Creating Character Web

Photo by josef.stuefer

Crystal ball gazing is something many filmmakers often do while dreaming about their next project. How to score with Millennials, how to find new funding sources, or how to utilise the newest technological advances, are common topics.

The one topic filmmakers often consider is the impact of the web on film sales and distribution. One thing is certain: filmmakers pretty much across the board neglect to adopt the marketing techniques used by marketeers promoting other kinds of products on the web.

What’s so strange about this attitude is that the rate of return of web marketing, compared to the return on other activities a filmmaker engages in, is so high that it’s a foolish filmmaker who ignores it! Filmmakers all over the world have developed a series of excuses as to why they can’t engage in web promotion and marketing.

That’s where I come in.  With the significant returns web marketing for film can bring to you it’s no wonder that filmmakers are turning to this new opportunity, and are studying the philosophy behind successful web marketing. There is so much filmmakers can learn from web marketeers in other product sectors.

Marketing film on the Internet is also an area where independent filmmakers can outshine their studio financed filmmaking colleagues. It’s also becoming painful to hear the recurring excuses of why filmmakers can’t or won’t consider web marketing. I’m going to respond to these excuses and also show you how web marketing can significantly help your film career.

13 Web Marketing Myths Filmmakers Should Stop Believing

1) “I’m not ready for web marketing”

If you have a website, a social media profile, and have ever sent an email you are ready for web marketing. It’s that simple. All you need to do now is to determine the scale. You can also get your friends, cast and crew to commit to your web marketing programme as well.

There are two initial steps you need to take:

a) Understand what it means to market yourself and your film on the web
This means finding out how to optimise your website, creating and operating a consistent blog, producing high quality content like videos, interviews and trailers, maintaining your presence on your social media profiles, and personalising your emails. These are all important web marketing tasks.

b) Define your marketing goals for your online strategy
When you start to understand what you want your online marketing to do, then it becomes easier to see what tools and talent you will need to employ to achieve these goals. For example, you might want your online presence to generate you money through crowd funding. Or, you might want to create awareness amongst potential cast and crew, or create a real buzz around your festival screenings.

Nail these two steps and you’re well on your way to being a web marketing dynamo.

2) “Our demographic of festival programmers and acquisitions executives is older and not online.”

OMG what a frail argument. Something like 30% of social media users are between 45 and 65 years old. Not only is this demographic online, they are extremely active and possess decision making power that could affect the future of your film and/or your career.

If you can, find out the age demographic of the people following you, as well as the people you are targeting. A survey is a great way to do this. While you are at it, try and find out which social media platforms they are using. This will give you a clue about which platform to spend time on developing i.e..: Instagram over Facebook.

3) “Every penny should go to the screen. We can’t spare money for web marketing.”

If only we lived in a perfect world where every single penny you cobbled together went directly into visible screen elements. A perfect world where crew didn’t need to eat, mobile phones didn’t need charging and where one’s cheque book was always accurately balanced.

Sadly we do not live in this perfect world. In order to survive in today’s cut throat environment you will need to invest time and money into your web presence and your web marketing. You need to maintain your online presence. Whether you use this presence for crowd funding, or for distribution, (or both) is entirely up to you.

If you are reading this and about to embark on a film career, or should I say, a career in the creative industries, you will need to decide how much time and effort you are able to develop to maintaining your online presence. You will then discover there is some basic technology you will need to invest in to make the entire thing run.

Let me be really short and straight here: this will have a profound effect on your short and long term career goals.

4) “Our followers will not fill out a form.”

One of your web marketing challenges is to develop and grow your lists of followers. Digital groupies (followers) are real live human beings. Asking your followers to fill in a form is one of the quickest and simplest ways to hit two birds with one stone: discovering who your followers are and getting them to follow you.

No one likes to fill out a form. Here’s the trick: if you are offering something really juicy and interesting, people will then complete the form and give you the information you are seeking. Their age, film awareness, etc. Remember, you are basically asking the people zipping past your shop window, your website or social media platform, to pause and tell you a little of their own personal story. Getting someone’s contact details is the first step to creating a meaningful relationship.

Having forms on your site is the simplest way to reach as wide an audience as possible. And lets you build your list. A great example of this is the terrific book on DSLR Ryan Koo wrote and gives away to anyone who signs up to his newsletter – now one of the world’s largest film newsletters which makes his site www.nofilmschool.com one of the world’s busiest indie film websites.

