Tag Archives: Sheri Candler

New edition coming soon!

By Sheri Candler

Hello readers! We’re pleased to be back with a follow up to Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul. In the interim since we published the book, we are so thrilled to have read about more and more filmmakers all over the world making proactive decisions about connecting with audiences and getting their work seen. We hope our book played at least a small role in that decision making!

This follow up book is intended to be ebook format only and will available for free from this website as a PDF. We are aiming to release the PDF just prior to the Festival de Cannes in May 2014. Our focus this time around is on productions that originate outside the US. As many of our lucky colleagues know, governmental funding plays a much bigger role in how films are made outside of the US, but those films aren’t going to be our focus either. In keeping with our commitment to highlight those who are making truly independent work, we will be looking at films made outside of any system. These works were self financed, crowdfunded and/or self distributed. As government funding is shrinking worldwide, but self financing and crowdfunded donation is on the rise as a means to bankroll production, we want to share with readers how forward thinking producers are leveraging the power of the internet to fund and distribute their work.

Papadopoulos and Sons

My first case study comes from the UK. It involves a narrative film, Papadopoulos and Sons, that succeeded in reaching a niche audience, despite not starting to connect with them until a few months prior to theatrical distribution. MANY filmmakers can identify with this dilemma! Writer/director Marcus Markou was not unlike the typical filmmaker who believed his main job was to tell a good story on film and a distributor would buy the film and bring it to market. But unlike his European counterparts, Markou self financed his film, so he wasn’t just going to sign over the rights without knowing what would happen financially.

“I had no idea about how the film business worked. I assumed it worked like any other business, but I quickly learned that wasn’t the case. It’s a den of snakes. There are LOTS of games being played. What I know now that I didn’t know then is they want your film for free. Really, there is no intention of paying you anything.

I was trying to work out how people get paid for making their films, and I finally worked out that no other business is funded this way. Our films [in the UK] are mainly funded by tax payers, from various film funds, or through film finance schemes that effectively help wealthy individuals and corporations reduce their taxation on profits by investing in a movie. This money isn’t really the production’s money. In meetings with sales agents, there was the assumption that I would sign a 20 year contract; the agency would take 40% of any sales as well as deductions for their costs. How would any independent film producer or investor in an independent production get their money back outside a tax scheme? Why does anyone sign these terms? Because it’s not their money at risk. Producers receive their fee, the director and everyone involved in making the film gets their fee, which comes from the people investing in the film to reduce their tax bills or from the taxpayer via film funds, so basically who cares if you give the film away for free to a sales agent? I quickly realized this wasn’t going to work for me at all, and I started scrambling around to try something new.”

Markou did finally sign with a sales agent, Maura Ford, who did not insist on the excessive terms on which her colleagues run their businesses. She took the film to the Marché du Film at Cannes to broker deals and she did close a few, but not for the UK. So Markou started his own investigation into how he could self release the film in his home country. His early discussions with Martin Myers of Miracle Communications had him pondering the value of that method.

“I talked with Martin and he said he could probably book it into some Showcase Cinemas all around the UK. And I said, ‘Where are these cinemas?’ He told me places like outside of Salford near Manchester and odd places. I asked what that would do. He said it helps get a DVD deal.  It is known as a service theatrical deal, that’s the phrase. You pay to have your film shown in the theater, no one comes to see it, but the film will get some reviews and that helps encourage interest in a DVD and VOD sale. I told him that this was not what I had in mind. But platforms like Netflix insist on a one week theatrical run before they will consider a film for distribution. You do it to get press and awareness for the film.”

When Myers came back to him with a potential for 10 screens through Cineworld, one of the biggest cinema chains in the UK, it came with a caveat. In order to convince  Cineworld to book the film, they wanted to see some proof that a sufficient marketing effort would be made to drive audiences to the screenings. That’s when Markou devised a marketing plan that would precisely outline how he intended to reach the core audience of his film, get their attention, and get them to the theater. With a small amount of additional funds, he managed not only to do that, but found Papadopoulos and Sons was among the highest per screen average films of its opening weekend and went on to have a 7 week cinema run!

Find out more about how he identified the audience of his film, how much he spent to reach them and what the outcome has been both financially and professionally when the latest edition is released.

 

 

 

Using Pinterest for your Film

Written by Sheri Candler, co author of Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul

This post was originally published on February 21 on Sheri Candler Marketing and Publicity’s blog and republished with additions on the Tribeca Future of Film blog February 27.

I know, collective groan “yet another social network to keep up with?” Seems like there is a new one born every minute and many of them fail to get off the ground. But here is why Pinterest might be a site you should consider using for your production.

