Tech Entrepreneur helps Indie Filmmakers get much-needed Press for their Projects

With Sundance getting a mind-blowing 14,000 film applicants this year, it is more difficult than ever for small Indie films and filmmakers to stand out from the crowd. Daniel Harlow, a tech entrepreneur and founder of Bunker 15 Films, has a strategy that offers a glimmer of hope – even for small indie films with limited budgets. Bunker 15 has catalogued over 10,000 film writers and bloggers around the world and identified the subset that appreciate and (most importantly) will write about a tiny Indie film.
 

Can you believe that in 1993, Sundance had only 250 applicants! A decade later, in 2003, Sundance had 2000 applicants. During this stretch, the festival became so popular and so ubiquitous that the number of applicants to the festival became a de facto estimate of the number of Independent films made in America in that year. Filmmaking was on the rise. Costs were making a precipitous drop and people like Ed Burns, Robert Rodriquez and, most recently, Mark Duplass were telling filmmakers that you didn’t need any money at all to make a film. Increasingly, they were right. Sundance applications hit 4000 by 2012. Meanwhile, more and more filmmakers were stopped submitting to Sundance, opting for the exploding number of second-tier, local festival around the country and around the world. Even still, 14000 films applied in 2019.

 

 

1.1 # of films in Sundance each year

 

But while filmmakers become more prolific each year, each filmmaker is having a harder time getting people to pay attention to their films. With the advent of social media, Facebook targeted ads became the default way of bringing your film to potential viewers. But now that a substantial number of filmmakers have tested the social-media “targeted ad” waters, the results are a dismal disappointment. Costs inevitably far exceed any audience-building they do.

 

 

1.2 Average Cost Per Click for Facebook ad = $1.86, Source

 

The only reliable way to get people to pay attention? Just open in 100+ theaters. That’s the best solution because it all but guarantees a big splash for your film, a NY Times review, attention from the Hollywood reporter, and dozens of other publications. Everyone will report on your film and it will only cost you in the mid-six-figures.
 

Daniel Harlow, a tech entrepreneur, turned film producer, turned film publicist – found that to get people to watch a film, he had to get journalists to write about it. But accepted thinking was that no journalist would write about some tiny indie film that was playing in less than 20 theaters around the country – or (gasp) going straight to Streaming VOD. For the most part? Accepted thinking is right, Harlow found out.
 

In fact, entertainment journalism is on a downward trend with budget cuts everywhere. Film reviewers and journalists are being laid off and hired back on a temporary basis as “freelancers” that are given a small number of assignments per month – normally forcing the writers to write as a side gig and take a different job 9-to-5. Non-profits that study Indie film trends like Project Lodestar (www.projectlodestar.com) actually found that while film journalism is on the decline, the number of films opening in each city per month are actually going up – thanks to the tendency for Independent films to now do very short stints on small screens.
 

So how can Independent filmmakers draw attention and/or Press to their projects? Daniel Harlow put his film production aspirations on hold while he first addressed this glaring need.
 

Harlow sold his IT Consulting company founded in 2015. After 23 years of work, 6 offices, and 300 employees, he suddenly had very little to do. He ended up going back , this time for their post-graduate Film Studies Program for Independent Producers. Harlow became fascinated with the technology changes in the entertainment industry but was floored by the striking drop in the financial returns on filmmaking. DVD sales had all but disappeared and theaters were primarily for large Special Effects driven studio blockbusters. Indies were seen at home through streaming services where piracy cut into revenues even further. He thought Film studies would provide insight into the business side of successful film production but was disappointed. “There were no answers at Film Studies for how to draw audiences to a particular film,” said Harlow. All new technology players in the film space were making their money from the Long Tail theory. Less revenue per film but a massive number of additional films will lead to more revenues overall. The game is volume. Players like Apple, Amazon, Netflix and every other film-related start-up had a business model built on volume – while the individual film was getting a smaller and smaller share of a larger overall pie.

1.3 Long Tail Economic Model

 

While he ran a large IT Consultancy, Harlow managed several marketing campaigns for clients like Walmart, Nike, Macy’s, Sephora, The Gap and others. “In many situations, we had exactly this Long Tail issue: an infinitely large storefront of the internet. How do you make a product stand out? … I went to SXSW [the Film, Music and Tech Conference held each year in Austin, TX] thinking that I could then find the thought leadership on this and work on real solutions but there was no leadership on the subject. The only solution anyone proposed was the Do-It-Yourself model which I thought was only applicable to a small number of filmmakers.”
 

