Following up on a comment that I posted below this Filmmaker Magazine article, I want to stress that content is going to be the meat of building and maintaining an audience for your work. Do not open up the social channels for your film until you have worked out what you are going to put on them and how frequently. This doesn’t mean start your social efforts a month before your release though. The planning and collecting should have started in pre production and during the production stage. This continuing misunderstanding concerns me, especially when it comes from entities who are supposed to know how to market films.
As part of a filmmaker toolkit that is available on The Film Collaborative site, I included a social media best practices paper that outlines ideas for using the major social channels. Also included in this paper is WHAT you should be doing in the different phases. Here is an excerpt from that paper:
What Do You Want To Accomplish?
Most people start their social media strategy session by asking “Which is better Facebook or Twitter?” Those sites are only tools used to communicate with an audience just like email or media coverage or advertising. They are each different in their own ways, attract slightly different audiences and different forms of communication (i.e. owned, earned and paid media). In fact, social channels are not owned by you, so you should never build a sustainable audience ONLY using those tools.
The first step in establishing a social media strategy is defining specific objectives to achieve. These goals will change over time depending on where you are in the production stage of your film. Your goals during pre production will be much different than when you are in active distribution. The second step is planning out what you will be releasing and how often.
Social media strategy is really content strategy and execution
As I will assume that one of the reasons you are choosing to use social media tools is their affordability, you must commit to 3 things to find success in this space: good content, a fixed rhythm, and a lot of patience. You must be prepared to either curate or create a multitude of items that will get people talking, sharing and visiting again and again. You will need to do this on a regular basis and you will need to be committed to this for the long term.
Social media sites run on a steady stream of content, they are not best used to “promote” or push a one way message. If you are only going to devote yourself to one way promotion, put a sizable budget into advertising (paid media). It works on a quick time line and no one expects a conversation from an ad.
In addition to collecting and curating material from the web that you didn’t create which is of interest to your core audience, you will also need to create material of your own for others to share. These may consist of photos, video clips, infographics, audio interviews, games, graphic “world building” elements, illustrations or animations, digital photobooks, wallpapers, ring tones, music tracks, blog post ideas, ideas for polls and contests. Obviously, these will be created in tandem with the production and someone on the team will need to be responsible for creating and disseminating it. With that kind of workload, a production can’t leave it late and will need a marketing budget (besides the salary of the person overseeing it) to execute these elements.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/intersectionconsulting/3965527421/”>Intersection Consulting</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>
While I was in Park City this year, I had a chance to sit down with Tugg.com CEO Nicolas Gonda to talk about how Tugg is helping independent filmmakers, as well as studios, screen their films in cinemas all over the country. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
Q: Tell me about how the idea for Tugg came about?
NG: “It came through realization at the time, and still today, that it is difficult for audiences to engage with filmmakers on a very local level to determine what movies come to their town. We launched Tugg as a reaction to a very evident need where audiences are interacting with filmmakers on the social channels more and more and the theme around Sundance this year is community and engagement with the audience.
We want to create a user interface for every movie theater in the country so that audiences in those communities could determine what movies come there.”
To read the full interview, head on over to Microfilmmaker Magazine…
In my continuous pursuit of thinking about elements that make up compelling marketing for indie films, I was watching some opening title sequences by Saul Bass. The attention to detail and integration of everything that makes up a film’s public identity (or that dreaded word BRAND) is often missing in most independent films. A strong visual brand is especially needed by low budget indie dramas where the audience is usually vaguely defined and the marketing will not be reliant on notable names or genre audiences. Starting with a well crafted film is the baseline for a successful release, but what draws people in to click on a trailer and then click again for more information? What makes the difference between seeing a film poster and buying the ticket to see it? It is grossly naive to think that just making a good film and having an aggregator put it on iTunes or cable VOD will equate to anyone seeing it, so what can indie filmmakers and marketers do to make a film look appealing and compelling enough that an audience will recognize it, click it, watch it?