-In just one month (December 2011-January 2012), Pinterest saw traffic increase over 155% and over the last 6 months, traffic increased by 4000%. As of this month, they had over 11 million unique visitors to the site and over 10 million registered users from all over the world.

-Statistics show Pinterest drives more referral traffic on the Web than Google+, YouTube, Reddit and LinkedIn combined. The beauty of pinning photos/videos is they link back to websites, thus driving traffic. They are nofollow links, so it doesn’t help with SEO, but any link that drives traffic to a site is good for awareness and conversion.

-Mainly, the site now attracts women in the age range 25-44 who love fashion, home decorating and family related products. As it gains more of a following, this is bound to change. Still, if that is a target demographic for your film…

-Activities are based on images so rather than having to write a lot, you can simply post photo collections and they don’t even have to be your own photos! I think this is the highly attractive thing about Pinterest, in fact I am hearing about Pinterest addiction. Users typically spend 11 minutes on the site each visit. User scanning pictures is a lot more enjoyable than scanning status updates on Facebook clearly. Plus there is no EdgeRank to deal with. Once someone decides to follow your boards, they continually see new additions you make in their stream whenever they log in.

-The key for users doesn’t seem to be gaining followers, but gaining repins meaning they want to have people think what they pin is cool (or hot, or whatever). They strive to be INFLUENCERS and that is exactly the people you want to find and connect with. Because people can follow boards they find interesting, it is possible to have many more followers on your boards than you do on your account profile.

-It integrates with your other social accounts like Facebook and Twitter and hopefully Google Plus is coming. There are embed badge widgets you can install on your website to integrate all of your social channels. Word of caution, at the moment the site only connects to Facebook PROFILES not business or professional pages, so you probably shouldn’t opt to sign in with Facebook if you are using this for your film, just sign in with your email and don’t connect to Facebook. If you want to tie Pinterest to your Twitter account, make sure it is the one you use for your film and when G+ comes online, make sure you have signed up using a gmail account for the production, not for your personal gmail account. However, other users can sign in with their social accounts and things they pin show up in their Facebook or Twitter stream, very handy for word of mouth spread about you and your film.

There is a “scoreboard” of sorts showing how many boards and followers you have over all, as well as followers of only certain boards and repins of your pins. The site also allows you to glean from others what they are interested in. You can start to “listen” to what your potential audience thinks is interesting by viewing what they select to pin. You don’t follow people as much as you follow things, ideas, topics on Pinterest. You can repin something someone else has posted and this can open the door to a conversation. They can do the same with your pins and you are alerted via email when someone does this and it shows under that image on your board. This is an enormous help when you are trying to figure out what to post, what boards to create, what resonates most?  While Facebook is about people and brands, Pinterest is about things and interests. You can only post images or video and some comments and tags in text on your boards.

I only recently started using it for the Joffrey project I am working on which is why all of my boards are devoted to that. Looking at them gives a good idea on the kind of thing you could use it for on your production. In my workshop presentations, I talk about posting regularly on your social channels and not just information directly about your film, but also about the interests of your audience; those who would be a fan of your film and of yourself as an artist. I am using the boards to show Joffrey history through pictures and videos; the ballets they created, the ballets they revived, their alumni dancers, Robert Joffrey through the years as well as photos of the merchandise available to buy through our site. It’s a balance of audience interest and promotion for the film.

I noticed Ted Hope is using his boards to express his personal interests , things and people he admires and wants to draw more attention to, his artistic accomplishments and resources he uses that he thinks would be helpful to his connections. All of these things help in attracting an audience both to his films, but also to his professional life as a producer. His personal tastes are reflected in all of his boards and none are devoted to posting family vacations! The point being, we can get to know Ted as a professional person without his having to reveal too much private information.

Other artists in the indie film space currently starting to use Pinterest are writer/director James Gunn; transmedia educator/artist Christy Dena who uses her boards to showcase ideas about narrative, interactive and game design ideas she has discovered;  filmmaker Erik Proulx has created boards that show his advertising and design background and what he finds inspirational for this. You may remember his short film Lemonade about those who were laid off, particularly in the advertising industry, and found inspiration to reinvent their lives completely. I think Erik is kind of into these inspirational, motivational, life changing stories which is why he is making another film called Lemonade Detroit about a city that is reinventing itself. Filmmaker Gary King uses his boards to show his inspirations, showcase actors and actresses he loves and his career accomplishments. Film blog Film School Rejects uses their boards to keep readers updated on this year’s Oscar contenders, interesting movie posters their readers might like and films they are watching.

Pinterest is just getting started so don’t be alarmed that you have missed the boat. You still have first mover advantage here. You must join by invitation only, but those invitations aren’t difficult to obtain. You can request one on their site.