Do-It-Yourself

 

The DIY movement in film certainly has a lot of buzz and momentum. The Sundance Institute and other prominent institutions advocate filmmakers marketing their own films. “I had interviewed dozens of filmmakers and they not only aren’t good at publicizing their own films, they also don’t want to do it,” said Harlow.
 

If you wanted to DIY your own PR? It’s easy. Go online and hunt down journalists yourself. Find them or their editors and email them about your film. You will find some friendly faces out there. Journalists do like to talk about Indie film and then, boom, you now have more PR than you had before. And you Did It Yourself. Voila.
 

For a small number of filmmakers, it works. Some producers are really into that DIY process. “These filmmakers would probably have been involved in the business side of the film no matter what happened,” said Harlow. But it is a small group. The majority, once the film is finished, want to do a little press then start working on the next project.
 

Plus, there are real obstacles of trying to publicize your own film. Many publications have rules forbidding communicating directly with a film producer. The publication needs to be communicating with a third party to keep the article unbiased. And the sheer difficulty of chasing down critics one by one and asking them to review a film is a daunting task, particularly when coupled with the time critical nature of the job. Film critics usually want to publish an article within a week of a film’s release. If it’s already been released, it’s ‘old news’ and if it’s not going to be released for 3 months, then don’t bother me yet, they think. That’s a narrow time window to communicate with a lot of journalists.
 

Thinking Forward

 

Despite the fact that it would be difficult for an individual filmmaker, Harlow thought that if Influencer Marketing could work in other industries, why not film? After all, film journalism already has a rich and storied history. “There must be a way to leverage the hundreds of entertainment writers out there, at least I hoped so,” said Harlow.
 

“SXSW, Project Lodestar gave off this grim picture for individual filmmakers, but I thought that what they were missing was this burgeoning space of film writers that were taking to the internet to blog on their own. More entertainment publications (especially websites) were decoupling from any given geography. And it was the geographical boundary that tied a publication to theaters in their area. The hard copy nature of old-world, established, journals limited physical space available for Indie articles but these limitations also didn’t apply to website and blogs. For example, Roger Moore’s Movie Nation covers a large number of Indie films every month. So why not work with publications like that?” he thought.

 

Yearly rise in RottenTomatoes Unique Visitors: 32%

 

After several initial Beta-tests with tiny films that gave Bunker 15 Films encouraging results, it took on a big festival winner: Light of the Moon by Jessica M. Thompson. Light of the Moon was one of their first major efforts to see if the system would work. And did it! 75 Rotten-Tomatoes journalists requested to see a preview screener of the film! As expected, many of them couldn’t get their publications to publish a review about an Amazon Prime release but even some of the larger outfits did cover the film in other ways. The LA Times, for example, made Light of the Moon their VOD Pick of the Week based on Bunker 15’s outreach. The Chicago Tribune interviewed one of the actors for a piece in the paper and several of the writers wrote reviews for their blogs many of which had huge followings. All total, Bunker 15 Films secured 17 additional Rotten Tomatoes certified reviews for the film and a number of other pieces like the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, FilmINK in Australia, etc. Many of which had huge followings. All total, Bunker 15 Films secured 17 additional Rotten Tomatoes certified reviews for the film and a number of other pieces like the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, FilmINK in Australia, etc.
 

What Bunker 15 Does and How it works

 

Bunker 15 doesn’t just have a large database of film and entertainment journalists but also it catalogs the films they have written about. There is information on what they have liked and disliked over time. Therefore, they can target the journalists that cover and like small Indie films. Mike Bravo, the company’s CTO, says, “There’s quite a bit of technology in place now to find entertainment bloggers and reach out to them when certain films fit their profile. We are building profiles of both critics and the publications they write for, which is complicated, because one writer might write freelance for one publication doing VOD Streaming movies but might only cover theatrical films for another publication. Plus writers move around and change publications all the time. We are also trying to build resources for the critics themselves so the critics have an interest in being in contact with Bunker 15,” Bravo says.

 

 

1.4 Bunker 15 films helps indies earn press

 

“The key for us really is finding that subset of critics that are going to be interested in a particular film and that’s not real easy. Each journalist and publication has geographical and theatrical constraints, genre interests, timing issues… there are a lot of variables but we try to find the journalists that are really into a particular film or genre and focus there,” Harlow says.
 

The results have been amazing. Turns out that critics really want to watch Indies and like them when they watch them. It’s all about expectations. If it’s a small film, the critic is going to give it a lot of leeway usually and not pan it for low production value.
 

Critical reception for many of their films, like Light of the Moon, Stay Human, A Boy Called Sailboat, and others has been overwhelmingly positive. “Not every film we work with has a fantastic reception among the critics but our ability to get to journalists that do like Indies (as opposed to those whose expectations are met only by large Studio efforts) can make a big difference,” says Harlow.
 

