How do you promote a film to a virtual market?

How do you promote a film to a virtual market?

A lot has happened since I tried to sell a film that was being given away ( The Tunnel was sold to North America and recently to the UK with other sales pending – so yes Bittorrent was only the beginning for The Tunnel ( A higher budget sequel has just been announced (—The-Tunnel-Dead-End/EESDVGCADP.html) and ScreenLaunch ( is heading back to Cannes to sell the remaining territories unless they sell before! It will be interesting to see if any companies who previously snubbed the film have since realised the new model is worth embracing. I’ll keep you updated!

Recently I was asked to help distribute ANDY X the latest film by Rocky Horror Picture Show director, Jim Sharman, who broke new ground in musical theatre including Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Rocky Horror Show.

Jim wanted to release his film (a tribute to Andy Warhol) exclusively online and had built an extensive digital platform (in the shape of a 3D revolving pyramid!) to not only host the film but allow people to learn a lot more about Warhol from the other pieces of the pyramid.

Jim also wanted people to experience the film, unrestricted, on the platform of their choice – so a DRM free (digital rights management free) download in addition to streaming within the pyramid seemed the logical way. Louis CK ( clearly showed us that people will pay rather than steal if you provide the correct environment.

ANDY X released globally 22nd February, the anniversary of Warhol’s death, for USD$6.99 as a DRM-free download or streamed for a 72 hour rental period from its website:

ANDY X was constructed with fresh talent right down to the producers who were students of the Australian national film school, AFTRs. Jim’s company Sunday Pictures combined with The Tunnel online producers from DLSHS ( and my company ScreenLaunch ( to try something different to help promote the film.

Due to the upcoming 25th Anniversary date of Warhol’s death, we had to promote the film to the world in a short space of time and with a very small budget. How were we going to get to a global audience to watch what is being billed as a musical cinematic séance with a deceased legend? Well the potential audiences seemed clear… Warhol fans … the film was being released on the minute of his death and sold at 6.99 – a number which has Warhol significance – surely this would help draw them in? In addition, Jim Sharman who directed The Rocky Horror Picture Show has a following with all these people that dress up on Friday nights and watch that Rocky Horror rerun – surely they would tune in to see if any of the old magic was reborn? Then there are the art lovers, the opera lovers and the musical lovers. Yes, the audiences were there! We set out to inform the possibly interested masses but with weeks to the start date, standard publicity would take too long.

The first step was to tap into existing film communities. ANDY X had been selected as the first film to be promoted by a new initiative pulling the subscriber base of all the major film festivals across Australia. The initiative ( promotes niche independent films and ANDY X was certainly that. The approximately 95,000 subscribers who had at some stage in their life bought a festival ticket and forgot to tick the “No email” box suddenly knew about the film. When the newsletters were sent, the spikes in the traffic showed people were interested – with one catch, the film wasn’t available immediately. If only Warhol had died a week earlier and the film was released we may have actually been able to convert the traffic in to purchase! Let’s hope these interested cinefiles liked the trailers and will return to buy the film on the 22nd February!

We also contacted Warhol friendly museums and art museums in key markets such as the UK, the US, Tokyo and Berlin. And, like so many independent releases before us we hit the social networking campaign with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Google+, Pinterest and any other platform we could find; but with weeks instead of months and no budget for those all important Facebook ads, we knew we needed to do something different.

In a turning point for the campaign, Ahmed Salama from DLHS created a Facebook application which essentially allows you to use your Facebook friends as currency. All Facebook fans of ANDY X ( can trade their Facebook friends (and expose them to the valuable “like”) for a discount when paying to watch the film. One Facebook friend equals one cent. Fans can login to Facebook to calculate the number of friends they have and their balance will be deducted from the ticket fee.

This should certainly increase exposure by promoting the film to the friends within a demographic that had already purchased the film. So thus was born a new model where we can use Facebook friends as currency – a world first we believe.

Once the film goes live, the plan is for a slow but steady audience build around the world leveraging the Facebook platform.

ANDY X is Australia’s first film to be released exclusively online globally with streaming and a DRM-free download! That’s all for only USD$6.99 at . Let’s hope Warhol would be proud as he supposedly liked a bargain!

“How do you promote a film to a virtual world market?” The answer is with a little help from your friends!

Dr Ross Howden is founder and Director of ScreenLaunch – a sales, distribution and marketing company for innovative digital screen content. Prior to establishing ScreenLaunch in 2010, Ross spent fifteen years in the entertainment industry as a film producer, sales representative and entertainment technologist.

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