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During Cinema-on-Demand Internship, MSLCE Student Goes Searching for the Audience

By Laura Hess

While supporting Tugg’s Content Department this summer as a Content Partnerships and Management Intern, I gained valuable insight into the film distribution process, specifically self-distribution as it relates to Tugg’s unique cinema-on-demand model.

An essential part of this internship experience included assessing the often-neglected target audience. Independent filmmakers confront numerous hurdles, so much so that the vast majority of their time, energy, and resources are directed toward production. Many of these filmmakers concretely identify their target market upon completion of their film, rather than in development stages prior to or even during filming.

As discussed in Professor Rick Kolsky’s Marketing Strategy course during the MSLCE spring quarter, target audiences are the cornerstone of entrepreneurship and product development. Considering the sheer volume of films made (one media strategist estimates 35K – 50K films annually), it’s surprising that diagnosing target markets for creative properties and then tailoring those projects in order to connect effectively with their audiences is only integrated into a minority of independent filmmakers’ processes.

Solely immersed in the artistic and technical landscapes of cinematic storytelling, independent directors and film teams operate at a steep deficit. Repeatedly, distribution strategy and audience formation occur consecutively, rather than concurrently, with these landscapes.

Utilizing distribution and audience analysis focuses and refines content production; this approach offers a significant window for robust audience building and partnership evolution. It also constructs opportunities for premium supplemental content, potentially at minimal additional cost.

Due to their capital and staff reserves, major film studios operate closer to the “50/50 rule”: spending 50% of time and resources toward film production, and 50% toward galvanizing an audience. As more directors apply the 50/50 concept to their films, many employ engagement strategists or producers of marketing and distribution to helm audience outreach and formulate distribution blueprints.

These strategists and producers, in conjunction with empowering distribution platforms such as Tugg, afford independent directors the freedom to funnel their attention into the creative and technical facets of filmmaking without neglecting their film’s business mapping and development. As a result, film teams are connecting with their target markets and generating revenue with greater efficacy and impact.

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