In the year since Bond Strategy and Influence CEO Marc Schiller (pictured, left) last spoke at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Doc Conference, his company has overseen 10 films. Nevertheless, the exec still believes that putting a distribution strategy together is like building a 3D puzzle.
Schiller’s 15-year-old company offers filmmakers customized marketing and distribution campaigns in order to broaden a documentary’s reach and target the right audiences, both domestically and abroad.
The exec spoke at the conference last year about Bond’s distribution strategy for Banksy’s documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop and Indie Game: The Movie, and returned this year with further insights on films such as Breastmilk and Sign Painters.
“All the pieces have to be interconnected, and you can’t look at things separately anymore,” the exec told delegates at Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio.
Schiller says he asks two things of filmmakers: firstly, they must deliver at least 30 minutes of additional content, and secondly, Bond needs to have a direct channel to the film’s website so they can leverage Google and search engines.
The exec gave the example of Dana Ben-Ari’s documentary Breastmilk, which examines the cultural significance of breast-feeding. Pulling up Google during the presentation, Schiller points out that when you search “Breastmilk,” a link to the film’s official website is, conveniently, among the top results.
“The movie being up there is very intentional and critical to the strategy,” explains Schiller.
Clicking through to the website, viewers first see the “Double D Package,” which is available for US$14.99, and comes with extra content. Other options include buying the film only for $12.99 or a stream-only deal for $7.45.
Bond also handles the retail merchandising for clients, and Schiller was quick to point out that these products must also cater very specifically to the the film’s audiences. Breastmilk, for example, offers a limited edition “Envirotote Breast Bag” with a drawing of breasts on the front that has been a top seller for the film’s store.
“I don’t want a T-shirt with a logo of the movie on it, I think that’s pretty limited,” said Schiller. “But out of every film, there’s creative ideas, so there’s a lot of things that we can do.”
Schiller also discussed Bond’s “Cinepacks” initiative, which groups films together according to themes and offers pay-what-you-want bundles. The “Creativity” bundle, for example, offers a package of films including Beauty is Embarassing, Sign Painters, Indie Game: The Movie and Helvetica, and audiences have the option to either stream or download all the films. Schiller says a survey the group conducted shows that most people – especially if they hadn’t seen one of the four films but had seen the rest – would purchase the entire bundle.
“The idea was to offer a film-lover the ability to get incredible value, and know that they’re signing up to get value,” said Schiller, explaining that Bond will email subscribers with notifications when other bundles become available.
As for how to deal with films that are getting funding from broadcasters and other places that want to restrict the content they make available?
“Read a lot, learn, make some decisions, and really think about delivery,” advised Schiller, adding: “And in terms of contracts, don’t give up everything.”