Hello fellow filmmakers,
It’s been a while since my last blog and usually I would do this as a podcast but I felt it was important to include this information as online text because when I was recently trying to find information on this subject I couldn’t find anything specific to film, only for comic artists or cosplays.
I recently attended London’s MCM Comic Con (MCMExpo) at the Excel center in East London, I hadn’t been to a comic con before but I had a rough idea of what to expect. The plan for me was to promote my debut feature film and hopefully recoup the costs of the convention, so I set about making a plan however when I looked online I found little info that catered for filmmakers doing this. It suddenly dawned on me that there could be a reason for this, maybe filmmakers don’t go to these places to promote or sell their film.
I am going to dive right in and give you my experience of Comic Con (CC) and how it worked out for me. So here goes.
The hire of a table at London MCM (basic package) with no backing, no extra tables or chairs, no power was £200 incl VAT. I left my booking very late in the day and there were only a few tables left so I snapped up a space. By this point the only thing I possessed was a finished film on Vimeo. I had no promotional material and no idea how or what I was really going to do at the CC, With the film only selling on Vimeo at the time I wanted to do more than just hand out leaflets, I knew to have any chance of recouping the table expense I would have to sell a few hard copies of the film. I did stumble across an article online that although it was geared towards comic book artists it did make a key point of saying that as a seller you should aim for profit not just to break even.
It’s important to note before I get any further, the 3 day event involved a lot of hard work both during the event and on the run up to it. I did have to give up my weekend too and a day off work.
So with all research towards comics I adapted the info for film and hopefully the tips below will help others have a good and successful experience like I did.
Luke’s Top Comic Con Tips for filmmakers
1. Make sure you get your DVD’s and Blu Rays professionally printed and copied. - I was going to burn copies myself and print my own covers/labels etc but I am so glad I didn’t do this! It’s very tempting to make the numbers work in your head for maximum profit, but ultimately one of the biggest selling points for Young, High and Dead at the CC was the fact that every copy looked as good as it would in any high street shop. This includes the disc face and any inlays or inserts. Don’t cut corners by attempting to print things yourself for the actual products you plan to sell. This is even more important with the actual duplication of the discs - I used the following company for all the DVD & Blu Ray duplication, including the inserts and full colour disc printing.
They were by far the most helpful and the cheapest I found, I will definitely be using them again in the future.
2. Seal the DVD’s and Blu Ray’s for cheap yourself - I wanted to number each copy of the Blu Rays so that they were a bit more exclusive and individual, comic artists do this on their products so I figured it might help with the film. But obvioulsy this would need to all be done by hand and I would then have to seal each copy myself. This sound far more complicated than it is, for about £14 you can by an 8” sealing machine from ebay, don’t bother with the one that has a cutter built in, scissors are more effective and easier anyway. Then buy 6”x11” plastic shrink wrap bags. I picked up 500 for just under £10. All you do it pop the DVD or Blu Ray in a bag, plug in the sealer wait a few secs then press it once until the light comes on. Release trim with scissors and repeat. Once you have a few sealed and trimmed grab a hairdryer make sure it’s on hot and then bunch 4 DVD’s together run the hairdryer along the sides first so the plastic shrinks tight, then so each front and back. I was doing about 4 every 40 seconds you can get pretty quick at it. The overall finish makes the world of difference.
3. Print plenty of Flyers - At a CC like MCMExpo 1000 flyers is not enough! I ran out by the Saturday and ended up having to give out business cards, which was okay but I could have reached out to more people had I had more flyers, I should have had more near 2,500. Make sure your flyers explain everything in simple terms, mine were not very well thought out. They just had the image of Jenny and the axe etc and a quote from an online blogger, this didn’t really explain A that it’s a horror film, B it’s for sale, C why they should check out more about it. My flyer was too vague and often I could see puzzled looks as people walked off looking at it. SO make sure your flyers are simple and double sided, I went single sided to save money but flyers are worth every penny when done right. Make sure you get a good glossy thick card pref over 200 gsm (min) so many people might not have time to stop and chat and often the card goes straight into a bag, thin flyers will always get folded up and probably forgotten.