Indie film and Influencer Marketing

 

“As we move forward, the ground will shift in our favor,” say Harlow. The MN Star Tribune now has a Rotten Tomatoes certified movie critic reviewing VOD releases for the week. The LA Times is expanding their coverage of Streaming films and so is the New York Times. In addition, many publications are treating Netflix Originals in the same category as Theatrical releases. Harlow continues, “The trend to cover more and more VOD Streaming releases will increase which will put more journalists within our reach for our Indie films.” If it’s working now then safe to say, it will work better as time goes on.
 

About Bunker 15 Films

 

Bunker15’s smart-tech Publicity Engine helps find the right journalists to promote your film (VOD or Theatrical). Even VOD releases can earn Press. Every film deserves to find its audience. Whether you have a small film with a limited theatrical release or you have a Straight-to-VOD feature, they can reach out to the journalists that are interested in your story.

How to get your film reviewed

Bunker 15 helps indie filmmakers reach their audience

 

Getting an independent film noticed by critics has long bedeviled the low-budget, independent filmmaker. Often the indie has put almost every nickel into producing the picture, leaving little if any budget for publicity.But the PR game has changed as much in the past two decades as have the technical aspects of shooting film. While independent directors and producers focus on low-cost electronic cameras which can shoot at least in 16mm quality, little has been explored in bringing the cost of a PR campaign within their budgets.

Death of Film Critic

As independent films continue to struggle against dwindling revenue streams, both foreign and domestic, one related industry (also in peril) contributing to the precariousness of today’s small film is Film Journalism – i.e. The Press. There are now fewer full-time journalists (and therefore film journalists) than ever before.There are more films than ever before.As these seemingly inexorable trends continue,the unsuspecting victims are small Indies.Already fragile from low budgets and a lack of Hollywood stars,they are the first to suffer a premature death from lack of love.

Song of Sway Lake wins Bunker 15’s Critic Award 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 15, 2018

Media Contacts

For Bunker 15 Films:
Alessandra Alves
aalves@bunker15films.com
415-235-6631
 

Bunker 15 swoons for Song of Sway Lake’s jazzy, ambient rhythms

 
[Los Angeles, CA]: Bunker 15 is thrilled to announce the winner of its first annual Critic Awards, Song of Sway Lake. In the process, the Bunker 15 team combed through over 100 inspiring and moving submissions from around the world. It was a difficult task to pick a winner from the incredible films received, but ultimately it was Ari Gold’s musical meditation on how our memories of the past shape the reality of our future that won the honor.
 

“I wish we could have picked many deserving filmmakers. But in the end, we had to pick one. Song of Sway Lake was such a beautifully shot and skillfully made film. The music, acting and the mood that it sustains throughout are just incredible. The cast is from all generations and the writing has something to say about youth, age and life in general. I saw the film and thought: this is what we wish for in Indie filmmaking.”, said Daniel Harlow, CEO of Bunker 15 Films.

 
Breathtaking cinematography highlights powerful performances by Rory Culkin and Robert Sheehan. Song of Sway Lake opens in 13 U.S. cities in late September of 2018 and on VOD on September 25th, 2018. The film is being distributed by The Orchard and The Film Collaborative.
 
Bunker 15’s Critic Awards were established this year to provide professional promotion services to a deserving independent film. Bunker 15 is passionate about promoting incredible, yet sometimes under-the-radar, films to the industry’s most sought after critics and writers. The team looks forward to continuing this tradition next year and uncovering new, excellent films.
 
As the winner of the Critic Awards, Song of Sway Lake will receive an exclusive promotional package from Bunker 15 Films. This includes $15,000 worth of targeted publicity to the most relevant writers around the world in anticipation of the film’s worldwide VOD release.
 
About Bunker 15 Films:
 

Bunker 15 is a Los Angeles and New York-based company focused on the promotion and distribution of independent films, particularly films slated for SVOD release. Using the latest internet technology and social media learning algorithms, the online marketing and distribution company helps independent films find their audience and gain the attention of top entertainment critics and influencers.

Bunker 15 heats up Cold November’s Publicity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 15, 2018

Media Contacts

For Bunker 15 Films:
Alessandra Alves
aalves@bunker15films.com
415-235-6631
 
Bunker 15 lights a fire under Indie Memphis Jury Winner, Cold November-getting on the radar of Rotten Tomatoes users and putting the film on the Top DVD & Streaming Movies List.

 

Back in March, Bunker 15 debuted its Publicity Tech at South by Southwest – working with SXSW Audience Award Winning film, Light of the Moon.