Something that seems to be used so rarely in independent film is motion graphics. The iconic graphic artist Saul Bass believed that giving the film a dynamic opening drew the audience into the action from the first frame. Often the entire identity of the film (brand) hinged on his title sequence design. Bass said,”My initial thoughts about what a title [sequence] can do was to set mood and the prime underlying core of the film’s story, to express the story in some metaphorical way. I saw the title as a way of conditioning the audience, so that when the film actually began, viewers would already have an emotional resonance with it.” An emotional resonance is what is needed both in the opening of a film, but also in all of the marketing of the film. A title, an image or a trailer that doesn’t convey immediate emotional knowledge (NOT just what the film is about, but how does it make you feel) will likely be ignored in a marketplace crowded with thousands of film choices.
I spoke to motion graphics designer Scott Gordon to find out how indie filmmakers can work with these designers to create some compelling visuals that will draw an audience in.
When is the best time in a project to consider using a motion graphic artist? I know this depends on what it is being used for, but in my experience with indies, they often think of things too late.
SG: “The earlier the better! The more time we have, the better the final outcome. For opening titles / end title sequences or in-film graphics, I like to start working with people once there is a rough cut available…and it can be really rough. I just want to get a feel for the tone and the timing. Of course if the filmmaker has a strong, clear idea of what they want, then it’s not as important.
Over the past several months I have been getting a lot of calls from filmmakers who are WAY early in the process, but want to use motion graphics in their Kickstarter videos – sometimes before anything has even been shot. Motion graphics are perfect for that because you can create something really dynamic and engaging, but without needing the equipment and crew necessary for live action shots. Those Kickstarter videos are so important to make a professional and sophisticated first impression.”
What information do you need to know before starting the project? How should one prepare to work with you? Does it help you to have some examples and what should those examples take into consideration (the characters, the animation, the general tone of the piece)?
SG: “I can get going with very little – at bare minimum – what’s it about? Comedy? Drama? Any direction you want me to go in to get the ball rolling? Is there any preexisting artwork? Cast photos? Unit photos?
I love working with indie filmmakers because everything is so direct. Ideas aren’t going through 15 different offices at the studio before getting to me. I LOVE to have the client send me links to styles or feel they like, that really helps narrow things down. It’s your film, and my job is to create a dynamic piece that is going to pull the audience in right off the bat. I’ll present ideas, but ultimately the director will dictate where we go with it, and that’s how it should be. So examples are great!
Examples can be really general (ex: I like the feel of this video at :36 seconds in) or super specific (let’s just copy the Dragon Tattoo open). And they don’t have to be video either; art work, book covers, whatever…lots of times it’s just about creating a feeling.”
What projects have been your favorites to work on and why?
SG: “Last year I did the opening titles and end sequence for a movie by Victoria and Jennifer Westcott called Locked in a Garage Band – it’s in festivals now. It was the most rewarding experience! They are in Canada, and they tweeted that they were looking for an After Effects person – I answered the tweet and from the very beginning it was just a great pleasure working with them.
I sent them my reel and they said ‘We like the opening titles for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.’ We used that as a launching point and everything just fell into place. In their case, they ended up using the opening title sequence as an ending piece before launching into the end credits which I also did. Rather than just typical white text crawling on black, we did a nice scrapbook-y thing that worked really well with the feel of the movie.”
Here are links to the Locked in a Garage Band pieces.
“For a typical project, we’ll talk by phone or email and discuss what it is the client is looking for and if there a rough cut I can watch. The client may upload materials to dropbox – stills, a general rundown of credits to show in the opening, etc. I’ll take a couple of days and come up with 3 or 4 general looks and send them along. When the client picks one, I get to work. I’ll typically send quicktimes to show my progress and the client can make corrections if there is anything they don’t like along the way. I’ll send a final piece for notes, then revise per clients wishes. Finally when all is done, I’ll render out a full size file to go to the editor to drop in!”
How did you become a motion graphic designer?
SG: ”I started working at an entertainment advertising firm. They had just started a DVD division and needed someone to design and animate the menus. I was in the print department, but taught myself After Effects and I kind of made myself the motion graphics guy. From there, I went to Sony in Culver City and worked there doing menus for a couple years. I’ve been self employed for ten years, doing DVD Menus, Bluray menus, TV Show packages, Corporate Work, and now title sequences. My degree is in commercial photography. I’d say it helps a lot to have some design background or education. But I taught myself and I’ve done all right!”
