A guest post from Ian Delaney, director of the short film HOLES
Counter-intuitively it is exactly because the entire world is at our fingertips online that the best marketing approach is the narrowest, smallest one you can devise. Why? Because online the smallest niche is still millions of people, and these people are going to be connected to your project and more likely to become involved either by donating to your Kickstarter or by downloading and consuming your material.
You can imagine that a film about a young husband’s journey through grief as he suffers the sudden loss of his wife and baby daughter, although universal in theme, would be most interesting for a narrow niche of people.
I began searching online for communities and forums that focus on helping those suffering with a loss find support and hope. The danger for any project seeking fund raising is that it’s very easy to be seen as predatory, and this is doubly so when reaching out to communities which are emotionally vulnerable. In order to be as respectful to my target groups as possible, I developed relationships with the moderators and directors of these groups, before fund raising was even a thought. Some of these generous people were fantastic resources for research as I was writing the script. Once a foundation of respect and trust was built (and that foundation is really required for anything in life), I was able to discuss partnering with them to help spread the word and help raise money for my film.
A lot is made about the “Kickstarter effect” – the first surge of donations after launching your campaign. There is an equally powerful “Kickstarter lag” when your closest contacts have donated and the momentum pauses. And there, I believe, is the trick to crowd-funding: never let them see the lag. For my campaign, I’ve tried my best to stagger my publicity and promotions so there are continual surges throughout the campaign. People want to back success, so when they see other people promoting your campaign weeks in, they’re a little more confident that you have something special.
Equally important is providing consistent, value-based updates via social media. I’ve seen campaigns where people post, “We’re still far from reaching out goal, please donate!” three times a day for their thirty day campaign. There is no value there. I’ve kept a few things hidden in order to roll them out as the campaign continues. I won’t give away any surprises, but at certain levels of progress new perks will be offered, new videos added, discounts on perks, anything and everything to be able to say something new and interesting both for those who have donated and those who have yet to donate. Nothing turns people off more than a constant drone of “I need money.” And with the popularity of crowd-funding and platforms like Kickstarter, this drone is getting louder and louder every day.
Even before the campaign began, I knew that maintaining contact with my donors, and those who maybe wouldn’t donate, was going to be a huge part of the continual progress of this project. Once the campaign ends, I’ll be writing open letters and articles expressing my thanks for the forums and communities of people who helped me during the campaign. For my donors, who are connected via Kickstarter, I’ll be creating a production blog, so they’re able to see photos and read stories about how the film is progressing. This way they’re going to be able to see how their donation is being used, not just receive their perk at the end. This is the type of personal, continued attention that I know I’d want if I was donating to my project.
No dollar can be taken lightly.
Only time will tell if all the work I put into planning and preparing for the campaign will pay off, but I do know that no one donating to my project will feel burned or abused or taken advantage of, and that’s going to make my next campaign better and even more successful!
If you’re interested in learning more about the film, or to check in and see our progress, take a look at our Kickstarter page. And while you’re there feel free to become a part of the project yourself and donate what you can!
I recently gave a presentation to the Binger Film Lab in Amsterdam. It is European centric according to the audience to whom I was presenting, but creators from anywhere will understand it.
Most of my sessions start with some form of this one because I think it is imperative that creators understand WHY using social tools is beneficial to them for more than just “self promotion.” In fact, self promotion is really NOT the best use of these tools. While the title says paradigm shift, this is also about a mindset shift that creators must embrace. The internet is based on connection, abundance, generosity and earning trust. It isn’t based on greed, scarcity and secrecy. Creators aren’t the only ones who have to change their approach when using these tools. I see very few labs, schools or other workshops teaching from this fundamental principle and that is why I think it is important to cover before launching into marketing strategy, what tools are available and how to conduct audience outreach. The mind and heart have to be in the right place first.
