Engage Your (Film) Audience
I’ll be speaking tonight at Projecting Change through Social Media (Club), an informational session for the Projecting Change Film Festival. Stephanie Michelle Scott (my Twitter Workshop/Twitter Parlour partner) and I are conducting sessions on Twitter – however, since we are both passionate about film and have a film backgrounds we’ll also discuss some tips/examples with regards to social media for film in general.
Here are some of my thoughts.
Promotion (is a part of your production)
- Find Your Audience Early. Figure out who your audience will be (you likely already know) and start reaching out early. Start your research ASAP and begin building your audience relationships pre-and during filming.
- Generate and Release Content. Consider what you can put out to create interest during the process. What kinds of material would flesh out your story more (text, video, pics) or give it an added dimension. Remember that your characters had a life before the film too. (In a post on this topic I wrote: “Allowing the character to live in other platforms before the film is released – and whilst the film is being made – gives the character a larger/broader life – and helps with publicity.”
- Twitter can be an additional platform for the story. Perhaps you could take pictures and create a part of the story that goes out only via this medium.
- Get the audience (and others on Twitter) involved via a Twitter chat. If the film is screening on television have people watch and live-tweet or comment (use something like Cover-it-Live)
- Are there characters who were interesting but received little screen time? Can they become more of a part of the story online?
- If there are follow-ups to the non-fictional account you provide in the film, allow the people involved to record a video about what has happened since.
- Targeting and Blogger Outreach. You are best to truly pitch bloggers when you have something to actually show them, content-wise. (As you know, everyone wants to make a film – but few actually end up completing one.) Really contemplate who would be interested in your project – don’t just target the most popular film-related blogs. Remember that your audience isn’t only composed of film fans and people who read movie-themed blogs. If you’re making a documentary about, say, dancers struggling to find work, you might reach out to others who blog about similar struggles. You’ll get more buy-in if you:
- Remember to personalize the pitch as much as possible.
- Target those who might be truly be interested – not just because their blog is of the same general genre as the film. (Meh: “you write a humorous blog and this is a comedy film”. Better: “You write about the craziness of the internet – and that’s what our film is about!”) Note: this takes a fair bit of research – but it might be worth it.
- Consider the blogger’s time. As is frequently mentioned – for most, blogging is a hobby and a labour of love. Watching a trailer might happen. Watching an entire film is less likely.
- Address what’s in it for them. Don’t be smarmy about it – but if there can be something in it for them, let them know. Often this aspect is neglected and the pitch is is basically: “Here’s how you can help us out!” – without addressing why they would want to.
This is a great way to get clips for your film – even if it’s just short clips or vignettes – providing your outreach tactics are effective. A few examples of films that have invited people to submit clips for their productions include:
- “Life in a Day“: Director Kevin MacDonald and Producer Ridley Scott invited creators from all over the world to capture their world in 24hrs on a single day (July 24, 2010) and upload to YouTube. The winning content was then edited into the final film, a Sundance hit. (Watch trailer).
- Of course, not everyone has the clout and reputation of these mainstream directors. But independent productions can also fare well in obtaining crowd submissions. For instance, “Lost Zombies“ received thousands of submissions of “zombie encounters” – far more than anticipated. (They are now in the final submission stage. More information about the project on the Lost Zombie site, on this post and on 4D Fictions post/interview.)
- “DSB the Movie” a film which “tells the story of the Netherland’s DSB Bank NV which was declared bankrupt by court in October, 2009.” All elements of this film were crowdsourced including the film’s logo, producer, scriptwriters, soundtrack, editor, camera, actors, and publicity. (Read about it on David Meerman Scott‘s post – which includes an interview with the director.) Crowdsourcing everything is not something I would recommend doing – but it certainly worked for this production.
For a documentary film, audience-produced content can be particularly compelling since people can submit their own, personal, experiences – and particularly cost-effective since people can be filming anywhere rather than your sending crews to other locations.
Here’s where your social media savvy can really come into play. Filmmakers are now asking people to micro-fund their film – be it by simply asking for funds, offering financers credits in return for cash, or selling products to make some money.
Getting people interested in financing some aspect of your film will be (slightly) easier if you have something to show them. Which is why compiling materials and working on YouTube videos early on about your production will be doubly useful.
Keep in mind – it might take a number of years to get the money you need.
Spanner Films has written a useful guide on how to Crowdfund your film includes the following tidbit:
“If you are planning to make a campaigning film like The Age of Stupid, then you should definitely try to find a way to access the people out there who are already aware of and give a monkeys about the issue you want to highlight. If you can get some campaigners believing in your idea early on then they can be a huge help finding investors. You need to explain clearly why investing in your film is a strategic and cost-effective way to further your cause.”
A few examples of projects being crowdfunded include: “I Am I“, “My Million Dollar Movie” and “Iron Sky” which, writes Ross Dawson, has “four different mechanisms for raising money directly: a store selling merchandise such as T-shirts, a sneak peek of the first minutes of the film for which fans can pay any amount from 1 Euro, Fan Investments for qualified investors and up to 99 individuals in EU and some other countries, and ‘War Bonds‘, which are basically framed certificates.”
There are also many examples of productions (e.g. Paranoid Park, Moderation Town) which cast online (e.g. via YouTube etc.). This can be effective for certain parts, can drum up publicity and can allow you to watch more auditions than you could in a single casting session. (I don’t like the process of seeking votes for submissions – but I’m also speaking from an actor’s perspective.*).
There’s obviously lots more to say on how to leverage social media for film. Please comment below with your suggestions, examples and input.
For further reading, a few posts on the topic are bookmarked here (including some I’ve written).
Entry filed under: artist series, film, Social Marketing, social media. Tags: blogger, blogger outreach, communication, Crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, film, marketing, Me Like the Interweb, Monica Hamburg, online, online marketing, outreach, projecting change, promotion, publicity, social media, tips, Vancouver.