Indie Filmmakers: Use YouTube & Find Your Audience
By Ryan Gielen
The perfect version of this is a filmmaker who spends the year leading up to her film shoot video blogging about the fundraising process, casting, producing, and any fears, hopes and challenges they face.
These should be posted regularly, and interspersed with funny or interesting scripted content with a homemade feel, nothing too precious. These videos establish her voice and build a small but loyal audience who happen to like that voice.
Then the filmmaker uploads a few homemade videos from the set, showing off the cast and crew continuing the themes established in pre-production: it’s important to think of your audience as peers. They’re going to be cool with talking shop, so she should provide tips & tricks along with a personal look at the process.
In the 6-12 months following production, the filmmaker continues to create and post videos on a set schedule, with material growing progressively more produced, while remaining entertaining. Again, interspersed with scripted, themed content. For instance, if the film is about a chef, the filmmaker should have a homemade, super-low-budget cooking show about how they get by on a freelancer or indie filmmaker living.
Every tenth video could be a clip from the film or a trailer or some piece of fun marketing material. There might be three or four these total in the 6-12 months of post-production. All the while, she would interact with fans, commenting on other filmmakers’ videos and channels, subscribing to channels and YT’ers with interests related to her film.
Assuming her film– like most of our films– does not get a huge distribution deal, and she partners with an aggregator to make the film available on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and VOD, she would then post those links on her YouTube channel and script and upload a personal video blog about where people can find the film.
Finally, she should spend the next year creating and uploading funny or interesting videos along a regular schedule, interacting with fans and producers constantly, and remind people once every three months that they can find her film on the relevant outlets.
This is how she can build and maintain an audience– if she’s going to be making films for a while, it’s a good investment of her time and energy. People will connect with her and her voice, and will look for ways to engage others on the filmmaker’s behalf. Kevin Smith and Miranda July are two great examples of filmmakers who use a similar approach to attract and grow an audience.
Here are the key techniques and best practices for building one’s audience or community via YouTube.
YouTube eliminates the distance between producer and user. This is the single most important thing to remember when trying to market on YouTube, and here’s why: along with the ability to create and upload self-produced content comes the desire to interact with other creators, peers.
So, YT is built and populated by tens of millions of people who interact with content and producers horizontally, not people who want to passively accept content dropped vertically from studios above.
If you decide to step into their world, you have to understand and respect their mindset and tailor your marketing accordingly. In short, it shouldn’t feel like marketing.
Producers who succeed on YouTube create videos that feel homemade, personally delivered by a real human being, not a big Hollywood team directly to the individual audience member. This is why producers who present themselves to the YT community do better than filmmakers who only present their film, or their trailer. YT is not a dumping ground for deleted scenes and outtakes, it’s a place people come to be entertained.
Finally, YT’ers do carry over some traits of traditional television audiences- they like content they can count on. Videos that feel like standalone material aren’t worth connecting with, because there’s no promise of future entertainment. You have a dramatically higher chance of getting subscribers- and having your videos shared- if you upload regularly, on a given day, at a given time, with fresh content.
So… the take homes are:
1. Interact with every audience member, from day one. They’re your peers as well as audience.
2. Don’t just market. Create content that seeks to entertain.
3. Post consistently, for a long time.
These three things turn a lot of filmmakers off, and I understand that. We want to make films, and leave the marketing to others.
That mindset- while totally understandable- is why so many films just sit on the shelf.
Marketing is a lot of work, but if you invest the time wisely and follow the three simple guidelines above, you can build an audience.
Ryan’s most recent feature, Turtle Hill, Brooklyn premiered atNewFest 2011,the country’s premiere LGBT film festival and won the Audience Award for Best Narrative. Ryan’s award-winning first feature, The Graduates (2009) has gone to be one of the top five comedies all time on Hulu. His company Believe handles YouTube, Facebook and Twitter campaigns for clients in the entertainment industry. You can follow him at @ryangielen.