All creators (writers, filmmakers, musicians) I know do not like the idea of self promotion and avoid using social channels, or use them incorrectly, to connect directly with an audience believing that they will turn into raving a**holes constantly talking about themselves. Believe me, no one wants that! But the audience is growing used to having direct contact with artists and, in order to take advantage of new developments in funding (crowdfunding) and distribution, an artist MUST have a network of supporters for their work. But no one wants to connect with someone who is just taking all the time or sees their efforts as short term or views the audience as disposable.
The REAL power of the internet and social media is its ability to connect like minded people. Reaching an audience used to entail going through centralized and guarded entities (mass media), but now the tools are available to everyone. Using them just to blast messages about yourself means you have misunderstood its true power and, frankly, you come off as rude and out of touch.
In addition to seeing the slides here, you can see my notes for each slide on the Slideshare site. So far, this presentation has reached over 2800 people and I’m pretty happy about that. If you have questions or comments, please leave them below or on the Slideshare site.
It makes sense doesn’t it? Word of mouth doesn’t travel without a personal network of supporters, however small. For some reason, there is a misconception that free money just rolls in when a crowdfunding initiative is launched, despite the fact that there are many, many case studies available online (for FREE) from people who ran successful campaigns and report that it was very difficult work. Widening the audience is one benefit of a campaign, but you have to start from somewhere in order to widen out.
In a short clip I did with Film Courage, I talk about why crowdfunding may not be for everyone and the limitations one will encounter if not very active online.
An aspect of a crowdfunding campaign that isn’t as apparent as money, is building up a sizable contact list of engaged supporters. I can’t tell you how crucial this is not just to the one project, but to ALL of your future as a filmmaker. Developing and maintaining a database of personal contact details is invaluable because they have given permission (and expressed an interest in) for future communication from you. This list should be guarded with your life and not relinquished to any third party! It shows the trust people have put in your talent and in you as a person, a trust difficult to gain that can easily be destroyed. This list should never been taken lightly or sold/given away for short term gain (besides, it goes against CAN SPAM Act regulations unless each recipient has been given clear and conspicuous notice that his or her e-mail address will be shared with third parties for marketing purposes. Who would agree to that?).
While there are certainly companies and individuals asking to be hired to crowdfund for artists, I think skipping over the crucial step of putting in the personal work it takes to gain trust is missing by employing this tactic exclusively. Social media channels are truly a gift and an opportunity we have been given to get closer to our audience, to have a deeper and more personal connection through our work. It breeds loyalty, instead of disposability. Also, the ability to know that our work touches people and matters to people can keep you going when it seems the world is full of rejection or self doubt. Gathering a team to help is advisable (in all aspects of filmmaking), but allowing only the team (or worse, an uninvolved 3rd party) to have contact with your supporters is a mistake.
It is time that artists come to terms with the fact that the age of the bubble (where creation takes place only in private) has come to an end. The audience wants to feel close to the art and its creator. This isn’t new really, fan clubs have existed for decades, but now that closeness comes in Tweets, Facebook posts, blog posts, podcasts, videos, Pinterest boards etc. and the ability to have a dialog directly. Make an effort personally to reach out to your audience, even get to know them by name, and you will see that effort come back to you in artistically, financially and personally beneficial ways.
In October 2012, I wrote a series of case studies on cross media projects for The Film Collaborative blog. I love following these projects because I think it is an emerging artform and those creating them are on the cutting edge of the future of entertainment. One Australian cross platform creator I find interesting is Christy Dena. She has been working on a particularly intriguing project called AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS that aims to bring the radio drama into the 21st century. When I first read about the project, I was a little confused because it described the project as an audio tour of the web. I whisked off some questions to her and got the full story.
When you say this is an audio tour of the web…I am getting that you mean using the web to tour through your story, not that it actually leads the viewer on an educational tour of the web right? Could you explain a bit more about your story? Who is your main character and why should we go on an adventure with her?