A word about self promotion

As with any social network, you should be using Pinterest to directly connect with audience on a personal level, not as a one way promotional channel. Use creative ways to showcase your personal identity and vision and use it as a magnet to attract those most interested in what you, as an artist, have to say. You will find your audience is much more willing to stay with you across projects when you are mindful of their interests.Sho us your style, the way you see the world, the way you tell a story, not just “buy my DVD.” Contribute something of value to the community, and they will keep coming back.

Populate your boards before you start trying to add followers. As with any new endeavor online, you need some interesting content first. You wouldn’t promote a website that only has a landing page that says coming soon, so start by thinking through what you want to say about yourself and your work, who are you trying to attract (this could be different types of audiences, which is fine), and analyzing visuals you can use from your own assets. Also, the account can have more than one contributor which is good for sharing the responsibility of board maintenance with your marketing team.

As with anything you do online, track referral traffic coming to your site via Pinterest. If you use Google Analytics, you can find out how to do this here

Pinterest is dead easy to get started on, but if you like tutorials, watch this video.

Pinterest jargon

A Pin-an image added to Pinterest by a registered user

A Pinner-someone who is a registered user of Pinterest

Pinning-the act of sharing an image on Pinterest

A Pinboard-a collection of pins usually categorized around a topic, interest or theme

Repin-sharing some else’s pin on one of your own boards

Pin It Button-a widget badge one can embed on their website to let others know about a Pinterest account. Also a bookmark shortcut one can add to a toolbar to easily pin something  seen online to one a board.

 


“If A Tree Falls In The Forest” and other ruminations on social/community-based marketing…

by Jeffrey Winter, Sheri Candler, and Orly Ravid

The old philosophical thought experiment “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” (http://bit.ly/aCx5Eq) has never been truer for film distribution. With the incredible number of films available for consumption on innumerable platforms, getting some form of distribution for your film is no longer the core problem. The central issue now is: how will anyone know about it? How will you find your audience? And how will you communicate enough to them to drive them to the point of actually seeing it?

Before we plunge into that question, let’s take one step back and discuss the term “distribution.” In today’s convergence universe, where anyone with technical savvy can be surfing the Internet and watching it on their television, every single person with a high speed internet connection is in some way a “distributor.” Anyone can put content onto their website and their Facebook and de facto make it available to anyone else in the world. Anyone can use DIY distribution services to distribute off their site(s), and get onto larger and / or smaller platforms.

Even getting your film onto some combination of the biggest digital platforms – i.e. iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and Cable VOD – is not insurmountable for most films. We’re not saying it is easy…there are a myriad of steps to go through and rigorous specs at times and varying degree of gatekeepers you’ll have to interface with and get approval from. But with some good guidance (for example, we at the Film Collaborative (www.thefilmcollaborative.org) can help you with that), some cash, and a little persistence…these distribution goals can usually be achieved.

But in a certain way, none of that matters. If you have your film available, say, on iTunes…. how is anyone going to know that? Chances are you aren’t going to get front- page promo placement, so people will have to know how and why to search for it.  This is why the flat fee services to get onto iTunes (which we now offer too) do not necessarily mean you will net a profit.  Films rarely sell themselves.  You are going to have to find the ways to connect to an audience who will actively engage with your film, and create awareness around it, or you will certainly fall into the paradox of the “tree falls in the forest” phenomenon… which many independent filmmakers can relate to.

So we arrive at the current conundrum, how do we drive awareness of our films? The following are the basic “points of light” everyone seems to agree with.

• Use the film festival circuit to create initial buzz.

• If you can, get the film into a break-even theatrical, hybrid theatrical, non-theatrical window that spreads word of mouth on the film.

• Engage the press, both traditional press and blogosphere, to write about the film.

• Build a robust social media campaign, starting as early as possible (ideally during production and post), creating a “community” around your film.

• Build grassroots outreach campaign around any and all like-minded organizations and web-communities (i.e. fan bases, niche audiences, social issue constituencies, lifestyle communities, etc.)

• Launch your film into ancillaries, like DVD and digital distro, and make sure everyone who has heard of the film through the previous five bullet points now knows that they can see the film via ancillary distribution, and feels like a “friend” of the effort to get the word out to the public-at-large.

• Be very creative and specific in your outreaches to all these potential partners, engaging them in very targeted marketing messages and media to cut through the glut of information that the average consumer is already barraged with in everyday life. This, above all, means being diligent in finding your true “fans,” i.e. the core audience who will be passionate about your subject matter and help you spread the word.

Our book SELLING YOUR FILM WITHOUT SELLING YOUR SOUL and this companion blog already highlight a good number of filmmakers who have used some combination of the above tactics to successful effect in finding a “fanbase” of audiences most likely to consume the film. Here, in this posting, we illustrate some additional recent films and tactics useful to filmmakers moving forward with these techniques.

