How Blogging Can Assist With Promoting Your Indie Film or Webseries

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In the 21st century we tend to take things like blogging and social media for granted. It’s part of our everyday landscape. It’s easy enough to check your social media feeds and read a blog you love about a topic you’re passionate about. Back in the late 1990s when the Internet was starting to become mainstream blogging and social media were twinkles in the eye of their creators.

Blogging as we know it today didn’t exist, but there were websites which served as proto-blogging/ social media platforms, like Open Diary (which is now a subscription-only service) and Live Journal. You could share your thoughts and feelings with people around the globe, build up an audience…well, you get the picture. We now do this with social media and via blogs. These days, for every interest or topic there is a blog to match, including film.

Now, as you may already know, we’ve talked at length about how social media can assist with promotion of your film, but what about blogs? What benefits are to be gained by blogging regularly, and how can they translate into growing your audience for your films and filmmaking? This month we’ll be answering these questions and giving you some suggestions to help you create great content that people will not only enjoy but will share with their networks.

So, how can blogging be beneficial for promoting your indie film or webseries?

1. You can provide your fans with filmmaking updates: the beauty of blogging is that there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to the content you create, and updating your fans and audience is one way of producing great content. It can often be used instead of, or in tandem with, an email mailing list (but we’ll talk more about that in later posts).

2. It provides another way to reach and connect with your target audience: blogging can provide another piece of the audience building and publicity puzzle in conjunction with social media and earned and/or paid traditional media coverage. Not everyone likes or uses social media, so this is another way to reach hearts and minds online.

3. It can be beneficial when it comes to SEO of your website: if you choose to have a blog on your website as opposed to solely having a stand-alone blog, your posts can assist with site views and engagement through the tags, categories, blog titles and excerpts you choose to use for each post. Prior to having a blog on the Film Sprites PR website it was just a website, and once I began blogging regularly the site saw a huge upswing in visits which also culminated in more queries about PR and digital marketing services and more clients!

4. You can let people in on your filmmaking process: one thing I’ve seen filmmakers do very successfully with blogging is they let their audience in on their process. Just as behind-the-scenes photos and videos give audiences a tangible taste of your filmmaking, blogging can be a longer form of this. There are endless subjects to write about, and if you’re a keen writer and love sharing your process, inspiration and ideas then blogging is a very valuable tool for you to consider.

Stay tuned for our next post as we focus on blogging for filmmakers in February!

Making The Most of Press Coverage of Your Indie Film

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Your film has been securing interviews, features and reviews- congratulations! Getting media exposure for your film can assist in growing your audience, connect you to even more media outlets (we’ll talk about that soon), and can also provide a level of social proof that can build a great foundation for future projects going forward.

While securing media alone is a great way to increase awareness and visibility, did you know that you can increase the longevity of your press mentions? It’s true! Here’s some ways you can make the most of press coverage of your indie film:

Pull quotes from reviews: This is one idea that the majority of indie filmmakers know about and use exceptionally well. However, in case you hadn’t thought about it, pulling great quotes from reviews is an excellent way to give your film the critics’ seal of approval in the eyes of your audience. You can use quotes for your film poster, in social media marketing and for your DVD/Blu-Ray cover. Reviewers are brilliant at being able to review films in a compelling way, and you will always find a deliciously eloquent quote or two to use. Better yet, get in touch with the reviewer- let them know you loved their review and would like to use a quote (or two) from the review for your marketing materials. That way they know to look out for their quote in the marketing materials and may end up sharing your poster/cover artwork/social media post as well, spreading the signal even further.

EMU POSTER QUOTES Latest

As you can see from the Emotional Motor Unit poster above, director Adam Nelson chose to make the most of the reviews of the film by doing exactly what I’ve mentioned- pulling quotes and putting them on the poster. The Apple Park team also chose to have 2 other versions of the poster available; one which only had the above image, title and credits and a version which included film festival laurels instead of the reviewer quotes.

Make it visual: links to your features, reviews and interviews are one thing, but another thing that can have a great impact is sharing screengrabs of the press you have received, especially if you’ve had an overwhelming amount of publicity. It’s a great way to spread the good news via social media, and provides an excellent degree of social proof for your film.

