One of the most frequent things I’m asked to do when updating sites for filmmakers or others in the TV or movie industry, is embed a Youtube or Vimeo video on their website.

Allow your YouTube or Vimeo films to be shared, maximising exposure, fueling curiosity and applying modern-day stickiness techniques to a launch.

I’m a filmmaker from way back. I kind of know how filmmaker’s think. It’s wonderful to see your film open on a big screen. You feel like you’ve made it.

Filmmaking is a 100 year old tradition and while many Australian filmmakers are familiar with Facebook and Twitter (more about Twitter here) 100 year old habits are very hard to shake. I’m particularly talking about the opening weekend / bums on seats / sign this secrecy clause approach to filmmaking. That world is dead. But don’t take it from me, ask Lucas and Spielberg.

Here’s a list of some things professional filmmakers like to do before they release a movie

  1. Producers will get people to sign secrecy agreements about their project
  2. Producers only invite cast and crew to an opening night screening
  3. Attention and marketing efforts are focused on the big launch
  4. [highlight background=”#BCDF61″ color=”#000″]Nobody is allowed to reveal the idea / story / content before release day[/highlight]

Doing all this stuff is anachronistic and wrong thinking. Here’s why.

Opening Weekend

opening weekend

Box office takings for the first week of release was generally considered a good measurement of how a film will fare overall. While this still holds sway with big-budget US releases such as Wolverine and Batman, it’s really not the same for independent films (NB: all Australian films are independent, mostly taxpayer-funded films). Small films need to focus on the long tail – how the film will fare being released over the web or hired through an online video portal such as iTunes or Samsung.

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have already predicted a massive implosion, saying that the internet provides too many competing options, essentially diluting the film-going public. Lucas complains about how hard he finds it to get his films screened in cinemas. If he’s having trouble with the opening weekend model, Australians should really take note.

Aiming for a big weekend release is anachronistic and probably very expensive when your shelf-life can be ten years. Australian filmmakers buy into glamour and spectacle by having a big celebratory party. When a film is pulled from cinemas after only a few days, the filmmaker’s “big high” is more often than not followed by much longer “low.”

It’s probably not the way forward – especially when you consider that opening nights are usually populated by the converted (filmmakers who were involved, other filmmaker friends, actors who were in the film, actors who wanted to be in the film, agents, reviewers, parents of filmmakers and an ever-aging audience – who have yet to thrill to the arcade sounds of Candy Crush on their grandkid’s iPad Mini.

If you were to remove the following audience members from any Australian Theatrical release;

  1. Cast, Crew, Distributors and investors
  2. Friends and relatives of cast and crew
  3. Other filmmakers

There would be very few people – if any at all – attending an opening night release, anyway. We just don’t have the marketing budget.

Perhaps 100 years ago, when the silver screen was still somewhat of a scientific curiosity, there would be other attendees at “independent films”, but with the internet all around us, opening-nights are folly, focussed more around the cult and mystique of filmmaking rather than any practical reality.

100 years later (Now)

In 2004, Chris Anderson (then editor of Wired Magazine) wrote a very successful article entitled The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. << That non-affiliate link is to the book of the same name that he wrote as a result of the article's success. It's an intriguing read. The term long tail refers to the traditional retailer strategy of selling a large number of unique items over a long time period. her eon the web, it might be likened to the SEO technique of implementing less popular keywords (in an article like this one) to target untapped search opportunities.

long tail rome open city

While the internet is happy to change on an almost daily basis, the film industry is still stuck in the dark ages – more often than not led by ego – than a common sense approach to modern day marketing. Companies such Amazon.com, Apple and (more recently) Yahoo! have been applying long-tail selling strategies to their online retail outlets for many years.

Filmmakers didn’t get that memo.

Video on the web

So. To summarise.

One of the most frequent things I’m asked to do when updating sites for filmmakers or others in the TV or movie industry, is embed a Youtube or Vimeo video on their website. It’s a pretty easy thing to do. Both Youtube and Vimeo have a share and embed option. I cut-n-paste the embed code into the filmmakers’ web site and then it’s just a matter of tweaking the width and height of the video so it looks good. A $10 job that I rarely charge for.

However, because of the way filmmakers and producers think, this task quickly turns into a nightmare. Invariably, the share function has been switched off (Usually by a protective producer) and embedding is “not allowed”. After several phone calls and email conversations, it quickly becomes apparent that somebody is either waiting until the film or TV show has been released or they are nervously acting on behalf of the distributor (with an exclusive domestic sales contract). When it comes down to it, someone is not wanting to offend someone else.

In my experience as a filmmaker (although to be honest, I’m what you would call an art filmmaker) it’s really hard to get your film seen in Australia – by anyone. Very few Australian films make their budget back at the box office – and most of the budget is funded directly (via Film Australia) or indirectly (through SBS or ABC) with tax dollars.

Perhaps it is IMHO, but making information / showreels / cut scenes or adverts about your film available before a film’s release is only going to increase the awareness of your project. Switching sharing off is just making your life a little bit harder by decreasing the audience’s awareness of what you’re doing. What could be better than increasing awareness? Think of it as “warming the seats of the cinema” so that when your film is finally released to the millions (or in Australia – thousands) there are a few other people on those warm seats who have been championing your project and warming new seats for their friends on your behalf.

All you have to do kids – is leave sharing ON!!!

Author: Edwin James Lynch

Edwin wrote his first (Harrier Jumpjet) computer program in 1982. Today he builds websites utilising best practice, future-proof web development, online marketing and SEO. He lectured for 15yrs+ at Curtin University where (in 2007) he was voted 5th best out of 2,500+ university lecturers in Australia.

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