Pinterest – horror, ghosts, spooky forests and kittens

Our Pinterest boards

Our Pinterest boards

On the Train is on Pinterest now! Find us at pinterest.com/theditch/boards.

Pinterest is a surprisingly addictive pastime, especially for those who are strongly motivated by visuals (which really ought to cover almost everyone in film). I’ve found it easy to assemble a board which gives viewers an instant impression of what kind of atmosphere we’re aiming to create in The Ditch – spooky, mist-shrouded woods (although we won’t have any mist in our production), ghosts half-seen, revenants and undead ‘things’, creepy abandoned buildings. If this all sounds a bit Gothic maybe that’s no bad thing, although the world of The Ditch is as much rooted in reality as in the spirit world (our central character, Donna, has to deal with everyday concerns like her relationship with the other people in her real-world life, and the moral choices she has to make when in a situation any of us could find ourselves in).

Of course we’ve also added a board of images from the production, including our latest trailer. This board will feature publicity stills, posters and other promotional images, as well as some behind the scenes material (some of which can also be viewed soon on our updated website, coming shortly).

And, because Pinterest is fun, we’ve added some pictures of kittens. (Plus lots of other things we just like because, well, we just like them – the staggering endless blue of houses in the Indian city of Jodhpur, the sun stabbing its way in between the stones at Stonehenge, pictures of people making films, attractive design and photography…) We’ll try to keep the kittens out of the ‘horror’ section, although nothing in life is guaranteed and it would be fun to find some crossover between the two. Might be time to watch Cat People again…

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How to promote your short film – Part 2

The panel at BAFTA

The panel at BAFTA

A few days late, but this is the second part of my summary of what came out of BAFTA‘s panel ‘Short Sighted: get your short film seen by the people who matter’ last Monday. I’ve already talked about strategies for film festivals, how you might get your work into cinemas despite the dominance of the multiplexes, and something about emerging online distribution models which promise relatively good exposure if you’re prepared to sacrifice the likelihood of monetary gain.

This post builds on what I said about the last of these, and concentrates on the advice given by panellists about how to run an online (and offline) campaign to raise the exposure of material you put online – whether that be Distrify, Vimeo, YouTube or any other site. Remember these aren’t my views, but those offered by the panellists at the event.

Be in no doubt: running an online promotional campaign is a huge undertaking. Clear your diary a week before the launch. You will need to create a mailing list with all your contacts on it – everyone you know. Identify the key people who are going to be willing and able to promote your film for you. Also, if your film appeals to a particular community, target them (for example, we were shown the film ‘Act of Terror’ (dir. Gemma Atkinson) by Fat Rat Films, which appeals directly to people with an interest in protest, direct action and so-called ‘anti-capitalism’).

Your film should have its own dedicated website – not just a Facebook page (although you should have one of those as well). The site should contain all the material you would want to put in an Electronic Press Kit, because journalists who write about your film will visit the website for information. Build a story about the making of the film, the more compelling the better – in ‘Act of Terror’ the story was that the film was created because the maker’s boyfriend was stopped and searched by the police, and they tried to stop her filming the search. You should pay particular attention to the film’s poster, because this is the first thing people are going to see when they encounter your film.

Build your social media presence – aim low, two thousand quality followers on Twitter who will be active on your behalf are better than two million who won’t be. Learn what works on your various social media platforms, what sort of things get shared and commented on. Make sure your Facebook page has a photo – photos get shared more than any other content. One good tip is to be connected via social media to a festival or similar event which has accepted your work – festivals want your work to succeed and are favourable to people who disseminate their messages because it benefits both them and you.

Once your film is up online, email people who might write about it – journalists, bloggers. Send out a hundred emails every day, making sure each one is personalised to the recipient. Target the people who are most likely to write about your film first, and don’t be surprised when promising prospects never get back to you and unlikely prospects turn out to be vocal about your work! Persist, even when people get irritated and ask you to leave them alone. Try different routes to the same organisation – Fat Rat were targeting a particular Guardian journalist who showed no interest, but as soon as they contacted the newsdesk they got an immediate response from someone else.

A private preview screening of your film is essential – make it a big event, go to town on it (literally). Invite journalists and industry people, and make sure you get their feedback on it. Get quotations from important people who see it and are prepared to be champions of your work.

Plan so that you can ride the momentum as soon as it takes off – you’ll only be flavour of the month for a short time (certainly not a month) and you mustn’t be caught out. Be available for calls and emails, and have plenty of information at hand so that you provide an instant response. A blog which is updated daily will keep people aware of how many people are accessing your work and how good the feedback is.

Remember, that people’s attention spans are short and no one online has to watch your film! Don’t stop promoting your work once it’s online. Build your audience in advance and let them act as your evangelists.

In short, be prepared, be active and be responsive.

(And remember, the online campaign for The Ditch starts in a couple of weeks!)

How to promote your short film – Part 1

Have you made a short film, or are you like me in the middle of making one? Are you thinking about making one? Do you regard short films as a ‘dry run’ for making a feature, or do you think they’re a valid form in their own right? Either way, this post may be for you.

On Monday I attended a day-long presentation at BAFTA entitled ‘Short Sighted: get your short film seen by the people who matter’. I thought fellow film-makers would benefit from a concise overview of what came out of that day, because there was a lot of detail – particularly in relation to film festivals and to the growing world of online distribution. The information was plentiful, especially to those new to the game, so I spent much of the time scribbling notes. What follows are the key points I recorded from the day.

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Tentacles… clinging to my body…

“There was always somebody – a man – standing by one of the firs. This was in daylight, you know. He was never in front of me. I always saw him with the tail of my eye on the left or the right, and he was never there when I looked straight for him. […] Sometimes, you know, you see him, and sometimes you don’t, just as he pleases, I think: he’s there, but he has some power over your eyes.” (M. R. James, ‘A Warning to the Curious’)

M. R. James, scholar and ghost-story writer

M. R. James, scholar and ghost-story writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

M.R. James needs no introduction. His famous stories, constantly reprinted, tell – at great and wordy length – of scholarly, rational men in ancient houses and lonely hills menaced by disturbed spirits, things of diabolical and malevolent intent with the power to inflict death and terror by little more than the fact that they are nearby. A James story typically consists of a pseudo-academic introduction, followed by an unremarkable and very long-winded exposition of events … and then something changes. Over maybe just a few paragraphs, and with the minimum of information, we begin to feel the presence of a mortal threat. Through suggestion and hint, this threat grows and grows until it overcomes the protagonist. We are rarely shown the moment of demise, and the hellish creature is usually described only in elements. Continue reading