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A selection of press for H2Ow Productions’ Ao-Terror-Oa horror anthology

For instance, with the New Zealand horror anthology Ao-Terror-Oa I was able to collate the press we were receiving and use it to visually demonstrate the breadth of outlets picking up the story. What was particularly notable was that we were able to secure media placements not only in NZ, but also in the US and UK. To reflect that, I chose to  include screen grabs of press from NZ outlets (Stuff, Screenz and NewsWire) and contrast that with the international press (FilmDebate, Daily Dead, Hellnotes, Movie-Blogger, Horror Society). In a glance, whether it’s on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter people can see that good things are happening for the series, not just in their native New Zealand, but also overseas.

Acknowledge all of your press coverage: one thing I see people doing time and again is only mentioning their press coverage if they secure coverage with a ‘big’ media outlet. Of course, it’s fine to let the world know about this, but don’t forget the other outlets who have taken the time to review or feature your film. Yes, it’s exciting to be featured on Buzzfeed or Variety, but there are so many film websites, podcasts and blogs out there who have contributors who work tirelessly to provide interesting content for their audiences that also deserve acknowledgement. And if they have taken the time to review your film or write a feature, they definitely need to be acknowledged! I like Gary Vaynerchuk’s take on it (emphasis my own):

“I’ve been on Conan. Ellen. The Today Show. But I also did a thousand interviews that got one or nineteen or 137 views on YouTube. Max. Why did I do blog posts for so long that only had six readers? Why do I guest on shows with a smaller audience base than my own? Because I’m all about depth over width. I want to go deeper with my community. I want to give back to people who support me.

You can watch Gary’s video HERE.

Have an ‘In The Media’ section on your website: another way to make the most of your press coverage is by including links to features, news and reviews on your website. This also has an administrative benefit for you: by putting your press coverage on the website, you see at a glance which media outlets were responsive to your press requests, so you can make them first priority when you do media outreach for your next project. While I absolutely suggest keeping a media database for each project (which is what we do here), this gives you a quick scan of media outlets to contact first.

Post your coverage on social media: this is a no-brainer, but it needs to be mentioned because sometimes in the hubbub of post-production through to release it can be something that is an afterthought. When you post a review or feature, chances are that contributor or media outlet will also repost your content, thus amplifying the signal. It’s also a great way to say thank you to the people who have given your film coverage and show your gratitude for their feature or review. Gratitude is a powerful thing, and by showing gratitude and acknowledging your press mentions you are building a relationship with that media outlet that is mutually beneficial.

These small steps can have a powerful impact when it comes to audience building, so why not implement them the next time you have press coverage for your film?

 

Handy Resources for Indie Filmmakers

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Following the success of our blog post featuring PR and digital marketing resources for indie filmmakers, we’re back with even more general resources! These are things that are too good not to share. After all, it’s all about working smarter, not harder. Here’s some resources we stumbled across recently that we think you’ll like:

Distribution expert Peter Broderick recently taught a masterclass about the New World of Film Distribution at NZ’s Big Screen Symposium 2017, and it was hugely informative. Thankfully, you don’t have to have attended the session to make the most of his information- check out his post on the New World of Film Distribution HERE.

Want to know what types of low budget films break out? film industry Stephen Follows and Founder of The Numbers, Bruce Nash, bring you a comprehensive report that is well worth reading.

For people in the NZ film industry, ScreenSpace is a free website which acts as a classified ads service for people in the industry. Hire/sell equipment and services, post jobs (crew jobs, acting, etc), and more.

Jonathan and Kieran, the creators of ScreenSpace say: “After always struggling to find either a location, cast member, crew member or piece of gear on every shoot we’ve had, we decided to start ScreenSpace to make it easier for New Zealand filmmakers to connect and collaborate – sharing both their resources and expertise. A service by filmmakers for filmmakers to find what they want, when they need it, and for a reasonable price.”

Another excellent resource for NZ filmmakers is Showtools, a cloud-based production system which makes the production process easier. Better yet, Showtools has easy pay-as-you go pricing…and short films are FREE. Keep track of work hours, crew and rentals, and share product information with everyone easily. It’s a smart, affordable resource to make your film production less stressful and more streamlined.

