SO YOU MADE A FILM... NOW WHAT?
By Dan Guthrie
First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve made a film! After hours upon hours of scripting, shooting and editing your masterpiece, your film’s been let loose on the world. Well done! Have a celebratory drink of your tipple of choice and take the night off!
But your work isn’t done yet. The next morning, you’ll probably wake up a bit bleary-eyed, and whilst sipping your morning brew of choice, you’ll think “yeah, I made a film, but are people actually gonna watch it?” Big blockbuster movies have whole squadrons of people whose job it is to promote films and get bums on seats in the cinema, and chances are if you’re reading this, the only person you’ve got doing that is yourself. And you’ve probably also spent all your hard-earned money making the film in the first place, so all you’ve got left in the kitty is a tenner and a half-filled Starbucks loyalty card. And you don’t really know where to start. And you’re a still a bit (very) hungover from last night.
But never fear, cos that’s where I come in! My name is Dan, and just like you, I’ve made a couple of films and I reckon I’ve done a pretty good job promoting them on a practically non-existent budget. So fasten your seatbelts as I’m going to impart to you my no-budget marketing tips in the form of an internet-friendly listicle. LET’S GO!
1 - Write some words
Have your keyboard at the ready as you’re gonna need to bash a few things out quickly. First things first, you need to write a paragraph that explains what your film is about and what happens in it, or as they call it, a synopsis. Once you’ve it, copy and paste a version underneath it and trim it down to about two sentences to make a blurb that you can put in the about section underneath the film on your video platform of choice.
Next up, biographies - who were the people who brought your vision to life? There’s yourself, of course, your front of camera talent and the big names behind the lens. It’s not all about you, but starting with yourself, you need to write a short biography about everyone. And it’s quite simple, as all you’ve got to pen are two simple sentences. The first one starts with “[Their name] is a [blank] whose previous work includes…” and the second one, which is much shorter, begins “They are currently based in [blank]”. There you go, job done!
IMPORTANT POINT: SAVE THIS DOCUMENT IN A SAFE PLACE ON YOUR COMPUTER, PREFERABLY IN A FOLDER LABELLED WITH THE NAME OF YOUR FILM. TRUST ME ON THIS.
2 - Paint some pretty pictures
Well, not literally painting. Unless you want to, obviously. I’m talking about promotional shots here, nice looking pictures that you use to tempt people into watching your flick. Here’s the bare minimum of what you need to get:
Three high quality screenshots from the finished film, including one of the title card
Three high quality behind the scenes shots, including one of you directing that you can use as your new profile pic (thank me later when the right swipes come rolling in)
A copy of the logo from your title card on a transparent background
And then using those raw elements, craft square, landscape and portrait posters on photoshop with your logo bang in the middle and underneath “a film by Your Name”. Bosh.
3 - Whip up a trailer
Keep it short. About fifteen seconds of footage, with the logo at the end and the words “out now” after that. Don’t go wild with this one and give the big twist away, just one or two dramatic shots should be able to do it.
If you can’t tell, I’m keeping this bit short like a good trailer.
IMPORTANT NOTE: PUT THESE PICTURES, POSTERS AND TRAILERS IN THE SAME FOLDER AS THE STUFF YOU WROTE EARLIER. YOU REALLY DON’T WANT THESE TO GO MISSING.
4 - Go wild on Instagram
Despite all the current privacy scandals hitting the headlines, social media is your friend! We’re all addicted to it, which means that if you post something on a social network, people are bound to see it and engage with the content. Now, I’m gonna talk you through how to make the most of the Instagram because that’s what all the kids are using today, and it’s a great visual platform to exhibit your work as a filmmaker. However, if you want to use Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat because that’s what you’re familiar with, go ahead.
Step 1 - Pop the link to your film into a link shortening service like bit.ly, to make it seem professional, and then put the shortened link in the link section of your bio.
Step 2 - Put your trailer, your title card and the nice behind the scenes shot of you directing all in one post. Make sure the images are all the right size and not weirdly zoomed in.
Step 3 - Caption it like so to seem aloof and artsy: “Made a film didn’t I. It’s about [whatever your films about, cribbed from the synopsis] Link in bio if you wanna watch it. Peace.”
Step 4 - Click send, then sit back, relax and wait for your crush to like your photo almost immediately and then read too much into it.
Step 5 - Add a couple of hashtags about your film as a separate comment underneath it, to try and draw in the wider world. Don’t go overboard, stick to six or seven and make the last one funny.