CD: “The project started with the idea of audio tours of the web. I worked on developing a startup technology business that utilises that idea. At first the plan was to release a creative project as a way to showcase what the technology can do, and open it up for anyone to create their own audio tour of the web – for educational/non-fictional or fictional purposes. The work involved in creating both a fictional project as well as a startup was huge, and so I had to make a decision which one I’d put my energy into — first at least. I decided on the creative project of course.
So the idea developed away from an audio tour, to more of a radio drama layer that involves traversing specially-created fictional websites. While there are many characters in the story, you travel primarily with the protagonist and her sidekick. The characters live in a world split in two: the Overworld and the Underworld. The lead is an autopsy pathologist in the Overworld, who has a hidden life as a Philosopher in the Underworld. She is outed as a philosopher, and so attracts the wrath of the Reality Infringement Council and the excited fandom of a Part-Time Time-Travel Student. The Pathologist decides to take on a bet to find the meaning of death. She is a strong woman who persists no matter how many forces around her try to take her down. She says things we’ve always wanted to say, she does things we’ve always wanted to do.
What inspired you to make this story?
CD: “There are a few points of inspiration. The identity obstacles are based on my own experiences as a creative person. For years, I’ve had people putting me in boxes — oh she is an academic, she is too industry to be academic, she is too corporate to be an artist, she is too arty to be a corporate. People really need to put you in a box and while people have moved with me as I don’t seem to fit in the one they’ve assigned me, I am aware that I’ll always having people not quite understanding me because I don’t play by their rules.
The story weaves identity and death together. Death and the manner it is investigated, was inspired by the sudden death of my mother. She wasn’t ill or anything, she just suddenly died one day. To try and make sense of it all, I went through all her things — read her last scribbles on her notepad, read her last emails, listened to the last music track she had on, read the last phone message she sent, the last book she was reading. I did it to try and make sense of what was happening. The autopsy was taking care of the how, I was interested in the why. It was a kind of a philosophy autopsy.”
So far, what kinds of work has been involved in getting this project started?
CD: “I began with testing the technology as a business case, but then moved to the creative side. So that entailed working on the script. I started with post-it notes, tons of bits of paper, and charts. Of course, lots of research. I listened to lots of different radio dramas, as well as movies and games related to the topic of death and identity. I also studied strong female characters, and narrative structures associated with having a lead that doesn’t need saving. I adapted the screenplay format to work with websites and action. I wrote about all of this in a Mediacommons article. I’ve studied how comedy can work in interactive situations where a player is involved, the different ways you can deliver a call to action, how immersive websites work, and so on.”
It sounds very thorough. What made you decide to make this iPad specific? I suppose that it will be an app in the iTunes stores globally so one could use an iPhone or iPod Touch to experience the project too? Or with the experience be particularly acute for iPad users?
CD: “The choice of an iPad is resource constraint. We’re ultra indie, and so can’t afford to produce the project for all the different types of Android tablets. My original grand plan was to release on desktop and tablets. But then I realised I needed to choose one for the first release. iPad has the biggest penetration we can develop for, and iTunes gives us an existing economy people are used to. The experience isn’t suited for the phone, however, because we have websites and an interface that just won’t scale well for the really small screen. The experience is personal in that it is single player, and so the tablet is the ideal private experience platform.
I spent a long time working out how the interaction design would work. I’m delivering information through audio primarily, but also through visual information such as text on websites, images, and actions the players undertake. To get this sweet spot of balancing the right information delivery through the delivery is crucial. As well as the aesthetics of how the player will be situated in relation to the action aurally, and to the fictional world. So we’ve done two playtests. The first entailed recording actors using binaural sound. Binaural sound involves recording to be as close to the way we hear things naturally. We had a dummy with microphones in each ear seated in the position of the player, in front of a keyboard. I hired spaces that sounded like the rooms the scenes were set in — one that sounded like an office, another was a large studio that sounded like the casino. The actors moved around the dummy/player. We then edited the audio, put in sound effects and music and put them with basic websites we had created. We then ran playtests with people to find out what worked and what didn’t. I discovered a lot of interesting things from that. We then created a prototype for the iPad. This involved recording actors in a studio, and creating basic websites with an iPad interface.”
