As everyone (hopefully) knows at this point, before you can become the next Edward Burns or Louis C.K., you’ve got to invest the time and effort to connect with your fans, reach out to new ones, and build a long term relationship with your audience.
Distributing trailers, short films, outtakes and other videos for free can be a huge help in building a dedicated fan base. For the greatest effect, filmmakers should be sharing samples of their work everywhere they possibly can, and then engaging fans in discussions about those videos, especially on Facebook and Twitter. But in order to get your audience excited about your work, you have to give them the best possible viewing experience, especially when promoting an upcoming film. This means keeping all of your free content free of ads as well.
Because so much of our media consumption is ad-supported, it can be tempting to run ads with almost any video content. Just like the FBI warning at the start of a DVD, viewers will sit through a bit of advertising for a feature film they’re looking forward to, but don’t confuse tolerance with enthusiasm, particularly for short content like trailers. Ads may be a smart consideration for networks like ABC and ESPN, but most filmmakers will only be losing fans and making little or no revenue in the process.
If you are using free video distribution to build an audience, you want them to be as excited and engaged as possible, and you certainly don’t want anyone clicking away. The difference between free and almost-free is huge. 15% of viewers typically click away from a video when an advertisement appears before it [AdAge: http://bit.ly/Y20kui], and you can imagine how many more are simply annoyed. Why sacrifice viewers and fan enthusiasm for such a measly payout?
And those ads aren’t going to give you much benefit anyway. Unless you have a high value deal with a company like AOL or Hulu, you’re not likely to earn much from video advertising. At the very top of the market you might receive 0.5¢ per viewer, and it’s much more likely that you’ll receive something closer to 0.1¢. (I’m not confusing $ and ¢ here — I mean 1/10th of a penny.)
So instead of squeezing fractions of pennies out of every single viewer experience, figure out how to build a far more valuable relationship with the viewer so they keep coming back for more. By giving up a few dollars for every 1,000 views of a trailer or short film, you are making a very small investment to build an enthusiastic audience who will later pay for online rentals and sales at $4.99 or $9.99 each.
Note from Rob: When we first launched the Dynamo Player, we were responding to a sense of helplessness among independent producers, including ourselves. Films and serials either had to be locked in walled gardens with awkward DRM or given away completely free. A lot has changed in the last three years, and we are adapting too.
Next month Dynamo will offer several new services to filmmakers and distributors, including consulting and custom technical development. You’ll even be able to license the Dynamo Player VOD platform for your own brand (without sharing a nickel of the sales with us). Perhaps more importantly, we’ll be able to share expertise beyond Dynamo Player, helping filmmakers distribute to other platforms, engage fans on social networks, build marketing and PR plans, and much more.
With that in mind, I want to share a few key lessons we’ve learned about free distribution of trailers and other content.
Rob Millis is the founder of Dynamo Media and one of the creators behind the Dynamo Player, the first online pay-per-view platform freely available to independent filmmakers. Rob was an early pioneer of online video production and distribution, and has been a founder, investor or advisor with several online media and industrial technology companies. You can find Rob on Twitter at @robmillis or learn more about Dynamo at http://www.DynamoPlayer.com.
SF Film Society Blog
Stoked to see the Academy Do The Right Thing: #SpikeLee — along with actress Gena Rowlands — will receive an honorary Oscar this year. Lee is pictured here at #SFIFF 50, where we presented him with the Festival's Directing Award. Photo by #TommyLauPhotography.
"Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful, that's what matters to me."
Not saying that IBM hasn't done wonderful things, too. But Apple's Steve Jobs was irrefutably one of the most innovative minds in tech in the history of the industry. See Alex Gibney's doc on Jobs & other #SFIFF alumni on the big screen this September. Full list at blog.sffs.org. #SeeMoreSFIFF
No need to leave the weekend's adventures behind: Lots of amazing films currently rolling in Bay Area theaters. Trying to get transported? Catch #SFIFF alum #Meru at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas or at Landmark Shattuck Cinemas over in the East Bay. #SeeMoreSFIFF ⛺️
Ready to get wild this weekend, but not before marking our calendars; #ToddHaynes is coming to town! The filmmaker — known for provocative stories that subvert narrative structure and resound with eroticism (Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, more) — will chat with SFFS Executive Director Noah Cowan September 24 at JCCSF. Hopefully both wearing boas. Tickets at jccsf.org.
Haynes pictured here with #ChristianBale in a shoot for #VelvetGoldmine.
“It’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment from my evening at Pixar because there were just so many things that left me awestruck. Being in the very building where many of my dearest friends were brought to life was such a moving experience... I got my first real taste of my dream job and it was incredible.”
—High School Essay Contest Winner
Summer school is sadly out of session. We had a *such* a great time hanging with (read: learning from) Bay Area youth and students from far & wide over these past few months. Head to blog.sffs.org to see what we all got up to. #SFFSeducates
#WCW: Crystal Moselle, a smart & sensitive observer. See her #SundanceFilmFestival Grand Jury Prize-winning doc #TheWolfpack at the Castro Theatre TONIGHT! It double-features with fellow Fest alum #LoveAndMercy. Photo by Pat Mazzera. #SFIFF #SeeMoreSFIFF
Just ONE MORE DAY to apply for Film Society internships! We are gearing up for an exciting Fall Season and currently crewing up in our Communications, Development, Operations, Programming, Filmmaker360 and Youth Education departments. Hang with this crew and gain nonprofit arts management skills, event production experience, behind-the-scenes exposure to the world of film exhibition and more. Details at sffs.org, apps close TOMORROW at midnight. Photo by #PamelaGentile, throwback to #SFIFF 52.
"A Hollywood executive famously quipped, 'He's just another California blond — throw a stick at Malibu, you'll hit six of them!' That was before said blond went on to become the most bankable international male star of his time: An everyman matinee idol, at once accessible, impenetrable, untouchable, transforming blinding male beauty into box-office success." —Writer Andrew Bailey on #RobertRedford
Happy 79th to the Sundance Kid. Recipient of #SFIFF 52's Peter J. Owens Award, a prize given each year to honor an actor whose work exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity.
Missing that (surprisingly) beachy San Francisco weekend weather. Luckily, surf's still up at the #CastroTheatre, where Festival alums #LoveAndMercy and #TheWolfpack will screen together TOMORROW night. Vibrations: very good. #SFIFF #SeeMoreSFIFF
Gather 'round: The 3rd Annual Turkish Film Festival kicks off tomorrow! This year, #TheMiracle (pictured), a masterpiece by world-renowned director Mahsun Kirmizigul, will headline the festival program. All screenings are FREE and take place at the Embarcadero Center Cinema through August 20. See turkishfilmfestivals-usa.org for full info.