Film Marketing: Notes on Micro-budget self distribution: Chicken CSP as example.

This is for the new AQA syllabus. The board asks you to study the film in depth but one of the things that they require of you is to know about marketing and distribution.

Remember that the traditional film business structure looks a bit like this.


The distribution company, especially when we think about independent films, is a separate entity from both the production company and the exhibition company. There is sooo much more I could say about this (about the Old Hollywood Studio System (the Production Unit System) and the New Hollywood Package Unit System or the difference between vertical media integration and horizontal media integration etc.) but lets keep it simple.

Distributors don’t just ferry the film around. They market it. That means they deal with all the advertising (trailers n’stuff), they organise the press junkets. They also find a home for the film, both in cinemas and everywhere else you might see a movie (online, on a plane, on T.V. and on DVD).

The bigger you go in the world of film the more there is a pull from the distributors:

Imagine the script . . .

Distributor X

                                Make a film like “Wreck it Ralph” but with

something else that’s current . . .

Oh  – like Emojis.

And that’s how the critically mauled film The Emoji Movie (8% on Rotten Tomatoes people) got made.

I’ll say more in the notes below but you need to remember that the trad indie route is to make a movie and then use festivals to pick up a distributor to take your film to the masses.

Let’s imagine you have been given a question about . . . oh I don’t know, how a little independent film is able to be marketed.

Perhaps a film like


Here are some notes from the board – plus a few of my ideas to help you get the marks.

This question assesses knowledge of the theoretical framework of industries particularly focusing on (though not limited to):

  • how media organisations maintain, including through marketing, varieties of audiences nationally and globally

OK – the important thing here is that Chicken has a micro budget. The director, Joe Stephenson, has hinted that the budget was around £140,000 (a small budget is usually around the £1m mark).

joe ste

Joe Stephenson

This means that there was little cash to go splashing around; the shoot itself was only 19 days long.

You also need to know that the film was distributed by b good picture company: which is Joe Stephenson’s own tiny film company.

Usually indie films go to festivals to try to pick a major distributor (for example Tangerine, filmed with a similar budget, went to the Sundance Film Festival and was picked up by Magnolia Pictures and then released around the world).

BTW – if you don’t know about Tangerine check out the trailer linked above and then check out Kermode’s review here. It’s awesome.

Chicken is even more indie than that. What Joe Stephenson is trying to do is use the power of New Digital Media (the internet) to keep control over his product through both marketing and distribution.

He used festivals to bring his film to the attention of critics (there are glowing reviews from Mark Kermode, BBC and Variety – the big L.A. show-business paper). The film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Big critic endorsements mean free advertising for the film.

  • the relationship of recent technological change and media production, distribution and circulation

Chicken had a very limited release in the U.K. (and no cinematic release in the U.S.). What b good has done is use streaming services to distribute the film. In the U.S. it is on iTunes. In the U.K. it is on a variety of streaming services. The big one is the BFI player (which tells the audience that it is a product with artistic merit). The others include big services (like iTunes and Amazon Instant Video) but also curated services (like Film Doo and Volta) which serve an audience who want to watch international, independent films. These are niche services which reach a niche target audience.

The film is also available on DVD and Bluray through Amazon (thus avoiding traditional distribution chains).

FilmFour helped to finance the film and so had exclusive screening rights. The film was shown on T.V. on the 5th of April 2017.

  • Knowledge of a range of strategies in the context of a limited budget for distribution

So. Knowing that you can see that the aim was to build a buzz through putting the film in front of tastemakers (critics, directors and the like – Ian McKellen – who coincidentally is in b good’s next film – gives a glowing review) and harnessing the fact that the internet (streaming services) allows the cost of distribution and exhibition to be slashed.

  • Screenings at festivals which produced press coverage, reviews, bookings, awards etc.

Chicken received a special mention at the Dublin Film Critic’s Circle awards, nominated for the National Film Awards, an honourable mention in the British Breakthrough Filmmaker category from this London Critics Circle and made a number of influential lists by film critics and magazines.

It was part of the art-film festival circuit in the latter part of 2016 and into 2017.

  • Official website with links to social media
  • Use of social media – twitter and Facebook
  • Official trailer on YouTube with positive comments below about the film.

These are all linked together. The website is a portal which has links to streaming services; so people can actually see the film (whatever their geographical location – you don’t need to be near an art-house cinema to see it).

The website also links to the social media platforms which help to make the audience feel connected to the product and helps to build a sense of community around it.


Following Mark Kermode’s review:

comm 2

(Yes that’s Celia “I always used to work with Victoria Wood but I also turned up in a Star Wars Film” Imrie).

The use of YouTube (with embedded video on the website) helps to promote the film virally. Comments help to produce buzz.

  • Use of platforms such as ‘ourscreen’ to create screening outside of mainstream distribution

This is a weird one. Ourscreen allows you to book a screening of a film at a cinema. It is a bit like crowdfunding in that if enough people say they want to attend the screening it will go ahead. I can’t see if Chicken ever had one but it is listed by them. The fact that the film is available through streaming services and that most U.K. cinemas now have digital projection facilities allows this to happen (coupled with the power of New Digital Media and Web 2.0, which is interactivity if you wanted to know). I think the board want you to think about new alternatives to traditional distribution and exhibition.

  • Release on digital exhibition platforms – Amazon on demand, vimeo, I tunes, BFI player, Curzon Home Cinema – the latter two specialise in alternative, non-mainstream films.
  • Exhibition on platforms such as a global streaming company.

I kinda mentioned these already.

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2 thoughts on “Film Marketing: Notes on Micro-budget self distribution: Chicken CSP as example.

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