You are in the middle of crowdfunding this endeavor on an Australian crowdfunding site called Pozible. I have talked about Pozible in my presentations. How are you finding the experience with it?
CD: “The decision to go with Pozible was a difficult one. I investigated going through Kickstarter — either in the USA or UK — for many months. I had family and colleagues who were willing to let me use their bank account (because Amazon Payments requires a local bank account). But Amazon Payments reports earnings over a certain amount to the tax office, and so we couldn’t risk that happening with family and colleagues. I discovered it is relatively easy to set up a company in the USA from overseas, but creating a bank account is riddled with financial and legal obstacles. There were also the further costs involved with using Kickstarter — Amazon Payments takes a cut, and then I’d be losing money in the currency exchange, and bank fees. Since I wasn’t asking for a large amount in the big scheme of things [$15,000], it wasn’t financially viable to go through Kickstarter and so decided on using the local platform of Pozible. Further to this, all the stats say that the majority of traffic and pledges come through Facebook – and so in this sense campaigns are platform-agnostic.
But there are still obstacles. Kickstarter is the flavour of the month/year/last few years. It naturally attracts press and supporters. Press are less inclined to talk about a project on some lesser-known platform. Kickstarter is news. There is also the brand-association that comes with Kickstarter – you use Kickstarter if you’re truly international and serious. I think that is what some people think. But Pozible has been going for a few years now, and the Australian public is getting behind it more and more – though not to the degree of Kickstarter. We’re used to buying things overseas, and aren’t good at supporting our own all the time.
That being said, the response internationally has been phenomenal. We have backers from over 14 countries! These backers didn’t care about the platform, they wanted to support the project, support me, support the team. And so that is wonderful. It certainly is easy to use, and doesn’t have the obstacle of Amazon Payments (backers can use credit card and Paypal). So it is more accessible.”
At present, AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS has reached the $5,000 mark in their bid to raise $15,000 with only 7 days to go. Check out their creative, animated pitch video HERE. Good luck to Christy and her team.
I edited this piece and it was published on the Sundance Artist Services blog and The Film Collaborative blog. I am reposting it here because I think this film is the first and only one so far to eschew the typical Sundance offers, have the courage to know what distribution path is best for it and launch into the market straight after the festival. Also, I hope it serves as informative and inspirational to all who read this blog. My great respect goes to truly empowered filmmakers James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot.
written by Bryan Glick, with assistance from Orly Ravid and Sheri Candler
Indie Game: The Movie has quickly developed a name not just as a must-see documentary, but also as a film pioneer in the world of distribution. Recently, I had a Skype chat with Co-directors James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot . The documentary darlings talked about their indie film and its truly indie journey to audiences.
Swirsky and Pajot did corporate commercial work together for five years and that eventually blossomed into doing their first feature. “We thought it would take one year, but it ended up taking two. I can’t imagine working another way, we have a wonderful overlapping and complimentary skill set, ” said Pajot. “We both edited this film, we both shot this film. It creates this really fluid organic way of working. It’s kind of the result of 5 or 6 years of working together. I don’t think you could get a two person team doing an independent film working like we did on day one. It’s stressful at times but the benefits are absolutely fantastic, ” said Swirsky.
According to Swirsky, Kickstarter covered 40% of the budget. “We used it to ‘kickstart’, we asked for $15000 on our first campaign which we knew would not make the film, but it really got things going. The rest of the budget was us, personal savings.” The team used Kickstarter twice; the first in 2010 asking for $15,000 and ended up with $23,341 with 297 backers. On the second campaign in 2011, they asked for $35,000 and raised $71,335 with 1,559 backers.
