There’s nothing talked about more right now than Pokemon GO and the man with the hair that looks like a wounded bird making a home.
Why is it no one can stop talking about them? (even me)
It’s because of these easy to understand, but difficult to apply marketing tricks. Luckily, we’re going to break it down in exact steps and give you recommendations so you can TAKE ACTION and apply them to your film today.
1) Pick one thing and be OUTSTANDING
As filmmakers we have the tendency to want to be a jack-of-all-trades, which research shows again and again is a fallacy.
I’ll show you how to pick one thing, and then how to be outstanding with it. Recall, it’s not enough to pick one thing if that one thing is what everyone else is already doing.
How Trump picked one thing
Whether or not you think Trump did a morally “good” or “bad” job, you can’t argue with that he was outstanding. He stood out.
The one issue he picked was immigration, and at the time, NO ONE was talking about it. Now,everyone’s talking about it.
Remember, if you try to be like everyone, you’ll appeal to no one.
How we picked one thing
At indiefilmTO our audience is made up of indie filmmakers who TAKE ACTION, in fact, you’ll hear me repeat this again and again in our email list.
We position ourself against the establishment of the old-time Hollywood model, where mostly connected people get in, and things are done in a formulaic traditional manner. Showing how to take MASSIVE action with psychological tactics rather than mainstream rules is indiefilmTO’s ONE thing.
For my first feature, I picked the ONE thing of being very Toronto. It’s probably the most Toronto film out there, even more so than Scott Pilgrim people say! This has earned it a cult status in the Toronto indie community even though it’s been publicly screened only a handful of times.
[cherry_video_preview source=”https://vimeo.com/174300840″] [/cherry_video_preview]
How do you apply this to your film?
Horror is the most common genre in indie films. That doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t do horror, but you definitely should figure out your unique take.
How do you figure out if your take on a film is unique? I’ll give you a really simple quick trick you can use to figure out if your idea (which is your brand) is unique, using our “Name Replacement Test.”
The Name Replacement Test
- Write your name with pencil, and then under that, write the film idea that you think is unique to you.
- Then erase your name and replace it with a competitor of yours (fellow filmmaker, etc)
- Does your idea still make sense?
For most people, if they’re being honest, the answer to number 3 is an emphatic “YES.”
The reason is that most people’s ideas are so general (even though they don’t think they are) that when you copy and paste it with someone else’s name attached, people nod their heads “yea, I can see that.”
This is NOT what you want. Iterate and test your idea until it’s unique to you.
Recall Curt’s “Rule of 6.” This says after 6 films you’re proud is when you’ll start to find your own voice. If you haven’t found it yet, that’s fine, make more movies. But it only counts towards the 6 once they’re ones you’re proud of.
2) Establishing yourself against an opposition
Most people play it too safe since they don’t want to offend or alienate. This comes either from insecurity, or from trying to appeal to everyone, which is a mentality you have to STOP.
If you have an original POV then accept that there will naturally be people against you. Embrace it. Yes it will alienate some people but those people are not your audience. On the flip side, it will make the people who share your views feel a strong bond with you.
Don’t commit the fallacy of extremes and think you need to be as outrageous as Trump, you can be more subtle.
What happens if there is no opposition? You create one. You pretend that something else is out there to get you and your followers, and you establish it in their minds.
I don’t recommend the “making it up” part, because if usually if you have a distinct and unique enough vision, there naturally will be people that don’t stand for what you stand. Those people are the “opposition.”
If you don’t have a distinct and unique, then you should work on that, rather than trying to make up some fake opposition just to get people to rally with you.
Us Versus Them Mentality
This is the psychological principle you’re taking advantage of when establishing an opposition.
It boils down to the fact that we’re tribe animals at our core. We favor our family more than a stranger (usually), etc., and we love to be a part of a “team.”
A consequence of this is to think of anyone outside that team as “the other,” and that everything is “us versus them.”
This is why we have such strong opinions on Playstation vs XBox, iPhone vs Android, PC vs Mac. It can be used for good or evil, so choose wisely!
How Trump established the opposition
On a regular basis Trump branded himself as going against The Republican Party. Constantly aligning himself with the population of America who have felt they weren’t represented, whilst attacking the Democrats and Republicans.
