Much has been written about the collapse of the distribution model for independent films in this country and around the world. There seems to be a general consensus that an audience for independent film (and independent voices) still exists (and much of that audience is you!) What seems to be broken is the connection between these audiences and the filmmakers. This connection used to be filled by various versions of the studio delivery model, which for some people never really served either the audiences of independent film or the filmmakers themselves. By being reliant on the studio model, these people felt that independent film skewed to supporting films that were studio wannabes, not real independent voices (with some wonderful exceptions of course).
There is a new generation of filmmakers who want to engage directly with their audiences (many older filmmakers are embracing this model as well -- some kicking and screaming).
The purpose of this article is to encourage audience members to reach back to filmmakers -- and provide ten concrete ways to do so.
1. Join Filmmaker's Email Lists. This email list is essential to filmmakers. It provides them with the most direct way for them to communicate with you, their audience, and the only means of contact that they control independently of other companies. Facebook owns all of the information about you, including your "friends," e.g. you cannot access this fan information directly. You can easily unsubscribe to any filmmaker's email list that who abuses the gift of your email. (Note to filmmaker's -- don't bombard your fans with constant updates. When you are not in release once a month is plenty. When you are in release you should target screenings to zip codes so you don't blast your whole list for a screening in Amarillo.)
2. Join Filmmaker's Facebook Pages/Groups/Twitter Feeds. Even though the email list is most important, it is also good to join a filmmaker's Facebook page or Twitter feed, especially in the beginning. This early joining helps the filmmaker get some traction in the social web space. It encourages others to join if they see the space populated by others. And then again -- you might actually be interested in what the filmmaker posts and tweets about! This is one of the best ways to engage a filmmaker in a "conversation."
(You don't even need to participate in Twitter or Facebook if you don't want to (believe me I know lots of people who don't want to). You can sign up and merely friend/follow films and then ignore them -- the numbers you add to filmmakers sites will be helpful enough. Eventually you may even want to start actively following.)
3. Become proactive -- Spread the word, retweet, tell your friends. Part one of helping a filmmaker is joining their social networks. Part two is to spread the word to your friends and followers. I'm hoping for ways that filmmakers can reward their most ardent fans and supporters. There are networks of digital street teams in the music world for fans to earn swag and back stage passes by how much social networking and promotion they do for the bands. Why not apply this model to film?
4. Become a Producer -- This is incredibly easy now via crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Crowdfunding is the principal of "crowdsourcing" applied to film finance - essentially filmmakers set up gifts and bonuses in exchange for donations -- solicited throughout the Internet. Crowdfunding to me is not so much about raising money as connecting with audiences. Instead of waiting for films to be finished and then seeing them or not, why not engage in the process of creating the films themselves? For a modest donation there are plethora of projects that will give you anything from a producer credit to a set visit to regular pod-cast updates on the progress of a film to even a role in film itself. Through your social networks, you can get your friends involved.
5. If You Like a Film -- Rate it and Review It. Customer reviews on Amazon, IMDB, Netflix are HUGELY valuable to filmmakers. Taking five minutes to rate and post a few lines about a film on one of these sites can mean so much more to a film than buying a DVD. If you don't have money to buy a film, or have seen it on a pirate site (god forbid), this is a great way to give back to the filmmakers.
Next week: Part 2 From new screening venues to the my opinions on "free".