Further Clarification of the PMD and Economics, by Jon Reiss


REPUBLISHED WITH PERMISSION

“This from the man himself, Jon Reiss, in response to the many wonderful posts this week from Michael R. Barnard, Lucas McNelly and Dennis Peters regarding the PMD.” ~ Sheri Candler Marketing & Publicity


Let me clarify some of my feelings about the PMD. I will add my universal caveat that every film and situation is different. But here are some important guidelines:

1. The best case scenario is that a PMD is on board as a full collaborator and worker from as close to inception of the film as possible. No later than beginning of prep. This allows for, what I feel, the optimum of the integration of audience connection and engagement (which is what distribution and marketing is at its essence). If you wait till you have finished your film—you are in a world of hurt (I’ve said that before, but I don’t think I can say it enough) because this connection building and engagement take time and effort and cannot be hurried.

2. The best marketing is as creative as traditional filmmaking now—and frankly the line is blurred between what is the “film” and what is marketing. This is a de facto state of things since the rise of transmedia. If anyone just wants to make a traditional feature these days—that is great,– I am not going to tell anyone what his or her creative output should or should not be, but I am only pointing out that there is a tremendous amount of creative potential that focusing only on feature films ignores. I feel as a film community we should embrace it—and many filmmakers are. It is tremendously exciting. Look at what Lance Weiler is doing. I was fortunate enough to be at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh yesterday—and many things struck me (more blog posts coming on this subject)—but he was one of the first transmedia artists—we can learn a lot from him about what it means to be a creative person AND what it means to connect with audience. (And Sheri Candler—yes he was an incredible leader of a tribe—another post on that coming too). I know for many of you this is old news—but I still feel there is a battle being waged about this—one that is a waste of time in my opinion.

3. As a result, the PMD is not just a social marketer, a dealmaker, a festival publicist, a line producer, a distributor, a publicist—he or she needs to understand all aspects of the marketing and distribution of a film and conceptualize, develop and oversee its execution over the full life of a film. To do all of the above is a tremendous amount of work—akin to being the sole producer of a film in a crew of 3 (and at times this will happen—just as micro budget films have been produced in this way). But I do advise that there be a distribution and marketing team (I took a whole chapter of Think Outside the Box Office to outline this crew and even that should be supplemented now (another blog post later). The PMD is the one who oversees all of the pieces (but as in the case of all who work on indie films—they will be working full time and busting their butt in the trenches like everyone else—because there is never enough money to hire as many people as anyone would ever like).

4. Just as people cut their teeth in indie film by taking on smaller tasks and working their way up—so it will be with PMDs. Electrics become gaffers become DPs. Social media assistants become social media strategists become PMDs. (as an example) While people work up the ladder—if they want to be the top creative in the department—they will learn ALL aspects of that department on their way up. It is an intense learning curve—but people who want it—do it.

5. When people cut their teeth in indie film—they usually work for free or for little money to have a chance to prove themselves. Money, work, and credit are always negotiated in independent film. I don’t see that changing with the PMD. Film has always been an apprenticeship system. Even with film schools (and PMD training is on its way—more future blog posts)—most film students discover that they still need to apprentice out of school. This is not just true for film—but for all arts not only in the US now—but throughout the world and throughout time.

6. An alternative to this is a group of filmmakers who band together as a team—all chipping in resources and skills—to make a film. They usually divide up responsibilities and credits. But each member of the team has his or her own sweat equity skin in the game. This is where you have new producers, directors, DPs born who have not worked through the apprentice system. But they take the risk on a project and prove themselves.

7. The last alternative (which usually involves apprenticeship as well) is to get a lower level paid gig in an established, commercially based company (e.g. a publicity firm, social media establishment, transmedia commercial company etc) and get paid for doing lower level work on commercial projects. Often people do this and learn all the ropes, change jobs to learn a different skill (again paid for commercial work) until they have enough skills to strike out on their own.

8. All of the above goes to say that I feel that if you want to be a PMD in the indie world—it will be difficult to ask to be paid without a track record. Like all other people in the indie world—you need to pay your dues—work on films—build a reputation, resume, reel—to show what you are worth. Most people in indie film—especially when they are starting out—have multiple jobs and find multiple ways to make a living.

9. If you are in film—especially indie film—to make money—I suggest finding another career. There are many other ways to make money more simply. Chances are you’ll make more money per hour at McDonalds than from working on any indie film. The world of film and media are for people who love film and media and cannot live without it. It is a tough life except for a very few. (Again from Warhol: “Life is very hard”).

10. The people whom I have met who want to be PMDs around the world—have a love of film—but feel that they have a set of skills more geared toward marketing than actual production—and are excited by having a way to work in the field they love (film and media) and use their special talents. They are not doing it primarily for money. They are doing it because everything else besides film is unsatisfying—and while they do need to find a way to make a living—they need to be involved with film.