 

“I cannot speak more highly of Bunker 15 Films and their team,” praised Jessica M. Thompson, writer and director of The Light of The Moon. “Their efforts made the online release of The Light of the Moon a huge success and contributed to our film being named in the top lists on both Amazon Prime and iTunes.”

 

Continuing their success with Festival Winners, Bunker 15 began working with Cold November in May.The film’s IMDB Moviemeter score – a metric of a film’s popularity – ranked it as the 152,552nd most popular film listed on IMDB. Rotten Tomatoes had yet to register a score since it only had a single
review. Despite a Jury Award Prize, Writer/Director Karl Jacob felt that many potential viewers could miss the film because it would not hit their radar. Having met Bunker 15 Films CEO, Daniel Harlow, at Wilmington’s Cucalorus Film Festival, Karl reached out and discussed Promotional Strategies.

 

With an iTunes release just four weeks away, there wasn’t a lot of time to spare. Bunker 15 designed an outreach program targeted at Critics and Journalists that love festival darlings and small Indies. In a matter of weeks, Bunker 15’s work resulted in Cold November moving up a staggering 145,000+ places on IMDB’s Moviemeter popularity ranking, putting it in the top 5% of films.

 

Five certified Rotten Tomatoes reviews and fifteen additional articles, reviews and interviews were generated in a very short timeframe. Cold November not only has a Rotten Tomatoes score now – but an impressive 100% at that!

 

“Bunker15 was instrumental in getting us the final push we needed leading up to our VOD
release in a smart, structured, informed way that no traditional PR firm could offer.”
– Karl Jacob, writer and director of Cold November

 

Bunker 15 has an array of technologies that reach top-tier critics. Additionally, the company is rolling out a massive program to film bloggers, vloggers, and tens of thousands of other Social Media Film Influencers that can bring an audience to your film.

 

Proprietary software and algorithms target media that have reviewed similar films, and their specialized outreach methodology helps find the right elements of your film to highlight that appeal to the most Critics and Social Media Influencers.

 

“As an Indie filmmaker,” said Karl Jacob, “this is not only money well spent, but a crucial, forward-thinking approach to modern, targeted outreach when you need it the most.”

 

About: Bunker 15 Films offers promotional strategies for VOD and Theatrical releases. With thousands of certified critics, journalists and media influencers, Bunker 15 can bring media attention to your film that no other Publicity techniques can. Having logged every film critic and every film they liked or didn’t like, their Data-Driven smart strategies drive buzz for your film to the audiences that want to see it.

Bunker 15 Breaks Into Film Publicity

Bunker 15’s Publicity Tech gets film Rotten Tomatoes reviews, LA Times VOD Pick of the Week,
Chicago-Tribune Article.

 

Bunker 15 was recently engaged by the 2017 SXSW Winner, Light of the Moon, to promote their Amazon
Prime debut, and their technology driven publicity engine yielded impressive results.

 

“I cannot speak more highly of Bunker 15 Films and their team,” praised Jessica M. Thompson, writer
and director of ​The Light of The Moon ​. “Their efforts made the online release of The Light of The Moon a
huge success and contributed to our film being named in the top lists on both Amazon Prime and iTunes.
In today’s competitive distribution market, you need to stand out from the crowd, and Bunker 15 made all
the difference to getting our indie film seen far and wide.”

 

Dynamic media planning helped the film garner twelve reviews on Rotten Tomatoes nearly a year after its
initial limited release, and led to an overwhelmingly positive Critics Consensus on the website. “​Bunker
15 jumped in on a rushed basis to reach out to media around the world and was successful in gettingus
many more reviews in effort to meet our publicity goals,” said Orly Ravid of The Film Collaborative.
“Bunker 15 is great to work with and they really deliver!”

 

Bunker 15 offers:

  • Marketing for films with or without Theatrical run – ideal for SVOD releases
  • A large database of critics and media influencers
  • Data-driven smart promotional strategies
  • A Distribution Platform for indie filmmakers

 

CEO Daniel Harlow says: “We have over 3000 Rotten Tomatoes critics in our database, every film they
liked or didn’t like, and what publications they are writing for.The challenge with ​The Light of the Moon
was their theatrical and festival runs were over before they contacted us–but with our technology, we can
find critics that don’t require a local theatrical run. As we continue to evolve our targeting systems, I have
no doubt we will continue to improve at securing high quality press for our film clients.”
 
About​:​ Bunker 15 Films is an innovative promotion and distribution company based in Los Angeles and
New York. ​They use direct communication with leading critics and influencers to bring small films
massive exposure.