Building a relationship BEFORE asking for help

October 7, 2013
posted by sheric

A guest post from Ian Delaney, director of the short film HOLES

“The Internet has revolutionized the independent film business.” We’ve all heard it, yet how well are we actually able to utilize this resource? For the vast majority of us, the answer is “not well.” The Internet is so huge and so cheap that for many micro-budget films the answer to fund raising, marketing, and distribution seems to all be the same thing. Shout your message high and low, blanket the world and something will stick. Unfortunately this “mass mailing” technique is why we get credit card offers and Penny Saver pamphlets in the mail (and most likely why the USPS still has a job), and we all know how often we use the coupon in the Penny Saver to get our grout cleaned.

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!

 

TOTBO in Edinburgh and London

June 19, 2011
posted by sheric

photo credit Leilani Holmes

Once again my friend Jon Reiss will be heading to the UK for 2 events. The first is early this week at the Edinburgh Film Festival where he is giving the keynote at Short Sighted on June 22, an event that will educate you on getting your short film distributed. He also will be doing one on one consultations  with filmmakers through Creative Scotland the next day.

He will then bring his 2 day film marketing and distribution workshop to the London Film School June 25-26. The workshop is a live step by step guide into to new world of hybrid distribution and marketing including how to create a release strategy that is unique for your film, the various markets that are available for your film, how and why to engage your audience as early as possible and how to think beyond the feature film to create new forms of content and/or to market and distribute your film. He will be joined by many special guest speakers including:

Terry Stevens from Dogwoof- Using a fresh approach, Dogwoof partners with filmmakers to help themselves giving them direct access to professional film distribution services, while letting them retain the rights to their film, controlling costs, and actually having the chance of seeing revenues and profits. The film experience is changing and they intend to help filmmakers set the new rules.  Terry will speak about a new theatrical initiative that Dogwoof is launching.

Peter Gerard and Andy Green from Distrify- Via Skype: Peter and Andy will discuss DIY digital distribution.  They created Distrify which is a revolutionary toolset for social-media marketing with sales and distribution built in. Share and embed your movie trailer with Distrify. With built-in VOD, downloads, merchandise sales, and audience engagement tools including an affiliate revenue program, Distrify makes every view of your trailer a potential transaction. Sell anything, anywhere.

Chris Jones- Chris Jones is a filmmaker and author of the The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook series and he will talk about the ever confusing world of deliverables that trips up so many filmmakers.

I will skype in to talk about creating your filmmaking brand – and promoting yourself to the world as an artist. If you have no audience around your work, you have no future. I want you to have a sustainable career.

Gregory Bayne- Gregory Bayne is a filmmaker who has run three successful Kickstarter campaigns to fund and distribute his films.  Greg will talk about the dos and don’t for a successful crowdfunding campaign.

When we were there last year, all the participants raved about the quality and quantity of information they received. I am personally in touch with many of these people to this day! It was a very inspiring workshop for me as it was the first time that I really saw people get what I was trying to say and feel excited about it and determined to undertake this work. I think there is still a lot of resistance to having to undertake both the production of film as well as the marketing and distribution of work. I will never tell you that it is easy work or that you will hear the magic piece of advice that will work for every film. Anyone who promises that is a fool. But the days of artists moaning about how there isn’t a level playing field, that studios have all the  power to reach audiences are over. ANYONE can use the tools available to make their work a success. It doesn’t “just happen,” there will be blood, sweat and tears so accept that. But if you are truly looking to take advantage of the tools available to help you and gain the knowledge of how to do it, then you shouldn’t miss this workshop.

To follow all of the workshop speakers on Twitter, here are their handles

@jon_reiss @shericandler @dogwoof @gregorybayne @distrify @livingspiritpix   (Chris Jones)

You Are The Studio

July 26, 2009
posted by sheric

Making it big in shortsSaturday’s coffee chat at LA Shorts Fest featured guest speaker Kim Adelman, indieWire columnist covering short films and author of the book MAKING IT BIG IN SHORTS. For those who missed the chat, I wanted to cover some of the finer points she mentioned because I think her knowledge can benefit the short filmmaker as well as the indie filmmaker in general.

Her first point was an independent filmmaker has to think of themselves as a studio, just like a Hollywood studio. When you have completed your film, you are opening your doors for business. What do you want to invest your time in? How much time and money do you have to invest in your product, your film? What strategy are you going to develop and follow? I believe you really should decide this before your film is made, but for sure it has to be set when you put it out to market. And then you have to market it.

