When’s The Best Time to Grow Your Film’s Audience?

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A few weeks ago I was up in Auckland to catch up with clients and film industry acquaintances. One afternoon, I was chatting with an acquaintance who has been in the film industry here in NZ for many years. We were discussing the best time to grow your audience for your film via publicity and social media. The consensus? Pre-production.

Yes, really! Pre-production is the best time to start to grow your audience. Mainstream releases and tentpole films generally have the benefit of being able to secure coverage and have a built-in audience due to things like the cast, a known director, being part of a franchise, and more. It can be a lot harder for indie films and filmmakers to receive that sort of coverage…but it’s not impossible. It just takes a bit of strategic planning early on in production.

So why start building your audience in pre-production?:

  • You will cultivate a following that wants to support you every step of the way: this can be particularly beneficial if you’re looking to crowdfund during production or in post.
  • Your intended audience will have more awareness of your film on release: imagine having a dedicated following and fan base ready and waiting to see your film and media outlets who are more likely to provide coverage and/or review your film because they’re aware of your film prior to release. That’s powerful stuff!

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So, how do you go about building your audience in pre-production?

Make sure you have your social media accounts and website established: if you have a production company website and social media accounts already set up and with a large following, you may want to retain that instead of setting up separate accounts, especially if you are building your audience for a short film or have a slate of films in the works. Check out our post on the most frequently asked questions about social media for filmmakers for more hints and tips.

Crowdfunded in pre-production? Capitalize on campaign updates: the great thing about crowdfunding platforms is that they provide you with the opportunity to raise funds for your project, but also help you to build an audience at the same time. The campaign updates function on your campaign page should not be forgotten after your campaign! You can find out about maintaining contributor connection after a crowdfunding campaign here.

Establish a mailing list: invite people to subscribe to your mailing list via your website or a call to action on social media. Provide content like production updates, competitions, and cut-and-paste sample tweets or Facebook posts that can be used by fans when you’re getting ready to launch!

Reward your fans: some of the most passionate, dedicated fans are the ones who follow your entire journey, so why not reward them? Think about having a ‘Fan of the Week’ post on social media, share fan art, have competitions for signed merch, and more. Your imagination is the limit here!

Start building relationships with journalists and media outlets: get to know the journalists and media outlets that you would like to secure coverage from when you’re ready to release your film. Follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook, interact with them and share content from them that is relevant to your audience. Never underestimate the power of a great connection with media and journalists.

Building your audience in pre-production may sound daunting. After all, you’ve got so much else to juggle! But think of it as an investment in your film that will return to you right when you want it.

Things I Wish I’d Done Differently When I Began My Film PR Career

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I turn 37 on Friday.

I’m completely fine with ageing- in fact, I relish it. I think my life has opened up in exciting new ways from the time I turned 30 and I can’t wait to see what my life will look and feel like by the time I reach 40.

Of course, with the dawning of a new natal year comes a time of reflection, and recently I’ve been thinking about when I started my film PR career in 2013 (with Film Sprites PR being born in 2014). There’s definitely a few things I wish I’d done differently. I don’t regret pursuing my career in a different manner, but there are some ‘tweaks’ I would have made earlier on that I believe might have made a difference.

So, why am I talking about this, and what are the implications for you, dear reader?

Perhaps you’ll gain some insight into your own goal-setting and career path. If you want a little bit more information about pathways to a job in publicity and digital marketing that are a bit more pain-free than the way I started, you can read about them in a recent guest post I did for We Make Movies on Weekends.

I’m also talking about this because so often on the Internet and on social media we see a very sanitized, edited version of people’s lives. We’ve seen an influx of beauty products touted to help you achieve a perfect selfie (including colour correcting concealer and tooth whitening pens)! I always talk about authenticity in social media, and here I am, pondering the past and bringing to light the messier, muckier aspects. It’s a crash course in not doing what I did! So what do I wish I’d done differently?

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I regret not having a business plan: when I started in publicity, I was working as a freelancer under my own name. I didn’t have a goal to start a PR consultancy…I just wanted to be head-hunted. But fate had different ideas, and when I popped on Twitter on April 17th of 2014 to ask if filmmakers were looking for publicity and digital marketing assistance, the influx of requests took me aback. I literally had to work backwards! I didn’t have any seed money, my branding was very quickly knocked out on Canva in about 5 minutes, and I definitely did not have a business plan.

By the time I met with a business mentor in 2016 to ask about drawing up a business plan, however, he looked at my website and branding (which by now were up to standard) and went; “you need a business plan…why?”

