the competition?  Not so appetizing, is it? Keep in mind that for academic buyers, your most important sales point is content.  It is unlikely that $25 or even $50 will make or break a sale. The academic market buys what it wants and doesn’t buy what it doesn’t want, no matter the cost.

I will go more in depth into pricing at my upcoming Sept. 25th webinar on websites, as well as how to construct an inexpensive site of interest to educators and librarians.  SEE YOU THERE!

Tip 4-2Day

August 19th, 2010

Want a quick way to check academic interest—and a possible market—for your film?  Take a couple of central words or concepts from your film and google them along with the word syllabus.   See what comes up.  How many edu’s do you get and from what departments?  Even if there are no syllabi yet (they haven’t seen your film!), note the general interest in the academic world.

The central difference between regular sales and academic sales is that for the first you have to build an audience for your film, and that can be tough work.   In academic sales, the audience usually exists.  The work comes in locating them and then “positioning” yourself so they buy your film.

A final thought: Does your film teach something new or is it mainly an argument for or against something most of us already know?  Teaching or showing something new will not only get you more easily into film festivals, etc., but will also be of greater interest to the academic world.

For an in-depth seminar on Finding Your Buyer, be sure to attend our webinar this Saturday morning .

Why DIY is Not Rocket Science. I Swear!

August 9th, 2010

I’m sorry. I’m getting tired of people who mystify the process of selling films. Granted I live in my little niche of libraries and academia where selling is fairly straightforward, but in my opinion, all sales follow the same, basic rules: identify your buyer and their needs, shape your advertising to meet those needs, contact your buyers in the most cost effective way, follow-up with analysis of what works and doesn’t work, make changes, and repeat.

Take a tube of toothpaste: some toothpastes are positioned for families with children, some for young people who want to be glamorous, some for the elderly. No doubt any would clean our teeth, but we buy what is “positioned” for us. In the same way, libraries and academia are also a patchwork of hundreds of small populations. Is it hard to find them? Not really. My upcoming webinar on August 21  will cover various techniques, but as many of the readers of this site know, email addresses of professors and librarians are available for the buying. In addition, all filmmakers know how to communicate to audiences—that’s why you’re a filmmaker!

Promoting something you want to sell isn’t much different. Of course it will take some time to build an effective DIY platform (a website targeted for your most likely academic, library or specialty buyer), but once that work is complete, all you’ll need to do is tweak it occasionally between sales campaigns, and those are likely to last for some years to come.

Is it because distributors have us so brow-beaten into thinking they’re doing the impossible for their 40% to 80% that we somehow assume DIY is beyond us?

Most of filmmaking is SO much harder and you’ve already learned that. Setting up a DIY platform for the first time may be challenging, but think of all the other films in your closet or the ones still in front of you to make. You’ve worked enough ‘B’ jobs to make ends meet. Invest a bit of time and money in yourself, and I promise it will pay off big!


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