The Ugly Truth About Marketing A Movie

Riley Blue

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The following is an interview with Jonathan Augustin. He is the director of Lift Boy, a critically acclaimed and much well-appreciated movie available worldwide on Netflix.

Piracy and its unexpected benefits

Once the movie was available on Netflix, a problem that arose was that several people pirated it and released it on YouTube for free. It was bad for sales, but, surprisingly, it gave a lot of mileage and validation to the filmmakers.

“Even today, on average, we keep reporting two to four leaks every day, especially on the weekends. While we are completely against piracy, this just shows that people are genuinely interested in watching the film. Through the leaked footages, we came to understand that the film is finding its audience.”

How you can apply these lessons to your business

Understand that just because your work has not immediately received the appreciation or audience it deserves, don’t give up. Keep pushing your work towards the right audience and more importantly, keep believing in it.

Lessons in Marketing

After its release on Netflix, The Lift Boy was watched for thousands of hours and garnered numerous positive reviews. With a smile, Jonathan recounts the story of how a young boy in Ahemdabad messaged him to say that his father was a driver, and he had always felt ashamed of him for the job. But, watching the movie gave the boy clarity and struck a chord with him.

The film has also garnered some fantastic reviews from film critics and watchers alike. Author (published with the consent of the interviewee)

I asked Jonathan what the one thing he wished he knew before releasing the movie was.

He said that no matter how good your content is, it is an uphill battle to get people to watch the film in theatres. Initially, they were under the impression that if a movie was released theatrically and a bit of marketing was done, there would be a domino effect and word would spread. Sadly, that’s not the case, and several more hurdles need to be crossed.

“If you spend a million dollars making the film, you have to spend at least a million more dollars in marketing, distributing and releasing it. For a safe bet, you can double that amount to two million dollars.”

For a film to do well, you need aggressive distribution and awareness among the masses. Both of these happened to be costly affairs. Setting aside a budget for marketing before releasing the movie helps.

How you can apply these lessons to your business

No matter how good your content is, you need to have a separate budget for marketing. After all, content is king, but distribution is the kingmaker.

Lessons in Creativity

In all 29 years of Jonathan’s life, I asked him if he had to share one creativity tip, what would it be. Here’s what he said-

“I used to always think that there’s the ultimate Eureka moment you will have in your life. But that never happened. In reality, you can never achieve that perfect creative output. Creativity is a constant pursuit. You’ve got to keep failing forward, and keep trying to top yourself up and dream big, imagine bigger, and then try and achieve that.”

Indeed, creativity is only 2% of the idea. The rest 98% is all about the execution.

How you can apply these lessons to your business

If you sit around waiting for a great idea to strike you, chances are, you will never have your moment of inspiration. You have to keep doing what you do best, work at bettering your skills, and make yourself worthy so that when the ideas spot you, they feel you are the right fit for them.

The Bottom Line

Getting to chat with Jonathan Augustin was an incredible learning experience. I learned so much from him about movie-making, marketing, and the pursuit of creativity. Summing up, here are the fundamental tenets of our chat:

  1. Aggressive marketing and reviews by established film critics help in generating initial buzz.
  2. It might take time for a movie to reach its right audience. Patience is essential, as is not giving up after not achieving immediate success.
  3. A good film with decent reviews has a high chance of getting picked up by Netflix. It all depends on the timing and opportunities in the industry in that period.
  4. Piracy is detrimental to a movie’s earnings. However, it makes people want to watch the film even more and acts as validation to the makers.
  5. No matter how good your content is, it is an uphill battle to get people to watch the film in theatres. For best results, the budget for the promotion of a movie has to be at least double the budget for making the movie.
  6. There is no Eureka moment when it comes to creative pursuits. No matter how good an idea you might have, the final product depends on how well you execute it.

Jonathan’s final words were inspiring.

“I’m a die-hard optimist. Things are simple for me: once you set a goal in life, get it done no matter what.”

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