What Filmmakers Can Learn From Real Estate Investors

Film Trooper


Have you ever been driving along the road and seen a sign staked into the ground, perhaps at the corner of an intersection, and it read:  “We Buy Houses”?

For most of us, this sign means nothing …

We might even find it a bit strange.

Now, imagine …

You’re a person who owns a property that is a real piece of sh#t.

Maybe you inherited this property from a relative, and it is in shambles …

You have a dilapidated home that eats up your taxes.

If this is you … this is a “real” pain.

You have a property that no real estate agent wants, since there is no incentive to sell it, as their commission would be miniscule.

So, driving by the sign that read, “We Buy Houses” … You might think it’s the perfect solution to your problem?

How does this relate to selling you film online?

Read on …


There are several types of real estate investors, but for the sake of simplicity, here’s the breakdown …

You might be a “bird-dog”.  This is someone who simply drives around a neighborhood trying to find vacant or dilapidated homes.  You would be “driving-for-dollars”.

You would make a list of properties that might be a good fit to be fixed up and then flipped for a profit.

You’ll take your list and use any of the free online resources to check the property tax records.

Most likely, the tax records will show that owner does not live at these run-down properties.

This becomes a “lead”.

How does this relate to selling your film online?

Read on …



Once you have a list of “leads” that you’ve worked hard at gathering … you need to contact them …

There is an interesting technique used by many real estate investors, called the “Yellow Letter”.

You simply write a handwritten note in RED ink on a yellow piece of paper that says:

Yellow Letter

That’s it.

A simple letter written in RED ink … on yellow piece of paper … that is mailed out to the address listed on the tax records.

Now … what just happened?

A real estate investor narrowed down a leads list to just a few owners that might be in a “real need” of selling a junky home.

The yellow letter is an attention grabber.

People don’t normally receive letters like this in the mail.  It commands attention!

The whole goal of the yellow letter is to get the owner on the phone.

Once these leads call in, they become a “hot lead”.

The real estate investor will try to convert the owner into a “seller”.

How does this relate to selling a film online?

I think you’re beginning to see some parallels … but let’s continue.



The goal of the real estate investor is to find if there is a “real pain” for the property owner.

What a real estate investor is looking for is someone who is in dire need of getting rid of the unwanted property.

Many owners aren’t in any real “pain”.  They’re just holding onto the property, hoping to do something with it later.

During the process of the phone call, a real estate investor can determine if they have a “hot” lead or if someone who is just kicking the tires.

The successful investors does not waste time on leads that don’t show any real “need” to sell.

Why would they?

A successful investor needs to spend time and effort on “real” sellers … and sellers who they can get the property for as little as possible to ensure that they can maximize the profit.



Again, this is a simplified version of what real estate investors do …

There are various strategies in which investors find their list of “hot leads” …

But guess what?

Since the system is somewhat the same, they just “rinse and repeat” it.

The investors who really succeed at this are masters at marketing for those “hot leads”.

Marketing …

Many real estate investors don’t see themselves in the business of real estate, but rather in the business of marketing for leads.

Now …

Are you beginning to see how selling your film online relates?


Let’s take a look …



What is a film?

It’s just a product.  If it only resides online, it’s a digital product.

Not all films are the same.

A film about skateboarders obviously has a different audience than a film about Alzheimer patients.

So, why waste time trying to market to everyone.

Your film should not be made for “everyone”.


Here’s a quote from legendary American comedian, Bill Cosby:

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”


A real estate investor looks for property that real estate agents DON’T want.

The Hollywood studios can be seen as the real estate agents.

Real estate investors (house flippers) can be seen as the independents.  They are making films that the studios won’t make and don’t think they can profit from … just like a real estate agent won’t earn a high enough commission.

I like charts, so let’s see how these two industries compare:



•  Real Estate Agents want big commissions (Agents aren’t Investors)

•  REI want off-market property

•  REI target only sellers who have a real “pain”

•  REI grab attention with the Yellow Letter

•  REI only spend time with “real” sellers, not those who “kick the tires”



•  Studios want big commissions (Studios aren’t Indie’s)

•  Indie’s make off-market products

•  Indie’s need to sell only to an audience that has a real “need” for their film

•  Indie’s need to find their Yellow Letter

•  Indie’s can’t waste time on building “Likes”, they need to build “true” fans


REI Indie Funnel


I was always struck by how narrow a market a real estate investor would focus on.

The Yellow Letter is such a unique marketing technique, that I look for ways that I can create my own Yellow Letter to grab attention for my independent film.

Then, once you have those things lined up …

I loved how the real estate investors focused on the “real” sellers who have a “real pain” …

I’ve seen this technique used in other industries as well.

I think the successful independent film producers have worked in this same fashion.

Narrow down and supersize your sales effort …

Focus on only those customers that will become your perfect fan.

Less “Likes” … more “Real” fans 🙂




Scott McMahon is a Fellow Film Trooper at Film Trooper, a website for helping filmmakers attain filmmaking freedom. Scott recently made a feature film for $500 with no crew called, The Cube. Want to know what equipment was used to make that film? Grab a FREE gift at www.FREEGEARGUIDE.com