continuation of the previous posts about marketing the documentary film, Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance


Social media accounts were started on nearly the first day (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and later Flickr and Pinterest) and daily posts have been made on them ever since. Google alerts were set up at this time so I could monitor keywords and find stories of interest to my audience. Any time the word Joffrey Ballet is mentioned, I get an alert and I have other keywords set up as well. I joined a few Linkedin groups devoted to dance writers and ballet teachers. I have found Joffrey alumni through these groups as well as journalists and those interested in Joffrey history. I also monitor Twitter through columns on Tweetdeck and through a tool called Twilerts and I know when anyone comments on our Facebook page by using Hyper Alerts. We also have  an account on DanceMedia.

The key to building up our following has been consistent posts and watching what people are interacting with. On our Facebook page, old photos of the company always get the thumbs up and the comments rolling in. On Pinterest, I have a mixture of Boards devoted to topics ranging from alumni photos, history of the company, ballets of the Joffrey, ballets commissioned by the Joffrey (choreographed by others), and general ballet related photos. On Twitter, I found getting involved in hashtag conversations has resulted in gaining followers.

Getting it all set up is the easy part, keeping up with it, generating content for these channels, and getting traffic onto the sites is the difficulty and probably the most underestimated aspect of this kind of marketing. I set up a content calendar format to keep track of blog posts, advertising campaigns, promotions we are running with other sites,  screening dates, podcasts I am releasing, digital photobooks I am having designed and releasing, press releases we have sent out or will be sending out, scheduled email newsletters, deadlines for designing/printing/mailing collateral (posters, postcards, flyers) etc. As you can see, there a lot of moving parts to this and we have been generating this kind of effort now for 9 months. I am convinced that it has paid off in the distribution opportunities presented, the amount of screening bookings the film has had and the sales from our website.


Content may be written (blogs and articles), audio (podcasts), photo, video (short clips, more than just a trailer) or links and we utilize all of it. For blog inspiration, I have used a combination of excerpts from Anawalt’s book, interview transcripts from the film, photos we have from the Joffrey archives, and Youtube videos of performances that are already on YT to illustrate the posts when I can. As my guide, I use my own curiosity about this story. What would I want to know more about if I were a fan?  Then I research what we have in assets to put together the stories. Journalistic skills are needed in doing this work. There are some posts that are more housekeeping like highlighting city premieres or the release of the DVD, but mostly I try to expand the story of the Joffrey company through the blog so fans will want to come back and find out more. Too many times filmmakers publish blogs that are one sided (here’s my film, here are photos of my film, here’s my film poster, here’s how we are doing in post) and offer little to no value to the audience. If the conversation is only about YOU, I get bored, so I see no reason to visit again or share your news after a while.

Whenever anyone signs up to our email list, they receive a series of Joffrey Mavericks Moments digital photobooks as a free pdf download. Each installment covers a different theme and showcases rarely seen photos and quotes from Robert Joffrey, Gerald Arpino, company dancers and associates to contextualize the photos and we have released 4 of these. Again, it expands the history of the company and the story of the film while providing an incentive to sign up to our list. List building is highly useful when it comes time to drive traffic to screenings and to your Store page on the website.

Earlier, I said I was trying to find a way to involve those alumni who were not included in the film. I decided that rather than only writing up interviews to run on the blog, I would allow the alumni to tell their own story using their own voices. It is much more impactful and authentic that way. Weekly, I release a podcast audio interview with alumni from all different eras and mostly they aren’t the ones included in the film itself. Some were principal dancers, some were only in the company a short time, some were not principals, but had a good career with the Joffrey, all have stories to tell. I have also gathered stories from choreographers, costume designers and administrative staff. The Joffrey Ballet is 56 years old, it would be impossible to tell the whole story in a 90 minute film. Luckily with the internet, we don’t have to cut out and discard great stories. We just have to find another outlet and, for this, it is the podcast series.  Email list members get a new one delivered to their inbox every week, but anyone can find them on our site and on Soundcloud. I record the telephone interviews and download them to mp3 then I work out the best parts of the interview and write up paper edits, record a voice over for the podcast and work with an audio editor, the incomparable Cameron Ahern, to get them down to around 20 minutes.

Joffrey Maverick Memories podcast series is a living account of the history of the Joffrey Ballet from the people who were there. I took it as a real compliment when one alum said, “You know, our lives as dancers before the internet were so fleeting. Few performances were truly captured, critics reviews only lived for a short time in the newspaper or magazine, photos were taken and put in archives somewhere. There is almost no evidence of what I did when I was young. I’m really glad someone is gathering this together and putting it out there for all of us to see again.” Win win!

Also, when I know an alumni run company or school is having an event or performance, I list those on our social accounts and in our newsletter. We should all benefit by being associated with the film, not treat these people like an unpaid film promotional team. That is what truly partnering with your audience means. Something in it for them, maybe even more than something in it for you. You’ll get something believe me.

Next post: moving from the supercore, to the core within the audience niche of “ballet”

Using new Youtube analytics for your film project

January 13, 2012
posted by sheric

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.

Crowdsourcing as exploitation

July 22, 2011
posted by sheric

I have been reading some of the articles about the film project that premiered at Sundance this year, Life in a Day, and is now being released theatrically by National Geographic Entertainment, YouTube and Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. For anyone who doesn’t know, producer Ridley Scott and  director Kevin MacDonald requested anyone to send in footage from the day July 24, 2010; for most a typical day in their life. The team received over 81,000 submissions of over 4,500 hours of footage from which to cut together a 95 minute documentary.