Step 6 - Post about it on your story using one of your behind the scenes shots as a background, using the following, similarly aloof and artsy comment: “New Film. Link in Bio” and put the film camera and eyes emoji somewhere near it.
Step 7 - Switch your account to a business profile. Pay the bare minimum of a pound a day for however long you want to promote your post, along with a link to the film online.
Step 8 - DM your crush, who has already like your post, with another aloof yet artsy message: heyyyyy I made a film watch it you want ;)
Step 9 - Switch off your phone cos both you and it are probably overheating now.
5 - Email those you know…
Are you on email? If not, you simply have to be these days! Friends, foes, family, former employers and Freddie Flintoff are all using the popular form of electronic communication, so why shouldn’t you be. Write a quick email saying something like “Hey there, just letting you know that I’ve made a film, would appreciate it if you wanna read it” and send it to everyone in your contacts book. Hey, they may put it straight in the spam folder, but at least they’re aware you’ve made a film now. There’s no such thing as bad publicity.
6 - …and those you don’t
IMPORTANT NOTE: MAKE SURE AT THIS POINT YOU HAVE A PROFESSIONAL EMAIL ADDRESS THAT FEATURES YOUR FULL NAME. SURE, A SILLY ONE IS FINE FOR EMAILING FAMILY AND FRIENDS BUT IT’S ALL ABOUT FAKING IT TILL YOU MAKE IT AT THIS POINT, SO IT’S TIME TO GET SERIOUS.
Anyway, now is the time to email people you’ve never met. Chances are, you’ve got a few websites and magazines that you would fancy seeing your name in, so get in contact with them. They might have a generic email on their site, but you’re probably best looking at the about section to find out who works there, finding their social media accounts which will no doubt have their work emails in the bio, and contacting them directly. At the same time, email a couple of fellow directors who you don’t know personally but whose work you admire and respect, and use your new film as an icebreaker to network with them. You want to make these emails pretty formal, but once they reply to you, you can judge the tone.
7 - Promote your heart out!
Time to go out on the campaign trail. Get in touch with curated instagrams or tumblr pages that have a similar aesthetic to your film to see if they want to feature what you’ve done. Contact newspapers, radio shows and podcasts to see if they want to run a feature on you or your film. Go old school and stick posters up around town. At a last resort, you can always write about your filmmaking experiences for blogs aimed at young filmmakers and then shamelessly promote yourself and your film throughout.
IMPORTANT NOTE: IF YOU DIDN’T GET THE SUBTEXT ON THAT, SYNC.SW IS ALWAYS LOOKING FOR YOUNG CREATIVES TO WRITE ABOUT THEIR FILMMAKING EXPERIENCES. WE’RE PRACTICALLY HANDING THIS ONE TO YOU ON A SILVER PLATTER.
8 - Splash the cash wisely on film festivals
Film festivals are expensive. That’s a fact of life. If your film gets picked, then it was most certainly worth the cash, but when you’re paying fifteen to thirty quid and you get rejected, then… it don’t feel great. Never fear, for that’s when the magic of filters come in. Once you’ve signed up for FilmFreeway, added all your promotional stuff that I told you to make earlier, you can then start looking for the cheap ones. Drag that price down to $5 and Robert’s your mother’s brother, it’s all looking a bit more affordable now. Lots of big UK film festivals now have reduced entry fees for films under five minutes, including LSFF and TriForce Film Festival, so make sure to whack yours onto the submissions pile if it fits the runtime and it’s before the deadline.
IMPORTANT NOTE: REJECTION HAPPENS TO THE BEST OF US. IT SUCKS, BUT YOU JUST GOTTA MOVE ON. IF YOU DON’T SEND THAT EMAIL IN THE FIRST PLACE, YOU’LL NEVER HEAR BACK, SO YOU JUST GOTTA TAKE THAT RISK.
If you do get selected, make sure to go and watch your film on the big screen. Film festivals are an incredible place to network, and you might get a free bag of popcorn too! If you don’t get on the guestlist, why not hold your own mini festival? Get the cans in, invite your mates round, pop your film on the TV and then treat everyone to a Q&A afterwards that they definitely didn’t ask for.
9 - Make another film
Don’t a one hit wonder! Hopefully in the process of promotion you will have found someone that’s recognised your natural raw filmmaking talent and willing to collaborate with them, so go out and make another cinematic masterpiece.
Then repeat the process, ad infinitum.
Dan Guthrie is a writer and filmmaker, whose latest short, Three Young Men on a Bench, is out now and can be seen below.