The hard work, dedication, and talent paid off. Indie Game: The Movie was selected to premiere in the World Documentary Competition section at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival winning Pajot and Swirsky the World Cinema Documentary Film Editing Award . “[Sundance] speaks to the independent spirit. It’s kind of the best fit, the dream fit for the film. Just being a filmmaker you want to premiere your film at Sundance. That’s where you hear about your heroes,” noted Swirsky. “Never before in our entire careers have we felt so incredibly supported…They know how to treat you right and not just logistics, it’s more ‘we want to help you with this project and help you next time.’ It was overwhelming because we’ve never had that. We’ve just never been exposed that,” interjected Pajot
They hired a sales agent upon their acceptance into Sundance and the film generated tons of buzz before it arrived at the festival resulting in a sales frenzy. The filmmakers wanted a simultaneous worldwide digital release, but theatrical distributors weren’t willing to give up digital rights so they opted for a self release. “There were a lot of offers, they approached us to purchase various rights. We felt we needed to get it out fairly quickly and in the digital way. A lot of the deals we turned down were in a little more of the traditional route. None of them ended up being a great fit,” said Pajot.
Several people were stunned when this indie doc about indie videogame developers opted to sell their film for remake rights to Scott Rudin and HBO. Pajot explained, “He saw the trailer and reached out a week or so before Sundance. That was sort of out of left field because it wasn’t something we were pursuing.” Swirsky added, “They optioned to potentially turn the concept into a TV show about game development…As a person who watches stuff on TV, I want this to exist. I want to see what these guys do with it.” The deal still left the door open for a more typical theatrical release. However that was only the start of their plan.
“We had spoken to Gary Hustwit (Helvetica). We sort of have an understanding of how he organized his own tours. We had to make our decision whether that was something we wanted to utilize. Five days after Sundance, we decided we would and were on the road 2 weeks after… Before Sundance this was how we envisioned rolling out…[We looked at] Kevin Smith and Louis C.K. and what they’re doing. We are not those guys and we don’t have that audience, but knowing core audience is out there, doing this made sense,” said Swirsky.
They proceeded to go on a multi-city promotional tour starting with seven dates and so far they have had 15 special events screenings of which 13 were sold out! This is separate from 37 theaters across Canada doing a one night only event. They also settled on a small theatrical release in NYC and LA. When talking about the theaters and booking, they said theaters saw the sellout screenings and that prompted interest despite the fact that the film was in digital release. They accomplish all of this with a thrifty mindset. “P&A was not a budgetary item we put aside and if an investment was required, we would dip into pre orders. We didn’t put aside a marketing budget for it,” said Swirsky. Regarding the pre order revenue, they sold a cool $150,000 in DVD pre-orders in the lead up to release of the film. From this money, they funded their theatrical tour.
While the theatrical release was small, it generated solid enough numbers to get held over in multiple cities and provided for vital word of mouth that will ultimately make the film profitable. The grosses were only reported for their opening weekend, but they continued to pack the houses in later weeks.”I don’t look back at the box office. The tour was more profitable than the theatrical…They both have the benefits, having theatrical it gets a broader audience. It was more a commercial thing than box office,” said Swirsky. “We are still getting inquiries from theaters. They still want to book it despite the fact it’s out there digitally,” said Pajot. ”We had this sort of hype machine happening. We didn’t put out advertising. Everything was through our mailing that started with the 300 on our first Kickstarter and through Twitter,” said Swirsky. Now the team has over 20,000 people on their mailing list and over 10,000 Twitter followers. In order to keep this word of mouth and enthusiasm going, the filmmakers released 88 minutes of exclusive content – most of which didn’t make the final cut – to their funders, took creative suggestions from their online forum and sent out updates on the games the subjects of their film were developing over the course of the two years the film was in production.