11. The hope is of course—with everyone in independent film—is to find a way to do what you love and sustain yourself. There are many, many ways that people find to do this. It is of course tougher than ever now—especially as we are in this transitional period. I don’t feel I have all the answers—but I am excited by what the future holds, by having discussions with passionate people who care about our world and I feel together we will all find a way to make this work. I don’t feel that we as filmmakers are alone in this. All media content creators and artists are facing the same conundrum—musicians, journalists, authors, artists, photo journalists, graphic artists, game designers (massive layoffs in Australia in the months prior to my visit). We are all facing the same challenges and I feel that we can all learn from each other.

Let me know your thoughts at @Jon_Reiss on twitter or facebook.com/ThinkOutsidetheBoxOffice

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About Michael R. Barnard

Michael R. Barnard Writer | Producer | Director Independent. Film, TV and Digital. Development and Production. View all posts by Michael R. Barnard

5 responses to “Further Clarification of the PMD and Economics, by Jon Reiss

  • Miles Maker

    This is a GREAT post–insightful, clarifying and defining as we move FWD with the concept of PMD’s and their value, necessity and contribution to independent film.

    Filmmakers themselves may find themselves best suited and qualified for the role of PMD for other filmmakers. I myself have produced projects from concept to completion and can identify with this challenging journey firsthand. At the same time, I have extensive sales and marketing experience working for fortune 500 companies and a ‘chutzpah’ that empowers me to achieve objectives I probably shouldn’t be able to accomplish. Am I a PMD? I think–therefore I am. Is there room for improvement for me in this regard? Of course there is. My immediate need for growth and development is in the areas of distribution (options, contracts, scenarios) and the implementation of transmedia ideas, but I wouldn’t attempt to tackle either alone. I would consult with the Film Collaborative and other orgs to accomodate my inexperience with traditional distribution–not to mention engaging competent legal representation for the property. We’re all exploring transmedia and how to incorporate its elements into our film offerings, so I’m very confident I will excel and succeed with noteworthy accomplishments moving forward.

    I say all this to say that although we haven’t established a firm foundation under this title with which to build upon as yet, there are those of us actively working to expand our skillsets and meet the demand for this challenging new role. We all know every film is its own animal–therefore aspiring PMD’s should engage projects in need of their current learned abilities.

    There’s a term I learned in college called the Peter Principle:
    The principle that “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence.” Members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions.

    My takeaway:
    Rise and shine–perpetually seeking ways and means to shed light as you venture toward unfamiliar areas of darkness.

    Like

    • MichaelRBarnard

      That’s GREAT to quote business management guru Peter Drucker and his “Peter’s Principle”. I think it was from the classic, “THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE”, which is a great book, concepts lost on this generation of business people, principles that are imperative to filmmakers, too.

      Yes, we have to learn. For COLLIER & CO.–HOT PURSUIT!, I was working on promotions, marketing, and distribution. We had set up our own group of movie theaters and bicycled prints. (Oh the painful memories of sitting in a room in NYC trying to do a 30fps HDV anamorphic video transfer to 35mm film! Horrible!) I worked on television and home video distribution (there was no realistic digital option just three years ago). Sadly, there was pushback from some and I got bounced out of things I was trying to accomplish. But we did it in-house and it was exhilarating to have the opportunity to blend my creative, marketing, business, and negotiating skills into one project. I LOVED IT. Wish I could have a crack at that again.

      It’s based on my bootstrap experience that I see how important the PMD will be, and can see how it will evolve.

      Like

  • Robert

    Yep, I agree with all of this and especially the need to bring in the PMD at inception.

    Marketing is not advertising. Marketing is about translating audience needs into something they will value. Hence it’s essential to have the PMD onboard from the outset.

    In today’s world where word-of-mouth is so crucial, you can’t ask the PMD to package or promote an ill-thought through movie and expect good results.

    The cast (sometimes crew) and the movie title are HUGE part of the marketing of the movie and these should be discussed with the PMD… at inception.

    Too often I see movies with smart-arse or esoteric titles that have no relevance to the audience, don’t communicate the genre, can’t be pronounced, can’t be tweeted, the URL has gone etc… And that’s just the title!

    Bottom line: do the marketing FIRST. Bring in the PMD early.

    Like

    • MichaelRBarnard

      Robert, thank you for the point about developing a marketing strategy from the beginning of the project. I agree. Further, it seems that we can begin building our audience even before we go into production, building anticipation and loyalty early. But again, this is marketing theory, not proven. It seems logical as we look at it now, but there might be issues that disprove this theory. However, it’s a good theory to work on.

      Like

  • Paula Smith

    The Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity raised the bar for marketing of films. The next bar is the utilization of social media and the marketing of one’s film before it starts production. I started a year ago to build an audience for my film still in development. It’s been slow but I believe this is the direction of filmmaking.

    Like

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