Top 10 posts of 2011

December 31, 2011
posted by sheric

I know this is a  cop out post,  but I’m feeling totally guilty (and totally overwhelmed at the moment with the upcoming world premiere of Joffrey Mavericks of American Dance in a few weeks) that I haven’t posted anything new in a while. So, I started looking back over the posts from this year that received the most response, the ones that I hope were helpful to you, and thought I would recap them.

How do I know they received a good response? I use PostRank to help me gauge what kind of interest the posts received.  These posts all have a score of 7 or higher (scale of 1-10). The number to me doesn’t matter so much as knowing what you respond to so I can speak more about it. I also view blogging as an experiment, trying out new topics. Some work, some don’t and that is ok. If I waited until I knew the perfect topic and made the perfect post to address it…well, the blog would probably only have 12 posts a year. Without further adieu..

10) The importance of a good trailer-This is part one of my interview with trailer editor Bill Woolery on creating a good trailer, working with a trailer editor, and the types of trailers there are. Frankly, I am surprised it ranks so low as a trailer is probably the MOST important element in the promotional efforts for your film. Hopefully if you didn’t catch this 2 part interview, you can read it now.

9)Crowdsourcing as exploitation-This one got a few responses from other sites such as DocumentaryTech and The Chutry Experiment. Basically, I gave my take on the film Life in a Day and how they were using the crowd throughout the filmmaking process into the distribution process, but offering very little in return for the free labor.

8) The ugly truth about social media- A post about feeling overwhelmed with all of the startups devoted to “social media” and how they purport to make life easier, but really there is no easy work around for building up relationships. It is slow, painstaking and never ending work if you use the tool correctly.

7)Readying a crowdfunding campaign-This year saw the donation numbers for independent film projects on crowdfunding site really soar. Whereas a year ago, $10K was the norm, this year it became $20K, $50K, $100K. That’s a significant jump in just a year! But those successes didn’t come from throwing up a page on Kickstarter and watching the money roll in. This post talks about being prepared long before you actually go live with your campaign.

6)The internet expanded consumption but destroyed the industry- A Seth Godin inspired post (of course!) which talks about the redefinition of what it means to be a distributor of content. Bureaucratic and scarcity driven business models that once dominated the industry are being diminished and what will take its place is being capable of grabbing (and keeping!) attention and building an ongoing fanbase.

5)Marketing a documentary with a limited budget-The title pretty much says it all really. I took you through the starting stages of my promotional work for the documentary film Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance; tools I’m using, finding the audience and getting their interest, how we will be distributing it. If you have a documentary project, you might find it interesting. If you have a narrative project with clearly defined audience, you will get something from it too.

4)Building your brand with no budget-As I say many times in interviews and in workshops, the key to building a sustainable fanbase is having an artist brand that people identify with. In this way, you won’t be starting from the ground every time you have a new project to build an audience for, you will simply transition the one you already have. This is work you can start doing right now, before you have another project going and this post is full of tips on how to start.

3)Actors don’t need social media…excuse me?- A post inspired by a Twitter discussion I was having with Paul Osborne (@PaulMakesMovies), Nathan Cole (@WaterholeMovie) and Paul Barrett (@producerpaul) about not only hiring actors with talent, but also ones with a strong social following. They largely disagreed because they see the on screen talent as superseding the need for promotion, but I’m telling you when it comes time to building up an audience with a limited budget, you are going to need all of the help you can get.  If there are 2 equally talented actors, pick the one who has a fanbase (duh) and I don’t mean Brad Pitt. There are plenty of actors who are active in social media and can activate a crowd for you. And listen up actors, if you haven’t been doing this, you aren’t an asset, so become one. Even TV casting agents are looking up social footprints of potential hires so stop burying your head. Get a profile up and start interacting.

2)Humanizing your audience-A post inspired by Brian Solis that talks about the shift in communication that the internet, and more specifically social media, has brought to all aspects of our lives. Are there those not communicating online? Sure, its just that they are far from being movers and shakers and they will either come kicking and screaming or they will be completely out of touch with the modern century. But we must never forget that at the heart of social networking is a person, not a pair of eyeballs. Views, likes, and votes are all nice but very fleeting. Don’t boil your online activities just down to boosting these things, not only to the bottom line. Humans are starting to get back to wanting that connection with another human (especially now that the corporate and government trust factor has been disintegrating for the last several years and only gets worse as more transparency is coming to the fore online. Wikileaks anyone?), to feel they matter to you. The bottom line takes care of itself when trust and relationships are built and respected.

