Hollywood's an old industry, used to doing business in traditional ways. However, there's a new generation of technology driven startups who are looking to apply software and technology in a way that will change how movies are made, and marketed. One of those is Hollywood-based FilmBreak (www.filmbreak.com), which is applying the world of social networking, media, and the Internet to help film-makers gain access to the analytics and insights they need to better market their films. We spoke with CEO Darren Marble to learn more about why analytics are important to the modern film-maker, and how the company is helping.
What is FilmBreak?
Darren Marble: At the core, we are a virtual film studio, that empowers filmmakers to actively build, engage, and monetize their online audience. That's really the core focus for us. From a marketing perspective, that allows filmmakers to quickly and easily promote their films through social media and build a fan base, and incentivize fans to support their films by offering access to exclusive content, livestream video chats, and production updates, as an example. The beauty of platform is fans are signing into Facebook when fans engage with films on our site, and those film makers are collecting valuable data and page profiles on their audience. This has been very appealing to the top tier filmmakers, who have A-list and B-list talent. It's a no brainer, because it's an easy way for them to build and understand who their audience is, so that when they're ready for distribution, they know the makeup of their audience. That results in a drastically lower marketing and PA budget for the film.
Why is this important to filmmakers?
Darren Marble: On average, the budget for marketing for feature films is 50 percent of their production budget. So, if they're a $100M film, $50M of that is marketing budget, and even if it's a $10M film, there's a $5M marketing budget. That's a massive amount of money to spend on marketing. What usually happens, is there's a barrage of poorly targeted ads leading up to opening weekend, and it drives downhill from there. Most of these guys have no idea who they are marketing to. You see lots of billboards, this, and that. It's a very old model, and an antiquated model, which is also massively inefficient. The value we give filmmakers, is we help them figure out who their audience is, and what their taste profiles are, which helps them to optimize their marketing effort, so their marketing dollars can go further.
Who is the ideal audience for this service--studios, independents, others?
Darren Marble: Top-tier, independent filmmakers. If you look at the industry, it's a roughly $100 billion industry, with about 80 percent of the revenue coming from the big six studios, Warner, Paramount, Disney, 20th Century Fox, and so on. The remaining 20 percent are independent film-makers. We're targeting just below the big six. Those are the films with strong financing behind it, names and faces, the cast and crew everyone knows. We're not necessarily the platform to help up-and-comers or amateurs to be successful. We could do that, but we're really aimed at the top tier of independent filmmakers, who already have had some success, and want to be more successful with the marketing insights we can provide them.
What's your background?
Darren Marble: I spent the last ten years in enterprise sales, selling enterprise software and services to Fortune 500 companies. Lots of them were in online media and entertainment. I was selling products to Live Nation, Demand Media, Kelly Blue Book, Rovi, and the Screen Actors Guild. I'm a guy that gets things done as a sales person. I constantly had to execute on one deal, and go on to the next. That's great training for the startup world. You're judged by your ability to execute, not your ability to make a pitch or present something. It's all about execution. My co-founder, Taylor McPartland, is the entertainment guy. He spent the past 8 years as a producer and writer, and has a phenomenal Rolodex in the entertainment business. He came up with the original vision for FilmBreak, from his intimate knowledge of the challenges and opportunities in the industry. My co-founder and CTO, Stephen Corwin, is a graduate of UCLA's Electrical Engineering program, and built our program and lead the development of our technology platform.
Where's the service now?
Darren Marble: We launched the platform in November, out of Io/LA, the coworking facility in Hollywood. We're a member of our the coworking space. We signed our first distribution deal in December. Distribution is our revenue model, but the hook is the marketing. We provide full service, digital distribution and video-on-demand to iTunes, NetFlix, Hulu, Comcast, cable VOD, Time Warner, Cox, Dish Network, and AT&T. That's how we make our money. We anticipate five more deals in the next few weeks, and are getting the biggest filmmakers onto the platform, by incenting them with the analytics that no other distributor can provide. That's our unique differentiator, something that none of our competitors offer.
Your customer aren't used to using this kind of data to drive their marketing--how are they reacting to the analytics you can provide?
Darren Marble: The truth is, it's an evolution. There's no silver bullet, and the industry is in flux. Change is happening, but that means there is lots of opportunity. The proof point is there's a company called Moviepilot, which just raised a Series B, and really is a social media marketing agency for the big six. They have contracts with all of them, and all they are doing is aggregating the fanbase through Facebook, and selling data on the audience they gather from demographics and page profiles. Studios are eating it up, and they have lots of traction. We know that as things are coming of age, analytics is becoming a valued asset to the studios, at the independent level. We want to provide this directly to filmmakers, to give them some power, and give them the mechanism to optimize their marketing campaigns when we distribute films for them.