 

WE WERE HERE, by David Weissman

Selected for the U.S. Documentary Competition by the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, WE WERE HERE tells the emotionally gripping story of the onset of AIDS in San Francisco in the early 1980s. The Film Collaborative handled festival release for this film, as well as international sales and grassroots marketing support on behalf of the theatrical and VOD (and US sales in conjunction with Jonathan Dana). Theatrical distribution, press, and awards campaigning is being handled by Red Flag Releasing.

 

 

On the face of it, WE WERE HERE is a documentary about a depressing topic like AIDS, and therefore doesn’t seem like the easiest sell in the world. However, it also happens to be an excellent film that was selected for Sundance and Berlin, as well as a film that has fairly obvious niche audiences that can be identified and targeted. As soon as The Film Collaborative came onboard, about a month prior to the Sundance 2011 premiere, we set about creating a list of more than 300 AIDS organizations in the United States, and reached out to each of them to ask them to get to know us on Facebook and our website, and also offered to send them screeners, in case they wanted to host a special screening down the road etc. Needless to say, we got an enthusiastic response from these groups (since we were doing work they would obviously believe in), but the goal here was not to make any kind of immediate money…we simply wanted them onboard as a community to tap into down the line.

Simultaneously, we created a targeted list of 160 film festivals we thought were best for the film — mixing major international fests, doc fests, and LGBT fests – and sent each of them a personalized email telling them about the film and asking them if they would like to preview it. The film (to date, is still booking internationally) was ultimately selected by over 100 film festivals (many not on our original target list of course).

As the screenings began, we reminded the filmmaker over and over to follow every introduction and every Q&A with a reminder about “liking” the Facebook page, and completely to his credit, filmmaker Weissman was always active in all aspects of Facebook marketing…always posting relevant information about the film and replying to many “fan” posts personally. Not surprisingly, a film this powerful and personal generated many deeply affecting fan posts from people who had survived the epidemic etc…, or were just deeply moved by the film. As a result, the Facebook page became a powerful hub for the film, which we strongly recommend you check out for a taste of what real fan interaction can look like (http://www.facebook.com/wewerehere). Warning….a lot of the postings are extremely emotional! One quick note – some of the most active subject members of the doc were made administrators as well, and also respond to the posts…a clever idea as it surely makes the FB fans feel even closer to the film, since they can talk with the cast as well. This would be an interesting thing to try with a narrative film as well…having the cast reply on Facebook (FB)… which is something we haven’t seen much of yet.

With the basics of community built – between the AIDS organizations, the Festivals, and the FB fans, we now had a pool to go back to…. both on theatrical release as well as upon VOD release (which just recently happened on December 9, 2011). For each major theatrical market, and for the VOD release, we went back to these people, and asked them to spread the word. We asked for email blasts, FB posts, tweets…whatever they could do to help spread the word. And without a doubt the film has gotten out there beyond anyone’s wildest initial dreams…although with VOD release only last month and DVD release still to come, final release numbers won’t be known to us for some time now…

But you can be assured we’ll be hitting up our community when the DVD comes out as well!  Also please note that these techniques and efforts apply to any niche.  For example, on a panel at Idyllwild Film Festival a filmmaker talked about his documentary about his father playing for the Chicago Cubs and how he sold 90,000 DVDs himself (and he also did event theatrical screenings via Emerging Pictures).  He simply went after the niche, hard.

HENRY’S CRIME directed by Malcolm Veneville

Starring Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga, and James Caan, world premiere at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. Released in limited theatrical run in April 2011, and available on DVD and digital platforms as of August 2011. Although a film with “A-level” cast, the film was produced independently and distributed independently by Moving Pictures Film and Television. The film tells the story of a wrongly accused man (Reeves) who winds up behind bars for a bank robbery he didn’t commit. After befriending a charismatic lifer (Caan) in prison, Henry finds his purpose — having done the time, he decides he may as well do the crime. Ancillaries for the film are handled by Fox Studios. The Film Collaborative’s sister for-profit company, New American Vision, was brought aboard to handle special word-of-mouth screenings for the film, as well as social media marketing, working in conjunction with several top publicists and social marketing campaign companies in the business.

 

On the face of it, this film couldn’t possibly be any more different than WE WERE HERE. A narrative, heist/rom-com with major names sounds a lot easier to sell than an AIDS doc with no names. And yet, the process of reaching out to the public was surprisingly similar….both in terms of what we did and what other professional consultants on the project did as well.

