Art and revolution both allow us to recognize that tomorrow does not have to replicate today. They offer us hope for change. Both art and revolution begin with the same word: "no". And each is always a model for what may next be offered. The revolutions occurring in the Middle East and Africa will be inspiring in many different ways. I've been eager to find how they filter down and influence indie & truly free filmmaking. Eyad Zahra has stepped forward to get this conversation started, providing us a guest post on what effect all this social & political change has meant to his process. What do these changing times mean to you?
The recent events in the Middle-East have inspired me to readdress the way I do things, and reexamine my own uses of various social media networks. If Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube can aid in overthrowing tyrant dictators, then they can truly be used for any nobel cause the world my have. The brave civilians in the Middle-East are showing us all how robust our social networking tools really are. The ability to share information and connect people on a mass scale has exponentially grown in the past few years, more then we could have ever imagined.
It’s about time we indie filmmakers pick-up on this. We need to go beyond simply acknowledging our social media campaign tools... we need to really start using them aggressively and creatively. They must become a top priority.
No matter what size of a production, studio or ultra-indie, social media campaigns are climbing high up in the ranks of any film's long-term marketing strategy. There is a true democracy at hand here, as these tools are available for anyone and everyone, at the cost of nothing.
For the longest time, I (along with many other filmmakers) thought that using social media wouldn’t have that big of an effect. It was an afterthought to the main focus at hand, the film itself. We found it awkward to be our own cheerleader, and ask friends, and friends of friends, to join our fan pages and twitters. We found every excuse imaginable to not take on social media as serious as we should have, and we would delay using it until we absolutely had to.
It’s time to think past those kind of self-imposed barriers. Developing a social media campaign should be about, more then anything, a filmmakers' sincere interest in connecting with their fan base. That's who you are making the film for anyway, right? If you focus on that with your social media campaign, all the bonuses of having one will come about naturally.
With all that said, here are a few points that I have written down to remind myself for the next time around:
1) I need to start my social media campaign, as soon as I possibly can. As it may take years to make my next film, why not build my social campaign during this process? When it's time to launch my film, I won't have to scramble to connect with my audience, and educate them on my project.
2) A strong Facebook presence is a must. Everybody is on Facebook, and it's not going anywhere. Facebook truly is becoming a virtual replica of the real world. A Facebook fan page is one of the the strongest, if not the strongest way, for me to mutually connect with a wide-scale audience.
Unlike email lists and the the older Facebook groups, the new Facebook fan pages are incredibly accurate in presenting forth what kind of fan base I actually have. All those annoying changes Facebook made were for the better. For people to like my film means something. It means they are willing to put my film's logo on their profile, share information about themselves to me, and in most cases, it means they are willing to stay tuned to the film's news feed. That's a huge deal, and that kind of fan dedication will most likely amount to those people supporting the film down the line.
Facebook fan page analytics are special numbers to have. The fact that I can track down my fans by city, countries, and language is incredible. What might have cost me thousands of dollars in survey studies before, I can now get for free from my Facebook fan page. Who knows what kind of information I will have access to in the future
Distributors and movie theaters are taking Facebook fan page numbers very seriously (as seen with Mooz-lum). Having a high Facebook fan page count is very attractive to these businesses. It's a tangible asset to have thousands of fans already in my support.
3) My social media campaign is an extension of my film, and should be considered an art in and of itself. Tweeting should not be a chore, but rather it should be a fun and creative process that gives people a taste of what the experience of my film will be like. Twitter and Facebook don't have to be boring, we can transform them into artistic expressions that make us excited to use them.
4) Social Media Campaigns tap into the golden ticket to a film’s success : word-of-mouth promotion. When people are taking initiative and reposting and re-tweeting my film’s posts, that's genuine word-of-mouth, the most valuable kind of publicity you can ever get. When a friend posts something in their news feed about my film, it means more to others then if a mass-scale aggregator like the Huffington Post does.
5) My social media outreach will last for as long as I want it to. As my audience grows overtime, I will always be in touch with them. When I need to inform them about special screenings, or inform them about the dvd releases of my film, my social media campaign will play a crucial role in distributing important information. Even when my film is in a dormant phase, I can turn my Facebook fan page into a forum of discussion by posting trending news items that pertain to the issues or themes of my film. By doing this, I will keep my fans engaged about my film in a genuine and sincere manner.
6) If I plan to self-distribute my next feature film, a strong social media campaign might play the biggest role in how I connect to an audience. Self-distribution becomes a viable possibility only if I actually have an audience to deliver the film too, and I know who they are.
All in all, I’m really not saying anything new here, but rather, simply trying to reaffirm things for myself, and others. We filmmakers need to gain more confidence with our social medial tools, and we need to become masters of them, just as much as we need to become masters of filmmaking.
The next time around, I am going to learn from my mistakes and do things better. I'm going to think about my social media campaign from the get go. As soon as I am ready to go on my next project, I will step back and think what kind of social media strategy will suit it best.
Those are my thoughts, and I hope they can help. Long live the indie-film revolution.
-- Eyad Zahra
Eyad Zahra worked with Visit Films and Strand Releasing to release his first feature film The Taqwacores last Fall. The Taqwacores will be available on DVD on April 5th, 2011 in the USA. Eyad is an advocate of DIY cinema, and has given workshops on the subject at University of Southern California and the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.