How Pokemon GO established the opposition
How can something as innocent as Pokemon be as abrasive as Trump? They’re not, but that doesn’t mean they don’t utilize an opposition.
Pokemon GO has teams, establishing an “us versus them” mentality within the game.
To be honest, I’m like “who the fuck cares” but then I found out there are even full fledged articles helping you decide which team to choose.
Again, don’t commit the fallacy of extremes and think “well I don’t wanna be like Pokemon GO and have people fight with each other.” It’s a spectrum. You can leverage opposition in whatever amounts you like.
How we established the opposition
At indiefilmTO, I constantly hammer home that we’re not like other filmmaking guru’s who talk about “gear” and “how to light this scene” etc. Instead, we focus on the psychology of YOU.
In fact, more information on how to shoot is the last thing you need. Instead, you need unbreakable systems so you can complete your films, which we teach you alongside entrepreneurial tactics so you can make money making the films you actually want to make.
It’s clear how even we position ourselves against other sites.
Following the Name Replacement Test from above, you can see that even our position is unique. If you took our stance and put it under, say, Film Riot (which is a great channel by the way), it wouldn’t make sense for them. It’s kinda unique to us.
How to establish the opposition in your film
There are two options. Do something with your film as
- Figure out who ISN’T your audience: Ask yourself, who would hate your film? Who would despise it? Who would protest? Finding this out is important because it helps you know your positioning. If your film bothers some people in particular, then you know you are doing something right.
- Once you know who hates you, focus on those who don’t: This can be the extra step you take that takes your film from being just GOOD to GREAT. You can hone in on your craft, cater to YOUR audience. And the best part is that you won’t need to create it, they’ll gravitate towards you the more striking and on point your film is.
You will be the devil to some but others will hold you up as a saint.
And isn’t that what art is all about anyway?
3) Make your negatives into a positive
How did Pokemon GO turn it’s negatives into positives?
Pokemon GO rolled out very slowly because it’s not as easy as it seems to keep the servers running flawlessly for that many people. Therefore it started in just a few countries.
But instead of being like “sorry guys, our servers are too weak right now” they framed it as “hey everyone, we’re exclusive to country X right now. Good luck next week.”
And with that simple shift in mindset and positioning, they developed a ton of word of mouth.
How did Trump turn negatives into positives?
Trump is a master reframer. For example, he was criticized for having too many lawsuits. In response:
“Wow, USA Today did today’s cover story on my record in lawsuits. Verdict: 450 wins, 38 losses. Isn’t that what you want for your president?”
Another time, people were criticizing him for going bankrupt and what did he do?
He used it as an opportunity to say that it makes him more “empathetic” to the needs of the economy.
Scott Adam’s said someone labeled Trump a “whiner.” But instead of denying the label, Trump embraced it and said was the best whiner of all time, and the country needs just that.
Trump embraced the label, and used it to set an anchor in your mind that he’s the loudest voice for change.
How did we turn our negatives into positives?
I’ll give a personal example for my first feature which we just completed. It was shot for an insanely small budget and a harsh time constraint (60 Days from pre-production to premiere at TIFF Lightbox).
This can be seen as being low-quality and rushed, but because the final product was pretty good we used that as an advantage.
“Look what we got done with just $20k, with no-name actors, skeleton crew, and in just 2 months.”
The funny thing is, this whole thing of turning negatives into positives isn’t a marketing trick. It’s genuine!
We genuinely have inspired many of you to start shooting your own feature, to just fucking GO FOR IT, because our negative frankly IS a positive.
And that’s how you should think about everything in your life and your film, which brings us to the next section…
How can you you turn your negatives into positives for your film?
What do you view as the worst part of your film? Is it the actors? Is it that you’ve submitted to 30 film festivals and got rejected each time?
Look at The Cube. It’s a movie known for being really bad… But it made a profit because it used that as a selling point.
Or what about Brown Bunny? Glorified pornography is what some people call it, yet because of that it sold.
There is no such thing as a negative situation, it’s only how you view it.
4) All publicity is good publicity (kind of)
How did Pokemon GO use bad publicity?
