Top Five Digital Strategies for Social Issue Filmmakers

Scott Kirsner’s recommendations from the ITVS Digital Initiative: Report from the Field:

Top Five Connection-Creating Strategies

  1. Start a blog or create a bare-bones website to generate awareness of what you’re up to; this can be a way for potential collaborators, sources, funders, and DVD-buyers to get in touch with you early on.
  2. Participate and post in existing online communities related to your film’s topic.
  3. Maintain a database of everyone who you’ve interviewed or who has offered help during production, so you can let them know when the film is finally finished.
  4. Consider ways to allow interested parties to get involved with your filmmaking process; some filmmakers have “open-sourced” their research, having others contribute by shooting far-off locations and interviews, and even some editing.
  5. Think about posting some clips/excerpts from your rough cut on video-sharing sites to begin building an online presence for your film. Provide links back to the film’s site or to your blog.

Top Five Marketing and Promotion Strategies

  1. Leverage the lists and websites of membership organizations related to the topic of your film to communicate with viewers who may be interested in seeing/purchasing it.
  2. Connect with bloggers who cover the issues in your film, offer them interviews, review copies of the DVD or embeddable clips from the film.
  3. Collect email addresses (and ideally ZIP codes too) from the visitors to your film’s website; you can notify them when the film is playing in theaters or on TV, or when it becomes available on DVD or as a download.
  4. Post clips on video-sharing sites or social networking sites, with links back to the film’s main site; this can help introduce it to new audiences.
  5. Consider allowing Internet users to remix or “mash up” parts of your film, or create their own trailers for it. This adds their perspective to the work and, ideally, helps it reach a broader audience.

Top Five Distribution Strategies

  1. Make sure DVDs are available when audiences are most interested in the film: during the theatrical run, during festival screenings and at the time of the first TV broadcast.
  2. Consider producing at least two versions of the DVD, at two different price points: one for general audiences and a second version for educational/group use, with discussion guides and supplemental material.
  3. Carefully evaluate distribution offers that wrap up digital rights with theatrical or home video rights. What will the distributor do in the near-term to generate revenues with those rights?
  4. Focus digital distribution efforts on outlets with already-established audiences (such as Apple’s iTunes or Amazon.com’s Unbox); if working with a newer outlet, negotiate for premium placement on the site and additional promotion.
  5. Whether selling DVDs or digital downloads/rentals with a business partner, insist on regular reporting of sales figures and the ability to audit them.