We have to get around to cost as some point. What should a filmmaker budget for a title sequence? a DVD menu? a full scene in the film? a 2D vs 3D project?
SG: “I charge by the project – there are so many different styles, some are more time consuming than others…so I generally wait until I have a good idea of what the client wants before we talk about price. Is it a 30 second piece? Is it a three minute piece? Is it pure motion graphics, or are there motion graphic elements over existing video? I also have kind of a sliding scale for indie projects – I’ll charge less, but those jobs are generally more rewarding than my bigger jobs. Also, I like to think that indie filmmakers eventually will not be so indie and we’ll have built a relationship that will pay off in the future. Is your budget SERIOUSLY limited? Let’s come up with something that works for you for $500. Have $2500? Let’s do something a little more awesome.”
Do you generally meet with clients in person or can you work remotely?
SG: “Not to be anti-social, but I much prefer to work remotely. On a typical day, I can jump back and forth between five or six projects, and to jump in the car and drive across town to talk in person isn’t so efficient. Most of my clients I have never met in real life. Working remotely allows me to work with clients in Canada, London, the East Coast etc… Between phone, email and IM, we can communicate very effectively. When I have samples to send, I either email it or if it’s too big, I’ll put it on Dropbox. Final deliverables are big, but Dropbox works for that too.”
Q: How can a filmmaker get in touch with you?
SG: ”Twitter! I’ve found 90% of my new clients in the last three years through Twitter. Just put ‘Looking for motion graphics and my Twitter handle @scottgordondvd and I’ll respond!”
Scott Gordon is a Los Angeles based motion graphic designer. You can find more of his design work here
I just returned from Park City, fresh from jury deliberation on the Slamdance short films and conducting video press interviews with some of the Sundance/Slamdance microbudget directors as well as indie microbudget god Edward Burns and Tugg CEO Nicolas Gonda. Those videos will hopefully be edited and uploaded in the next few days. I will post them on this site when they are ready.
My first day on the ground (January 18) started at the Blackhouse Foundation where I participated in the Digital Distribution Panel. We talked about the myths, truths, rules and multiple paths to monetize premium content online for those in front of and behind the camera. The discussion featured representatives from Grab Media and Netflix. Basically, it seems that short, episodic content is the name of the game in the online space if you are going to work with the bigger onlinenetworks. Netflix does not take short form content (short films) and Grab Media helps content producers access sites in the AOL network on an advertising revenue share or as licensed, branded content for large corporations. They essentially give your webseries or ongoing content (news shows, how-to videos) access to thousands of websites that want to host video, but do not produce their own. These sites are presumably highly trafficked so your view count will soar and your revenue share from advertising either you place inside of the video or Grab places inside of it will be much higher than if you just posted it to a Youtube channel. The range on how much you can earn from this is quite broad really. Some producers only earn enough for the light bill, some for a vacation, and some for a mortgage.
Largely, I was there to talk about knowing who you are trying to reach with your work. While I often use the analogy of needing to have a spark (or strong, core audience) before it can spread to a forest fire, another visual that came up during the discussion was a pebble and the ripples. If you don’t have a pebble to start things off, it will never ripple out. I did hear on other panels some contrary advice, but I stand by this analogy. For the emerging filmmaker who does not have an audience, who does not a have a film with notable names, who does not have an acceptance at one of the big 4-5 festivals in the world, and does not have millions of dollars to spend on advertising to a broad and undefined audience, she MUST have a place to start with an audience. Does it have to stay small? NO, but it has to start somewhere and that somewhere is much more difficult when she doesn’t have name or industry attention to aid her. Believe me, if she starts gathering a small but strong core audience, suddenly the industry pays attention and offers help. Start very small, but enthusiastic and build from there.
I was also a short film juror at Slamdance and what a great slate of films. As with any deliberation, compromise between gut feelings and personal tastes have to be navigated, but ultimately I think we chose strong talents in the prize winners. Full list of this year’s winners HERE. I can say that there were many talented filmmakers in that pile of shorts and I wish the best to all of them.
