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Notes From A Film Festival Programmer: You STILL Have No Facebook Page Or Website For Your Project?

May 28, 2014 12:58 PM
3 Comments
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Atlanta Film Festival

I can’t believe I have to write this one AGAIN, but I–and others–will keep pushing this rock up the hill…

I was sent an email this morning by a filmmaker who addressed it to the Ann Arbor Festival and not the Atlanta Film Festival. But that wasn’t what bothered me. I skipped over the error of the wrong festival because I’ve made much bigger stumbles than that myself, and on a much wider scale–like 1,500 filmmakers wide. It was that she included only a title about her film and no other information.

So I Googled her film, which has such a unique and attention grabbing title–and the title is what made me want to know more–it should be easy to find her Facebook page or Website. Nothing. Tried the title and her name. Found a still from her storyboard, but it didn’t reveal much. It did indicate that the film is animated, or at least I think it’s supposed to be animated.

So here’s some advice for filmmakers:

Create your Facebook page (and website if possible) during pre production and keep it up to date on at least a weekly basis (but posting at least 3 or 4 times a week is better)

Do not create a page you aren’t going to update at least once a week. It can be a still. A video. It could be just be as simple as posting: “Taking a week break next week from editing to let this cut sit a while. Still too long, but not sure what has to go yet.”

If it’s between a film that will promote themselves and one that hasn’t updated anything in months, which do you think we’d choose if we liked both equally? Flip this around. If you’re submitting to a film festival, which gives you more confidence: a fest that hasn’t posted in three months, or a fest that’s at least posted something in the last week?

Don’t just post about your film

ATLFF12 selection Derby, Baby! Is a good example. They’re as much a resource for Derby information as they are about where and when to see the film itself. They also post about related issues and topics: women athletes, Title IX, young girls doing amazing things, etc. They also very much post more like a human than a promobot.

Consider having only A website for all your shorts instead of creating an individual one for each of them 

Why? First, putting all your shorts together has them collectively working together. As a calling card for networking, as a draw for anyone that might become a fan of your work, it should be one stop shopping as much as possible.

Second, you’re unlikely to get major distribution for a short. It’s not impossible, yet still highly unlikely. Don’t spend too much time creating a website for each new work when you really just need three or four more pages. Save that for the feature films. Even then having a single site for all your features and shorts may not be a bad idea. You can always have a domain redirect to the feature’s or short’s home page on the site.

Three, it makes your work much more search engine friendly having it in one place and easier to find.

Four, as a festival is making decisions a short that comes from a filmmaker who shows incredible talent or promise or huge growth can be a plus. It could be the factor that pushes a film ahead of one that’s equally as good. Seeing your last short(s) may give a boost to your current one.

Five, if you’re always working and updating your main site, the pages of your short (or feature) never have to be updated, but it’s easy for visitors to see you’re still working. That short from 2006 doesn’t give the illusion that you haven’t done anything since then because it’s a click away from the film you just finished last week.

DO create a website for you and your company or film collective that showcases all your work in one place

Not sure I should or have to explain this one.

If you have a Vimeo page or Youtube Channel, link to it, include it on your Facebook page and embed it and/or the films. If you don’t have one, create one. CAVEAT: Do this after you have enough films.

Vimeo and Youtube are easily searchable, easy to share and give you multiple tools to share public and private links, track views, and more. It also gives your fans a chance to share the video once you’ve uploaded it after your festival run.

Little more than two years ago, I attempted to share festival shorts we had screened every week on our Facebook page. I ran out of films after about 3 to 4 months. Either the films weren’t online, were only trailers or impartial films, or they only existed on the filmmaker’s sites.

Considering we’ve programmed roughly 60 to 100 shorts every year since 2005, the year YouTube launched, getting to only 12 to 16 shorts out of 350 to 500 is kind of depressing. Even more so if we go back to 2001 when the 48 Hour Film Project was able to debut on the scene because digital technology had lowered the barrier enough. Out of nine years of films, I should have at least gotten to 50 films.

Just be sure to include your best work and take down anything that is sub par or doesn’t match where you are. That 1998 short maybe cute, but it may undermine that short you have now in 2012. It all depends on what you’re communicating.

Even more powerful presence have you will if Facebook pages and website do exist with a video page. Diminished presence will be if not.

DON’T rely solely on twitter

Tweets are temporary. Folks should be able to find basic information any day or night.