Whether you’re keen to enter your film into a festival, or need to know how the screening dates of prominent festivals could affect your release and/or the publication schedules for film media, check out this handy guide to key festivals and markets.

And finally- some shaaaaaaaaaameless self-promotion: at Film Sprites PR we’re currently taking on films (short and feature-length) for publicity and digital marketing in 2018. The best time to chat with us about PR and social media marketing for your film next year is right now in order to secure our services. From copywriting for your website and IMDb profile, right through to sourcing media placements (features/reviews/interviews) and social media marketing, we do it all. For the past 3.5 years we’ve provided 25+ filmmakers and their films publicity and digital marketing, and because we focus on independent film we know the media landscape and market for indie films. For more info, download our services pamphlet HERE.

Happy filmmaking, folks!

 

Why There’s No Such Thing As A Wasted Opportunity

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Many years ago, I trained to be a primary school teacher*. I was fresh out of high school, the world was big and uncertain and I chose to go to Teacher’s College. On the first day in our first class, our lecturer got us to introduce ourselves to one another. There were so many bright, bubbly people who were excited to be undertaking the journey. Some had waited their entire lives to become a teacher.

And…then there was me.

I couldn’t tell you why I wanted to be a teacher. I think partly it was parental pressure, partly trying to suppress my real desire to work in the film industry. So I persisted with this path for 3 years. I did well with the academic work, my teaching placements also went well. I was one teaching placement and a university paper away from graduating when I decided that this really wasn’t for me.

I felt like a complete and utter failure. My parents were supportive of my decision to leave, but I knew they were disappointed as well. In hindsight, it was the right thing to do- schools need teachers who are 100% passionate about what they do and can instill that into their teaching. The classmates I had whose eyes lit up on the first day and had wanted to teach from a very young age were exactly what the education system desperately needed (and subsequently they have gone on to have very successful teaching careers).

But what at first seemed like a complete loss was actually a gift. I may not have gained my teaching degree, but along the way I gained valuable skills which transferred over into everything I did subsequently. Even now, the skills I gained all those years ago are appropriate for the work I do in publicity. There’s not a lot of difference between the research, planning, implementation and review of a lesson plan and the research, planning, implementation and review of a publicity campaign. Teaching taught me how to be adaptable, to manage my time effectively and work with a wide range of people. Better yet, when I did a Bachelor of Arts a few years later I was able to cross-credit some of my teaching courses over into my BA and ended up completing my degree in 2.5 years instead of 3.

I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a wasted opportunity. Even in your bitterest disappointments, you’ll find a diamond in the ashes. You might have to wait a while to find that diamond (because let’s face it- disappointments are awful and you might ruminate for a while), but it’s there. If you’re in the indie film industry, you’ll know that sometimes productions fall through, you might not get the role, or locations that were initially viable at the start of production are taken off the table suddenly. None of this is a waste of time. A production that stalls or doesn’t go through to post is valuable experience. The role you didn’t get gave you the opportunity to audition and put yourself in front of an agent and director and put yourself on their radar for future projects. The location you had your heart set on that was made unavailable may open the way for a better location.

A few years ago I spoke to a filmmaker whose short was crowdfunding on Kickstarter. With Kickstarter, it’s a case of “all or nothing” for funding, and the campaign didn’t look like it was going to reach 100%. The filmmaker was incredibly positive about things. “OK, we’re not going to get the funding. That’s fine,” he said to me, “but having our crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter meant we were able to gain positive awareness around our campaign, so we’ve got a solid grounding for the next steps”.  He subsequently used the data from the campaign to look at what worked, what didn’t and what they could do in the future to ensure they had a successful campaign.

Currently, I am transitioning from working for myself to potentially joining a new PR team and that has meant sending out a lot of applications and getting in touch with agencies. I’m not worried about rejections, because connecting with agencies is another opportunity to network, and at the very least they are aware of me and what I have been doing as a freelancer. I chose to look at this undertaking as being a positive one, no matter what. Eventually, there will be the right position and it may come from somewhere completely unexpected. You can never underestimate the power of networking- there are times when someone will know of another person who is looking for exactly the skillset you possess and can put you in touch.

So if you receive a rejection e-mail, you don’t get a callback or things go kaput on a production- find the gift in it. There’s always some experience or skill you have gained during the process that can be of use later on, you just have to find it.