4. Be creative with your table - Every day I changed the layout of my table, often the same people will walk by and if they see a different layout there is more chance that they will stop, unconsciously they think something new might be there. This also helps create the illusion that you might be selling more than you are, as it looks like stock levels are changing. I also tried to make YHAD stand out so it was different to other stands. Not just in content but in the way I had the table. I had a giant jar of FREE sweets that attracted a lot of people, props from the film, I wore a YHAD T shirt, waved a wooden axe about. Had an iPad on display, make your table look and feel interactive and friendly.
5. Create the killer pitch - At first I felt very uncomfortable talking about my film let alone selling it, I was very quiet and only spoke to people who seemed to take an obvious interest in my table, this resulted in many potential sales walking straight past, next to my table was a a group of girls who were selling homemade video game themed cupcakes, instantly they had good banter and interacted well with the public, so I simply joined them and joined in. Don’t wait for people to stop, simply say hello or ask them a question my pitch was a s simple as this.
Do you like horror films?
If they said yes I would then gesture them to come over and say
"Great then you must watch a trailer to a horror film I spent the last 5 years making"
I would then hand them the headphones to the iPad, this worked nearly every single time. Once they finished watching I would ask them what they thought, thankfully most people really liked it, then I would tell them a few facts about the film, like how many days I shot it in, how recently I finished it and how we only have hard copies for the comic con. It’s important to note that after the trailer they are already making up their mind whether they will buy it or not, there isn’t an elephant in the room, so don’t be embarrassed. My partner Natalie was brilliant at this point, she the second they admitted to liking the trailer she would say
"great so which copy should I bag up for you to buy a DVD or Blu Ray"
This nearly always worked. She would follow up with
"If you like the trailer you are gonna love the film" & "Help support independent film".
If they said NO to my first question about horror films I would then say "okay do you like Independent films?" Often this would sway them or at the very least it would get a smile or a laugh. Either way they have stopped briefly and taken in the imagery and name Young, High and Dead. I didn’t get properly into this flow until late Saturday but by Sunday I had this technique down. It’s important to remember that even though you are repeating yourself a lot, the person you are speaking to is a potential new customer. I drank a lot of coffee so was as chatty as hell and beaming like a nutter. It helps to smile a lot.
6. Stand don’t sit - You will see hundred of other sellers kicking bag reading mags and sitting most of the time, only getting up to collect cash etc. As a filmmaker you cannot do this! You table is a much harder sell, people know nothing about your product, but for the next bod who is selling hats and T-shirts it’s pretty obvious for the public to make a quick decision from far away if they want to approach the table or not. A film stall won’t have this luxury. Your feet will absolutely kill so make sure you have really comfy trainers & NOT SHOES as I painfully discovered! Do the odd stretch and move about plus drink plenty of liquids, you are giving yourself a 9 hour workout!
7. Trailer is key - I quickly noticed that my trailer was bagging me a lot of sales, about 70% of the people that watched it ended up buying a copy of the film, so I had to hook them in to watch the trailer. Trailers are FREE to watch so they lose nothing other than 2mins of their time. I had a headphone splitter that I plugged in however I only had my set of headphones, this was a real shame. I wish I had at least 4 pairs as often one person would be watching and listening whilst others simply watched without sound. This definitely lost me some potential sales, the CC was way too noisy to play audio without headphones, plus the audio really made people quite scared so next time I will have plenty of head sets. I will also in future invest a bit more in a larger screen and some power, even if I borrowed a 35” screen, I needed something bigger than the iPad, by the Sunday I raised the iPad up higher on boxes as I noticed anyone who was my height or taller had to crouch down. Think about how people are going to view the trailer, can they see it comfortably? Without the trailer I reckon I would have sold less than 5 copies all weekend and it would have involved more talking and more hard sell. The trailer alone must have sold at least 70 plus copies without me doing much at all other than just saying “watch my trailer”
8. Freebies and whats hot or not - I knew that the FREE sweets would be a good starting point, but I didn’t realise how good it would be! It was especially good for luring in parents, often their kids would come over grab some sweets and at the moment the parent came over I would say to the kid.