On January 19, I attended the Sundance Creative Distribution (#creativedistro) panel with director Ava DuVernay (interview with her coming soon to this blog) and Topspin Media‘s Bob Moz. It was a standing room only crowd to hear how last year’s Sundance films Middle of Nowhere and Bones Brigade fared with their hybrid distribution strategies. Moz has uploaded his case study presentation on the Topspin Tumblr site, but let me show one tremendous screenshot. When the panel basically said social media just doesn’t “put butts in seat” or result in sales, Moz clicked this up on the overhead (BOOM) and told the panel they needed to up their analytics software…Topspin anyone?
It is a pretty powerful reminder that more and more filmmakers who are willing to engage with their audiences (and in cases like director Stacy Peralta, find them again from previous films) by using social channels will be able to cost effectively penetrate the noise of the internet and make immediate revenue (rather than waiting 6 months to a year, if ever) on the road to repayment. As Peralta has said, while receiving some advances from distributors for his past films, he has never received a single royalty check. Sustainability will come from being savvy about building and maintaining an audience.
The rest of my time on the ground in Park City revolved around interviewing several NEXT directors (Shaka King, Eliza Hittman and Andrew Bujalski); a Slamdance director (J.R. Hughto) and Sundance US Dramatic juror, Edward Burns. All are working in the microbudget filmmaking arena, which suits the publication I was representing, Microfilmmaker Magazine. The thing I liked about these interviews was the honesty all participants brought on camera. While other Sundance talent might have looked to position themselves as bigger than they are or perpetuate this other-worldly mythology, all of my interviewees were very humbled by their inclusion in the media circus that is Sundance. In the case of Burns, he offered a different perspective on what it takes to be a sustainable filmmaker in the 21st century. I also interviewed Nicolas Gonda, CEO of Tugg.com, to talk about how filmmakers can empower their audiences to pull films they would like to see in a theater in their cities. Instead of being dependent on a corporation to decide whether a film will play in a city, Tugg enables the crowd to decide and put their money where their mouth is in terms of needing to reach a minimum ticket buying threshold before a booking can be made. Minimizing risk for the filmmaker or distributor and the cinema owners can only be a good thing.
On my last night in Park City, I was lucky enough to have caught a Press and Industry screening of Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight. Since I arrived very late to the line, it was not at all assured that I would get in and I did have to view it from the front row of the Holiday Village Cinema. I am not going to review the film, but I am a fan of the series and was not disappointed in this installment.
Mainly what I felt on the ground this time versus previous times was the dawning of realization that now there are tools in place for filmmakers to use to reach audiences and release films even if the 6-7 figure deal wasn’t offered. While of course those deals were offered to some already, I was heartened to see Sound City and Upstream Color use Sundance as their springboard into the market. They are taking advantage of the media opportunities and recognizing that they may not have films that are mass audience, which is fine. They won’t be taking the chance that their niche film will be ignored in a slate of other more commercial fare. I look forward to seeing this increase as the years roll on at Sundance.
About 2 years ago, I made a checklist on this site of major items you should prepare and duties to perform at different stages in production in order to implement the marketing strategy of your film . This is an updated list.
Some form of direct distribution (self distribution) should be incorporated into the overall distribution plan of independent films. This helps to safeguard investment should no attractive distribution offers come in for your film because you can at least start recouping the money by getting the film into the market yourself. But it also allows you to see a payoff from all of the hard work you have done in gathering an audience during production. Remember, no one will work for your film as hard as you will so why should you agree to pay sales percentages to an entity that did not take any initial risk in producing the film? In order to put this plan into action, marketing preparation needs to be completed.
Always carve out the ability to sell copies (DVD for now, streaming from now on) and set up your own event screenings where the production has first dollar payment of the proceeds. If any company wants all rights, they should be paying VERY handsomely for them and be willing to submit a marketing proposal with budget attached that clearly outlines what their marketing plan for the film will be. Otherwise, you are squandering all of the months (or years!) you have put into building up a fanbase by giving up the monetary payoff to a third party who hasn’t clearly explained what they will do with that audience and how they will expand it.
