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 I Built Film Sprites PR

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If you want to find out how to make triple digits in a year….this is not the right post for you.

Similarly, if you’re looking for juicy stories about red carpets and celebrity encounters…this is also not the right post for you.

So, why should I bother reading?, you might say. Well, if you want to gain some insight on chasing your dreams, being of service to a community you’re passionate about, and how to thrive (and not just survive) after disaster and loss…this is definitely for you. If you got up this morning, feeling hopeless about a cherished dream and stumbled across this post, then perhaps this is for you. In fact, when I first started I wish I had someone who could give me insight into their path and perhaps inspire me to pursue my dreams further. Maybe I can do that for you.

Auspicious beginnings

Film has been my great love for as long as I can remember. When I was very young, I recall my first trip to the cinema with my Mum to see Labyrinth on the big screen. I remember the colour and pattern of the cinema complex’s carpet, the other film posters on the walls (films like Blind Date and Masters of the Universe were playing), the smell of popcorn, Fizzy Fruits and Jaffas…and the magic on the screen. Growing up, I could remember every film I went to with friends, every film I saw at slumber parties and the classic films that made a huge impression on me. It was an illicit viewing of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting as a teenager that really cemented my passion for films, however. I began to seek out films that went above and beyond the traditional blockbuster fare, immersing myself in Kubrick, Bergman, and following Quentin Tarantino’s then-blossoming career. There had been the odd thought about working in the film industry when I was older…but I dismissed it as easily as you’d flick a fly away from your face. People I knew didn’t work in the film industry. They picked a trade or got a Bachelor’s, they went to nursing school or teacher’s college. I had considered working in PR, however- I had been writing and submitting manuscripts to publishers from the age of 11 (yes really!), and was a freelance journalist at the age of 17 while still in school. I wrote articles for the Christchurch Press’s now defunct youth interests page.

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One of my articles for the Christchurch Press’s YOUth page (now defunct)

Unfortunately, a very severe bout of glandular fever with complications meant that by the time I left school I didn’t have the energy to pursue a definite career path straight away, and when I did I chose teaching. I should have known that that wasn’t the right path for me, because every Thursday when I didn’t have any classes or lectures in the afternoons I would sneak away and watch a film at the local cinema. I know a lot of people don’t like the idea of going to the movies alone, but I loved it. You block the rest of the world out. You become one with the screen. Nothing else matters.

Crisis Point

I didn’t finish my teaching degree, and ended up aimlessly working through my 20s in various roles, including retail and administration. But 2011 would dramatically change everything. The old would be swept away whether I liked it or not. I didn’t think a natural disaster could have such a dramatic impact on my life…but it did.

Christchurch Earthquake Building

We’d had an earthquake in September of 2010 and while it was large in magnitude, Christchurch managed to try and get back to normal as soon as possible. We had a huge amount of aftershocks, something which is unnerving and deeply unsettling, but we didn’t think it could get any worse than that. February 22, 2011 proved us wrong.

I was one of the fortunate ones- my friends and family all came out unscathed, and while we had to boil water that came to us from milk tankers for a week or so, we had power. My flat was structurally sound, my parents were fine and we even celebrated my partner’s birthday 5 days after the quake with a small chocolate mud cake we managed to source from a local supermarket. But I didn’t come out completely unscathed. I was a wreck. I lost hope. I grieved for the people who had lost their lives…and I grieved for the city I had grown up in. Things got very, very dark.

The Muses to the Rescue

It’s a very strange feeling to grow up in a place that seems to change gradually over time and then have everything seemingly change overnight. For months after the quake I struggled seeing landmarks and places I’d known by heart suddenly disappear. Huge swathes of land in the central city and in the suburb where I grew up suddenly became a blank canvas. You would have clusters of particularly violent aftershocks that would have you at your wit’s end. I stayed with a friend up north for a week and one day her dog bumped the chair I was sitting in and immediately my nervous system registered it as an aftershock. They thought it was hilarious. I didn’t. I stopped going to the cinema, which was a really bad sign for me. It wasn’t that I was afraid that a bad aftershock might happen….I just didn’t have the strength and energy.

But then a limited screening happened that tempted me out of my house and into the cinema….and something clicked. The muses of cinema poked and prodded at me, and I for the first time in what seemed like forever I felt like I was stirring from a slumber. I was so inspired that by the time I left the screening I couldn’t speak. I didn’t want to speak. It felt like such a sacred moment that words would feel dirty at that moment. I knew I had to make a change. I had waited too long to really, truly live my life and achieve my dreams. This was it- there was no turning back.

Thank You, Amanda Palmer

There’s a brand of cheese here in New Zealand whose tagline in their commercials is ‘Good Things Take Time’, and that’s exactly what happened with my career. I had gotten a Bachelor of Arts in my mid-twenties, but I pursued a Certificate in Public Relations and Business Communications as well. While I was studying, I began to network with filmmakers around the world and build up my social media network. I figured, hey- it’ll be easy getting a film job…right? Not quite. After asking for advice, a few closed doors and not really knowing where the heck I was going, something happened that I didn’t expect.

It was April 17, 2014. That morning, I had stumbled across Amanda Palmer’s TED talk on The Art of Asking. Another truth bomb, another flash of inspiration…but I didn’t do anything with that inspiration immediately. Prior to this, I think I expected the Universe to do the heavy lifting for me. I’d actually missed out on a really huge opportunity in 2013 but I was 2 weeks too early for it (my intuition kept telling me on the day I was due to fly to Wellington and it was snowing that I should re-schedule my flight for 2 weeks’ time, but did I listen? Noooo!). I went about my day, doing rather mundane things but a little voice inside me kept saying: “ASK.” Ask? Ask for what? Ask who? It then suddenly became clear to me- I have built up a reasonable following on Twitter, primarily within the film community…why don’t I just ask if they want publicity and digital marketing help? So I did.

At the end of the day I had my first 3 clients.

By the end of that weekend I had 6.

By the end of April I had 12.

And Film Sprites PR was born.

Of course, here’s the caveat: don’t do what I did! Or, if you do, make sure you have the things I didn’t have when I started; things like seed money, a clear brand with a clear message and a great website. I ended up having to cobble things together and pick up things I had no clue about, like SEO, because I didn’t have the money to outsource. I learned website design. I learned graphic design basics. I began to build up a fully fleshed-out and realised brand. Even though it was a messy start, I don’t regret that at all. It makes for a cute story, but also I look back at what I didn’t know then and compare it to what I know now and I’m proud of my progress. Film Sprites PR has assisted over 25 filmmakers in NZ, the US, UK, Canada and Australia with publicity, digital marketing and crowdfunding campaign assistance. Sprites has worked with filmmakers whose portfolios have included films that have starred the likes of Norman Reedus, David Carradine, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Claire Foy. Most importantly to me, Sprites has helped to connect filmmakers to their audiences and helped them create a strong brand around their filmmaking.

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Some of Film Sprites PR’s past and present clients

The Future….

Believe it or not, I never actually wanted to work for myself. It’s true! I had always thought about building up my skills and expertise and a strong portfolio and eventually take on a role with a distributor or studio. That’s still something I’m aiming for, and something I would like to happen in the future. But for now, I’m really excited about what’s happening and what the future holds, both for me and for the filmmakers I’m honoured to work with.

If there’s anything you can take away from my story, I hope it’s this: following your heart and honouring your truth are vital. There are so many things the world can take away from us physically, emotionally or mentally, but your truth is something that can never be denied within you. You don’t have to do something as dramatic as starting a business, but you can start your own personal revolution right now. Don’t wait.

 

 

 

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.