Do It Yourself (DIY) promotion via the Internet has become all the rage these days because it is a) possible and b) it can actually work. That said, doing it right is not as easy as people would like to believe. Much of it can be but some aspects are very complex and time consuming.
One problem is that everything on the web in relation to video content is evolving very rapidly. This is going to be very good for independent filmmakers as the ability to reach your audience through all available platforms (TV, web, smart phones, game systems) becomes more and more an everyday fact of life. The ability to monetize this content is also on the verge of becoming worthwhile whether by PPV or through ad supported, free to view platforms which actually pay enough per viewer to make it worthwhile for the content creator.
For this story I want to lay out a suggested promotional timeline to use when making a film. Promotion in the best application is not something you do at just one point. It is something you do throughout the whole process.
1. Pre Production You have your script and you are ready to begin. As you get your cast and crew together and work on lining up sets, locations and equipment you should also be getting ready to put together your web presence. This would include a website for the film as well as a Facebook page, twitter account, YouTube account and possibly a Livestream account. Make sure you build SEO into each one and have them all linked via some part of the same URL (facebook.com/mymovie, www.mymovie.com, @mymovie, youtube.com/user/mymovie)
2. Production By now your social networks should be live and gathering fans. Your website for the film should be live as well, even if it is only one page to tell the world that the film is “coming soon”. Engage your fans with updates on your social networks. Do some “behind the scenes” videos for your youtube page. Perhaps do a weekly or monthly livestream show to further interact with your fans.
At this point you could also send out a press release announcing the upcoming film. All of these activities serve to build your core group of fans but they also help with your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on the web. The more links there are to your site and the more times the name of your film appears across the web the better position you will get in search results.
Let me add this note on press releases. For the most part press releases (unless directed to a very narrow group of recipients) are like throwing a cup of water into a pond. They get lost. Not because they aren’t well written or engaging but simply because there is a daily deluge of press releases and trying to stand out from the crowd and compete with much better financed organizations is next to impossible.
There are a lot of choices in press release services on the web and prices vary from free to about $350 for some upper end sites. For some applications the free ones are fine. There are a lot of websites and blogs who pull their content from RSS feeds so your free press release gets automatically included there for free and again it helps your SEO in the long run.
For the more adventurous of you there is the option of sending a press release to a specific group of writers who you target yourself. If you would like to target newspapers there is a nice list of all of the newspapers in the US at this link.
In the blog world it is also a good to do a release to a targeted group at this stage so that, later on, when it is time to announce the finished film, the bloggers are already familiar with you. Here are two separate lists of 600 film blogs each that I found for you to pursue in that respect; list 1 and list 2.
3. Editing Ok, we are down to the wire now. I wanted to mention the fact that the music you select for your film can also become a promotional tool. Much is being made of the opportunities available to musicians to license their music for film and TV and the indie music world is receptive to the idea. Plus, most indies in music are as hungry for publicity as you are.
The web offers millions of songs free for the listening and, once you find some you like, why not see if the owners of the songs are willing to allow you to use them in exchange for mutual promotional opportunities? Your film gets exposed to their established audience (which can number from thousands to hundreds of thousands). And they get exposed to your audience. If more is required why not offer to direct their next music video?
Success in this industry is much easier to achieve when you make networking with others a top priority. Everyone you meet or work with may later be able to lead you to something better and you them as well.
4. The Trailer Your film trailer is the biggest and best tool you have on the web to promote your film. It is your commercial and what will drive viewers to your film if you choose to have it available as a Pay Per View. No matter which way you go with your film (to a studio who buys it from a film festival or to a distributor who will sell it as a DVD) it stands to reason that the more popular you can show them that your film is, the more room you have to negotiate price or contract specifics with them.
If you can show you have a large base of friends on various social networks and a hundred thousand views of your trailer on YouTube you will look a lot more attractive than a film with 100 Facebook friends and 130 views on YouTube. Your Trailer can help you build your social networks as well as build interest in the film on YouTube and beyond. Bloggers can embed your Trailer on their sites when writing about your film and thereby build your audience as well as helping your overall SEO. You can use advertising to put yourself in front of the largest audience possible and this is the time to do it. Advertising, using a film trailer is the single most effective way that I have found.
This is also the time to do another press release announcing your finished film. Personally I think it is nice to put a screener version of the film on Vimeo behind a password so that you can privately screen it for certain, select members of the press. In addition, whenever you are accepted into a film festival you could do press releases to local media in the area of the festival and invite some personally to come and see your film (especially those at which you will be present).
The intent of this story was to give you a plan of action from concept to completion if you intend to go the DIY promotion route. Remember that DIY can apply to as much of the total effort as you want or need it to.
If you want to you can hire someone as a consultant to guide you through the entire process. Or you can hire someone to help with specific parts of the campaign. Or you can go total DIY and if you choose that route I hope this story helps you to become a success.