*= for those of you who are American, primary school is the equivalent of elementary school.

The One Thing We Need to STOP Doing on Social Media

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Earlier this week I logged into my e-mail to see a message from an acquaintance. We’d been connected via Facebook. Upon opening the message, all I see is a banner for his film. There’s no salutation, no explanation…just the banner. Curious, I emailed him back to ask why he had sent it to me.

“Well, I know you’re interested in social media so I e-mailed it to  you for your awareness”.

Awareness achieved…albeit negatively. Perhaps if he had told me more about the film and what he wanted to achieve by sending the picture, I might have been more receptive.

The one thing we need to STOP doing on social media is treating people like receptacles for links.

 

Regardless of whether it’s messaging your IMDb link to someone without context, or using a third-party provider to send an auto DM to your followers when they follow you, we need to get back to having the ‘social’ in ‘social media’. Recently on the blog I mentioned that we need to work smarter, not harder when it comes to social media- especially when you’re trying to gain awareness for your film. No matter what industry you are in, forging strong connections with people in your network is key. Think I’m wrong? Watch Joe Wilson’s video on Film Courage about actors spamming people on Twitter (note: contains swearing).

Imagine you’re at a conference and there’s a networking cocktail hour. People are milling about, catching up and talking about the day’s events. And then there’s you- you have a billion sheets of paper that only have the link to your film’s crowdfunding campaign on them. Instead of organically networking and getting to know people, you throw the paper up in the air and hope that as it falls, people take notice. That’s what social media can feel like at times, instead of being a conversation. One of the advantages that independent and micro-budget filmmakers have is that they have the ability to make the most of social media. Big blockbusters have PR departments, directors may have their own social media accounts but their engagement can be few and far between, depending on scheduling and whether or not they have someone else managing their personal social media feeds or not. With indies and micro-budgets, most of the time it’s you on the other end of the conversation. So instead of thrusting links upon people…engage with your followers. After all, one of the most important parameters of digital marketing is engagement. You can have all the followers you could possibly want, but if engagement levels are low, it’s not good. That’s how you can tell if someone has bought social media followers: the engagement levels don’t correlate with follower numbers.

Additionally, if you are approaching someone to assist you in any way, be it via e-mail or a social media message, approach them as if you were to approach anyone you’d like assistance from outside of social media. Sending a picture with the hopes it gets shared (and sans message) doesn’t cut it. It just doesn’t. Does that mean I’m not guilty of these social media sins? Not at all! I put my hand on my heart and say that as I was learning and growing, I committed some pretty gnarly social media and publicity sins. Everything is a learning process.

Another way of gaining awareness around your project is to help other people out. Take competition out of the equation, especially if you are an indie filmmaker. You’re not scrambling for those box office dollars (not yet, anyway!). If someone is looking for equipment to hire for a weekend shoot, share their info or point them in the right direction. If you know two people who could benefit from meeting one another and networking, introduce them. Being a connector is a great way of not only assisting others with their goals, it’s great karma. Plus, there will come a time when someone thinks of you when it comes to an opportunity, and will gladly connect you to the right person.

And yes, I’m counting myself as a recipient of this blog post, and as needing this message too. At times, I have been guilty of treating people like link receptacles as well. It’s all part of the human experience. So, from now on, let’s make even more of a concerted effort to really connect with the people who have chosen to follow/like us online. Deal? Deal.

 

The Indie Filmmaker’s PR and Digital Marketing Toolkit

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Over the years at Film Sprites PR, we’ve amassed a mountain of really useful resources for independent filmmakers; everything from graphic design lifesavers for your social media graphics, through to inexpensive (or free) ways to advertise your independent film to your audience. They’re all things we’ve been recommending to our clients, and now I want to share them with you. They’re not huge trade secrets- just things that we personally rave about and things that work.

In addition to these resources, we’re also including a ‘sanity saving’ section, additional books to add to your reading list, as well as some inspirational resources to help keep your momentum up. Let’s face it- every bit helps when you’re working hard for your dreams.

