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Marketing a documentary

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Aaron CadieuxMarketing a documentary
by on Aug 28, 2013 at 6:07:21 pm


I have directed and produced a feature-length documentary that will premiere this October. The project is already creating a lot of buzz, and we are selling tickets to its premiere. Over the coming weeks, we will be featured on a number of media outlets including radio and TV programs. If we are featured on such programs, is it customary to allow the hosts of the programs to view the entire documentary before having us on? Even if that means that they see it before the official premiere?



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Mark SuszkoRe: Marketing a documentary
by on Aug 28, 2013 at 7:39:33 pm

There is a practice among honorable journalists of honoring "embargoed" releases. That is, you send out the copy of the speech or whatever, with the note that it is 'embargoed" or prohibited from being announced - until so-and-so time. This is how news analysts and rebuttal speakers are so seemingly prepared to respond to a live speech immediately afterwards: they have advance copies, and they pinkie-swear not to leak the info until the agreed time. Most LEGITIMATE journalists and news organizations honor embargoes. Every once in a while someone can't resist having a "scoop" and they leak the content early. When it comes to video and stills, it's often smart to watermark the pre-release copies to make it more obvious someone broke the embargo, and it also helps reduce piracy a little bit. In your case, I would send watermarked pre-release copies or watermarked samplers of certain scenes, but not the entire thing, until the formal release.

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Ned MillerRe: Marketing a documentary
by on Aug 29, 2013 at 2:10:22 pm

I don't know the answer although I have shot a lot of feature length docs. However my advice to you is:




Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer

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Mark SuszkoRe: Marketing a documentary
by on Aug 29, 2013 at 2:27:52 pm

Even beyond just watermarking them, put a specific watermark on each, indexed to the person you give it to, then you'll know who the rat was that leaked the footage early. The studios do something similar with movie scripts. adding subtle word differences between copies that I.D. the leakers for prosecution.

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Aaron CadieuxRe: Marketing a documentary
by on Aug 30, 2013 at 4:33:45 am


Excellent idea. Watermarked with the name of the person it is intended for. PERFECT!

I knew I asked this question for a reason :)


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Bob ColeRe: Marketing a documentary
by on Sep 12, 2013 at 12:53:16 pm

I guess I'm in the minority here. I wouldn't watermark.

But it depends on the material. If the doc. has some incredibly newsworthy and exclusive material, that's one thing. But even so, I would hesitate before watermarking it. It's like saying "I don't trust you." If you're marketing a documentary, in most cases you'll need all the goodwill you can get.

In retail, they say you shouldn't treat the 98% of your customers that don't steal as if they were the 2% that do.

Bob C

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