I Hate Marketing is a new weekly Stareable Film School column, where we’ll talk about how to make marketing easier, even for those of us who hate it.
The biggest mistake filmmakers make in regards to marketing is not thinking about their strategy before filming wraps. This article is how to set up for success while you’re still in development and on set, before you have anything concrete to promote or hype.
Take pictures and video of EVERYTHING
I’ve mentioned this in a few other posts, but it bears repeating- no matter what you’re doing, if it relates to your show, take pictures and videos. You can use these later for a variety of promotional purposes. People love watching stuff get made, and the more visual content you have of that process, the more unique posts you can write about it.
Once you’re on set, this step becomes even more important. If you can’t afford a dedicated photographer/videographer, the least you can do is assign a different crew member per shoot to focus on photos. Make sure they capture both what’s happening in front of the camera as well as behind it because again, audiences love seeing the whole process.
Try to get videos as well as photos, so you can mix and match as you make your social media schedule. Remember- the key is to post lots of different things so people don’t get bored, and having multiple kinds of material to promote will make that a breeze.
Start with ONE social media account and work your way up
There is no universe in the multiverse where making seven unique social media accounts for your show at once will make sense or yield the most successful results in your marketing strategy. Especially if you, like me, hate marketing, start small. Make one show-specific account on the social media website you’re already most familiar with. For most people, that’s Facebook.
Next week I’ll go into more detail about the pros and cons of each major social media platform, but for now, just make one account and start posting content, even if that content is photos of production meetings, location scouting adventures, or out-of-context lines from the script.
Start building your community and theme
Now that you’ve got your first show account, start following other shows, actors, writers, etc from your genre. For my web series, which was a vlog rom com set in a zombie apocalypse, I started following accounts for other zombie shows, other rom com writers, and other vlog-style web series. Whenever one of those accounts tweeted something that could be relevant to current or future fans of my show, I retweeted, so that my account doubled as promotion for me as well as a cultivated timeline of related content. Remember- people need a reason to follow you before you have a show they love, and curating related content is a great way to start that process.
Plus, this will get you in the habit of using your social media for things other than self-promotion. The moment I started retweeting content and support for other web series creators was when my accounts started to take off.
The importance of community cannot go understated- if you aren’t a genuine contributor to the community who cares about other people and other shows, you’re unlikely to get much support in return.
Research film festivals and screenings ahead of time
New filmmakers tend to leave film festival submissions out of their initial scheduling and planning, and I think that’s a mistake. Film festivals get expensive FAST, and they happen so frequently that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and miss deadlines.
Do your research early- what are festivals you think your project will be a good fit at, how much do they cost to submit, and when are their deadlines? (Hint- here’s a handy list of web fest deadlines)
Making a spreadsheet (I know, I know) of all of these will help control your budget, plus it’ll give you some deadlines to work towards. Film festival selections and wins are amazing opportunities for marketing, so plan ahead!
Example film festival spreadsheet. Note that I also made sure to write down WHERE I could submit
Some quick tips on this:
- Look local. Local festivals are more likely to accept you since you’ll be able to physically attend, especially if you’re from an area outside of LA or NY. Bonus tip: you should attend as many festivals as you can, because in-person marketing should not be overlooked, and in-person networking is often more productive.
- Look for themes. If your show is a particular genre (horror, sci fi, fantasy, documentary, etc) or is about a particular group of people (women, LGBT+, POC, etc), try to find festivals that are specific to you. A horror series will likely do better at a horror-specific festival than a general one (like Sundance or Cannes, for instance), which is important to keep in mind when prioritizing which fests to put your budget towards. This is what I mean when I say look for festivals that seem like a “good fit”
- Submit early. Almost every film festival will have lower submission prices in the first few weeks after submissions open, so make sure that’s the deadline you write down. It’ll save you money and allow you to submit to more festivals.
To wrap up: don’t procrastinate on marketing planning- it should be as important during pre-production as scheduling shoot dates. I know how annoying it is, but trust me: the earlier you do it, the easier it will be in the long-term and the more effective it will be for you and your show’s success.
Next week, we’ll weigh the pros and cons and benefits and drawbacks of different social media sites, so you can make informed decisions about which ones to focus your efforts on.