This checklist takes into consideration that you have ALREADY identified and researched the core audience of the film. Also, you have written your marketing plan and budget. The plan is your guide, but this is actually building the road. These items are in no certain order apart from the headings and timeframes.
Marketing/Distribution Check List
Pre-Production (two-four week timeframe)
-Source an on set photographer and set schedule for those days. See this post for more details.
Also arrange for a videographer to shoot separate video content for later use.
-Draft a synopsis – paragraph, 3 lines (100 words) and one line versions (20 words) for festival submissions, website/social media sites, press kit, media inclusions etc.
-Brainstorm creative ideas for film branding, partner with graphic designer and manage production of all branded media/materials going forward.
-Publicity – draft early press release to the trades announcing principal photography.
-Continue audience research and online listening to “influencers,” bloggers, and grassroots organizations.
-If interested in product placement/branded entertainment opportunities, prepare a pitch document for presentation to companies and set meetings with them.
-Start the process of website development for the film’s official site-source a web designer and flesh out all elements to be included.
-Choose email database program to maintain a fan contact list.
-Think about any additional media/merchandising that could be created for maintaining audience interest/additional revenue streams.
Production (six week timeframe)
-Write content for website and digital press kits (bios/about/synopsis/production notes/trailer/blog/email signup/estore). Work with graphic designer to match film branding.
-Design website/manage website design firm.
-Publicity – coordinate with local press for coverage on the set.
-Coordinate video shoots of content to be used later for the website/released on social channels.
-Oversee stills photography shoot with actors on set for use as content on website, social networks, on the DVD, media coverage, festivals etc.
-Start researching appropriate festivals.
-Complete and launch website.
-Start utilizing Director’s/Production blog of what is happening on set, respond quickly to questions and feedback.
-Set up Google Alerts keeping a list of relevant links that you can share with your audience on social channels.
-Procure a recent film delivery list from any sales agent/distributor to ensure that you are collecting every item. Put all materials in an organized filing system.
-Start stockpiling material to be used on website/social channels in lead up and throughout release.
Post Production (4-6 months before release)
-Set up IMDB and production listings management once a firm film title and completion date is known because it can be difficult to change a title or production date later.
-Start utilizing email list with weekly blasts of material relevant/useful to your audience.
-Devise a content calendar and start releasing content to populate website/online channels. This material should be well spread out to ensure you will have regular content.
-Choose final publicity stills from the library of photos taken and retouched by the photographer. You will need a mix of scene shots and a few behind the scenes.
-Key art creation. Working with a professional designer is strongly recommended.
-Outreach to influencers, organizations and bloggers and keep them updated with regard to the film.
-Set up social networking sites and start populating. These will need continuous maintenance and responses to feedback from fans. Best to start when you have an idea of the premiere date.
-Set up online monitoring tools to analyze all conversations and press mentions happening around your film and respond to them. Collate weekly reports.
-Edit/update press kit. Multiple video clips/photos needed for various online media and website/social networking sites as well as DVD content. Upload to your website.
-Edit the most gripping trailer anyone has ever seen. Use a professional trailer editor. Choose a date to premiere it to start buzz in lead up to film’s release. Engage the services of a video seeding company.
-Coordinate test screenings of the rough cut, collate notes to give to the editor for adjustments.
-Submit inquiries/applications to festivals or settle on venue and date for film premiere.
-Finalize Key Art layout. Print the posters, business cards, postcards.
-Update IMDB/productions listings with photos, trailer etc.
-Identify possible affiliates for DVD/digital streaming sales if doing this through your own site in future.
-Prepare press release copy for festival acceptances, this can be altered as needed.
-Set up database of all publications and editors to contact for press opportunities. Set up separate page in database to track press breaks/mentions.
-Start theatrical/public screening booking process if possible. May not be possible until outcome of premiere.
-Determine paid advertising placement and book space. Create the ad according to specs.
-Determine and ensure long lead press placement.
-Attach a sales agent if applicable or finalize distribution roll out based on audience media consumption habits/interest from distributors.
Release (6-12 months)
-Plan and coordinate premiere party or event.
