The Film Business

Everything I Know About Indie Film Marketing I Learned From Porn

What do Sunny Lane, Aurora Snow and Vicky Vette all have in common? Get your minds out of the gutter because the correct answer is WAY more of an audience than you have (their combined Twitter following alone is roughly 266,000). You could make the argument that they have an advantage because of their chosen profession (yes, they’re all porn stars). But the truth of the matter is, they know how to hustle and interact on many different levels with their audiences. They share more than just nude pictures and videos with their fans, they also share a lot about themselves, their families, and their jobs. They share photos, videos and tell people about their lives on and off the set. They also know how to direct people to their websites for additional content (which you usually have to pay for). At the core, they know what their audiences want, and they know how to market to them. They know how to fill niche audience’s needs like Joanna Angel’s punk porn website Burning Angel, and even, to a more tame degree, but just as successful pin-up girl site, Suicide Girls. There are three things that indie filmmakers can do to emulate some of the business savvy that these women have.

Offer something to your audience that they want. Sometimes your feature film, DVD extras, or perks from your crowdfunding campaign just aren’t enough. Give them some reason to not just want what your putting out there, but make them crave it. Porn might still be frowned upon in many circles, but it’s gone mainstream in many other parts of our culture. Many advertising campaigns use sex (or the promise and hope of a sexual encounter) to sell their products. Now we’re not suggesting that you strip down and get busy for your film (unless that’s something you WANT to do), but if you’ve got a hot, scantily clad man or woman in your film, put them front and center in your advertising. For a less scandalous example check out the documentary PROGRAMMING THE NATION to see how companies are manipulating you everyday, mostly without you knowing it.

Filmmaking

Image by: Tony the Misfit

Interact with your audience, and make them pay for it! Have you ever heard of a cam girl or guy? These people get on their webcams and put on a show for their audience. The pre-show is sometimes just a back-and-forth with the people in their chat room, usually mostly clothed, and if their audience wants to see the rest of the show, they’ve got to give a few bucks to the performer. Indie film is no different really. You need to talk to your audience constantly. You need to find out what they want, and even tease them a bit about what you might have in store for them. Sites with “Demand It” features exist so that you can begin the pre-sales part of your film’s release. It’s wonderful that you have 200 people in Chicago that want to see your film, but how many of them have already ponied-up hard earned cash already? Don’t give it away for free. That’s the biggest lesson that you can learn from pornstars. It’s better to put on a screening of your film with cash in hand rather than going to the theater owner hat in hand.

Adult film stars also know how to partner up and brand their online business. Each star’s website is tailored to give their audience an experience of that person. But you’ll also see that many of them are part of a coalition of other adult sites (kind of like the old school web rings that were popular back in the early-mid 90’s). Do you like what one girl is putting on her site? Then maybe you’ll like her friend’s too. Cross marketing and promotion are part of the trade. Each site has an audience, and cross promotion allows them to market each other’s audiences and share content across their entire network (usually a single membership gets you access to all their network’s sites).

There are many other things that indie filmmakers can learn from the adult film industry. For the most part, with the exception of the content, both industries parallel themselves almost exactly. There are indies and studio systems in porn that behave in many of the same ways that the Hollywood studio system operates. Adult indie filmmakers face many of the same financial and distribution challenges that other indie filmmakers face. Indie filmmakers even have an advantage in distribution, because at some point there is at least a CHANCE of a theatrical deal, which is something that really isn’t an option for adult films. Indie filmmakers can’t gripe at the fact that adult filmmakers have it easy because they’re selling sex. The fact is, they know how to pimp their products, and it’s up to you to do the same. Be inventive, be sexy, be active, and hustle. In the day and age of internet porn, stars and starlets have to work extra hard to make a name for themselves and draw an audience. Pay attention to what they do, and apply what you can to your own films.

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1 Comment
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