There’s no getting around it: independent filmmakers who want to make it in the 21st century need to have a fabulous social media presence. The trick is that you can’t make it all about your project. Shoving your projects down people’s throats -while tempting, for the impatient among us- won’t be effective.
Why’s that? Because it’s not engaging. If you manage to share something that has meaning, that opens up your world to people, or the world of the project you’re working on, you’ll be sure to draw more people in. Here are a few established filmmakers who’ve used social media to great effect.
Film being a visual medium, Instagram will lend itself particularly well to being used by filmmakers who want to share their world. Cinematographer/director Reed Morano has been sharing incredible snaps of her work, or equally beautiful behind-the-scene shots, or all around great pictures of daily life—all of which share the same distinctive style, and her unique vision.
If anyone were to be elected King of Twitter, it’d be Deadpool himself, Ryan Reynolds. Everything on his account is either a deadpan retort to unwanted sexual advances, self-deprecating quips and obviously hilarious tie-ins with Deadpool. Reynolds is not a compulsive tweeter, but a single joke will make your day. After all, he acknowledges that this account is all about “introducing people to the version of myself which tested highest in the focus groups.”
Defining and illuminating the African American experience one film at a time, Ava DuVernay was the queen of no-budget filmmaking (Middle of Nowhere, I Will Follow) before she took on the Oprah Winfrey-produced Selma which was hailed as one of the best film in its year. DuVernay’s Twitter account is not just about filmmaking and hardly about shamelessly plugging her projects; in fact she mostly shares about her social and political concerns. It’s no surprise she went on to direct the critically acclaimed documentary 13th, about how the American prison system disproportionately affects African Americans, before moving to adapting A Wrinkle in Time for Disney.
Having made Moon, having a Netflix film in the pipes, and just being one of the most interesting filmmakers around, you could think that Duncan Jones’ Twitter account was going to be all about self promotion. Nope. Duncan Jones’s timeline feels more like that of a major film nerd with an exceptional number of followers, and that’s what makes following him a treat: it’s his voice, sharing funny, insightful, silly, interesting things, about his work, or not.
It’s been agreed that Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan is a gift from God. (I previously listed only seven reasons why.) His social media presence is another one. Whether it’s on Instagram (link above) or on his Twitter account, you get a glimpse of what his obsessions are: tattoos, James Dean, and mostly his actors, a non-exhaustive list that now includes Natalie Portman, Marion Cotillard, Jessica Chastain, Michael Gambon, Adele… as well as the occasional beautifully worded rant.
Props are one of the elements that create the world of a film, even though you may not see them all in close-up. They’ll add that extra dose of reality that makes a film cohesive. Annie Atkins worked on such incredible films as Grand Budapest Hotel, Bridge of Spies, and she shares snippets of her work up close and shares insights of her process as well as her obsessions. She also has a knack for capturing great details of her details, which makes her Instagram account all the more enjoyable.
Sometimes (most times) 140 characters aren’t enough. Especially in our complex, trouble times, Twitter is often the place where people just make blunt, harsh, statements and don’t take the time to think things over. Granted, the Internet is hardly the place to do that, but since we’re talking about social media, Facebook may be the best indicated place to do it. Michael Moore has been as eloquent on his page as he’s been with his documentaries: he predicted Donald Trump’s election (he also predicted his impeachment), asked Obama to get Chelsea Manning out of prison and has shared his analysis of the state of his country and the world. Michael Moore has never just been the angry documentarian: he’s politically active, and only every so often does it come in documentary film form. Sometimes, it’s good to pause and take the time to read an enlightened opinion.
You may not have heard of him, but you should have. You’re going to hear more from him as his passion project, indie darling Dear White People is now being developed as a TV show for Netflix. Now, Simien’s Twitter full of the filmmaker’s concerns about his country and the direction it’s taking (understandably). The way Simien first used Twitter, however, was quite revolutionary: he tested his characters and their voice on Twitter, he tried lines and situations that would make their way into his script depending on people’s response. He didn’t just crowdfund his film: he crowd-created it.
For a man who’s equal parts writer and social activist (with a border between both that’s hard to see, not that that’s a bad thing), it’s no surprise to see that Black’s Twitter account is mostly about LGBT rights and how to defend ourselves against the rise of xenophobia and conservatism. Of course, in his case, this ties in perfectly with his socially conscious screenwriting voice, which gave us the instant-classic Milk and the upcoming When We Rise. Also, the occasional snippets of his home life with Tom Daley are really cute.
Not only was he Raindance’s first intern, he also makes really funny films, and he’s also a major film aficionado. Not unlike Duncan Jones, Wright’s timeline feels like the temple of film nerds around the world: he shares his obsessions, his favourites, his discoveries and what old classics he’s been watching. Again, an account that’s not just about the filmmaker’s projects, but more generally about his world is the best way to engage.
If you’re like me and need to see some beauty in the world every day, then you should follow Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki’s Instagram account. He’s the most acclaimed cinematographer working today (having deservedly won three Oscars in a row) and that’s because he shoots like no one else. He captures light in an eerie, fascinating way, his portraits always feel like they were about a person’s depth more than their surface. Everything on his timeline exudes beauty.
These people have established their brand on social media by making it echo their own personal voice, and it’s with that voice they make their films. So the question for you is not just what’s your brand -what’s your voice?