March 9th, 2012 | Comments Off
You’ve made a documentary, it’s finished, looking great and perhaps you even have a couple of screenings lined up somewhere. But now what? How will you convince the reviewers, bloggers, opinionators and the general audience that they should come and watch your film, actually make it the success you want it to be? DocGeeks looks at a few examples that made it happen.
The digital era brought us lot of advantage points, for filmmakers one of the biggest ones might be that they themselves now have the possibility to (cost-efficiently) create a demand for their movie, therefore being less dependent on a traditional push strategy from the industry. Online distribution is one such example, but if you do not want to go down that route (or even if you are) cheap blogs, websites, Facebook and Twitter are within reach and can help turn your documentary into a success with sold-out screenings in various cinemas.
By looking at some recent examples such as Dreams of a Life, Sound it Out and The Interrupters, we like to give you an idea of what is needed. Beware though, it might be a cost-efficient way to promote your documentary, it will however cost you a lot of time and you need to be willing to invest energy in this bit of the process as much as you were when you were making the film itself.
As there is a whole book to be written on the subject we focus on a different aspect in every post on the subject. Today it’s Twitter.
With nearly 400 million users Twitter is not to be underestimated as a promotional tool. Though every film or filmmaker out there is on Twitter, only a few have managed to ‘master the art’ of successfully creating a demand by using the microblogging tool. So here a few things you should definitely do:
Provide background information If you are making a movie about a certain topic such as a town, a famous person, a sport or a musical streaming you can create an interest in the topic (and therefore the film) by tweeting articles related to that subject. For example, When Jeanie Finlay tweeted about her film Sound It Out on both her own as well as the film’s Twitter account, she also shared articles, photos and tweets relating to record shops and record shop closures as this is the subject of her film. With this she manages to draw in people who care about the subject and via the tweets get exposure to her film.
Use hashtags Though many people have a Twitter account not that many also know how to actually make best use of it. A hashtag symbol # before relevant keywords in a tweet helps to categorize those tweets so they come up higher in the search function. We often add #documentary to a tweet if it is not yet in the title, this way people interested in documentary news can find us easily. If you use the title of your film or a specific hashtag you can also use it to see which other tweets have been issued with the same keyword by clicking on it.
Carry out searches It is not just hashtags that you can search for though. For example, by typing in ‘Interrupters’ in the search function, Kartemquin, the company behind Steve James’ documentary The Interrupters, see exactly who tweets something about their film. They can then use this knowledge to retweet or reply directly to whoever sent out the tweet.
Engage in conversation Replying is quite a big part of audience engagement. Even though Twitter is a static tool the most successful accounts tweet as if they were having a conversation. You thank people who say nice things about you or your film, send a little message when they retweet and if they ask something then reply. Your film after all is not a brand, you have put in a lot of hard work and energy and that thus makes it something more personal. If you want your audience to feel the same way then you need to give them a reason. Look at this twitter account of filmmaker Carol Morley- when her film Dreams of a Life came out she had never tweeted before, a few months later she engages people, promotes her documentary and other work and has over 1200 followers who are there to spread the word for her when she needs it.
Retweet Though you wouldn’t necessarily cut out your review and run with it to a pub full of strangers, that is exactly what you would do on Twitter. If someone says something nice or post a review that they tweet about then retweet it straightaway. People are still afraid to be left out and follow their peers, if your film seems to be getting a lot of attention then they need to find out what it is about. On top of that, eternal gratefulness from the tweeters makes them closer to you.
Don’t just sell your film! It is a no no no to just try to sell your film and get screenings or DVD sales. Who wants that? We already have traditional media doing the same thing, the idea behind ‘social media’ is that it is all about engagement and empowerment, we decide what we want, not you.
Over the next few days we will go into this topic a bit further and explore other media you can use but for now have a browse through the examples that are given and get inspired.
If you have any questions or like to show us what you are doing then feel free to leave a comment below!
Written by Alexandra Zeevalkink
Alexandra Zeevalkink is a Dutch-born journalist living in London who founded DocGeeks in August 2011 in order to have a legitimate excuse to watch every documentary under the sun. She freelances for various publications and writes mainly about documentary films, art projects and social inequalities. When she is not blogging or watching films she enjoys theater, photography and reading loads of books. She is always on the look out for potential partnerships with other creative minds.
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