Following the success the film has enjoyed in various settings, Indie Game: The Movie premiered on three different digital distribution platforms. If you were to try and guess what they were though, you would most likely only get one right. While, it is available on the standard iTunes, the other two means of access are much more experimental and particularly appropriate for this doc.
It is only the second film to be distributed by VHX as a direct DRM-free download courtesy of their,‘VHX For Artists‘ platform. Finally, this film is reaching gamers directly through Steam which is a video game distribution platform run by Valve. This sterling doc is also only the second film to be sold through the video game service, where it was able to be pre-ordered for $8.99 as opposed to the $9.99 it costs across all platforms. This is perhaps the perfect example of the changing landscape of independent film distribution. Every film has a potential niche and most of these can arguably be reached more effectively through means outside the standard distribution model. Why should a fan of couponing have to go through hundreds of films on Netflix before even finding out a documentary about couponing exists, when it could be promoted on a couponing website?
As they are going into uncharted territory, both Pajot and Swirsky avoided making any bold predictions.”It’s just wait and see. It’s an experiment because we’re the first movie on Steam. We’re really interested to look at and talk about in the future. I don’t want to make predictions…I do think documentary lends itself to that kind of marketing though. We’re trying to not just be niche but there is power in that core audience. They are very easy to find online,” said Swirsky.
Just because they are pursuing a bold strategy doesn’t mean they were any less cost conscious. “The VHX stuff, it was a collaboration, so there were no huge costs. Basically subtitles, a little publicity costs from Von Murphy PR and Strategy PR who helped us with theatrical. Those guys made sense to bring on,” said Pajot. “A lot of our costs were taken up by volunteers. If they help us do subtitles, they can have a ticket event, a screening in their country,” added Swirsky.
They also note that a large amount of their profit has been in pre-orders. 10,000 people have pre-ordered one of their three DVD options priced at $9.99, $24.99 and a special edition DVD for $69.99 tied with digital. While the film focused on a select few indie game developers, they interviewed 20 different developers and the additional footage is part of the Special Edition DVD/Blu-Ray. That might explain why it’s their highest seller.
All this doesn’t mean that any of the dozens of other options are no longer usable. Quite the contrary, they have also taken advantage of the Sundance Artist Services affiliations to go on a number of more traditional digital sites. Increased views of a film even if on non traditional platforms can mean increased web searches and awareness and could be used to drive up sales on mainstay platforms.
The real winner though is ultimately the audience. For the majority of the world that doesn’t go to Sundance or Cannes each year, this is how they can discover small films that were made with them in mind. The HBO deal aside, this is bound to be one incredibly profitable documentary that introduces a whole new crowd to quality art-house cinema. “We are still booking community screenings. If people want to book, they can contact us…We are thinking maybe we might do another shorter tour at some point,” said Pajot.
Here’s to the independent film spirit, alive and well.
Now that there is some form of distribution available to every project made, whether it is working with a service company to theatrically release or uploading the project online for free and enabling perpetual viewing, it is time to acknowledge that new mindsets and skills are needed not just for filmmakers, but also for film promotion. Traditionally, a publicist’s role was to leverage the relationships she had formed with editors and journalists (the media) to ensure story placement in publications and she strived to convey a cohesive message about a film. She endeavored to control the message and those who were allowed to carry it. The prominence of social channels has torn this process apart. Now, the media aren’t the only ones talking about a film and it is getting increasingly difficult to control the message. It is becoming more prevalent to create the dialog instead.
Whether you choose to take on the promotional role yourself as a microbudget filmmaker or you are looking to start working in film promotion, the skills now needed go well beyond writing a good press release and having a good database of personal contacts ( but you still need those too). Here is a look at some emerging skills with the knowledge that it is nearly impossible to find strong abilities for all of these in one person.