I did not take part in this “experimental” form of filmmaking so anyone who did please correct me. I suppose there was a form to sign that said you agree not to demand any form of compensation or ownership over this work. You agreed that your footage would become the property of the production and they could do whatever they want with it, including copyright it and profit from it. Fine, that was your choice. I think the thing that gauls me is they produced a film from your footage and expect you to sign up for the privilege now of becoming part of the “marketing SWAT team” to promote it and pay to go see it. You’ve received a co director end credit (no credit on imdb that I can see, but there is a large cast list), but are left out of any decision making and do not enjoy any benefits of working closely with some pretty powerful industry insiders. In my book, this is an exercise in exploitation.

This experiment isn’t fan building or relationship building that benefits both sides. You were used to create a profit making vehicle for large corporations and now they want you to help them promote it so they can make more money. If you aren’t considered a close member of the team, you have no decision making power, you aren’t profit sharing in any way, the film premiered on Youtube during Sundance but is no longer available online for you to view a film you helped to create while they take it out to theaters and make money from it, then this isn’t true collaboration. Outside of a credit on a theatrical film end credit roll, there is nothing in this relationship for you.

The point I am making to my indie filmmaker friends is this. Don’t exploit your audience. True collaboration means there is something in the relationship for all parties. Don’t build up a following with the sole intention of using them for ideas, a workforce and profit that benefits only you.

The Return from Sundance

February 1, 2011
posted by sheric

With Trevor Anderson at Sundance 2011

As long as everyone else is weighing in on Sundance 2011, I may as well add my 2 cents.

I went to Sundance to work with filmmaker Trevor Anderson and his short film The High Level Bridge. We had a great time attending parties, doing interviews, seeing a few films (and I do mean few). The High Level Bridge is one of the lucky 12 shorts to be featured on the YouTube Screening Room and in the first 24 hours on the site, the film was watched over 30,000 times. If the goal of making your short is to serve as a calling card film, I can’t think of a better way to get it in front of people. How many other short films get that kind of traffic on the festival circuit? on digital sites? It has now enjoyed over 106,000 views, good for Trevor!

Whereas I spent the majority of my time in Park City last year with Slamdance, this year I learned some of the ins and outs of the authentic Sundance experience. I have to say the Sundance program truly is top notch in the way they take care of filmmakers. From the unique swag (special director’s jackets from Kenneth Cole) to networking opportunities within the industry and access to future opportunities in their lab programs, it is no wonder those who are invited to screen at the festival feel part of the “chosen” group. It is just not possible to get this kind of nurturing from many other places in the independent film world and they are to be commended for providing what they do.

Even if you haven’t (yet!) been chosen to screen, I think it is an educational experience just to attend the festival. Before jumping in, I think you should spend time watching. Observe how things happen, start watching what the film teams are doing before they get on the ground, how they are covered when they are there, what opportunities are presented, all of it you appreciate more when you are in the thick of it instead of seeing it from afar. Plus, seeing the films before anyone else which just raises your insider knowledge.

BUT…mostly watch. Park City is also full of the wanna-be, didn’t- make- it- into- Sundance- even- though- my- film- is- brilliant filmmakers. The more you see it, the cheesier it is and you can’t really see it when you ARE it. No, everyone doesn’t get in. That’s what makes it special. That’s why the opportunities are greater for the ones who do. Even if you don’t get in, you can still learn from it.  You just have to be patient and be willing to observe. Study the articles written about those filmmakers, how did they accomplish it? You’ll see a pattern, trust me.

If you want to check out my pics, they are on my Flickr account.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention I was ecstatic to hear Kevin Smith’s announcement. Yeah, there are those who defend the status quo of the industry and bemoan how awfully they were treated at his premiere. I am not one of them. I was utterly surprised to hear his statement and can do nothing but cheer him on. He is living my Building the Community Web Around an Artist post and I can’t wait to see how it turns out for him. Can everyone copy this? No, not initially. Smith has been building his web for over 15 years. It takes time and consistency. But I wager that it will work.


I have a few projects coming up. Lots of writing for me as well as working on a few new projects and continuing with some familiar people like Jon Reiss, Roberta Munroe and The Film Collaborative. I am also booked to attend SxSW in March, so if you will be attending, we’ll have to catch up. I really enjoyed meeting in person some people I have only connected with online while I was in Park City like Laura Costantino, Gregory Bayne, Tiffany Shlain (you HAVE to see her film Connected), Elsie Nwankwo, Zack Godshall (you HAVE to see his film Lord Byron), Ira Deutchman and Michael Barnard. It is always a good idea to extend the online relationship into the offline space. Great meeting you all!

TFC Tidbit of the Day 11-Ad Supported Platforms

July 11, 2010
posted by sheric

Platforms like YouTube, Snag Film and Babelgum are all based on ad supported revenue (though we recommend using it to drive transactional and for PR). YouTube is the SECOND LARGEST search engine in the world with 2 billion views per day and is monetizing over a billion views per week globally.

Did you know that The Film Collaborative has a social networking platform for filmmakers called The Film Collaborators? Visit the site to set up your free account.

TFC Tidbit of the Day 10- Rental Platforms

July 9, 2010
posted by sheric

Popular rental platforms include iTunes, YouTube, and Virgin Media. Caution: Rental in due time. New Video, for example, notes seeing a clear cannibalization of DTO when Rental is turned on too soon. The number of people who will buy, just have to have it, are stronger if a rental release is delayed. If released at the same time, those that would have bought will rent if they can.

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