I still wish I’d had it. Back in 2014 I was flying by the seat of my pants which only worked for a small amount of time before I had to go back to the drawing board again.

And again.

And again.

Even if you’re not going to be setting up your own business, I thoroughly recommend sketching out your long, medium and short-term goals. I knew what I wanted, I also knew what I wanted to provide in my role as a publicist, but I couldn’t articulate it- never a good thing when you work in an industry which requires clear communication!

I regret not attending networking events sooner: the beauty of working at home is that, well, you work from home. If you’re an introvert, you have the ease of not having to stick your neck out. But that can also be detrimental. Although I had spent from July of 2013 right up to the day I asked if people wanted my services constantly networking online, doing online networking still can’t fully replace networking with your colleagues and peers face-to-face. Thankfully now I enjoy networking events and the chance to meet people in various industry roles. If, like me, you’re an introvert you might want to check out a recent post I did about self-promotion and networking. These are strategies I’ve found that work very well.

I would have learned how to set up my website earlier than I did: initially, I started with a WordPress blog. Although it was rudimentary,  it did the job…at least for the first few months. Eventually the blog morphed into this website, with a blog attached. But that would happen a year and a half into working at Sprites. That’s a long time when you consider that a website is one of the places people come to to ascertain whether you’re a suitable fit for their services or not.

There are times when I didn’t listen to my gut…and I definitely learned the hard way: your intuition is an incredible tool. It’s that voice and feeling inside that tells you when things are going well…and when they’re not. My intuition tends to be very highly tuned now. If something is amiss, I have an internal GPS that feels like a guitar string snapping. When things are going well or I get an intuitive nudge in the right direction, it’s all tickety boo. But there have been times when I haven’t listened to my intuition to my detriment.

I definitely find that meditation and mindfulness practices really help to fine-tune your intuition.

What advice would I give to my younger self, and to anyone chasing their dreams? Believe in yourself. First and foremost, you have to have the grit and determination to see things through. Sometimes a goal can be a very lonely thing- people may not understand what you’re doing, you may have to go it alone for a very long time. So it’s imperative that when all the doors seem closed and you feel like you’re in an echo chamber you truly believe in yourself and your capabilities. The more you believe in yourself, the more willing you are to prove yourself to the world. The more willing you are to prove yourself to the world, the more people will see what you can do. It’s a snowball effect. Never give up, never give in.

 

Making Your Filmmaking Journey Matter to Your Audience

 

making your filmmaking journey matter to your audience

Recently, I was pleased to see that The Power of Myth was added to Netflix NZ/Aus. This PBS series featuring Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers is truly powerful stuff. You may be familiar with Campbell’s Hero’s Journey template. You may have even found yourself utilizing it if you are a filmmaker. It’s a reminder of the commonality of themes and stages in myth and storytelling, as well as in life.

Don’t worry- we’re not going to get deep into Hero’s Journey territory here, but we are going to look at how your own filmmaking journey can inspire your film’s audience, and how to utilize that to great effect.

Our world is a tapestry of complex stories, of narratives and viewpoints. The advent of social media has provided more people with the means to bringing their own personal story to the world. I was in college when the Arab Spring happened. In decades past, uprisings would be told to the world through traditional media, with these events then being relegated to history. But with the Arab Spring people were taking to social media to let the world know what was happening.

At the time I was learning about the political economy of the mass media and the media conglomerates who had shares in media outlets. That landscape was beginning to change in real-time even as I was learning about it. Back then I got the sense that something very important was happening in the way we receive information about the world. People could tell their story in real-time and receive real-time feedback. Obviously, that’s a really broad statement because it doesn’t take into account some of the inequalities faced by people in different areas of the world (financially or due to censorship), but that’s how I saw it at the time.

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As a filmmaker, you know the importance of stories- after all, you’ve had one (or more) play out in front of the camera! Telling the story of your film (behind-the-scenes details, work in progress, etc) is something that can be used with good effect to connect with media and audiences…but sharing your own personal filmmaking journey can also be incredibly powerful and compelling.

Now, I’m not suggesting you share all of your dirty laundry. You don’t have to get that personal. But the hardships, obstacles and sweat equity that goes into any endeavour can be truly inspiring. Pick one successful person in history and look at their story. I can guarantee you it wasn’t smooth sailing the whole way. Just like with the Hero’s Journey, there were tests and stages. I once heard a successful nanotechnologist say that success isn’t a straight line, it’s more a wiggly one. People are inspired by hard work and struggle. After all, Steve Jobs ended up with two biopics for a good reason- his path wasn’t always smooth sailing. He got fired from his own company. He had an incredible phoenix moment with Apple in the late 90s- early 2000s.