-Maintain social channels and website.
-Maintain email communication with fans/influencers.
-Set up/reply to public screening requests.
-Reply and coordinate promotional materials with theater/screening event publicist or event host.
-Apply for award competitions.
-Keep press kit updated.
-Continue to pitch press on feature stories and reviews.
-Encourage audience to leave feedback on imdb, Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon, iTunes etc.
-Set up own digital distribution outlet on website and estore goes live to sell merchandise direct. Manage fulfillment of sales and run special promotions.
These are main points and clearly the person who is primarily responsible for getting these items accomplished will not be working occasionally. A thousand little things will happen in the course of distribution so make sure you have a responsible team and a significant budget to handle it.
Creative commons photo from <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nocklebeast/6245106345/”>nocklebeast</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>
Last week, one of the first streaming services to allow video creators a pay to play option on their website announced a change of service. Dynamo Player has been around for about 3 years, but as many more services now populate the digital video pay to stream space, Dynamo saw a need to adjust their offerings and enable more than just a video player. Founder Rob Millis talked to me about the changes due to take effect in January 2013.
Explain how Dynamo is changing into a White Label Service?
Dynamo will be white label meaning that any company, distributor or filmmaker can put their own branding and customized options onto our digital platform. You’ll be able to use the Dynamo infrastructure and technology under your own brand without sharing revenue with us and without having our management involved unless you want it involved. It has been in demand from our most professional users for a while so we’re making these changes in order to serve them and make the service more tailored. In January, we will be announcing pricing and the full offering.
In general, Dynamo has been in the background of the user experience except during the purchase process where users go to the Dynamo website and the Dynamo payment process. With the white label option, the user has an entirely consistent process through the artist’s brand. A recent example is a very popular rock band who wanted every aspect to be under their name with their branding completely integrated into the whole buying experience. We couldn’t offer this before, but now we can.
Before, artists could use the Dynamo Player dashboard to see payments, see orders, collect emails etc. Does this now mean that they have to source everything independently and connect it to the player?
No, not at all. Dynamo can still do everything it always could, but now it will be accessed on a flat fee basis rather than through a revenue share we had before. But now you have an option to license the system for your own use.
And that would probably be more suited to enterprise level clients who have lots of films they are selling rather than a filmmaker with one film?
Yes, but we are also moving to offer more distribution options than just the player. We are aiming to be more of a one stop shop working with other platforms. In the past, we may have been seen as competing with other services, but we don’t see any reason to continue that if we can serve clients better by helping them get to more platforms that we are usually more familiar with and have more experience with than the filmmakers.
For example, if I want my film on iTunes, now Dynamo can manage that process for me? Do all the encoding and the QC that Apple needs to make my film available in iTunes?
Yes, we can either advise and consult and you take care of the technical aspects yourself or we can manage the whole process via a third party. We are looking to become an aggregator with a direct relationship with iTunes.
And that is flat fee based, no revenue share from the iTunes revenue?
And what about the app building, that isn’t something Dynamo was doing before?
It is new. We have experience with it, but we weren’t offering it to filmmakers before. This is our effort to be a one stop shop for marketing and distribution of content. Often filmmakers and even medium size media companies don’t know what questions to ask when they hire development team to build an application. There is a real need to have consultation between producers and technical developers when building an app. We think most app products on the market are grossly overpriced and we can either consult to help negotiate better pricing or to take some of this work inhouse to be more economical.
What precipitated this change? In the 3 years since Dynamo Player existed as one of the first paid video streaming services available, what has changed in the market?
In a lot of ways, we were more necessary for the long tail of film sales a few years ago and we have felt a responsibility to support long tail sales for filmmakers. But now we are seeing more of a call for customization of the player, reaching other digital platforms as well, assisting with website design and development, as well as providing technical support that filmmakers are not comfortable with and we aren’t seeing many service providers in the film space who are able to offer that. For our professional users who are seeing a lot of customer demand, we want to be able to support them through those services.
I would imagine as well that there are many films using your service purely as a repository, somewhere to keep their films online even when they aren’t working the titles with any marketing support. In a revenue share scenario, they are costing Dynamo more money to host them than they will ever sell. Is this also a factor in a change to flat fee, contract work rather than revenue share?