-Storytelling and curation. Writing skills still play a vital role in film publicity, but there’s more writing now than ever. As social tools enable a production to reach an audience directly and wherever they congregate online, something besides a “message” must be written. Stories that are memorable, relatable and “sticky” will pull people to you and keep them coming back and the stories aren’t only written by a journalist; not when one has a blog, a newsletter, a Tumblr page, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, Pinterest boards and possibly participating in forums. We’re now talking to the audience, not through third party media. Many more tools, many more skills needed to understand how each one works and how to get the most from them. A visual sense of storytelling is needed as well because many of the social posts that get the most interactions and shared are photos/videos/infographics. In order to develop stories that resonate, one must spend much more time getting to know the audience as people with definite tastes and interests, not as faceless, broad demographics. Also, time must be spent finding great information and sharing it which is just as important (perhaps MORE important) as creating it. Tools that help aggregate useful information and inspire self published content will need to be found and this has become a standard duty in the work day.
-Technical skills. The ability to code, photo and video edit and format, graphic design, link building and SEO, as well as keeping up with every little trick Facebook settings can throw at you will become increasingly useful. In order to use the new tools effectively and keep to a modest budget, personal training should be undertaken to develop a good understanding and at least a basic level of performance.
-Observation and monitoring. Learning to listen first is without a doubt a very useful skill in the online world. Too many times we are pushed to “sell” “convert” “promote” with no real understanding of who we are talking to and what they care about. Indeed, previously it was difficult to know what “they” care about because “we” didn’t really talk to “them”, but this isn’t the case anymore. Sharing opinions, recommendations, emotions, interests, locations, and personal details abound on the internet and there is no longer an excuse to guess about the needs and wishes of the audience. They are talking online every day, so listen. Monitoring conversations, picking out trending topics, predicting what is likely to spark interest, and THEN actively participating in those communities in an authentic way is how to get the information and interest flowing.
-Measurement. This is now the world of big data and making sense of everything that can be tracked (because lots can be accurately tracked) is increasingly needed. Analytical skills to evaluate trends, outcomes, and correctly interpret and apply data are skills that enable communicators to turn data into actionable work and measure return on investment. Also, turning data into visual interpretations for management (charts, graphs, statistics) helps show the impact of your work or where things need to be adjusted.
-Fundraising and organizational outreach. Not a week passes that I am not asked about advice on a crowdfunding initiative. Crowdfunding is not only about raising money, but also raising a profile, creating attention, building mutually beneficial partnerships and gathering an audience for a project that may just be starting. Understanding the needs and motivations of a particular group of people sounds quite psychological and it is. Communicators have always needed to be aware of psychological triggers that cause people to care about the message, but in the online space where one isn’t face to face and many decisions hinge on long earned trust, it takes a different mindset and skillset than writing out a good prospectus or pitch letter. Continual research and outreach to influencers and organizations helps to build up the long term trust that can enable one to call on help when it is needed, whether it is financial help, spreading the word on a project or collaborating together by submitting material (crowdsourcing) in order to give the project a richer life than one the production could create on their own.
-Constant adaptation. Most of the above skills are a catalog of communication demands that didn’t exist 5-10 years ago. Nothing is constant in life but change, right? You can be sure that as new technology and platforms emerge and information gets even thicker and faster, the ability to learn something that wasn’t around even last year will serve you well. Spend time every day learning, reading, and practicing for improvement. A Google search engine is a wonderful thing and nearly everything can be researched and learned for nearly free online. Failing to understand when the shiny new tool becomes THE necessary tool in the pack could marginalize you. Keep up with the trends and adapt accordingly.
I will be participating in a half day workshop in Los Angeles on May 26, 2012 with The Film Collaborative’s Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winter. This will be an intensive session filled with tools and strategies you should know regarding building an audience with online tools, utilizing film festivals and how to plan your distribution with particular emphasis on digital distribution. This workshop is for filmmakers who are ready to accept the new challenges of film marketing and distribution and not intended for those only seeking a traditional, all rights scenario. Tickets are more than affordable ($20 for TFC members, $50 for non members) and are on sale now.
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!