Think back to when Pokemon GO was just getting big. It was nothing but reports of people finding dead bodies, getting mugged, even getting hit by traffic! All that bad publicity must have been horrible for their sales, right? …Right?
Exactly. In fact, a Stanford study shows that bad publicity will increase your sales by 45%… with a caveat.
Bad publicity only works if you’re a relatively unknown — so it’s perfect for indie filmmakers.
“But Trump and Pokemon weren’t relatively unknown!”
Ah… But for their respective spaces they were. Pokemon hasn’t done anything in the mobile space like this before, in fact few have. And Trump is known for buildings, and yes maybe last election’s candidacy, but he was largely considered a joke.
How did Trump use bad publicity?
He made controversy his whole campaign.
I won’t go through it since this is a commonly known tactic of his.
How did we use bad publicity?
How did we use underestimation?
In the early days of indiefilmTO, we were talking with a prominent member of one of those short film contests. You know, those ones where they’re like “make a film in 3 days using the words alligator and spaghetti… Go!”
We talked about how they’re a waste of time and you should be focusing on the entrepreneurial side of filmmaking, rather than those distractions, and that got us a lot of heat with the “short film contest” establishment.
They hated our point of view of entrepreneurship coming before random short films for contests. Yet, there were a lot of filmmakers who sided with us.
In fact, most filmmakers sided with us; including the ones that participate in those contests. Filmmakers knew they’re doing these contests as a way of just beefing up their reel, or for the vanity of saying “I won second place at X! :).” Or even worse, they were doing it because everyone else was.
Those are all the dumbest reasons, and we called out the establishment, getting us a lot of heat, and a lot of bad publicity, but it helped form us and shaped our crowd of indie filmmaking ACTION TAKERS.
How can you use bad publicity for you film?
Does someone hate your film? Good. Give this person a platform.
The more incoherent and shitty this person’s attitude the better. Why?
Because everyone loves a train wreck.
By using this person/critic/family members negativity to promote, you are creating controversy. Your fans will all hold onto their positions stronger and defend you while your enemies will line up to add fuel to the fire.
Don’t fear being snarkily judged on a blog, bring up this shittiness and put it on a pedestal for all to see.
What you control can’t hurt you. Learn to make friends with it. Why?
Because, like me, you will learn to love the smell of free promotion in the morning.
5) Why people underestimating you is a GOOD thing
“When people underestimate you it leaves their guard down. Now your strike will be untenable.” –The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene
How did Pokemon GO use underestimation?
Prior to July 2016, everyone was underestimating Nintendo.
(Yes, I know Niantic is technically responsible for Pokemon GO, however in the public’s mind it’s a Nintendo product.)
You’ll notice that a lot of these viral successes, like Facebook, Black Lives Matters, etc. seem to have come totally out of left field. Even ISIS actually (but I don’t want to equate them with the word success).
In a lot of ways, their success is because they were underestimated. No one was paying attention and so they could build their empire rapidly. Same with Pokemon GO; it was able to catch people by surprise, making it more newsworthy and getting free publicity, capturing more people and so on in a cycle.
PS: Insert your own pun about Pokemon GO capturing / catching people.
How did Trump use underestimation?
If you recall just a couple years ago, his whole candidacy was mocked. In fact Seth Myers said “Donald Trump said that he was running for president as a Republican. That’s funny, because I thought he was running as a joke.”
I can show clip after clip about people underestimating and mocking him for even trying to run but you already know this.
When people’s expectations of you are so low, then anything you do that’s even slightly above average is going to get an extra “wow!” effect. It’s also known as the Craigslist Penis Effect.
How did we use underestimation?
The fact that people underestimated indiefilmTO allowed us to quietly perfect our brand of psychological based entrepreneurial tactics. No one was doing anything CLOSE to that stuff when we started.
Now that we’ve established a solid community with a good readership you’ll notice a lot of blogs copying our style.
However, the first rule of marketing is BE FIRST. We have the first mover advantage, and we know how to do our brand of psychological based entrepreneurial tactics for filmmakers better than anyone.
Also it’s because it’s genuinely who I am, I live and breathe this stuff, while other people are just playing catch up.