The cost of supporting many users who are either not supporting their own content with marketing or using Dynamo as a storage service has been a problem over time. It isn’t prohibitively expensive from a bandwidth point of view, but it is distracting when running a business because it keeps us from being able to service our clients who are working hard to get their films seen. However, we will keep the system open for all of our current clients with a dramatic discount going forward, even if they have zero sales because, for many, it is really important that the film be available online and that they are able to maintain a consistent presence on the web regardless of whether they get one sale or a thousand sales a month. We don’t want to kick any of those users off of the system. We will have a pricing model for those who want to use the Dynamo Player platform, but don’t expect huge sales. They will still be able to access via a flat fee.
I was reading in another publication that you overestimated how fast Hollywood would move to innovate in the digital space. I can see how difficult it is for large corporations to innovate in a hurry, but I am still surprised in looking at the films coming into Sundance now that are still getting sales agents to negotiate traditional deals, even digital deals, and not putting up their own websites. Does it surprise you that independent filmmakers are also not very innovative?
It never occurred to me before I started Dynamo the differences between a web producer and a filmmaker. The differences between what is gratifying for each. For someone who is used to working on serial content for the web, they are used to building their own website, they are used to working Facebook and Twitter almost in their sleep, they are excited to have more eyeballs than big fame and more buzz than expensive contracts. Filmmakers get more gratification from seeing their work on a big screen. It is a very different kind of production, a very different kind of audience, and there is less cross over between those 2 worlds than I ever expected.
In a lot of ways, no matter what’s possible for a feature film to be distributed, filmmakers always wish that their film will fill a theater and show on a big screen and if it means waiting for 6 months to find a company that will make that a reality, it is a very tempting gamble for a filmmaker to take. On the other hand, it is an industry filled with people who are inclined to be incredibly creative with sound, camera gear, and editing technique. They have stronger acting backgrounds informing their work. There has been less emphasis on distribution of the work because that has always been handled by other people. Directors and producers have a much more creative emphasis than to be social media and digital innovators.
Are there plans with Dynamo to output to some services like Roku, Apple TV, Xbox etc.?
Certainly for particular clients who are interested in this, we will. There is definitely some content that should go out through Roku and Boxee etc, but some content creators shouldn’t waste their time or money.
How about if distributors with a slate of films want to access these set top boxes to get their films into the home? Can Dynamo help with that?
Absolutely, especially for distributors and small studios that have a collection of titles that sit under one brand. It would be valuable to have a presence on these platforms with all of their titles available on the set top boxes. It is a matter of scale for them really, to consistently deliver new titles under one brand. While it is still very early in the history of smart TVs and set top boxes, we are starting to see an uptick in the click through rates of households watching content available on these services. For a single program or film to get attention there, it probably isn’t worth the investment, but for a company with many titles, absolutely it is and we are happy to help with that.
I thank Rob for taking the time to explain the changes at Dynamo and I hope this helps to clarify things for those who are currently using the service and for those who are contemplating a service for digital distribution. If you found this article useful, tweet about it HERE.
Ever wonder how those big budget film trailers explode onto the internet with millions of views seemingly in hours? Is it really because the trailer is spectacular and everyone happens to be talking about it or is there something else at work?
I recently contacted Erick Brownstein of Media Needle who offer video seeding via their partner company, YTM, to find out more about how these types of services work. You may think that videos simply “go viral” on Youtube, that compelling content just attracts viewers who then happily share it. But with over 72 hours of video uploaded to Youtube EVERY MINUTE, it is highly unlikely that your video is going attract significant organic views with no help whatsoever. Every major film studio and most big brands use these seeding services to provide a high volume of views for their video campaigns for trailers and branded content.
The way YTM works is essentially via an advertising network that is connected to around 5000 premium, highly trafficked websites with advertising spaces to sell. You tell YTM what audience or category you are targeting, and they use a proprietary system called ViewIQ to calculate about how many views you could get in a short space of time that may catapult you into trending topics (more on that in a minute). While a minimum number of views is guaranteed, your video “ad” will also benefit from organic views (those aren’t subject to additional charges) simply by being prominently featured on these sites. They also optimize the keywords in your video’s description for search engines so it will be highly placed in organic internet searches.