"I am afraid you are too young to watch my trailer but Mum or Dad can"
Often the kid would do the rest of the work for me, encouraging their parent to watch. Kids are not stupid, they know if the mum or dad has to watch something that gives them longer time with the giant sweet jar. An accidental piece of genius. I gave away a free A3 poster with every DVD and Blu Ray as well and this surprisingly sometimes tipped an umm and aaahh to a "okay Ill take one". People love to think that they are getting extra, supermarkets do this all the time! I would also give them a business card and tell them to get in touch and let me know what they thought. This is a genuine request but it also works well for other people nearby, upon the completion of a sale often others would flock to see what they are missing. So in a subtle kind of way be vocal about the sale. but selling the posters didn’t shift very well at all. I guess people are happy for artwork if it’s something they have seen or are familiar with. By all means hang a few up but don’t expect to sell many unless you already have a wide fan-base.
9. Ask questions and know when to quit - Everyone’s favourite subject is them-self, so often I would ask a simple question about what they are wearing, or how their day is going etc. I would also try and compliment them, it’s the most minute amount of flirting and in the realms of selling it’s a pretty fun thing to do. I genuinely love tattoo’s so If I saw someone with a decent tattoo I would ask them about it or who did it etc. This would always result in someone walking away smiling. If they come to my table and leave smiling with biz card or leaflet I am doing a good job, if they leave with a copy of my film then that’s a perfect result. Don’t forget to network, I linked and swapped contact details with lot’s of other interesting filmmakers, make up artists & bloggers etc. Ask people for their business card and info. Also give people an escape route if they need it, some people at the CC might be very shy or nervous speaking to you, if you sense this, don’t make it difficult for them or you. Often you can tell in a few moments if someone is genuinely interested or if they are fine chatting away or not. If they look uncomfortable hand them a leaflet and tell them “you are here all weekend and they are welcome to come back”. Inside they are screaming thank you as they grab the leaflet and flee.
10. Keep it simple, Keep it fun - Comic Cons are really hard work, long hours, long commute, and it’s easy to go overboard, the first day I decorated my table like a Christmas tree but I soon realised that it was too complicated to take in the right info, that night I went home and printed out a few simple signs. One about the iPad, one that included the synopsis of the film and one that mentioned who was in it.
"WATCH THE TRAILER HERE" - You can plug in your headphones so more than 1 person can listen.
This all seems really simple and obvious but I missed this all the first day myself and never underestimate how quick you need to get your point across, imagine every customer is highly important and busy so get the info across quickly and concisely, if they like the idea of the film they will stay and chat.
11. Keep it professional - Finally most days I saw a lot of tired, bleary looking folk. It’s very tempting after a day at CC to have a few drinks and celebrate your hard work and earnings that day. I stayed in every night and allowed myself a couple of beers to wind down, despite it being the weekend I treated the CC like work, no-one performs well stinking of booze or looking like death warmed up. Get a good early nights sleep, the CC is tiring for filmmakers we are the minority at these places so we have more work to do. Don’t make it even harder than it already is. every second at CC is potential selling time, so as tempting as it is to get photo with a hot looking Lara Croft I would save all that for another time. I took my camera and had every intention of checking out other stalls, but the reality is this just isn’t possible for filmmakers at CC, especially if you hope to sell well.
I didn’t sell enough films to retire, that was never going to happen but the CC was a great opportunity to reach out to an audience I would never normally have access to. I did make a fairly decent profit and still came away with some hard copies that I plan to continue to sell online through the films website younghighanddead.com
But I can easily see how many other filmmakers could really struggle and even lose money at a CC. This isn’t because I knew what I was doing or got everything right first time, far from it. I honestly believe the CC worked well for me because I adapted constantly and treated the event like a professional job. If you have the right attitude and follow the steps above there is no reason why you can’t turn a good size profit from an event like this. It’s not even about quantity. I nearly forgot to mention, the hall I was in, was one of the smallest and quietest ones! For a filmmaker you have the harder sell, you have to attract them to your table, show them the trailer, then secure the sale. This takes you a lot longer per customer than other sellers do with their products, so large quantities of passers by means nothing.
I hope this info is useful. I might add to it further down the line if I think of anything else but hopefully the info gives you a good base to start with if you plan on taking your feature to a CC.
Hard copies of my horror film can be bought from the films website just visit younghighanddead.com please feel free to send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can link with me on twitter @rumpunchprods.
Luke Brady (Writer/Director) of Young High and Dead