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!)