One thing that YTM has perfected is the ability not only to guarantee a minimum number of views, but to work within the algorithm that calculates a Youtube trending video. Videos that make it into trending topics, which are featured on the homepage of Youtube, attract the attention of nearly 15 million additional viewers looking for what’s hot on the site. Part of Youtube’s algorithm that chooses which videos to highlight takes into account a short time frame from first upload and the variety and legitimacy of the source of the viewing traffic. It then determines a “what’s hot” list. Videos on this list usually only enjoy a 2-4 day run before they are pushed off by other new videos, though hot videos can enjoy a long run at the top of Google search pages. However, there is no guarantee that your video will make it onto this list. It really depends on what other videos you are competing with at the time.
In other words, the seeding gets your video noticed and then organic views take over after that which can boost your view count into the millions.
Your video content is embedded with a unique code that keeps track of the number of views and where the traffic came from. This is via a proprietary system called ShareIQ. The video is then distributed to the existing network websites, targeted to the campaign’s specifications based on geography/demographics/interest of the audience you are trying to reach. The campaign is 100% viewer initiated click, meaning one can’t just scroll over the video and it counts as a view nor does the video play automatically on a loop. The wider those audience specifications are, the more economical the price per view. The narrower the specifications, the more expensive the price per view. Views are calculated by the amount of time watched because Youtube policy dictates that a view is counted only after 15-20% of the video has played.
Now the nitty gritty, cost. YTM charges $.10-$.15 per view. In order to reach trending topics to get the organic view “kick” that really propels your video into the “viral” territory, it would cost about $50,000 (500,000 views x $.10 per view) for a campaign reaching a relatively wide audience in a short space of time. Campaigns that spend over $50,000 also benefit from additional blogger outreach by the YTM team, meaning they not only place your video on their network of sites, but they also pitch bloggers to write articles about it. You have probably read these articles on many entertainment sites about how such and such trailer for a movie is “viral” and these are the result of having a seeded campaign. There is definitely a PR benefit to having your video in the trending video list.
For a campaign more interested in reaching a highly specific audience, the cost per view is more because you are decreasing the amount of sites the video will be placed upon in order to reach a certain viewing goal. My guess is YTM makes most of its money in reaching high volume sites with general audiences that easily reach say, 500k views. If your campaign is so restrictive in its focus that it will only be applicable to say 50 sites in its network, there won’t be much margin in only charging $.10 per view since you may only hit 30,000 views so they charge a higher price per view. But let’s face it, hitting 30,000 views is not newsworthy and it won’t get your video to cut through the noise that is Youtube and its trending videos list. You could probably reach 30K through your own efforts so a video seeding service may not even be right for your work if you are satisfied with reaching this level of view count.
Having compelling content naturally attracts a potential viewer to click on your video and pass it around. Ideal length for these videos is between 2-3 minutes. Campaigns that received the biggest amount of traffic usually reach people emotionally, either through humor or compassion. Some of YTMs examples are
This one for the 20th Century Fox film Planet of the Apes-current view count 25,367,423
This one for travel company Expedia and their Find Yours campaign- current view count 2,295,966
This one for children’s animation film Dino Time-current view count 794,084
Now, I know what you are thinking…online tools were supposed to provide a FREE way to reach mass, global audiences! While it is theoretically possible to reach a mass audience for free, more often payment is needed to rise above all the others who also believe they can reach out for free. Payment also tends to expedite the process. Video seeding is not something they talk about in the Youtube Creator Playbook though, is it?
Whether you are trying to attract “buzz” for your film’s premiere (and make a big distribution deal, say at a festival like Sundance), get more people to watch your webseries or transmedia project, or sell more cinema tickets, you might want to build some significant video seeding money into your budget. It is still cheaper than TV spots and with the ability to place well in search results, it may be a smarter and longer lasting advertising spend.
To find out more on how Media Needle and YTM can help you, contact Erick Brownstein Erick@medianeedle.com