Advertising/Promotion

While social media and organic publicity is great, sometimes it’s a good idea to reach out to places that can do paid or unpaid promotion, or provide advertising space. If you’ve got a horror film to promote, we thoroughly recommend PromoteHorror.com. They have a range of options with minimal pricing, but they also provide free services, like the posting of press releases (and they’re exceptionally prompt about it!). Popcorn Horror also has advertising packages available. Also, whether you have a short, a feature or a webseries, our media partner FilmDebate has a FREE promotion section. Click HERE to read all the details.

And, hey- I’m going to be cheeky and shamelessly self-promote. Here at Film Sprites PR we offer publicity and digital marketing services to independent filmmakers; from crowdfunding campaign promotion and support through to securing media placements (reviews, interviews, features), and social media marketing (both feature and short films). We can also provide copywriting services for websites and IMDb biographies. Get in touch with us to see how we can assist you. Email us at: thefilmsprites@gmail.com.

Additional Good Reads for Filmmakers

You may have seen our recent post about great reads for filmmakers, but since then I’ve found more reads that need to be added to the list! Firstly, Dean Silvers’ book, Secrets of Breaking into the Film & TV Business is a great read. Just like Julia Verdin and Matt Dean’s Success in Film, Dean breaks down every step of film production, financing and promotion. It’s not only useful, it’s genuinely enjoyable to read. If you have an interest in film marketing (both indie and mainstream), Film Marketing into the Twenty-First Century is a great read. A series of academic articles, it looks at different topics within the film marketing sphere, so you may choose to read the entire book or just focus on topics that interest you. There’s an excellent piece about international voice casting and subsequent publicity for the Ice Age franchise, as well as publicity around the high frame rate of the Hobbit trilogy.

Our “Cheat Sheet” Posts

As you may know, we’ve been providing “cheat sheet” blog posts which cover the ins and outs of indie film publicity and digital marketing. Here’s a list of posts that can assist you at various stages of production:

Crowdfunding: notes on looking after yourself during your crowdfunding campaign can be found HERE. We also show you how to harness Twitter for your film’s crowdfunding campaign. And what about after your crowdfunding campaign? We show you how to maintain connection with your contributors post-campaign as well.

Publicity and Digital Marketing Timelines: our most popular post gave a handy timeline for generating publicity and social media coverage for indie films, which you can read HERE. We’ve also broken that timeline down even further and with more information in our post about publicity prep in pre-production and filming, and publicity prep from post-production to release.

Social Media: we gave you the lowdown on the most annoying things you can do when promoting your film via social media, as well as giving you some handy alternatives. We also answered the questions we’re most frequently asked by filmmakers.

Pitching to Media Outlets: There will come a time when, if you have to do most of the heavy lifting on your indie film yourself, you will need to pitch to media outlets to secure reviews, interviews or features. We’ve got you covered when it comes to this process! We give you a breakdown of  identifying what’s newsworthy about your film to make it even more appealing to media outlets.

Sanity Saving Resources

Sometimes things can feel impossible, the pressures insurmountable…or sometimes things are just plain awful. It’s a good time to seek out some inspiration! TED talks can be incredibly uplifting. Check out these great talks by J.J. Abrams, Jeff Skoll, and Deborah Scranton. The incredible Marie Forleo and her interviews with creatives and entrepreneurs like Seth Godin, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Tony Robbins (just to name a few).

Hopefully there’s something for everyone in this list of resources. Happy filmmaking!

 

The Most Annoying Things You Can Do When Using Social Media For Your Film

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Social media is an incredible tool to help connect you to your film’s audience. But there are great ways of using it, and other social media habits that are…not so great. Those habits can annoy your followers, or at the very worst, get you blocked. There’s one thing I know unequivocally- nobody sets out to be annoying on social media (unless they’re trolls), so here I’m highlighting some of the habits that are seen as common irritants, and giving you solutions. It’s about working smarter, not harder and seeing the results.

And let me tell you, when I started out I did many of these things! It’s true! I don’t consider myself some sort of social media guru, but I have seen what works and what doesn’t through trial, error and evaluation, so I’m passing on what I’ve learned to you. So, what are the most annoying things you can do when promoting your film on social media?

