We often consider the period between pre-production and wrapping editing as the most creative and strenuous aspects of filmmaking. But even if you’ve secured a distributor for your project, getting audiences to actually show up and watch your film can test the energy and patience of the best of us.
Creating buzz around your film — whether it’s a short or a feature — serves more than a single purpose. Audiences are certainly your main goal, but pulling more eyes and more attention toward your project also builds relationships with potential industry partners and investors for this production and for future endeavors. Marketing might feel like a dirty word, but the best indie campaign will make use of all the creative tools and talent at your disposal.
Indie film production is all about making the most of what you’ve got and using what exists to tell the best possible story. We’re going to look at some practical, budget-friendly approaches that can help you build that all-important buzz around your production. What are the tools that can give you the most bang for your marketing buck, and how can you use them effectively?
Social media can be crowded, which means that in order to be heard above the noise, you need to gain a deeper understanding of marketing best practices. It goes further than just throwing up some posts promoting your product. A key element in making certain that social media is successful in creating buzz is taking time to devise a social media strategy for your project. This strategy should include the following components:
- Network Decisions. Learn how each social media network’s unique features can be used to your advantage. Understand which is most appropriate for your marketing goals. If you’re planning on providing primarily visual content, Instagram may be your best choice. If you’re seeking to connect with audiences and industry figures on an individual level, Twitter is likely to be your go-to.
- Demographic Considerations. Few of us like to talk about it, but chances are, your film is likely to be appropriate for a specific demographic. Undertake some research about how that demographic uses social media, what types of content they engage with, and if they have a preferred platform.
- Use of Analytics. Successfully using social media in marketing must include periodic analysis. Each network can provide you with useful data on whether people are engaging with your content, what they’re responding best to, where they live, and even the time of day they’re online. Use these insights to make real-time adjustments to your strategy and how you’re posting.
- Voice Choice. Approach your social media with a branding mindset. Establishing a consistent voice for all social media posts can help you make connections with your audience. Will you use your own voice as an auteur filmmaker? Are you establishing a personality that specifically reflects the film itself?
While the world is more connected than it has been at almost any other time, there are still those who don’t use social media platforms and are able to do it well. Considering this, it’s imperative to diversify your marketing to promote your brand (or your film) and focus on more than just the social media hype. This not only ensures you have the widest possible impact, but it also prevents those who aren’t active on Twitter or Instagram from being excluded from what could be a transformative movie experience. Consider methods that not only help you connect with your audience but also encourage them to spread the word for you.
Alongside our digital spaces, our society has come to embrace conventions. Whether you set up a booth at HorrorCon, or head out to South by Southwest (SXSW) as an attendee, there are opportunities for you to talk about your project with potential audience members and industry representatives. Take portable promotional materials along with you: fliers, button badges, and stickers. Use these events to not only introduce your movie but to introduce yourself as a creative force behind it.
One of the key ways to promote any short film or feature, though, is a good trailer or teaser. You’re not looking to tell the entire story of your film but rather showing just enough to pique the audience’s interest. You should certainly upload to YouTube and Vimeo, but it should also be embedded onto the movie’s website so you can draw traffic to other promotional materials and opportunities.
Let’s face it, while social media and traditional marketing are necessities, they’re not always a lot of fun. This is where the guerilla approach can help satisfy the need to generate buzz and flex those creative muscles.
Guerilla marketing is about acting in a way that appears to be spontaneous, to take an unusual approach to promote the product. However, it can’t just be about bringing a flash mob into a public space (particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic!) and showering people with promotional materials. Some of the best guerilla marketing reflects the spirit of the movie or fits within the fictional world of the narrative. The minuscule billboards to advertise Marvel’s Ant-Man are a prime example of this; it provided audiences with a witty, immersive connection to the story being told.
For most indie filmmakers, though, a punk approach to guerilla marketing can be effective. Produce street art during festivals to promote your screening, use a projector to cast promotional images on the side of buildings at night, create merchandise that reproduces intriguing props or events from the movie. One of the most effective examples of guerilla tactics for an indie production was The Blair Witch Project (1999), which used a website and footage to suggest that the events of the movie were factual. It was low budget and helped create an immersive experience.
Marketing a movie is not always the most fun part, but it is key to making certain that your production gets seen by audiences and industry leaders alike. You don’t need to have a huge budget to be successful, though. Utilize social media, make connections at conventions, and approach your buzz building with a guerilla attitude.