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Getting Your Marketing Hands Dirty

Silicon valley entrepreneurs are setting the standard for getting out and spreading the word to build an audience. Independent filmmakers need to show the same hustle.

If you follow to any extent the happenings out of Silicon Valley you'll see that the founders, investors and other key players in any number of start-ups are always hustling. They're on Twitter and Facebook talking the site/service/app/tool up, investing time in pitching influential media outlets and hitting as many parties and other events trying to make sure everyone knows what they're doing. They're doing so with a handful of potential outcomes in mind: They might be looking to make money through either selling paid versions or through ad sales. They might be hoping to attract a critical mass of users in the hopes of being acquired by a bigger existing company. Or they could genuinely think they have a great idea and just want as many people as possible to know about it.

This contrasts to a great extent with something I've heard more than once from independent filmmakers, which is that they're much too busy to be personally involved in the marketing of the movie they're planning, shooting or have already completed. There's no problem with attending festivals, of course, but writing a blog or something like that apparently will require more time than they have and is akin to asking them to dilute their art with tacky marketing. I'm generalizing of course but I've come across this sentiment enough times to worry that it's fairly widespread.

So if the hoodied-entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley know there's value in beating the drum as often and as loudly as possible why is there still a stigma attached to doing so in the film world?

First off it does need to be admitted that we're dealing art in the as opposed to commerce, though WordPress creator and Automattic head Matt Mullenwag might argue with that since the official motto of WordPress is "Code is Poetry." And since art is supposed to be free of commercial concerns it's understandable why those who are more concerned with the purity of the story they're trying to tell, fictional or not.

But it's also undeniable that without attracting an audience to the art, the message of what they're trying to convey won't have as big an impact, if it even is capable of making an impact at all. The reality is that people need to see the movie in order to appreciate it.

Filmmakers working outside the studio system don't have huge marketing budgets to work with, of course and what they do have might be shot in the hiring of a single consultant for a couple weeks of brain time. That can be a great jumpstart for many movies but it can't be the only bullet that's put in the chamber. And it doesn't need to be.

By engaging in consistent activities to promote the movie - and themselves - beginning around the time the film begins shooting or even prior to that filmmakers can begin to build up an audience. That means talking to anyone and everyone they can about the movie, about what they hope to accomplish with it, about why they made it and everything else. But doing so can't be done haphazardly. Instead it needs start with a bit of research and an understanding that this is going to occupy more than a few hours out of each day.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for more detail on the ideas I’ve teased here.


Getting Your Marketing Hands Dirty has also been cross-posted on Tribeca Film Institute's blog.


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