First, we targeted major film festivals and major film society organizations around the country for special “word-of-mouth” (WOM) screenings of the film – seeking to create a buzz amongst likely audiences. Since the film was to be theatrically released in major markets, we targeted the festivals/film societies in these markets. This result was successful, and we got major WOM screenings in NY, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, as well as Buffalo…which was important only because the film was shot and set in Buffalo and used significant Buffalo-based crew and resources, making it a perfect market for the film.

Next, we broke the film down into logical first constituencies for the film, which we identified as follows: 1) fans of Keanu Reeves and fans of his prior movies, 2) fans of Vera Farmiga and fans of her prior movies, 3) fans of James Caan and fans of his prior movies, 4) twitter accounts that mentioned any of the cast as well as those dedicated to independent film etc., 5) web communities dedicated to anything related to the playwright Anton Checkov (because the film features significant and lengthy scenes dedicated to Reeves and Farmiga performing Checkov’s Cherry Orchard), 6) key websites dedicated to romantic comedies, 7) key recommenders of independent film, etc. Over the course of approximately six weeks prior to release, we reached out to these sites regularly, in an effort to build excitement for the film.

While this grassroots work was taking place, our colleagues in publicity organized press junkets around the film, and of course solicited reviews. In addition, marketing professionals from both Ginsberg Libby (http://ginsberglibby.com/) and Moving Pictures (http://www.movingpicturesfilmandtv.com/) were constantly feeding marketing assets for the film as well as exclusive clips both to the major press, key film sites, as well as to the official Facebook and twitter for the movie….all with the same goal in mind…i.e. to create awareness for a film that, although it had the feeling of a traditional Hollywood film in many ways, was actually thoroughly independent and lacking the resources for major TV buys, billboards, print ads, and other traditional marketing techniques.

Unfortunately, in the end, HENRY’S CRIME did not truly take hold, and the theatrical release was far less than stellar. The reviews for the film were not complimentary (it is a good film, but not a great film), and the word-of-mouth was also not sufficient to drive the performance of the film.

This of course often happens with independent film releases, and in this case the lessons learned were particularly instructive. It was apparent while working on the film that the community-building aspects of the marketing campaign started far too late to truly engage an audience large enough to support the release (it only began in earnest about six weeks before the film’s release…even though the film had had its festival world premiere nearly SIX MONTHS before). In addition, HENRY’S CRIME proves the old adage that, sometimes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink…meaning that the word of mouth audiences and press reviews didn’t particularly spark interest in the film in the wider community because they weren’t particularly excited by the film.

This is a lesson sometimes we all need to learn the hard way…that in today’s glutted market, it isn’t always enough to put out a decent movie….in fact in today’s competition, you really need to put out a independent movie that is actually great…or at least connects so deeply with your audience that they are compelled to see it.

Of course, one endless question rages on here. What are the long-tail effects of the outreach? Just because people didn’t turn out in droves to see a film in the theater, does that mean they won’t tune in on a later date in the digital platform of their choice. Certainly many people who have HEARD of Henry’s Crime who didn’t see it in the theater may one day rent it on an available digital platform, and that is why the grassroots work is so critical. We are setting up today what we can’t possibly know until tomorrow….or maybe several years from now.

TAKE-AWAY LESSONS from this post

By comparing these experiences, there are several take-aways that filmmakers should be encouraged to keep in mind when thinking about marketing their independent film. Here are some of them….

1) Build a list, both in the real world and online, of every organization and cross-promotional partner you can think of (or google), that might be interested in your film.

Reach out to them about your film, and ask for their support. This is arduous work, but it has to be done. From Sheri Candler: “Initially you will take part in the community before you tell them why you are there.  For example, I started researching where online the ballet community hangs out and who they listen to. I also endeavored to meet these people offline when I could. If I was going to be in their city, I asked to meet for coffee. Real life interface when you can. I then started following those online communities and influencers quietly to start with and interjecting comments and posts only when appropriate. They were then curious about me and wanted to hear about the film. If I had gone on to the platforms or contacted the influencers immediately telling them I was working on a film, chances are they would shun me and ruin my chances to form relationships. This is why you have to start so early. When you’re in a hurry, you can’t spend the necessary time to develop relationships that will last, you can’t build the trust you need. It helps to deeply care about the film. I think the biggest takeaway I have learned when it comes to outreach is the very personal nature of it. If you don’t personally care, they can tell. They can tell you are there to use them and people are on their guard not to be used. The ideal situation is they WANT to help, they ASK to help, you don’t have to cajole them into it.”

2) Offer your potential partners something back in return.

With a film like WE WERE HERE, this wasn’t difficult…because the film naturally supported their work. But, for most films, you’ll need to offer them something back… like ticket-giveways, promotional emails, branding, opportunities for fundraising around the cause, merchandising give-aways, groups discounts, etc. Be creative in your thinking as to why YOU should get their attention amongst the many other films out there.

