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Indie Filmmakers: Why Building Your Audience Is More Valuable Than Promoting Your Film

Features
by Chris Dorr
March 13, 2014 1:00 PM
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Amanda Palmer

The challenge presented to each indie filmmaker is the same. How do I get my work discovered?

Typically, an indie film travels to success with the aid of a small group of usual suspects. The 2012 version of that trip is laid out in Anne Thompson’s, $11 Billion Year: From Sundance to the Oscars, an Inside Look at the Changing Hollywood SystemThompson covers the circus that is the film festival circuit, where distributors show their new films and filmmakers woo festival audiences, critics and distributors with their latest projects. It is an insider game that moves from Sundance to Cannes to the Academy Awards.

Harvey Weinstein knows this game better than most. He understands how to appeal to festival insiders at Cannes and woo the members of the Motion Picture Academy. He knows that his success depends on his ability to shape the value of a movie by appealing to elites and through these elites find the masses.

He serves as the filmmaker’s promoter, singing the film’s praises to all the right people. Then he pushes the film into the marketplace positioned for box office success.

Mr. Weinstein and others like him extract a large amount of rent for their efforts. If the film succeeds -- the distributor succeeds financially, but not necessarily the filmmaker. In some rare cases money trickles back to the filmmaker, but as they say, “don’t hold your breath”.

This is the classic middleman model within a classic insider industry.

Today, outside the confines of the traditional film industry a new model is emerging. It is based on the premise that one does not “promote a film.”  Instead, one “builds an audience."

If Harvey Weinstein is the poster child for the indie world of traditional gatekeepers and extractors of rent, Amanda Palmer is the poster child for the world where artists of all types work at “building an audience."

Read the rest of this article at Digital Dorr.

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