Spamming everyone (not just your followers) on Twitter: imagine you’re sitting in a hotel room by yourself, and you hear a knock on the door. Upon answering it, someone is standing in front of you and says: “help make it happen for….” and then promptly leaves. As you close the door, you hear the same person knocking on every other motel room door and saying the same thing. This is what it’s like when you tweet everyone the link to your film or campaign individually. Not only is it time consuming, it means that your followers can see each tweet you send out with the link to every other follower! At best they will mute you from their timeline, at worst they will block you, so for the sake of sending out the same cut and paste tweet to each individual follower, you’ve lost people.What can amp the annoyance factor up even more is if you tweet your link randomly to someone you’re not even following! I have lost count the amount of times people who are not following Sprites on Twitter have tweeted a link at us (along with a bunch of other people they’re not following, in the hopes of a re-tweet)

A better idea: as I said above, it’s about working smarter, not harder! For all the time you’ve spent copy and pasting and tweeting to each individual follower, you could be spending time engaging with your followers, tweeting out fantastic content about your film or finding additional content to post that will be of interest to your audience. People share great content- so make sure you’re maximising your time on social media by creating that great content. And if you’re crowdfunding your film, check out our guide to maximising Twitter for your crowdfunding campaign for more hints and tips.

Inappropriate hashtags:  hashtags are exceptionally useful, both for people searching for things via certain hashtags, or for people wanting followers to find their content. However, when you’re using inappropriate hashtags for your content, it can end up being a PR disaster waiting to happen. And by ‘inappropriate’ I’m not talking about offensive or rude, I mean the use of hashtags that have no relevance to the content but are there to try and capture the current trends. I’ll use Twitter again for my example: you’re promoting your new short film, but using the hashtags that are trending that day. This can backfire spectacularly, especially if you’re using a hashtag regarding a tragic current event (yes, I have seen this happen).

A better way: if you’re an indie filmmaker (webseries, film or both), the hashtag #SupportIndieFilm is particularly effective, especially for Twitter. Not only does it connect you with indie film fans, it also connects you with other indie filmmakers, and can assist you with networking. A great account to follow on Twitter is FirstGlance Film, the absolute champions of independent film on Twitter (full disclosure- we’re one of their media supporters). In terms of great hashtags for Twitter and Instagram, think about the audience for your film, and then the genres and sub-genres your film belongs to. Experiment, look at your analytics and see what works effectively.

The follow/unfollow tactic: I have to admit, this is the one that annoys me. There are some people who will follow you on Twitter or Instagram, and if you don’t follow back, they’ll unfollow, only to surface again down the track and will follow you again in the hopes that you’ve forgotten about their follow/unfollow!

A better way: people will follow and unfollow who they want to. You can’t beat people over the head with a stick to get them to do what you want on social media. You just can’t. When people use the follow/unfollow tactic, it tells people that they actually don’t care that much about your content, they just want to rack up follower numbers. You should be focusing on quality, not quantity. Follow the people you genuinely want to follow, especially if they have content you love sharing with your followers.

And, related to this point:

Buying followers: No. No. No. NO. Again, it’s quality over quantity. Would you prefer 100 engaged followers who share your content, connect with you and support your film, or 1000 who do nothing? It’s a practice you don’t want to have anything to do with, especially if overnight you suspiciously have a huge amount of followers and minimal engagement. That doesn’t mean people don’t end up with a massive amount of followers and likers overnight (especially if something goes viral, is mentioned in the news or is recommended by someone with a huge following), but it does tend to look very suspicious.

A better way: building up an audience and a following takes time. There’s no magic pill for it, except genuinely connecting with your audience on a regular basis. But building up that audience means that you will have followers/likers who have supported you from day one- isn’t that inspiring? You are inspiring- never forget that! And yes, being in publicity and social media marketing means I can put a quantifiable number on certain aspects of audience engagement, etcetera…but you can’t put a number on inspiration, or on the young person still in high school who avidly follows you and is inspired by your work to become a filmmaker themselves. One of the other things that I think a lot of people tend to do is see the numbers as a reflection of who they are, but it really isn’t. Maybe that sounds a bit woo-woo, but when you’re creating anything and working towards a goal, sometimes it’s easy to see those pesky numbers as a reflection of your self worth. Trust me- I’ve been there! But you and I both know you’re more than the numbers. Don’t sweat it, grow that following organically and over time and your work will be seen, appreciated and shared.