Dear Raindance is a weekly column designed to answer filmmaker’s and screenwriter’s burning questions about the film industry.
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This week you will hear from a filmmaker who has just finished her film and is wondering about where to focus their marketing efforts from the very beginning of the sales and marketing process.
I’ve been following your adice for ages. Your website has tons of great articles and ideas. I’ve also taken a lot of your classes here in Toronto. I am about to finish my first feature film, but how do I actually start marketing it. I have set up a website and a Facebook page (which currently has less than four likes) and I am about to get a Twitter account. Unfortunately the Twitter name we want is already being used by someone else. With just me and my boyfriend running our company I’m not sure which next steps we should be taking in order to get some distributors interested in our film. I think we should be growing our online presence. I’d really appreciate your help.
Starting From Scratch in Toronto
Firstly, thanks for your email question and congrats on getting your FB and website set up. I hope your dozen FB likes aren’t your and your BF’s parents! 🙂 Kidding! You are right in thinking you should be building your online profile and presence.
There is a second strategy you need to employ in parallel: namely: to devise a festival strategy. This is really a second question, which we will deal with in the next question.
To help you get your online presence off the ground I have prepared a short ‘to-do’ list with each step in order.
Your to-do film marketing list:
Step 1: Make a list of relevant keywords.
Any job starts with a foundation. The foundation is what you build your project on. Your challenge is to create a brand for your film. And a brand isn’t about logos or websites, it’s what people think about you. The reason this is so important is because what people think about you can be described as keywords. And the internet finds out about stuff through the use of keywords. The best way to approach this is to come up with these keywords first. Otherwise you will be in a process of recovery and will keep tryong to stuff keywords into your blog and website posts in ways tyhat make you look clumsy, or worse, insecure.
Thry to think of the words youyr intended audience would use, words that are important to them. Ask yourself if these key words, or phrases are words that help to define what it is that you are. Start with a word really close to the core of your film. It might be ‘horro’ or ‘zombie’. Then you want to pretend you are them and then try and see what phrases they mgiht put into a search engine to find you.
Raindance has a key phrase: “We make filmmakers” The Raindance Film Festival also uses “Discover. Be Dicovered. For keywords, we use words like integrate, innovate, inspire and also ‘film school’. Phrases we include in our social media include:
- – this is no film school
- – making movies that make money
- – how to find film work
Make a list of four or five dozen keywords and phrases. Once complete you can start wrapping blog posts, Tweets nd Facebook messages around these words which will give your website more visibility from search engines becasue your website will be optimised for these search engines. Also know as Serch engine Optimization, or SEO)
Step 2: Start writing blog posts.
Now that youi have your key words, you can start and run a blog in order to promote yourself. Everytime you write a blog and use some of your keywords, you open your website or blog to the possibility that you will be found and read. And you want to do that don’t you?
The headline fo your blog is important. Titles like :6 Terrible Things You Didn’t Know About [you, or your film title]; or; 8 Myths about [Your Name] that You Didn’t know etc.
Writing articles has two effects: Firstly it creates visibility and traffic to your website or blog and secondly, people start to think of you as an expert in your field – which is filmmaking, right?
So get off your shelf and down to the library and start writing some decent articles. We will even post them on our website if you send them to us, along with your bio and a picture.
Remember though, be patient. Results don’t happen over night!
Step 3: Choosing the social media channels to suit your film
Let’s look at this scenario: No one whats to distribute your film for you. You opt for the D-I-Y approach. No you need to hunker down and do some serious heavy lifting. Decide which social media network the people you’d like to see your film are more likely to hang out on. Once you have sorted that, you need to build a strategy of how you are going to attract their attention and make them want to come back. This is where your content creation strategy comes in as well as your success at creating keywords (Number 1 above). Keywords jsut make it easier for people to find you.
The beauty about designing and executing a social media strategy is that it can lead to bigger things.
When Orin Pelli sold Paranormal Activity to Paramount, he didn’t really sell the film, he sold his excellent social media strategy.
Step 4: Using advertisements
Now and again you will want to jump on Facebook or Google and spend a bit of money to promote your film. it could be while you are crowd funding. Or right befre a festival screening. Either way, the success of your ads will be reliant on the success you showed with choosing rlelvant keywords and with creating excellent content (as per 1 and 2 above)
So many times I have watched filmmakers finsih a film nd then spend a couple $100’s with zero results because they had failed to do the hard part first.
Step 5 Film festival strategy
Creating a festival strategy is another key element to selling your film. It’s one that I should know about having run Raindance in London since 1993, and as a producer with several features out for festival selection. It is however fraught with pitfalls.
Basically, festivals have become a way that distributors find new films. Festivals have also become an alternative to a theatrical release, especially for specialty or cause related movies. Being selected into a festival means you benefit from all the festival publicity for your film, which raises the profile of your film and hopefully will attract potential distributors to your movie. We have created a list of the films we think are the best film festivals for features and documentaries and another one for short film festivals.
It’s a really good idea to get familiar with the different film festivals. Meet filmmakers who’ve attended different festivals and get their feedback on what they think is a good one, or not. These are things no film school can teach.
Be creative. Let your imagination run wild.
Here is a great online live class you should take:
How to sell your film to America