3) Community-building is an organic, long-term process…

Just like making friends in the real world, the process of making “friends” in community marketing and online takes time and real connection. With WE WERE HERE, we had a year to build connections amongst AIDS orgs, film festivals, and attendees at numerous screenings. The opposite was true with HENRY’S CRIME….six weeks just doesn’t work. Ask yourself…how many “friends” could you make in six weeks?

4) Community-building only really works with films that truly “touch” their audience.

In today’s glutted marketplace, you need to make a film that really speaks profoundly to your audience and excites them ….unless of course you have a huge enough marketing budget to simply bludgeon them with numerous impressions (this, of course, is usually reserved to the studios, who can obviously launch mediocre films with great success through brute force). You, probably, cannot do this.

5) You need to be very specific and targeted in your outreach to likeminded organizations etc.

Don’t rely on organizations to give you “generalized support.” Provide them with very specific instructions on how and when they should outreach about your film. For example….make sample tweets, sample FB posts, and draft their email blasts for them. Give them as close to a ready-to-go marketing outreach tool as possible…with a specific “call to action” clearly identified.

6) You’ll need warm bodies and some technical know-how on you side to accomplish this.

There’s absolutely NOTHING mentioned in this post that an individual filmmaker with a talented team of helpers cannot accomplish. But whether its using HootSuite or Tweetdeck or Facebook analytics, or a compelling set of marketing assets and the time and energy to get them out there….you’ll need a team to help you. Remember, all DIY (do it yourself) marketing is really DIWO (do it with others), and you’ll need to build your team accordingly. If you are short on cash…you’ll likely need to be long on interns and other converts to the cause. But if you are seeking a professional team that’s long on experience and expertise, you can find many of them on The Film Collaborative’s new Resource Place page, located at http://www.thefilmcollaborative.org/resourceplace/. There are many services out there to help you who have done this before….you are not alone! Sheri wonders: “how many people are reasonable”? Of course it varies, but I think 4 is safe. A traditional publicist with a big contact list for your target publications who handles press inquiries and placements;  an outreach/social media person who is a great fit for your audience to regularly post and answer questions/comments from the audience not the journalists; a distribution/booker who figures out how the film will be distributed and all of the tech specs, shopping carts, contracts, festivals, community screenings that are appropriate; and the graphic designer/web designer who figures out the technical and aesthetic elements needed to make the online impact you will need.

It is still a big job for only 4 people but it would be completely overwhelming for just one person to do or a person who doesn’t know what they are doing and a bunch of interns to handle.

7) A final take home: You may not see immediate results of each outreach and we know how dispiriting that can be. A lot of times early in the process, you will fail to connect, fail to get a response, but keep plugging away and you will very often come to enjoy the fruits of your distribution / marketing labor whether by emboldening a cause, generating more revenue, or enhancing your career, or all of the above.

Happy Distributing!!!!

 

The 5 Best Ways to Use Social Media to Build an Audience For Your Film

In a continuation of the tips series on indieWire in the lead up to the book’s release, here are 5 ways co author Sheri Candler advises to use social media in order to build an audience for your film with examples gleaned from our filmmaker participants in the book.  This post first appeared on the indieWire site August 23, 2011.

photo credit Steven Roddy.com

Within our book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by Prescreen and Area23a, there are many pieces of advice regarding audience building activities. While some filmmakers started the process very early in production (Nina Paley started blogging 3 YEARS before her film, Sita Sings the Blues, was released), some started only after their films hit the festival circuit. Remember, social media isn’t just setting up a Facebook and Twitter account. Anywhere one can share a link, comment on a post, or self publish content for all to read, watch or listen to is considered social media activity.

Here are my 5 tips on using social media to build an audience along with advice found in the book.

1) Don’t spend all of your time talking about your film on social media. After a while, this constant selling is boring to read and you won’t build up interest from your audience. This is the kind of page you get when you solely entrust outside agencies with building and maintaining your social media presence. They cannot effectively be the voice of your work. Think about what interests your audience in their daily lives and why they would be attracted to you as an artist and to your film, then present them with news and information on that. “We talk about everything related to the movie, about collaborations with other people. We also talk about space, indie filmmaking, creative commons issues, and our views on piracy issues. It is a place you can come and learn about us as people, what we believe and what we are doing related to the movie. We just make it more personal and allow people to feel like they are inside the workings of the production. We find that people respond the most when you tell personal stories.” – Nicolas Alcala-Writer/Director of The Cosmonaut.