This all came from the fact that people underestimated us. We flew under their radar and now we’re right on top of them.
Of course we still have a long way to achieve our goals but that will happen with time and perseverance.
How can you use underestimation?
If you’re an indie filmmaker, likely no one knows who you are. Sure your mom and that creepy guy who keeps paying you to speak softly into his ears know you. But you’re trying to make it HUGE in this industry.
You’re going to use the fact that your friends don’t believe in you, to get them to work for you. How? By getting a modicum of success first. We can show you how in our newsletters but it doesn’t need to be a huge success. It just needs to be higher than what your friends think you’re capable of.
Once you’ve wow’ed them, they will want to work with you, even beg. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen too many times to count.
Next you’re going to go after the next set of people who don’t believe in you. Perhaps this is investors. All you’ll have to do is create a film for less money then your revenue to make a profit; it’s simpler than it seems, and can be done within three months. Again we can show you how in our newsletters but you see where we’re going.
At each stage, all you need to do is stand out from the crowd to get people on your side.
The important thing is to figure out in which way are you being underestimated: Is it that they don’t think think you can make a quality film? Is it that they don’t think you can make money? Draw a crowd? Figure out which it is and rise above their small expectations.
Remember… it’s much easier to standout, when everyone else is sitting.
6) You don’t need to be perfect
Everyone thinks that they have to put out a perfect product / film or it won’t be successful.
“But I have standards man!”
Standards of what? Quality? How do you know what qualities matter without even testing?
The concept of putting something out there in its most minimal state, strictly to get feedback so that you can then iterate is called a “minimum viable product” or MVP. And it’s exactly what can differentiate your growth from your competition.
You’ve been sold a lie. By your parents, by media… “Always put your best foot forward.” This statement is entirely incorrect if you want to grow fast.
How did Pokemon GO use an MVP?
The standard wisdom is to put out a product you can be proud of. Make sure it doesn’t have glitches, make sure its pristine… But the standard wisdom is WRONG.
Putting out an MVP is the fastest way you can learn about what features of your product are important to people, and which are not. And Pokemon GO did just that.
They released a buggy as hell app! It crashes every 10 minutes, you have to reload it most of the time, and sometimes you can’t even catch the Pokemon because it glitches! I’m not even mentioning the server issues…
Standard wisdom would say it sounds like the making of a disastrous launch. And again standard wisdom is wrong.
Now Niantic (the company that made the app) knows exactly what features people like and what they don’t, so they know where to put their effort. Otherwise, they might have spent months optimizing the graphics (for example) because they thought that’s what people wanted, rather than more frequent Pokestops.
With MVP’s you can test and iterate in ways you can’t if you try to make a perfect product.
How did Trump use an MVP?
He didn’t just use one, he used many and all the time.
He wasn’t sure what insults would stick when he was criticizing his opponents, so instead of spending weeks thinking “what’s the most clever, succinct way that will catch on?” he simply tested.
He said the dumbest insults you’ve ever heard, all of them MVP’s (minimum viable products). Such as “weak Jeb, little Marco, lying Ted.”
Now the thing is, do we remember the insults that didn’t end up catching on? Nope! Only the ones that worked (got a good crowd reaction, got spread by the media, etc.) are the ones that he ended up sticking with.
He tested small with many options, and chose the one that worked best. This is MVP’s at its finest.
How did we use MVP’s?
We tested out many different options with indiefilmTO in terms of what direction to go. We even left our old posts up so people can see our change in direction.
I cringe when I look at “Top 7 mistakes you make on your first feature” article. To me it’s so Buzzfeed, and sure it’s one of our most trafficked articles but it’s not what will actually help filmmakers the most. It’s not the psychologically entrepreneurial style that we’re known for now. But that was a year ago. And it was a test. A minimum viable product.
Just like a comedian tests out many different jokes at clubs before the playing at Madison Square Gardens, MVP’s are all about testing small, seeing what the audience likes or doesn’t like and iterating.
How can you use MVP’s for your film?
We have a small group of ambitious filmmakers in a private community where we hold each other accountable to achieve our filmmaking goals. It’s called The Unit and part of one of the weekly challenges was for you to test out an MVP version of your pitch.