1)Facebook is not a good sales platform- This post received a 10! Wow! What more can I say about this subject, huh? I still maintain that people don’t come to social sites to buy, no matter how much those social sites are trying to reconfigure to suit the corporate bottom line. Research has suggested that many people “like” brand pages in order to get coupons though, which makes sense if you think that most corporate brands don’t give a hoot about you so in turn you will go with whichever brand offers the best deal, no loyalty and trust there. I don’t think this mentality is going to work out well for the indie artist so let’s just use Facebook to share interesting content, hold dialog and champion fans as much as we want them to champion us, OK? Let the sales happen on your own site (where you can keep the details, not give over the data to a third party) and offer the best items to your most ardent fans. Let the distributors deal with finding the strangers and giving them the non exclusive stuff. That method is expensive and transitory. Not worth spending your time chasing fickle strangers.

There you have it, the top 10 for this year. I wish all of you the happiest and most productive New Year 2012!

Here's to a great 2012

The humans in your audience; they aren't mere eyeballs

I came across this post from Brian Solis about audiences. I found that it really helps to demystify why social networking platforms have made such an important impact on society. I don’t think most people really realize the impact; they simply see social networking as either a hobby, a waste of time or a free way to self promote. Or they say this type of networking has always existed, it has just moved online. I don’t agree. I think what is happening now is a complete shift in how we communicate and with whom we communicate. It isn’t just the tools available to us, but the creative and exciting ways we use them to reach people and assemble those people into spheres of influence.

“The cultural impact of new media is profound as it weaves a new fabric for how we connect and communicate with one another. As a digital society, we are ushering in an era where everyday people form a global network of self-empowered social intermediaries that accelerate and proliferate the reach and effect of information and experiences.”-Brian Solis

In Solis’ post, he references the words of Jay Rosen from 2006 where he addressed the people of the media from the perspective of the people formerly known as “audience.” While some see audience as the faceless mass waiting to be entertained or reduced to eyeballs needing to be captured, Rosen points out that audiences now have the means and ability to make their own work. Hence, the glut of content now available and the multiple distractions competing for everyone’s time. This could be perceived as a bad thing or as a good thing.

A bad thing because all of the content being produced isn’t what some would call “professional” or worthy of attention. It also makes it that much more difficult to wade through the crap to get to the gold bits(from the consumer perspective)  and that much harder to raise your gold to the level of consciousness in order to make an impact and a living (from the creator perspective).

A good thing because more people will have a newfound respect for those with talent (it isn’t easy to create content worthy of an audience) and a network of creators can be harnessed to spread work much further than an expensive ad campaign can do. When everyone can speak, you are no longer dependent on the words of the few with access to broadcast (or the means to buy media space) for recommendation. By making connections with those most interested and inspired by your work, you are creating a web of interconnected communication that helps to spread the work faster and further and more cheaply. They speak for you, with you and amongst each other, but ONLY if you have made those connections. How do you make the connections? They are made by 1)using the networking tools to communicate (dialog, not monologue) and 2)knowing who you are trying to reach. Really knowing them, not having a vague idea of them.

You must stop creating work without thinking about the audience. Those faceless people, those eyeballs, must become real. You must think about the human with whom you are trying to communicate. After you devise the story you want to tell (NOT after you make it, but while you are creating it!), I want the next thought in your head to be “who is going to love this?” and be able to visualize that person in detail. I hope you can see someone similar to yourself. The key to knowing that audience is being a part of it yourself and everyone who works on it also must be part of it in some way. You cannot hope to build an audience for your work if you cannot say who they are, exactly, and how you are going to tell them about your work.

Also, it isn’t enough to hire the most talented person or the person who will work the cheapest. The people you hire (or collaborate with) should also have a voice that can be used to help spread the word of your project. Really take that last sentence to heart, both as an employer and as an employee. Your worth as a craftsperson is no longer only judged on your abilities, it is also being judged on how big of a network you personally bring to a project. I can hear the balking already, but just think about this. What is the value a film star brings to a project? It isn’t just acting ability and how good looking they are on screen. It is how well recognized and how big their personal audience is that determines their worth. Studios know this, distributors know this, that is why star vehicle films are MUCH more attractive buys than non star driven films. A celebrity’s personal audience is worth a lot financially to them and so it should be to you and so it should be to the person employing you. Those personal networks didn’t spring up overnight, they were carefully cultivated over time and it is something you too should be doing every day. Personal networks should no longer be prerequisites only for those on screen, they should be considered for everyone and everyone should believe enough in the projects they are working on and want them to succeed that they are willing to evangelize them to their personal networks. Lots of little networks on a project grow into bigger ones so it is beneficial for you as a creator to cultivate a team around you who all have little networks that are similar to your own and to the audience you are trying to reach.

The power of building audience lies in the aggregation of little networks and genuinely knowing the humans behind the networks.