How Indie Filmmakers Can Benefit From The Digital Age

How Indie Filmmakers Benefit From The Digital Age

Last Saturday morning, I was up with the dawn chorus in order to fit in 2 scheduled Skype meetings. The first was a discovery call for a PR client, the second was meeting with the director of the film I helping to produce (with Film Sprites PR also providing the publicity and digital marketing). It occurred to me how incredible it was that with the press of a button I could go from speaking to someone in the UK to speaking to another person in the US… all from my office in New Zealand.

Modern technology and communications has come a long way in a very short space of time. I once remarked on a podcast that what we do at Film Sprites PR in terms of providing publicity and digital marketing for clients around the world would not have been as viable 10 years ago as it is now. Chances are, you’re reading this on your phone or a portable device. You can switch from reading a blog post to updating your Facebook status in no time at all. We don’t tend to blink an eye when it comes to anything we do social media or technology-related, because it’s now become so embedded in our daily lives.

To give you an idea of how far we’ve come, I want to get a bit nostalgic about the technology I grew up with. I was fortunate enough to be part of an extended family that could be classified as ‘early adopters’ of personal computing. I was born and raised in the 1980s; that day-glo era of legwarmers and mullets. Madonna and MJ ruled the airwaves. Growing in up New Zealand in the 1980s we were brought up on a steady diet of American sitcoms, but never missed an episode of homegrown sketch comedy The Billy T. James Show (An excellent look at the cultural life of kids in the 1980s in NZ can be seen in Taika Waititi’s BOY, and in fact at one point the kids are watching The Billy T. James Show in the film). We played Space Invaders (known colloquially as ‘Spacies’) while we waited for our orders at the local fish n’ chip shop. Personal computing was just starting to make its mark with the likes of the Spectrum ZX 128 and the Commodore 64, both of which my uncle had. I remember looking at the Spectrum ZX 128 and marveling over the fact you could play computer games on it. The games were on a cassette tape, mind you, and when loading would make the most horrendous sound. The only sound close to it would be the dial-up sound of the Internet in the 1990s.

And speaking of the Internet…oh yes…the dulcet tones of dial-up in the mid to late 1990s was as much of a novelty as receiving e-mail was. And cellphones? Positively brick-esque. I was the proud owner of a baby blue coloured Alcatel prepaid cellphone, one of the first at my high school to have one. It’s now incredible to think that so much of what we did on PCs we can now do on our smartphones.

These advances in technology have made it easier to share your world with others. Although there’s much disdain over the ubiquitous selfie and the posting of food on Instagram, this is a time where life is being archived by everyone and history is being written every day by you and me. Social movements can begin with a hashtag. Ideas spread even quicker than before. And yes, there are the ubiquitous selfies and pictures of food on Instagram (both of which I’m guilty of!), but it is modern society’s way of saying: “I’m here. This is my life.” Unfortunately, access to this communication is still unequal (due to Internet censorship in totalitarian countries, regional access/availability to varying speeds of Internet and cost being prohibitive, etcetera), but the digital age is well and truly upon us.

For the indie filmmaker, the digital age can be a fruitful one. A film shot in Mesquite, Texas and available on Vimeo can be seen by an indie film lover in Perth, Australia. Casting calls are no longer limited to newspapers and trade publications. Filmmakers can upload and submit their films to film festivals around the globe via sites like Film Freeway in a flash. When it comes to film production, indie filmmakers are no longer limited by geographic location. The perfect composer for your film might be in the same state as you, your graphic designer a thousand miles away, and your publicist on a completely different continent and none of these are the barriers they once were.

The emergence and growth of streaming services has also given indie filmmakers more options when it comes to distribution of their films. From VHX to Vimeo, or streaming free on YouTube, an indie filmmaker can connect to audiences in an instant. Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, Google Play…you can find your audience right where they are and where they like to consume their media.

Now, seeing as we are a publicity and digital marketing consultancy, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how indie filmmakers can benefit from the digital age when it comes to social media! Thanks to social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, indie filmmakers can grow their audiences well in advance of a film’s release. The Internet has also seen the growth of fandoms, each with their own unique in-jokes, jargon and creation of fan art. One of the most popular Twitter hashtags, #supportindiefilm, connects indie filmmakers to fans of indie film who are genuinely supportive and excited about independent films and will share continent with great enthusiasm.

The possibilities aren’t endless just yet, but the world is well and truly opening up for creatives everywhere (especially filmmakers) when it comes to the technology that is available…even if we are still waiting on hoverboards and flying cars…