Much is said about the need to find your audience and present your project to them, but how does one go about it? I think the first thing that must be done is boil down the exact characteristics of the people who will be the MOST engaged, or what my friend Jon Reiss would call the Super Core and find them and start communicating with them. I want to share the information about how we accomplished this for my most recent project, a documentary film about the Joffrey Ballet entitled Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance that I am working on with Jon Reiss’ Hybrid Cinema. We started work in October 2011 for our premiere as the opening night film of the Dance on Camera Festival at Lincoln Center in January 2012.
Obviously, this film is for ballet fans, right? We could even go wider and say those interested in dance, or performing arts, or fine arts, or classical music and theater. Maybe even a gay niche, or luxury products or wine aficionados. It is typical thinking for most filmmakers I encounter and definitely it is for distributors, let’s go for the widest audience possible! But we are dealing with a modest marketing and distribution budget, a very sparse crew (4-6 people)and reaching a wider audience was not realistically going to happen out of the gate. We needed to get more targeted, laser targeted, and then spread from there slowly.
It is my firm belief that if you are working with limited resources, you must “catch fire” with some small group first. Your “fire” will not be able to spread if there is no passionate group helping you do it. There is simply too much competition for an audience’s time and attention and trying to reach wide from the start usually results in not much traction. Your few sparks will fizzle.
I could have started with the “ballet audience.” But even that is fairly wide. Every city and town in America has a ballet school, maybe even a company. There are patrons of these ballet companies who attend performances. Many are former dancers or had dance training at some point in their lives. How can I reduce the target even further without being so narrow that the super core would only result in 2 people or so wide that I can’t easily reach them?
The laser targeted group I settled on was the alumni of the Joffrey Ballet. They are numerous (at least several hundred), they are spread out all over the country, many are in high level positions at other dance companies, and they have a deep, vested interest in seeing this film. Every Joffrey alumnus that I have forged a relationship with is a very passionate supporter of Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, the founders of the company and the main subjects of the film, and they want to see this film succeed. After all, it is also their story; a story about a very sacred and special time in their lives. Who can be more passionate than that? Now, who are they and where to find them? 20 or so of them are in the film, but what about the rest?
Luckily, a book was written by Sasha Anawaltin 1997 that had been meticulously researched. It included many names of dancers in the company as well as other associates. I read this book from cover to cover, underlining names, dates, footnotes about side stories etc. Also, the Gerald Arpino and Robert Joffrey Foundation had a list of names of alumni and some contact details. I also read 2 other books written by and about Joffrey dancers and made more notes. I started with these, making lists of years, who was in the company when, what happened to them if it was known and then got started on Google for more research.
With some names, I came up empty and some alumni are no longer with us, but in the end I did get a nice contact list together. It was also important to research who was connected to whom so I could plan for my circle to widen. Some Joffrey alumni went on to work with other choreographers, other dance companies and those connections could be useful to know for later help as we went into theatrical release in cities across America.
Next post: Preparing for contact.
Many of you are already familiar with using Youtube to release trailers and clips for your film, but in the last few months Youtube relaunched their site and they made some adjustments to their analytics functionality. If you haven’t been back in a while to check your data, you should because you’ll find some really interesting tools to help in your efforts at reaching an audience.
As I said in a past post, I have started using a tool called Tube Toolbox to find ballet fans on Youtube for the Joffrey Ballet documentary I am working on. We now have over 300 subscribers on the channel in about 3 months of use. It isn’t earth shaking numbers, but remember these are all people interested specifically in the topic of the film who have chosen to subscribe to the channel. Some of them also have their own followings in the dance world so the ripple effect worldwide is greater, more sticky and far cheaper than if I had used advertising to reach thousands of mostly uninterested people. And it continues to grow every day. But what do I know about these people?
I know the top 5 countries they come from, I know the gender and age range they fall into and how they came to the page. I know what videos they are watching AND for how long AND where in each video viewing I lose them. Wow! If you have ever wondered why a video isn’t working, you can now access the tab called Audience Retention.
You can choose which of your uploaded videos to analyze and then shows you a graph like this
It is very useful to know how long the average viewer stays with your video. Do they cut out after 5 seconds? Does it start strong and then decline by the middle? At what point do you lose them? Maybe the video is too long or doesn’t stay compelling. You can use these stats to test how your edit performs and make changes. As you can see, there are 2 parts to this. Absolute audience retention shows the views of every moment of the video as a percentage of the number of views of the beginning of the video. Relative audience retention shows your video’s ability to retain viewers relative to all YouTube videos of similar length. Relative is less important to me than absolute.
Other interesting data can be found in the Playback and Traffic Sources tabs. Playback tells you where people are watching your videos. On the Youtube page, the channel page, through an embedded video player on another site? If it is on another site, you can click that link and it will tell you which ones. Also, it will tell you how many views are from a mobile device. Traffic sources tell you how they found your video, through a search engine, direct links such as Facebook or Twitter, or through suggested videos that line Youtube’s right hand sidebar on videos similar to yours. When you seed your video on other sites (or when others do it for you), it is important to know what works and what doesn’t so you can make adjustments.
Youtube has also put all of this information together in a handy download called The Creator Playbook that you can download for free HERE which was updated in November when they implemented these changes. I hope this information helps when you are thinking about your strategy for using Youtube.