Camp Manna – our satirical feature film which takes place a Christian summer camp – doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a traditional “religious” film, nor does it fit that of a normal “summer camp” movie, so it makes perfect sense that we would take an equally unorthodox approach to its distribution.
Upon completion, the film was courted by a number of well-known distribution companies offering a more common marketing strategy. Despite the appeal of a “hands-off” approach, the producing team ultimately decided on a self-distribution approach which leveraged the growing opportunities in the video-on-demand marketplace.
Such an endeavor was not without risk. Although large distributors like as MGM and Samuel Goldwyn offered access to access to robust distribution outlets and a wide array of marketing tools, it was evident that they did not fully understand the film’s intended audience. As products of the Christian culture the film was satirizing, Producer/Directors Eric Scott Johnson and Eric Machiela knew the demographic well. As a result, all distribution efforts were brought in-house and VOD aggregate Distribber was used to platter the film to all major VOD streaming outlets (Tunes, GooglePlay, Amazon Video, VUDU, etc.) The team set a release date for June 5, 2018, and began working to grow an audience base using social media, partner brands, and cultural influencers.
This strategy enabled the film to be targeted directly to it’s largely undiscovered (and unconventional) target audience. Camp Manna is a film that walks a tightrope between faith and non-religious culture. It’s redemptive themes and affectionate lampooning of Christian culture seeks to attract those in the faith audience looking for a comedy genre film. This strength – being a niche, pioneering film – was also our biggest hurdle. Although set in a Christian summer camp the film explores issues of faith and culture through a satirical lens. Audiences needed marketing which would not only make them laugh but also enable them to recognize the heart of the film as well.
Since it began, Camp Manna’s marketing efforts have garnered the attention of news outlets, film reviewers, bloggers, and social influencers operating in the space of faith and culture. Podcast appearances by the film’s creators have sparked ongoing conversations about the role of satirical introspection within Christian culture, and a strong following has emerged which relate to the themes which inspired the film. In addition, the film’s social marketing has effectively tapped into anticipated niche-audience groups on Facebook and Instagram and are continuing to build momentum.
Through these efforts, Camp Manna garnered enough pre-orders to land itself on iTunes’ “New and Noteworthy” section despite not having the usual modes of exposure (or even an MPAA rating) for an independent film.
As with all grassroots film marketing, the work has just begun, but we’re encouraged by our prospects in the new frontier of self-distribution.
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