September 4, 2014 at 5:55PM

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Building an Audience Before You Film & The New Path to Distribution

I'm a newbie filmmaker but my background is in writing novels. Since my first film will likely be based on one of my novels, what I'm thinking about doing is building a mailing list of people who are fans of the book and want to be update about the film in process before I shoot one minute of film.

I figure, a mailing list of fans poised to see my film and who are emotionally engaged in the story is powerful and effective than shooting it and praying to God there's an audience somewhere who'll find it.

Is anyone else building their audience first before they start shooting? If so, how are you going about it?

11 Comments

I think building an audience will be a little easier because of the fact that the film will be based off a novel that already has a fan base.

It's certainly advisable to do whatever is within your power to increase interest for your project, but I would use facebook to manage your communication with that audience as opposed to a mailing list. I recently worked on a project that used social media gain an audience, and then used that as leverage to raise money on kickstarter and through private investors. https://www.facebook.com/therangerswebseries

September 4, 2014 at 8:08PM, Edited September 4, 8:08PM

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Douglas Henderson
Director/Writer/Producer/Actor
911

Douglas makes good points. I would suggest that Facebook and e-mail lists are both powerful and each have advantages. For *me* (read: not meaning to spark a debate, just showing other side of a coin) I would do whatever I could to build an e-mail list. Facebook over the past year or two has tinkered with the feed algorithms of pages, massively reducing effectiveness of outreach to fans. So, if you have say 100,000 fans of your page, maybe 1,000, if you're lucky, would see something you post. Whereas 100,000 subscribers? Most of them will likely see an e-mail show up in their inbox.
Bottom line: Social media is indeed relevant, and private investors may be interested in what you're doing there. But e-mail may be even more valuable to investors, and definitely for personal outreach due to no middle-man choosing who sees the content and who doesn't.

September 4, 2014 at 9:20PM

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Samuel Neff
DP / Editor
674

Oooh... Interesting - Good point Samuel. I'm probably doing it slightly the wrong way around, as I started to build some social media awareness (little by little...!) during our shoot, and I'm now looking to build on that properly. It's a time-consuming business, and difficult to maintain in the pre-production - but now we're into post I've got a bit more time on my hands to actually start engaging with a possible audience (and other low-budget filmmakers). Currently that's through Facebook (www.facebook.com/dsrmovie) and Twitter (DONTSTOP_film), but that's a good point about mailing lists - and hopefully that will be something we can develop as we move on.

September 5, 2014 at 4:32AM

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Alex Richardson
Director
2919

I would agree with Douglas, as an email list only get you connected with your fans but through facebook you could potentially make new fans through your current fans; growing your audience as a whole. Especially if you plan to make frequent updates as some people find that could be annoying, potentially losing followers. Facebook on the other hand could get you quicker feedback and allow more of a comradery among your audience since they will be able to communicate together rather then just throw you. Social media is a powerful tool we all need to use to succeed.

September 5, 2014 at 7:12AM

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Gvickie Xiong
Editor/Cinematographer/Director
789

I agree. It doesn't hurt to have both but Facebook doesn't let all your followers see your messages unless you pay to let them all see it. So, all the energy you spent building thousands of followers, ends up being for nothing.

The one thing I know that gets like a 95% open rate is text messages, so I might couple my efforts with doing a text message campaign as long as it's opt-in and it's not so often that it irritates people.

September 5, 2014 at 9:05AM

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Jeff Rivera
Filmmaker | Storyteller
820

Personally, I would steer clear of a text msg campaign. Text is very invasive and could hurt your progress as much as it helps. It feels to the consumer like a commercial invasion of their private space. Hence it is rarely used in serious, well informed marketing campaigns.

September 6, 2014 at 2:47PM

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Brynn Sankey
Cinematographer
356

Finding an audience is tough. Best to start early. probably 1% of the people you reach will actually watch your movie (or less). As you are basing it on a book you need to be sure to reach the fans of the book. social media, articles on websites, ads, comments on websites, mass emails, etc.. It's depressing when you spend years making a movie imagining a ton of people will watch it then hardly anybody does. It's a different set of skills to get people to watch a film than to make it. I try to enjoy the movie making process as I have less control over whether people will watch and enjoy my films. And making the movie is more fun than having people watch it anyway. So put in effort building an audience up front or just make the movie and don't worry about it.

September 5, 2014 at 3:13PM

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Anton Doiron
Creator/Filmmaker
541

Hey Jeff,

In addition to the great comments already in this thread, I'd point you to the Indie Game: The Movie case study from that film's directors, Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky. Lisanne and James did a guest post here on NFS that touches on your question:

http://nofilmschool.com/2012/11/indie-game-movie-case-study-self-distrib...

More specifically, I recommend you read part 2 of their case study, "Technology & Building an Audience":

http://www.indiegamethemovie.com/news/2012/11/1/indie-game-case-study-te...

I've learned a ton from Lisanne and James' case study and had the good fortune to talk to Lisanne personally about my own feature film. Their case study is a big reason why I'm sharing the lessons I'm learning during the entire process of making and eventually distributing my feature CENTS here on NFS.

September 6, 2014 at 1:42AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Thanks for your feedback and the links guys! I know how to identify people who like the type of film I do, that's very easy and even people who have supported films like mine. That's free, just time-consuming. I know how to engage with them too. This will be really interesting as I start creating this list in about 9 months or so. I'll let you know how it progresses.

September 6, 2014 at 8:36AM

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Jeff Rivera
Filmmaker | Storyteller
820

Here's a post I made about building an audience from scratch for your film: http://nofilmschool.com/boards/discussions/how-create-thousands-fans-you...

September 14, 2014 at 5:25PM

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Jeff Rivera
Filmmaker | Storyteller
820

Totally. I am involve in a film and the audience it's first because the audience sostein the film economic and in social too.

September 29, 2014 at 6:10AM

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Rag├╝el Cremades
Film producer and director
7099

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