5) “I have nothing to write about on a blog.”

No matter who you are, creating good exciting content is a huge challenge. The difference between you and some corporate conglomerate is you have a deeply personal story about yourself, your dreams and your movie to share. If you add in all the people you are collaborating with, you have many hundreds of stories to tell.

Your job is to make sure your stories are easy to find. You can publish them on your website, your blog, through your social media channels or send them out on email.

Here is what I have learned about filmmaking: it’s not just about filmmaking, it’s about communication. You have morphed from being a visual storyteller to becoming a communicator using digital mediums. Everything you do surrounding your work and career now become part of the movies you create.

It’s amazing how quickly you can get good at this. The ancient adage ‘practice makes perfect’ applies here as well and you will be amazed at how quickly the circle of admirers gathered around your work will grow.

6) “We’ll end up bombarding our followers with too many emails.”

It’s all about sending the right messages at the right time to your constituents. You can’t bombard your followers with crowd funding ask after ask. You want to get them integrated into what you are doing. Share your triumphs and failures. Make them feel part of what you are doing and then make the hard ask for funding.

7) “Our boss doesn’t understand web marketing.”

You might be reading this and working for a film company that doesn’t get film web marketing. Here’s a great chance to become an expert! If you believe in having an online strategy to accelerate your work, make the case to your boss on why it’s worth adopting.

Learn what you can about web marketing and develop a plan and present it to the person in charge.

8) “We should spend the majority of our marketing budget on direct mail since it works.”

Mailing leaflets and DVDs to film festivals, journalists and acquisition executives might have worked in the 1990’s but rarely is it going to work now. People will only look at your film these days if they hear about it on the Internet. If that vibe is good, then they might pick up the telephone or more likely ping you an email and ask for an online screener. Use the marketing budget you have to create sparkling content around the film or film careers you want to promote.

9) “We’re too busy planning and producing films to worry about our website.”

Where do you store all your film information? What about your portfolio or showreel? A website is a good place for this. What is more, people are more likely to stay excited about you if they can see a history of your projects, comments from other viewers and suggestions from collaborators.

Make your website a priority. Develop a plan for it, and then maintain it. It doesn’t need to be fancy. It just needs to do its job: showing the world who, when and where you are.

10) “We need to build a comprehensive plan before we start doing anything new or different.”

Risk taking isn’t something that’s part of most people’s nature. No pain no gain. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Wanting to raise a million for your next feature is too vague a goal. Devoting a few hours a week to write a blog post and then getting it cross-linked through half a dozen social media channels is doable. And week by week you will build on the social media and online capital.

Develop a long and short term strategy and be prepared to fail. Benjamin Franklin once said, when being congratulated: “I’ve made 10,0000 mistakes.” Do the same and you will be surprised how quickly you learn.

11) “We don’t have time to create new content.”

Guess what: we are all really busy. Here’s where web marketing really can help you.

Ask your crowd – the people who follow you. Ask them for articles and other forms of content. All you need to do ahead of time is prep them with the ground rules: language, swearing, songs etc. Make a simple handbook of what you expect from someone contributing to your website and ‘bingo’ – it’s sorted

The point is, if you can get creative as to where you can get content for your site, the benefits of doing so can be substantial — for instance, your site’s traffic can grow with more blog volume.

12) “Our constituents aren’t on Facebook.”

This may actually be true for your organization, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on social media.

Depending on your demographic and target personas, your constituents may be using Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram more than Facebook. Determining which social media channels your target audiences are on is very important when defining your social media plan.

With the limited bandwidth of most staff members, you want to make sure you are on only one or two social media channels that are going to provide you with the most engaged audience possible.

Don’t take on too much if you don’t have to, but don’t make the mistake of ruling out all social media from your web marketing strategy.

13) “We should be simply focusing on raising awareness.”

This doesn’t mean that using the different tools and strategies for web marketing aren’t for you. In fact, if creating awareness is one of your goals, then web marketing is probably the quickest, most effective and cost effective way you can go.

As long as you know what kind of people you are going to target, and decide what they are looking for, you will find web marketing a very effective tool to achieve your goals.

How are you going to utilise web marketing this year? Let me know in the comments box below.

About 

Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over hundreds of short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006. He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

He has produced over 700 shorts and 6 features including the new action film AMBER.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBfxb9XQ6pY

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.