This video has not been shown publically before, it was strictly for the private group but look at this video and do this challenge:
If you want more, we will open up entry into The Unit for a short time (until July 31st, 2016. No exceptions)
7) Tap into people’s emotions
This is one of the key components of virality and something you should be extremely in tune with as a filmmaker / storyteller.
How did Trump tap into people’s emotions?
Controversy is one of the highest valence emotions and with every sentence spoken, Trump exudes controversy.
When we say “tap into people’s emotions,” it doesn’t mean for the positive or the negative. It just means, evoke an emotional response. In fact, if you want to know what emotions get people to share the most, it’s the ones that have the highest physiological responses.
Sadness is the emotion that gets shared the least. Guess which, of all the emotions, actually make someone share an article the most.
This is why any shooting by a cop of a black person gets spread so quickly and everyone has an opinion on it. This is why the anti-vaccine movement caught fire. This is why Trump might be the next president.
How did Pokemon GO tap into people’s emotions?
Pokemon GO tapped into a very unused emotion: nostalgia.
This is extremely hard to tap into since it requires assuming a lot about your target audience’s past, however, they knew that by the time they release this app, the kids who grew up on Pokemon would now be adults who have smartphones.
Not only that but they used a second emotion: walking.
“Walking’s not an emotion Curt! You’re stupid.”
Woah. Where did all this hate come from? You used to send me roses and lay with me on silk sheets…
Anyway, sure walking is not an emotion per se but the physical activity caused by Pokemon GO evokes a physiological response. Recall that the emotions that get shared the most are those that have high physiological responses (they’re called high valence emotions).
It was genius on the creator’s part, because no one tapped into physical movement like them, when it was paired with all the other principles of virality (except the Wii when it first came out, and by the way, the Wii was the best selling console of its generation). Most people when they think of emotion think very narrowly.
How do we tap into people’s emotions?
We tapped into frustration.
The frustration that indie filmmakers have of not knowing if they can be successful, let alone make a living making films. The frustration of submitting resumes, submitting grants, pitching, and failing again and again. That’s our market.
We know how to solve these issues. But why did I settle upon these issues when there are several more for filmmakers?
- If I’m going to do something, I don’t want to just “do a good job.” I want to be GREAT at it. Helping you make a living making films is something we’re GREAT at.
- The other issues don’t evoke such an emotional response in our audience.
How can you tap into people’s emotions with your film?
Your film itself must be emotional, that much I assume you have down. You better. You’re an indiefilmTO reader and an ACTION taker!
So how can you invoke people’s emotions when they haven’t even seen your film? The mistake most people is they talk about the content of their film, rather than their film as a concept.
Content Versus Concept
The content is everything in your movie. The content of my feature I’m Okay, for example, is that it’s an anti-romantic comedy about a couple at the end of their relationship. The acting is great at times, sometimes not, and the cinematography is wicked.
The concept of your movie is everything around it. For example, with I’m Okay, it was a feature film from a first-time filmmaker. It was shot, edited, and pre-produced all within 60 days, and even premiered at TIFF’s building in Toronto. It showcases more of heart of Toronto than almost any other movie!
So what is the concept around your film? How can you use that to engage people emotionally?
Perhaps it’s that it’s the first horror film to be shot in a certain city (in which case you can use the locals to get proud of the film, simply by that fact).
Or perhaps your film goes against a certain mainstream narrative (this dually establishes an “Us vs Them” mentality). Think deeply. It’s often not what is on the surface.
After analysing hundreds of startups, which factor do you think mattered most to its success? Funding? The team? The idea?
Nope! …It was timing.
This is the most overlooked factor by filmmakers because it seems so elusive. After all, films take a year to complete, how can you know what’s “timely” a year from now?
Keep reading my love.
How did Pokemon GO use timing?
Pokemon is 20 years old now, and fans who were children when the series first launched are now 20-something adults with significant buying power. See section on emotion / nostalgia.
How did Trump use timing?
Donald Trump capitalized on immigration, which was very timely since America had been covering foreign and domestic terrorism more and more.
