BitTorrent This Film: Why P2P Belongs in the Movie Marketing Mix

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Arthur Newman, distributed by Cinedigm, is an independent film with an Oscar-winning cast; a comic romance about identities, stolen and shed. It’s also among the year’s most controversial movies – but not for the reasons that you’d think.

Internet-Age folklore has forever propped up the myth of California gang wars: Hollywood versus The Valley, studio execs versus tech moguls, loyal theater-goers versus teenage hackers. Within this context, the film industry and BitTorrent have been alwaysandforever depicted as arch-enemies. It’s not surprising that Arthur Newman, the first major studio project marketed by BitTorrent, was called “a deal with the devil”. It’s also not true.

The thing is, BitTorrent distribution is a viable marketing strategy for anyone working in film. And the truth is, divide between Hollywood and The Valley is artificial. Both parties are solving for the same problem: how should content work online? Storytelling and technology is changing at a rate neither side can keep up with. Entrenched attitudes about what will and will not work online won’t hold – they will hold us back. A few words of wisdom, courtesy of Steven Soderbergh:

Art is also about problem solving, and it’s obvious from the news, we have a little bit of a problem with problem solving. In my experience, the main obstacle to problem solving is an entrenched ideology. The great thing about making a movie or a piece of art is that that never comes into play. All the ideas are on the table. All the ideas and everything is open for discussion, and it turns out everybody succeeds by submitting to what the thing needs to be. Art, in my view, is a very elegant problem-solving model.

That thinking can and should be applied to how we approach the art of movie marketing, too. To promote Arthur Newman, Cinedigm let go of the entrenched ideology, and embraced innovation. Says Jill Calcaterra, Cinedigm’s CMO:

Rather than fearing technology – a recurring mistake for our industry over the years – Cinedigm’s vision is to embrace the new opportunities offered by partnerships between Silicon Valley and Hollywood. Our relationship with BitTorrent to help market the film Arthur Newman is a perfect example: an innovative marketing campaign offering a potentially huge new fan base original promotional content via BitTorrent. This is just the beginning of an unforeseen future rich with opportunity for both the entertainment and technology industries.

There are five major challenges this film – and every film – faces. Here’s how we worked together to solve them.

1. Web geography is destiny. Here’s how you to connect your trailer with people in the movie-viewing mindset.

The trailer is the center of any movie marketing campaign: it’s the content that hooks you, grabs your attention and gets you to theaters. There’s probably still nothing more powerful than seeing the trailer when you’re at the theater — when you’re in the movie mindset.

Youtube’s become the digital home for that experience, but it’s not a cure-all for promotional distribution. The sheer volume of content can drown out a film that’s not heavily supported. And our collective ADD is magnified there: when you’re on Youtube, you’re looking for quick hits. You’re not necessarily in movie-ready headspace.

On Youtube, the Arthur Newman trailer received 69 thousand views. On BitTorrent, the first ten minutes of the movie received 2.7 million downloads. We shared Arthur Newman content, including the film segment and behind-the-scene stills, with 170 million BitTorrent users. By connecting with fans while they were in BitTorrent, and in the movie-consuming mindset, we were able to achieve 39 times as many trailer views for the film as it received on Youtube.

2. BitTorrent fans are your marketing funnel. Here’s how to create zero-cost push properties.

Each film needs a digital shop window; a website to house relevant information about the project. The site works like an ad. The problem with this particular kind of ad? You need to buy ads for your ad. You can invest in traditional media and PR, and build out search and social campaigns. In search, and in social, you’re competing against the entire Internet. But what if you tapped into the 40% of the web that content creators don’t address?

The Arthur Newman team created a campaign page for the film inside BitTorrent. From there, potential fans could download the Arthur Newman BitTorrent Bundle. Or, they could find out more about film, by clicking to the movie’s website. Fans spent an average of 6 minutes and 49 seconds on the BitTorrent campaign page. During this time, over 329 thousand impressions for the film’s website were served. (Source: Bit.ly)

The BitTorrent campaign page, built for free, was the top source of referral traffic; accounting for 43% of these inbound visits. By comparison, paid Ad Words accounted for less than 17% of Arthur Newman website referral traffic. (Source: Google Analytics)

The BitTorrent campaign page effectively allowed the Arthur Newman team to double their digital footprint. The film’s main website received 250,000 visits in two weeks; their BitTorrent campaign page received 243 thousand. (Source: Google Analytics)

3. The traditional trailer is dead. Here’s what you can do about it.

Just a few paragraphs ago, we talked about the importance of trailer visibility. We’re not eating our early words, but we want to offer a clarification. The trailer as a strictly film format doesn’t really exist anymore. The trailer can be anything, and everything; and we’ve seen remarkable engagement from creators willing to embrace multimedia in preview storytelling. Ask Tim Ferriss. Your trailer a 30 second teaser, or a 10 minute preview. But it can also be a frame-by-frame breakdown of what happened on set, in stills. It can be a draft of the script, worked over by the director. It can be posters, or ephemera from the process.

With Arthur Newman, we distributed a multi-dimensional intro to the movie: two previews, curated set photos, and art. Sampling media beyond the trailer is one way to help transform a promotion into a social object.

4. Your indie about a niche slice of Americana can be a global film. Here’s the deal.

Arthur Newman is classic American story: romance, road-trips, loss and being lost in suburbia. It’s also a global film. BitTorrent users from around the world downloaded the Arthur Newman Bundle. As a result, the film’s website had more, and more global, reach than its opening weekend Big Box Office competitors Pain and Gain, and The Big Wedding over the same two days (Source: Alexa). This opens up the opportunity for global market testing, and market building; insight into potential expansion and distribution gains that traditionally wouldn’t be available to small films.

5. Your fans belong to you. Here’s how you create ongoing value, after opening weekend.

One of Cinedigm’s priorities for marketing Arthur Newman was building a fan base that they could tap into on, and beyond, opening weekend. Fans acquired on Facebook or Twitter belong to those channels. Properties set up in either require constant interaction and maintenance to be useful. This decreases their efficiency as a marketing tool once your film’s out of theaters, and you’re on to the next project.

The Arthur Newman team made email collection optional after the BitTorrent Bundle download. Nearly a thousand people a day signed up to connect with the filmmakers. The studio now has an additional 15 thousand fans to reach out to for Arthur Newman updates and movie news. These fans belong to Cinedigm, not us; they can keep them, and keep in touch, for life.

All this is just scratching the surface. We’ve all heard studies, statements, and stories like this before. In partnership with innovative studios like Cinedigm, we’re working to prove it. Every filmmaker has a goal. If you think BitTorrent can help you reach yours, hit us up.

Matt Mason
Written by: Matt Mason

Matt Mason currently serves as Chief Content Officer at BitTorrent, Inc. He is also the bestselling author of The Pirate’s Dilemma, the first book in the history of the world to hit the number one spot on Amazon’s economics/free enterprise bestseller list and the rap bestseller list at the same time. He has written and produced TV series, screenplays, comic strips, apps and records, not to mention award-winning, global advertising campaigns. His journalism has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, The Observer Music Monthly, Dazed & Confused, Adweek, VICE, and other publications in more than 20 countries.

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