Make sure your synopsis and information is text and specific enough that it can be found using search engines

If I can’t remember the name of your film but I remember the plot and maybe a character name the more detailed your synopsis is the more likely I can Google it. And if I can’t use your name to find your film because it’s a part of some fancy jpeg that’s a major fail.

L!fe Happens is a comedy centered on three young women – Kim, Deena and Laura – who all live under the same roof in Los Angeles. When one of Kim’s one-night-stands results in an unexpected pregnancy, things take a sudden turn for the trio. With the help of her girlfriends, Kim must cope with single motherhood as she jumps back into the dating scene amid the fear that toting around a tot can be a dating ‘buzz-kill.’

I was able to use these words to find the above synopsis from our 2012 Opening Night Film: “kim pregnant los angeles film” and “pregnant los angeles film single mother ritter”

Will everyone have or want to use Google or Bing to find your film? Maybe, maybe not. But don’t make it overly difficult to do so if you don’t have to. You also never know when someone may genuinely discover your film. Just don’t use bait words.

Include compelling images from your film on your website and your page

Production stills are cool, but not particularly enticing. Get people excited about the film with something juicy and helps convey the story. Also, you never know when someone from the press or a festival might need (more) images and being able to download them from your site makes it easier. And again, some fans may want to share an image, but not a trailer.

AND, even as cool as your synopsis maybe, it just might be the still that grabs a festival director or programmer’s attention, especially if the synopsis sounds like a story that’s impossible to pull off.

Recount your film’s personal successes and try to tell a story

If you had 3 sold out screenings add that. If you did outreach with 8, 9, 10 different organizations on your own and that’s why it sold out add that as well.

Every film and filmmaker has their own journey. Think of your film as more of a character with a life of its own and treat it as such. It’s not born when the editing is done, or is accepted on the festival circuit, it’s living and breathing from pre production and beyond. Facebook pages that give audiences the impression that they’re following and are even a part of its journey the better.

One filmmaker has been posting the good and bad news for his film, what he was working on and why he made the film, and posting often, and it’s like reading a journal and not a series of promotional posts on a Facebook Page.

MAYBE IT’S JUST ME BUT…DO NOT USE FLASH LANDING PAGES OR PAGES THAT AUTO LOAD MUSIC OR VIDEO!!!!

Seriously…don’t do it. Few things turn off visitors more than having music blasting at them. And no one cares if you’ve got mad motion graphic skills…okay, maybe they will, but not on the front page. Although, if it’s funny and relevant to the film I could be proven wrong…but, that’s honestly been so rare I’m going to stick to DON’T DO IT.

Contact info, contact info, contact info <—- Include this, make it easy to find, avoid forms

Will all this guarantee you will get into a festival? No. Every film and filmmaker has it’s own path.

Yet, you never know when a festival director will stumble on your film and will ask you to send them a copy. You never know if a festival is unsure if your film has an audience till they see that you’ve marketed your film to fans and got them out. And you definitely never know when someone will decide that they want to be a part of helping you get to the next level. You never know when a stranger may find your film and contact a festival to ask if the film is coming to their town (these emails really do exist and they really do come from strangers and not people connected to the films).

And ensuring you have pages and sites you can share with festivals and groups once you’ve been accepted is paramount. Start building that up NOW, not three weeks before your first festival.

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3 Comments

  • Marie | May 29, 2014 9:54 AMReply

    Just saved a copy of these tips and will ABSOLUTELY be following your advice. Thanks so much!

  • RUSerious | May 28, 2014 5:43 PMReply

    Advice for film festival programmers: Program the best films you receive...whether they have a silly facebook page or not.

  • Charles Judson | May 29, 2014 4:51 AM

    Run a festival for seven years, cover film festivals for four years before that as a film critic, and attend an average of 15o events every year, for about nine of those, warching roughly 20,000 festival submissions alone, then make that statement. I earned that knowledge from solid experience.

    If you disagree, then offer an alternative that benefits filmmakers.

    You obviously skipped the part where I mention that a festival might find your film. Some of the best films are never submitted. Feel free to argue with me. That would of course mean ignoring the fees that make it hard to submit to every festival, making it hard to program a film a festival never received. Programming from submissions only means shutting out talented Filmmakers and hurting films that may need that extended hand.

    Five minutes of thought or research is better than 15 seconds of internet wisdom. You might try it.

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