She recommends starting with film festivals as a means of exposure. You, as the studio, must determine how much money you have to devote to this endeavor. Not only are there submission fees, but travel costs, promotional costs and the time associated with each. While there are a few festivals that pay a filmmaker to travel, most do not. Festivals give your film exposure to a paying audience, give you a chance to meet other filmmakers and people in the industry who could potentially help you in the future, and give you a place to enjoy the atmosphere where being a filmmaker is revered and celebrated.

Some festivals have markets attached. These are the first festivals to consider if you are looking for traditional distribution. Kim suggested that short filmmakers in particular should submit to Clermont Ferrand in France which takes place in January. There is no submission fee and there is a short film market attached. Even if you aren’t accepted for the festival, your film will get into the catalog and screen in the market for buyers. Same for Palm Springs Shortsfest and Worldwide Short Film Festival  in Toronto.  For the feature filmmaker, festivals with markets attached include Berlin (European Film Market is attached, but a separate event), Cannes, AFI (AFM is attached, but a separate event), Philadelphia, PiFan (Korea, for genre films), and Rotterdam.

Kim recommended that you submit to festivals specializing in short films and mixed feature/short films. Shorts festivals give you better exposure if you have a short film because the mixed ones tend to emphasize the features, but being in a mixed festival gives you exposure to feature film producers and industry people who can help you to make your feature which is what short filmmakers usually aspire to do. She strongly recommends that whenever you take part in a festival, you should have your next film idea packaged so that if you meet an agent, producer or distributor and they like your short but want to know what you have planned next and how can they help you, you are ready to present the idea. You don’t want to say “I don’t know” or be scrambling around in your mind trying to formulate a cohesive film idea.

She also warned about spending too much time on the festival circuit with one film. This comes back to the studio thinking. How much time, money and effort do you want to spend on this one project versus the time and money you could spend developing the next one? Too many filmmakers spend an inordinate amount of time on the festival circuit with the same film instead of moving on to the next one. Eighteen months should be your maximum. On the one hand, festivals enable you to meet more people, but they don’t earn you money unless you are selling a lot of DVD copies at the screenings. Going back to festival strategy, identify what it is you are looking to accomplish with festivals. Is it name recognition, showing your filmmaking talent off to agents or distributors, gathering an audience for your DVD sales strategy? Identify when you have accomplished your goal and can move on. 

The next strategy is digital distribution. This is where your film can either be downloaded or streamed online or put onto a portable device such as an iPod or a cell phone. One company that can help you get your short onto iTunes (because iTunes won’t deal with the filmmaker directly) is Shorts International.  iTunes actually gives the short filmmaker a way to make money like there never has been before. There are also revenue sharing sites like Bablegum, Blip.TV, Atomfilms and Metacafe. She cautions that while some money can be made in this process, it is not going to make you rich. It may not even help you break even, depending on how much money you invested in your production. Traditionally, short films were used as calling cards, a way to sell yourself as a filmmaker, not  a way to make money. With the proliferation of digital sites, a short filmmaker can either put their film out there for free and build an audience for their next project that may make money or use these revenue generating sites to slowly recoup some of their costs. Back to the need for marketing, you will only make money on these sites if you can successfully generate traffic and downloads. That takes time and consistent effort. Another company she recommended is a Canadian aggregator called OuatMedia who specializes in the worldwide distribution of short films.

Overall, her statement “You are the Studio” resonated the most. As an independent filmmaker it is all up to you. This is both an exciting prospect because you don’t have to ask any one’s permission to make films and sell them, and a nerve racking one because there is no one holding your hand and guiding you through the process. There is no magic formula that will work every time. Filmmaking is a trial and error process, even for big studios. The path to success is littered with mistakes and poor judgement, but there is no success if you never try.

Just saw this on Triggerstreet.com

April 27, 2009
posted by sheric

Received via email today a notice from IndieWire regarding a filmmaker’s contest from Stella Artois and Triggerstreet.com. Contest details:

The Stella Artois Short Film Project

Because Perfection is Worth the Sacrifice.
As a global supporter of independent film, Stella Artois appreciates your dedication and understands the many sacrifices you make to achieve your vision. From hours spent setting up each shot and capturing every nuance to investing every penny you have – you create the stories that move us most. Stories so good no one could possibly tell them better. Stories that are worth the price of perfection.

To help you in your quest, we’re sponsoring a project through TriggerStreet.com that offers a $50,000 cash award. See Triggerstreet.com website for full details.

No purchase necessary. Open to US residents 21+. Contest begins 8am ET 1/26/09 & ends 11:59pm ET 6/15/09.

Good luck for a good prize!!