Yes there were plenty of other issues to speak about but immigration, Muslims, etc. were the most “timely” issues. It doesn’t hurt that it also tapped into people’s emotions because of the controversy (using multiple principles at once).
How did indiefilmTO use timing?
For my first feature, I capitalized on mental health, which is being talked about more and more. So much so that the University I used to go to contacted me because they heard about the film’s success and they want to screen it! However, they don’t wanna screen it for just any reason…
They want to screen it and make it an event, centered around mental health. Boom.
As for indiefilmTO, we used timing by capitalizing on that indie filmmakers increasingly want to make money and stop with the “I’m doing it for the art man” attitude. It’s a fallacy that you can’t have both and we show you how on our newsletters.
In fact the whole model of distribution is changing and we have methods of being even more disruptive to Hollywood because you have a small crew (more on that in the newsletters).
How can you use timing for your film?
What issues will be timely at the time of the release of your film? This is hard to predict since normally a film takes a full year from pre-production to premiere. And for indie films it can take even longer.
We recommend not taking your time on your film.
“BUT WON’T THE QUALITY OF MY PERFECT WORK SUFFER!?”
Maybe. But here’s something you need to tattoo in your head: If you have no customers, you don’t know what quality is.
That’s right. You have an idea of what quality is… to you. But we don’t live in a world with just you.
In fact, at the time of being published, even THIS article itself is an MVP. It’s unfinished in parts, and I can see ten ways of improving it. But we’re putting it out there because a lot of people will get crazy value, and the ones that don’t will TELL me how to improve it via their feedback.
9) Social Proof
Social proof means demonstrating that people already like you. It’s one of the six key principles of influence.
That is, anytime you want to influence someone to do something (buy your film, download an app) if you inject a bit of social proof in there, you can only increase your chances of that sale.
How does Pokemon GO use social proof?
Not only is this game instantly visible online to your social network (updating people via Twitter, your Facebook friends, etc.) but it’s also visible in real life! Think about those crowds of people gathering around Pokestops.
It makes you realize, “hey, other people are using this thing.” This is no accident.
They engineered it to be a part of the product itself; people gathering to the same locations.
If they spread it out everywhere, then the probability that you would run into someone else playing Pokemon GO would be small, thus you wouldn’t notice how many people actually play it.
How does Trump use social proof?
Donald Trump uses the fact that he’s been Number 1, was invited to the Clinton’s wedding, doing “the best” in the polls, etc. This serves two purposes.
First it helps people realize that other people like him; even his opposition likes him (used to like him).
Second, it shows that he has the qualities of a leader (ostensibly) to others. After all, “he’s ‘Number 1’ in X already, which means other people follow him, thus he must be a good leader!”
How does indiefilmTO use social proof?
We don’t like to overuse it since it can become tacky but on a lot of our free email content we remind people that 1500+ indie filmmakers have joined us.
In our newsletters I sometimes show what others have emailed me if it’s relevant to what I’m talking about. For example, I ask people to let me know what success means to them, and I show you what people have said:
There are 9 different principles here. We could have easily written 50 but we chose not to. Mainly because we didn’t wanna bore you, but the other reason is that it will overwhelm you and you won’t TAKE ACTION.
But I see you through the screen. You’re one sexy mofo and an ACTION TAKER. If you’re not, close this tab right now and browse Buzzfeed. If you are, then move on to the action step below.
Choose ONE of the 9 principles and spend 15 minutes right now brainstorming with your cell phone off about how you’re going to implement it.
Only choose one. Not all nine. Not even two. From interacting with our members, we know you’ll get paralysed with choice if you choose more than one. Believe me.
Choose one, and let us know in the comments below what you’re going to do and by what DATE.
Alright, take care and take action!
Director / Writer / Self Loathing Producer
You know how Eminem is a self proclaimed Rap God? Well up North there in Canada, Curt's referred to as Toronto's "Film God." Studying mathematics and physics, his switch to filmmaking has given him a unique eye where he sees how things are traditionally done in the industry and goes "Um.. WTF." With a focus on results, and not just "festivals", Curt has taken cues from the startup world as well as deep psychology to help other independent filmmakers get to what levels of success they define.