2) Regular activity is imperative. It is advisable to set up a constant system of feeding new information, assets (text, video and photos), trivia quizzes, links to news stories to your social media sites rather than to post sporadically every few weeks or months. One way to do this is to start a content calendar or editorial calendar to plan out when you will post, what events are coming up that you want to be sure your audience knows about, links to interesting stories you have found and want to comment on for the blog and any guest posts from those outside of your production who can cross audiences with you. “The most effective weapon we had in online outreach was content, which is offered as an exclusive to garner prime placement on certain homepages or newsfeeds. This might be in the form of clips, outtakes, audience reactions, new trailers, or famous fans talking about the film. These clips can be time-consuming to create, but are worth doing when the organization in question will hit mailing lists (many we hit were 20,000+), and then support again with a giveaway come the DVD release.”- Paul Thomas and Matt Harlock, the filmmakers of American: The Bill Hicks Story

3) Researching and building connections with influential people to your audience is a smart and efficient  way to reach an audience with whom  you do not have a personal connection. Largely, this can be done through online channels, but you must think what you are offering. Influencers have trust built up with their audience and cannot risk putting it in jeopardy to help you. Make sure there is a natural and reciprocal relationship built on respect. “Elden Nelson has a blog called fatcyclist.com, which I was a big follower of, and he’s got a pretty big audience. We’ve since worked with Elden and fatcyclist.com to raise money [for cancer research], and he’s talking about the project in his inner circles, which has been fantastic.”-Mike Dion, producer of Ride the Divide

4) Knowing your audience and what drives them is the most important rule of marketing . Indie filmmakers are notoriously neglectful of this basic marketing knowledge and try to embark on social media campaigns that are totally ME centric (if they start campaigns at all). Many times when you are not in touch with your audience, what you think will resonate with them is actually wrong. “Once we started directly engaging with our fans on Facebook and Twitter, we realized that many of our most active fans weren’t necessarily the fans of our bigger names; they were fans of Bridget Regan and they were absolutely insane with passion. These are the fans who have reached out to us directly, rallied their communities, and quite literally dragged the film on their backs into their local movie theaters.”-Josh Shelov, director and co writer of The Best and The Brightest

5) Another key to having a successful social media effort is making sure that there is a dialog with your audience. Great content should include a place for conversation between the production and the fans and within the community of fans. Gear your site to be the facilitator of connections among people with common interests.  They will help widen your circle of audience naturally by bringing other like minded people in so that you don’t have to be so dependent on advertising. “This conversation, between filmmaker, audience and distributor is the antithesis of the present way films are most commonly distributed and marketed. It’s a conversation where a community forms around the niche aspects of a film and then the filmmaker reacts to this conversation to improve his/her offer to the audience. In essence the audience is telling the filmmaker/distributor how to market the film.”-Andy Green, co owner of Distrify.

For more great information, RSS our blog and read our forthcoming book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by Prescreen and Area23a Movie Events, find us on Facebook and follow our hashtag on Twitter #syfnotsys.

 

Excerpt: Nina Paley and Free Culture

In the lead up to the book release, we will be posting all sorts of information on this blog site. Some directly related to film distribution, some related to audience building, some to crowdfunding, which is both an audience gathering and financial exercise and some to using the internet as a free distribution mechanism in order to accomplish your goals as an artist. Also, one full chapter from the book will be published in this month’s Filmmaker Magazine, both the print version and online. This is the only time that a full chapter will be available ahead of the book’s release.

In the chapter on using file sharing networks to distribute work, Sheri talked with Nina Paley who released her animated film Sita Sings the Blues for free on the internet. Releasing her film for free wasn’t Paley’s initial intention and it took about 9 months to go from believing that copyright was a good thing that protected artists to believing it was an extortionate racket designed to lock content away and rarely benefited the artists it was supposed to protect.

Here is more from her interview:

“Right now the sad truth seems to be that people don’t come to this [free culture idea] without having a really traumatic experience with copyright. And I did, I had the whole thing with trying to follow the rules, do everything by the book in trying to clear the songs I used in Sita Sings The Blues and then being confronted with this insane, Kafka-esque nightmare.  Basically I was told you have to get $220,000 together [to clear the rights] or nobody gets to see your film. Told this by a group of faceless corporations who don’t give a shit about me or anything really.  I was like ‘wow, I have to not let anybody see this film, even for free, unless I can get $220,000?’

The difficulty of resolving that, even the time it took, and all the while people saying ‘oh, but remember this system protects you,’ that’s what lead me to begin questioning the system.  Initially, I agreed. It’s the copyright system, it protects me. But as all of this was happening I thought ‘I wonder if it really does protect me?’ I looked at my whole career, all of my work and I am sitting on years of comic strips I made. Nobody knows about them, they were originally syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate and King Features Syndicate. The copyrights have reverted to me but nobody is seeing them. What good have these copyrights been to me? Nobody else can reproduce these comics I have done, therefore everyone has forgotten about them as soon as they stopped running in newspapers. How is this benefiting me? It’s not.

