Film Promotion… Rube Goldberg Style

One of my RSS feeds and daily spots to visit on the web is Mike Everleth’s excellent underground-film blog, Bad Lit.  Yesterday (March 24th, 2010) he posted a great blog about on-line underground film promotion. He touches on the current Facebook/twitter follower-building school of thought but focuses mostly on the general ineffectiveness of current underground film promotional websites to actually do their jobs and promote a film. Here’s an excerpt:

There’s a lot of chatter online these days about the need for filmmakers to promote their films on the Internet. This chatter typically translates into the need to send out massive amounts of stupid Tweets and irritating Facebook updates. If you do those things, the theory goes, you’ll build an interactive “community” around your film online and generate interest that will build as your Twitter and Facebook profiles gain more followers.

As a whole, I agree with him. I really, really do. The general conversation in the indie film/DIY/DIWO/Self-Distribution world is about to seismically shift from “Distribution” to “Promoting” and Mike does a great job of comparing underground film websites with a model that currently seems to be working: WebComics. However, there are inherent differences between feature (or short) filmmaking and webcomics that prohibit promotional film websites/blogs from having the same interactivity that webcomics have.

A good webcomic will put 1 or 2 pages up per week. That means that it is the job of the comic creator to post NEW content regularly. At the same time the new content is posted the comic creator can also post a blog commenting on what they have posted (like Jason Brubaker does with the excellent webcomic ReMind) I think it’s a great model. In contrast a feature filmmaker can’t post 1 or 2 scenes per week (if they do it’s now a web series (Like Wreck & Salvage. series Mike mentions) and not a feature or short film). So, either “special feature” content needs to be posted on a regular basis or it gets posted when there’s “news,” which in the indie film world is usually bunched up into busy spurts with months of “inactivity” between.

As a filmmaker I would love to be able to put up a behind the scenes clip every day that I’m on set. But at the end of a day that usually extends past 14 hours, blogging just isn’t on the schedule. Having a producer around that is willing to document the “making of” (Like the Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then blog he links to) would be a Godsend. I don’t want to diminish her blog, I’m sure it’s fantastic (haven’t had time to read it yet) and I’m sure she is very busy during the course of the production but when you’re the writer/director/camera/production designer/editor etc etc blogging isn’t conducive, and can be a bit distracting actually. Looking at her blog I see that there is only 9 subscribers, I don’t know if that is reflective of the overall readership but if it is, considering the ample amount of time that she has put into it, I’m not sure what the cost/benefit analysis would say about that effort.

Another issue (for lack of a better word) that I have is that creating an interactive website to promote a film is the beginning of a Rube Goldberg machine. Follow me here: I’m making a movie that I’m going to want to promote. So I create a blog/interactive website to promote the film. I get 1 or 2 random hits per day. So I create a facebook page to promote the blog/website to promote the film. I get a hundred or so friends (mostly people that already know about the film). So I create a twitter feed to promote the facebook page to promote the blog/website to promote the film. I get a bunch of followers, and still only a dozen random hits per day. So I create a youtube account to post videos that I tweet about to promote the facebook page that was made to promote the blog/website to promote the film. Then I make a press release to promote the video I just posted on the youtube page that is also mentioned on my twitter feed to promote the facebook page that promotes the blog/website that was created to promote the film. A couple of web magazines post the press releases and I get a few more followers to my twitter feed that was made to promote the facebook….. I think you see where I’m going with this.

Like I said I agree with Mike. Web presence is definitely a major part of building awareness and finding a way to use it successfully is the golden ticket. Looking at other models from other arts is definitely a good place to start (people started comparing the indie-music scene and indie-film scene about a year ago or so). Looking at what they do successfully is as important as seeing why it’s successful for them and if the same successful properties will apply to indie film. Maybe the solution is to have “press” on set every day of the shoot, rather than just one or two days, and let them do the content for you.

This is a great conversation to have. Does anyone have great examples of websites/blogs that you frequent that have helped you to be aware of a film that you might not have otherwise known about? Post the link in comments. And make sure to visit Bad Lit for the whole article.

This blog was directly inspired by Bad Lit.

p.s. @MikeEverleth thanks for the RT of my tweet of the facebook post that mentions the article in Fangoria about the launch of the Channel Midnight website which will be distributing my film BURNING INSIDE.

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3 Responses to “Film Promotion… Rube Goldberg Style”

  1. Underground Film Loop: The Terror Of Traffic | Bad Lit Says:

    […] to that article, filmmaker Nathan Wrann wrote on his own blog that he liked my idea, but then gave the practical reason why it’s nearly impossible to make tenable. The reason, if I may paraphrase, is, “Time […]

  2. Chad Says:

    I really appreciate the info in this blog post. I am currently looking for great case studies on successful online promotional campaigns for feature films. I have thought of some of your ideas about posting “behind the scenes” clips – problem is the legal departments for studios…sometimes can be a tough challenge to get past. I am a social media maven who spent 3 years at a traditional agency building brands on the social web…also a striving screen writer who sees the potential of having a strong online push to get people into the theaters.

    Thanks again for your post!

    Chad

  3. Underground Film Loop: The Terror Of Traffic | Underground Film Journal Says:

    […] to that article, filmmaker Nathan Wrann wrote on his own blog that he liked my idea, but then gave the practical reason why it’s nearly impossible to make tenable. The reason, if I may paraphrase, is, “Time […]

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