So….what’s your story- and how can you utilize it in publicity and social media?

As you know, filmmakers don’t just pop up out of holes in the ground (if they did, that would be weird). They’re not packaged up like dolls that can be unwrapped and liberated from their boxes to create pitch-perfect films every time. It takes work, it takes skill, and it takes dedication to their craft. The same goes with you. You have a story of your filmmaking journey, and now it’s time to share it. Last year, I heard David Michôd (Animal Kingdom, The Rover, War Machine) talk about his films. Animal Kingdom‘s final incarnation was different to the script of 10 years prior. Perhaps you pursued filmmaking because you heard the call after 30 years of doing the same mind-numbing desk job. Perhaps your film was in distribution limbo but you managed to secure a deal thanks to a serendipitous meeting. It’s things like this that can be shared with media and audiences to good effect.

Here’s ways in which you can share your filmmaking journey:

  • If you love to blog, then blog about it! Film fans love unique insights into the filmmaking process and the filmmaker’s journey because it feels intimate and special.
  • Share on social media. Perhaps you have some old photographs from your early filmmaking days, or a snapshot of the first day’s filming of your first film. Nostalgia is fun and accessible.
  • Think about vignettes and insights you can share when you are being interviewed. In my case, when I do interviews or podcasts about the creation of Film Sprites PR I am more than happy to discuss the fact that my career started as a result of being an earthquake survivor and re-building my life to reflect my passion for film and the desire to work in the film industry. You can think about sharing similar (if you’re comfortable with it). Have you struggled with mental illness and are now dedicated to reflecting these struggles in the narratives of your films? Did a beloved childhood film spark your path towards filmmaking?

Your story is just as much a part of your film as the script and the actors in it. Don’t be afraid to share your journey…you never know who you will inspire.

 

Making E-mail Marketing Part of Your Film’s Publicity Strategy

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Back in the late 90’s I created my first e-mail newsletter. It was a film news and reviews newsletter, very basic and in plain text. I gained subscribers through friends and acquaintances. Before long, I had around 300 subscribers- not many in today’s terms, but not bad! I would scour the Internet for film news, do reviews of favourite films, and so on. When I look back, it was sort of a foreshadowing of what I do now!

E-mail marketing has thankfully come a long way from my rudimentary attempt in the 1990s, and it’s something that can be extremely useful for connecting with your audience as an independent filmmaker. It can also be integrated into your film’s publicity strategy in some very fun ways.

If you’ve had the experience of crowdfunding before, you’ll know that many of the various crowdfunding platforms provide a space for updates. When you post an update on your crowdfunding page, it’s also e-mailed to donors who contributed to your campaign. E-mail marketing is not all that different to providing those updates on your crowdfunding page. If you haven’t had the experience of providing updates to crowdfunding donors- no worries! E-mail marketing is easy, it can be incredibly fun and is a great asset to have as part of your film’s publicity strategy.

Where do I start?

It’s a good idea to pick an email marketing platform, like Sendlane or Mailchimp. I don’t recommend just sending out e-mails from your e-mail account as people won’t have the option to opt out of receiving your e-mails unless they e-mail you back. Email marketing platforms generally have the option of a free account provided you have under a certain amount of subscribers which is perfect for when you’re just starting out.

In order to grow your subscribers you can create a landing page for your film’s website or share the link to a sign-up form via your social media accounts.

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What about content?

When it comes to the content of your newsletter, the choices are endless! Here’s a few ideas:

  • Provide subscriber-only exclusives, like behind-the-scenes videos or giveaways (signed film posters, a prop from the film, etc)
  • Update subscribers with the film’s progress via short vlogs that can then be re-purposed via social media at a later date
  • Mobilise your subscribers to spread the word about the film (especially in the lead-up to release) by providing them with digital assets they can use on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These can be housed in a dropbox and subscribers can download them via a link in your newsletter. You can also provide sample tweets they can copy and paste
  • Let people into your filmmaking world: is music particularly important to your process? Share a list of songs or albums that have influenced you. Found resources that you know fellow filmmakers and filmmaking fans would love? Share them!

Experiment. Have fun. See where the mood takes you and what your audience responds to. It’s another way to connect with your audience from production onwards in an intimate and rewarding way.

And speaking of mailing lists….yes, we have one now. Sign up to our mailing list to receive film publicity, social media marketing and crowdfunding hints and tips, exclusive content, and occasional FREE resources. You’ll also be the first to be notified of discounted service rates. You can sign up HERE.

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.

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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!