How to Find and Engage Strategic Partners for Your Film

Strategic partners are key to crowdfunding and marketing your film.  Connecting with them is a key to audience building for crowdfunding and selling your downloads.

by Carole Dean

Strategic Partners

You May Not Need to Stand On Your Head to Land Strategic Partners, But You Need to Make a Concerted Effort

Strategic partners are groups or nonprofit organizations online whose members would be interested in the subject matter of your film.

Because I run From the Heart Productions, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, I’m quite aware of how careful and protective nonprofits are of their mailing lists. We never give it out.  It’s hard work getting donors who’ve gained your trust. 

Most nonprofits live off of their mailing list.  They are very familiar with their top donors and take good care of them. That includes only sending them pertinent emails regarding their mission.

Start Small, Finish Big

I suggest that you make a list of the top 20 potentials for strategic partners.  Some of these will be the largest organizations online that are interested in the subject matter of your film.  

However, I wouldn’t start with any of the largest in this group. I would start with some of the smaller nonprofits.  Find out what works and what doesn’t with them.

Calling Strategic Partners – What Not to Say When You First Call

When you call these nonprofits or organizations, who can become major “connectors” to your audience, don’t say “Hi, I making a film that your members would really love.”  You will not be quickly received. Expect them to immediately close ranks unless you do this right.

They want to know a lot about you and the film you’re making.  Also, they will want to know how it will be received by their members.  You want to create a long-term relationship with the organization.  What you say and how you introduce yourself is most important.

Build Trust

It might take you more than a year to gain the trust of strategic partners.  I suggest the first call is to introduce yourself.  Tell them who you are and what you’re doing. Make it short, sweet, and engaging.

The goal is to be able to communicate with them on an on-going basis, like every 4 or 5 months, to keep them informed of your film’s development.  You know that this nonprofit’s audience is interested in the content of your film.  What you want to do is to create a relationship.  Begin building trust so they will share your film with their audience. 

Create a Script

Before your first call to potential strategic partners, get prepared and write down what you want to say and how you want the call to go.  Do not read it.  This is to remind you of the highlights you want to say.  

Establish credibility.   You want to introduce yourself as an award-winning filmmaker or someone who graduated from film school or someone who is very passionate about the subject matter.  Make clear you are determined to create this important documentary or short film.

Next, you want to give them an under a two-minute pitch of your film making sure that they get the “essence” of your film. Consider using sticky story content so that you leave them with key elements they can remember.

Don’t Ask for Help…Yet

Get the person’s name and title and ask her if you can continue to communicate with her on the progress of the film.  Don’t ask for anything else.   Hopefully, you’ve introduced yourself and your film in a charming way to create a long-term relationship.  That’s what you’re after.

This is why I want you to only contact them once you have committed to your film.  This is a key to increasing your audience for you personally as a filmmaker and for the film.

Stay in Contact

Every 3 to 5 months find something wonderful to tell them.  Call after 2 expressos and be upbeat.  Convey that you are excited about your film.  Make a good impression of you as a filmmaker and how important your film can be to their audience. 

Keep it under 3 minutes.  Your budding strategic partners will appreciate your concern for their time.  If it is hard to get them on the phone, then send a brilliant email.  Don’t expect to get a reply because you probably won’t get one. 

But, they will read it.  I know because people who apply for my grant email me all year with updates.   I read them and enjoy them but I don’t always respond because of time.  However, when they do call me or apply again to the grant, I remember them and the film.  That’s what you want.

When to Get Them Involved

After about a year, you will begin to hear the interest they have for you and the film in their voice.  This is when you can begin to decide when you can ask them to get their audience involved in your film. 

Don’t ask too soon.  You should be able to know when to ask them to post something about your film on their website or drive their audience to your website to see your trailer and you get their email address.

This is a Worthwhile Endeavor

I spoke to filmmakers who created such a great rapport that the nonprofit actually introduced him to their top donor who helped fund his film.  Anything is possible.  Create a vision of what you want from them and move towards that.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits

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