The Added Value of Blogging – by Lila Yomtoob
Lila contacted me via the web – introducing herself and I asked if she would like to write a blog post – and she offered to write a post about: blog posting! Not only the importance of it – but how to do it effectively. Thanks Lila!
Lila Yomtoob is a producer specializing in marketing and distribution. She has 12 years of experience in different parts of the industry, including directing, editing, teaching, curating, and consulting. She has been a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Science as a result of her Emmy Award, and was a card-carrying member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild until she went rogue. You can read more about her at www.yomtoob.com and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blogging is not dead, and should not die.
No one reading this is a stranger to the multitude of ways to get the word out about a project. Recently, I’ve seen articles suggesting that blogging is dead and that Facebook and/or Twitter is sufficient. In this article I will make a case for blogging, recommend some ways to go about it, and present a few case studies.
Blogging is a great way to root your project in a community, create a tone for your project that extends beyond the actual film, and can even attract press. A blog allows you to create original long form content that lives on your website, as well as aggregate news about topics surrounding your film, and make announcements about the status of your project. Having a blog that is embedded into your website (via WordPress, Tumblr, or Blogger) allows people who visit your films website to find out more about what the project is about, without having to leave the site. It sets a personal tone, one that may allow a visitor to get just a little bit more excited about your project.
Foreclosure (Narrative, psychological horror)
I co-produced “Foreclosure” through development and pre-production, and I insisted we start a blog early on. The director did not want to spill the beans about the themes of the film, which may be seen as controversial, so we created parameters on what we would write about. As a result, our blog was about the art of horror, including quotes from different filmmakers on filmmaking, reviews of esoteric films, and artistic and intellectual items that influenced the filmmaker. We rarely discussed the actual film. This gave a visitor “a peak into the director’s mind” and, unbeknownst to us, we created a compendium of intelligent horror content.
Once we had around ten entries, we posted a short and simple trailer and sent press releases about the film to all of the horror blogs and websites we could find. We were thrilled and very surprised by the response. The director was interviewed for a few of the larger horror sites, and we began relationships with film writers who continued to write about “Foreclosure” as it progressed. We were still in development – hadn’t even set a shoot date, and already we had press. The writers often commented on the content of the blog, hinting to me that it left a positive impression on visitors.
Subsequently, “Foreclosure” attracted Michael Imperioli (“Soprano’s”) to star, and a top sales agent before production began. It would be silly to say that this was because of the blog, but the blog was clearly one step in the right direction.
The Bang Bang Club (Narrative Feature, based on a true story)
I recently visited the website for The Bang Bang Club, a new narrative film based on real events about a group of journalists in South Africa during apartheid. The trailer and story were compelling, but I was on the fence about the film. I noticed they had a blog, and so I clicked on it. There were stories of journalists covering wars around the world now being detained, recovering from injuries, etc, and the films’ timeliness and urgency hit home. It gave me a frame of reference, and made me want to see the film just a little bit more.
Hidden Battles – feature documentary
I started working on “Hidden Battles” when the film was finished, and we were working on a self-distribution strategy. For this blog, we had to be very careful, because of the subject matter of the film. “Hidden Battles” follows five soldiers as they understand their combat experience. The film stays away from making any judgments, and is consciously apolitical, and the director wanted to make sure not to politicize the film in anyway. So we created parameters: the mission of “Hidden Battles” was to educate people on the mental health issues facing veterans. We were only going to be supportive and caring. Largely, the blog reports on organizations that help veterans, new things the government is doing to help, and statistical reports on the status of mental health amongst soldiers and vets. We set up Google alerts with keywords like “veteran,” “PTSD,” “military”, which made it easy to find stories to write on. This also allowed us to find organizations to forge partnerships with, who have subsequently helped publicize the film.
We also share news about the films progress on our blog. Most content is also shared on Facebook and Twitter as well. A distributor approached us and when I asked him how he heard about the film he said, “Twitter.”
Fresh – feature documentary
I spoke with Ana Joanes, director of “Fresh,” a documentary about food production. After a few years of successful grass roots self-distribution, and a limited theatrical release, she is now concentrating on creating original content for their blog. For years they have aggregated news relevant to their community through their blog, Facebook and Twitter, but now they want to go a step further and become a resource to the community they’ve created. In essence, they are planning to extend the life of the project through the blog. I asked Ana, if they set parameters for what they blog about, and she said no – they just go with their gut. They have posted stories that have gotten bad reactions, but she doesn’t find it to be problematic.
A few tips for getting started
• If you don’t have a clue about how to start a blog, check out mashable.com, they have lots of “how to” articles that might help you get started. Or enlist/hire a web savvy person to set it up and explain it to you.
• If you don’t know what to blog about, imagine yourself as a potential viewer of your film. What would you want to hear about? OR take a chance and write about what you want to write about! Until you are ready to create original content you can start by reposting relevant news stories and comment on them. Set up Google Alerts, or start an RSS reader to aggregate stories from reliable sources to get ideas.
• Cross post your content on your other social networking platforms. Your blogging platform may have an option to do this automatically, but I find that it’s often problematic. Take the 5 minutes to do it manually, write a short description and add a link back to your blog.
• The most difficult part of this might be setting aside time to do it, especially if you don’t fashion yourself a writer. Independent film involves a lot of juggling of time and resources, and blogging may easily be the thing that falls off the to do list. Fair enough. This is why a lot of filmmakers hire someone (or have an intern) to work 10-12 hours a week on their social networking. “Fresh” had a full time person working on their social networking, which may account for their 4000 grassroots screenings. Just keep that in mind when you decide not to do it.
I don’t have any metrics to back up my case studies, because I don’t believe that the number of people that sees your site amounts to success. It’s about getting the right people to see your site and your film. And sometimes this takes a long time. Be patient. Do what you can do. Good luck.