Gimmee Me Some Buzz

April 14, 2011
posted by sheric

A statement I hear a lot in work requests. Usually the filmmaker wants it to happen tomorrow. First question that pops into my mind is what’s buzz worthy about your film? Does it have a celebrity? A notable name with their own following? Do you as a filmmaker have your own following? Did it just get into a major festival or win one? These are things the press would be interested in for coverage and things that will get people talking. Or do you have a very large budget to partake in saturation marketing (otherwise known as excessive media buys intended to make people think there is a buzz going on and in turn leads to a buzz going on)? There’s no magic pixie dust that can be sprinkled on a project and instantly give it hype.

What does buzz building really mean? Buzz is an intense and short lived public interest in a person, topic or product. It is very rarely the result of a last minute campaign but a well organized and an effort planned well in advance to garner maximum attention around an event. This attention is ideally used to help sell something though there are cases where unplanned viral videos have gained massive interest, were not planned around an event and didn’t sell anything. I realize this is not your goal. Also, whereas Hollywood might do all this buzz building just before releasing a film to the theater, and then do it again (usually to a lesser degree) when it releases to home video, this is probably not the best course of action for your film if you have an extremely limited budget. You need a sustained effort that keeps paying off for a while. A gradual trickle of ¬†interest over a sustained length of time rather than a total bombardment and then silence.

Here are a few tips you might think about when trying to build buzz around your film:

1)A publicity stunt-not my favorite but one used by many high profile celebrities. Think Lady Gaga and the meat dress. If you are largely unknown, this will probably mean doing something illegal or close to it for maximum media exposure or something very altruistic if local exposure will do. Plan to glom onto a major holiday and personify it with an action (Easter is coming up!) that will get a photographer interested or find a local charity you can partner with to make a grand gesture. The more you can tie it in to the subject of your film, the more it will benefit your sales.

Lady Gaga and the widely publicized meat dress

2)Smaller outlets to larger ones-a good campaign will be a sustained effort. If you have started your promotion efforts from the beginning (don’t get me started), there will be a gradual increase in coverage starting with small community coverage (forums, individual blog sites)usually taking place in the production phase through to coverage on sites that reach a large percentage of your target audience. In order to get repeat coverage, plan to have many different story angles to cover and if given enough notice (and a relationship) many writers will be open to multi story coverage.

3)Buzz is word of mouth-and it needs to be authentic. Barring a budget where you can buy bloggers to write about your film (and what kind of audience do they really have long term?), the best thing you can do is find and connect with influential people who really do love your work. Yes, reviews help and the more influential the writer/publication, the more it helps if they give you a good one. However, try to solicit reviews from sites that understand your film. Since almost all writing is published to the internet, potential audience will come across all kinds of reviews about your film. Be careful about who you invite to review it. Bear in mind, anyone these days is a reviewer, you can’t control what someone writes but you can minimize bad reviews by gauging the right fit.

4)Be ready for the onslaught-I continue to be appalled by filmmakers who want publicity, but don’t even have a website or social media pages set up. Where do you think people will go to find out more info after they hear about you? Yeah, a website and a damn good one. Let’s look professional here. Still this year, there were films who had submitted and were accepted into Sundance who did not have a website up. Seriously? The biggest break your film will probably ever get publicity-wise and you didn’t think about a website? Or you just have a placeholder page? C’mon guys, no more last century thinking. Websites take time to build (good ones do anyway) so get cracking early.

5)Releasing a film is NOT news-unless you are JJ Abrams or some other industry celeb. You actually have to have something or do something newsworthy. Think impact, prominence, timeliness and oddity. If you can think of story angles around these, the more likely you are to be covered.

And finally, “buzz” (or what I like to call awareness) is not built only using one tool and no budget. It is a combination of long term social media commitment, publicity, smart media buys and live events (screenings and speaking opportunities) that all get people talking and then buying.

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