I thought about where my money comes from and how much came from copyright royalties? Not much, most of it comes from direct commissions, teaching, every once in a while a grant. This is the same for many artists, very few artists I know get significant income from copyright royalties. Then I just woke up one day and thought ‘wait a minute, I could free this movie and what would happen if I did?’ I didn’t know everything that was going to happen. But the thought that it was possible seemed like this exciting and subversive thing to do and I had nothing to lose. And then it worked so well, that I just went back to all my old copyrighted work and have been doing everything I can to rerelease it free, but it has been a lot of work.”

Find out why giving Sita Sings the Blues away for free turned out to be a successful strategy by reading Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by PreScreen, coming in September 2011. Also, like us on Facebook.

 

What’s this book all about? and why digital?

Thanks for stopping by to find out more about our book, Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul. Yes, we are calling it a book even though it will be published only in digital form to start with. If we find that there is an overwhelming desire for filmmakers to hold a physical copy, lovingly plucked from the shelves of their local bookstore and personally signed by our intrepid authors, we will do what we can to make this possible. In the meantime, you’ll be able to try before you buy and read it online for free or purchase a premium version from iBooks or Kindle (or whatever other formats we think will be popular) and download it into the portable device of your choice.

What’s this book all about?

It is a book of case studies that takes a look at the ways filmmakers are now approaching distribution. None of the cases have used the purely traditional route of make a film, sell all rights to a distributor and hope they do a good job and earn overages beyond the advance. All have either split rights or gone totally DIY and my chapter looks at creators who are using file sharing sites to give their work away while still meeting their goals of either making a name for themselves or getting the widest audience possible for the least cost and/or making money either from crowdfunding or as revenue.

Confirmed cases are PioneerOne (a webseries), The Cosmonaut (a feature film/transmedia project), Sita Sings the Blues (feature animation), Ride the Divide (feature documentary), Note by Note (feature documentary), Bass Ackwards (feature narrative), Adventures of Power (feature narrative), Undertow (feature narrative and LGBT themed), For the Bible Tells Me So (feature documentary, LGBT themed). The cases will present an accurate picture on revenues and where they came from, marketing and distribution spend, and production budgets because we want this to be an unprecedented work; the true picture of what it takes to succeed and what success really looks like not the secrecy and  myth that largely surrounds the film industry.

Knowledge you will find in the book:
-Sales numbers in applicable windows and territories
-Budgets both production and P&A
-Outreach and partnerships with organizations and influencers, how it was accomplished
-Sales numbers on other revenue streams like merchandising, speaking gigs
-What tools and services were used to achieve results
-advice on crowdfunding and building communities around your work
Following along in these courageous filmmakers’ footsteps, this book will be self distributed because we know our audience, we know where they congregate and what they read and how to reach them. It doesn’t really make sense to turn the work of marketing and distributing (and our rights!) this book over to a publisher. We are paying for the development costs of the book and the freely distributed copies through sponsorship. Our Presenting Sponsor is PreScreen with contracts out to 2 other Official Sponsors. If you have a company that wants to reach the independent filmmaker community, please have a look at our sponsorship deck. We anticipate a lot of excitement for this book and our sponsors will surely get their brand in front of a very targeted audience. We will launch the book at one of the most premiere events in the independent film calendar, IFP Week in the brand new Film Society of Lincoln Center facility in New York City in September, but promotion of the book will continue throughout 2011/2012 at various other high profile events.

Why digital?

This book was conceived from the start in digital format because 1)The future is digital and to make this a physical text book didn’t make sense considering the themes being discussed in it, namely the future of film distribution. 2)We wanted to include a richer experience than text books could provide. There will be video interviews with the filmmakers, video samples of their work, URL links to articles used as source material or additional info the reader can use to do further research, some social media capabilities and charts/graphs/photos. 3) Orly and I were adamant that at least one copy (text only) would be given out for free online to anyone in the world who wanted this knowledge. With restrictions on physical distribution of a paper based book, that wouldn’t be possible or feasible. By using the efficient distribution abilities of the internet, we won’t be hampered by distribution logistics and costs to get the book anywhere in the world.

During the summer, we will be releasing excerpts from the book, some content that had to be cut for length or because the participant got off topic during interviews, highlights of our lovely sponsors and extra film stories that couldn’t be featured in the book, but offer valuable advice. Stay tuned because we are just getting started. We also have a hashtag on Twitter #syfnotsys (Selling Your Film Not Selling Your Soul, we have to conserve characters!) and a Facebook page, so come join us there.

You can also follow all of the authors on Twitter @shericandler @filmcollab @jon_reiss because we post some good stuff!

Take care

-Sheri