One of the greatest challenges for an independent filmmaker is getting people to actually watch your film.  Big-budget Hollywood films spend millions and millions of dollars on marketing.  In 2011, the average marketing budget for a major Hollywood film was almost $40 million, more money than most independent filmmakers can possibly hope to get for their entire budget.  So how can independent filmmakers promote their film?

The answer: guerrilla marketing.  Independent filmmakers have to compensate for their lack of a large marketing budget with creativity.  The internet in particular has made it possible for independent filmmakers to get their film noticed.  One cost-effective way to do this is by organizing a flash mob event.

A flash mob is when a large group of people assemble suddenly in a public area, simultaneously do something unusual, and then leave.  The flash mob began as more of a social experiment or form of performance art than a vehicle for marketing, but it was quickly hijacked by large corporations when they recognized its popularity.  Companies like T-Mobile and Coca-Cola have organized flash mob events, but the nature of a flash mob makes it an ideal tool for a small group that needs to promote something on a budget.

How to organize a flash mob:

Step 1: Have an Idea

A successful flash mob needs to have a unique idea behind it.  The comedy group Improv Everywhere stages performances similar to flash mobs, such as freezing 200 people in place for 5 minutes in Grand Central Station, or holding no-pants subway rides.  They have also done things with smaller groups of people, like creating a time-loop in a Starbucks.  If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out their YouTube channel.  While a flash mob is technically a large group, you can still make a scene and promote your film with just a small group of people as well.

If you want to promote your film through the flash mob, you should organize something that relates to your film in some way.  For example, if your film is a horror zombie flick, have a bunch of zombies show up.  Or if your film is a musical, you could use a smaller group and stage an impromptu musical number in a public place, perhaps using one of the songs from your film.  The possibilities are endless.

Some things to keep in mind:  if you want people to show up, make sure that when you do hold the flash mob that the participants won’t be breaking any laws.  People come to these to be spontaneous and have a little fun, not to get arrested.  So pick a public location where its legal for your group to gather, and don’t do anything that threatens or endangers bystanders.

Matrix Flash mobA “Matrix Reloaded” inspired flash mob

Step 2: Get the Word Out

If you want people to show up at your flash mob, people need to know about it.  In this, the internet is your most valuable tool.  Create an account for your event on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook—and make sure you are active on the site too, respond to questions and provide frequent updates on the event.  You can create a website for your film, where you can provide detailed information on the event, and use Twitter and Facebook to get people to visit the site.  Post in forums and chatrooms, send out mass emails, and tell people to forward the information on to people they know.  In short, do everything you can think of to let people know what you are doing.

A flash mob that took place under the glass pyramid in the Louvre

Step 3: Organize

In order for your flash mob event to go smoothly, participants need to know exactly what is happening, where, when, and what they are supposed to do.  There are several different ways for you to organize and synchronize the event.

If your flash mob is a simple idea, like people showing up somewhere looking like zombies, you can organize it pretty easily by just using the internet and mass emails.  Make sure you send out detailed instructions in advance, telling people exactly where and when they need to show up.  Tell them what they need to do, for example: show up looking like a zombie at noon in this place, and then for 5 minutes walk around like zombies, then disperse.

If your idea is more complicated and requires more accurate synchronization, it might be a good idea to tell people to gather at an alternate location nearby before the event, where you can explain what is going to happen, synchronize watches, hand out any props, and then have people disperse before gathering again for the flash mob.

Other possibilities include: have all the people participating sign up for a service like Broadtexter –an online service that lets you create free mobile clubs—and send out a mass text message.  You could also use a signal like blowing a whistle or just yelling a phrase to tell people when to begin.

A pillow fight flash mob

Step 4: Let it Happen

Once everything is organized, just sit back and let your flash mob happen.  It’s a good idea to bring along a few people to photograph and film the event, and you could also bring something to let the bystanders know why this is happening, like a big poster for your film or maybe flyers.  You can get creative in this area, do something that will get people interested and that they will remember.

Step 5: The Aftermath

After you have successfully pulled off your flash mob, there are still things you can do to promote your film.  Post the video of your flash mob on YouTube, go back to your social networking sites and get links to the pictures and the video out there.  Your video could even go viral if you promote it enough.  Keep pushing your website.  Also, remember that maintaining an active presence on your social networking sites is an invaluable tool.  Use it.

Good Luck!

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Raindance aims to promote and support independent filmmaking and filmmakers.

From new and emerging to industry pros, Raindance connects, trains, supports, and promotes visual storytellers through every step of their career.

The Raindance Film Festival runs each Autumn in London's Leicester Square.

Raindance has been delivering film training since 1992. A wide range of Open Classes to a 2 year HND Level 5 BTEC in Moving Images to a Postgraduate Film Degree are delivered to students on five continents, both in person and online.