Forward! The Necessity of Twitter

By Rob Millis Every filmmaker, distributor, press agent and their mother has seen plenty of posts about how important Twitter is, yet filmmakers constantly ask me why and how to use it. So at the risk of beating a dead horse, I’m going to try and convince that silent majority once and for all.

Twitter is one of the most powerful tools for direct communication with your audience. It is easy to use, conversational and can be lots of fun as well. Twitter enables industry leaders and celebrities to easily and safely engage in conversations with thousands of fans, which means you can easily join the dialogue too. Where else can you exchange ideas with editors of national papers, pop celebrities and your favorite filmmakers? In fact the best part of Twitter is that it makes marketing feel like a casual conversation with fans, because that’s exactly what it is.

Contrary to many first impressions, Twitter is not simply a flood of random people sharing what they had for breakfast and whining about their browser crashing, or at least it doesn’t have to be. When you are logged in, you’ll only see the people you follow, so the key is simply to follow people who genuinely interest you and have something useful to share. For instance, if you follow @tedhope you’ll see a steady stream of useful news about independent film (and probably nothing about his breakfast).

Likewise, once you spread the word to your fan base that you are on Twitter, many will begin to follow you, and they’ll expect news and discussion about your work. Many filmmakers I talk to have frozen up before posting their first tweet —What do I say? What if it sounds stupid? Who cares what I think about this? If you set aside your marketing strategies for a moment and think of Twitter as a cocktail party, you’ll find that this is easier than you think.

The best first step may be to simply say hello to one of the people you want to engage with. You can say hello to me for instance: “@robmillis it’s great to find you here on Twitter. I’ll be connecting with fans and sharing news about my work here.” Then simply share reviews of your work, your thoughts on the industry, share links to new work from the actors and directors you admire or have worked with — your audience will appreciate the engagement and your followers will multiply.

The most important part of using Twitter to build an audience is that you are truly building relationships. With that in mind, remember that this is a digital cocktail party, not a sales call, so constant pitching and self-promotion will usually backfire. When you announce your screening or a new critical review, your followers will only be excited to hear about it if they genuinely have an interest in what you do and what you tweet the rest of the time.

To get started all you need to do is register and then search for a few of your favorite bloggers, filmmakers or friends. To help demonstrate how others are using Twitter effectively, I’ve included a few recommended accounts for you to follow below. As you begin to follow and exchange messages with people you know, you’ll quickly get a sense of how to use the bare bones system, and why Twitter has become so popular.

Recommended Twitter accounts:





 @robmillis (moi)
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

More Advice for 1st Time Film Festival Attendees


A couple of  weeks back I  used Twitter to crowdsource advice on what first time attendees of Film Festivals should do. See the responses below. It makes a decent follow up to yesterday's post.  And if you'd like to be part of future discussions, just follow me on Twitter: @TedHope.



Why Filmmakers Must Use Social Media, aka Zodiac MF Loves Collaborator

People once hid in their office.  If you knew them from hanging out at the bar you had a unique relationship.  Still it was damn hard to make connections, no matter where you were on the totem pole.  But now those totem poles have been burned down to the ground.  The old ways are over and 1000 phoenixes rise from the ashes daily.

The fact is we've learned how to speak to each other.  We may not always speak the same language but we speak.  And that's fucking awesome.

My case is point is how Zodiac Motherfucker shares his love for Collaborator  with writer/director Martin Donovan on Twitter:

Join the conversation!
Twitter: @Zodiac_MF
Twitter: @DonovanWord

COLLABORATOR opens theatrically in LA at The Egyptian today.

Friday, July 20 – 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM 
Saturday, July 21 – 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM 
Sunday, July 22 – 4:00 PM 
Monday, July 23 – 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM 
Tuesday, July 24 – 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM 
Wednesday, July 25 – 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM 
Thursday, July 26 - 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM


Love All The DARK HORSE Love

And by LOVE I mean celebrity Twitter Love...

John T Trigonis on "The Tao of Crowdfunding: Twitter Tips for Crowdfunders"

I think you know how enthusiastic I am about all the tools and services out there to get our work done and share it with the community. We have moved from the Era of How to one of How To Do It Well. It is time to truly develop best practices.

Luckily this blog has become a bit of a platform for the community to share what we've learned. We are recognizing that we can build something better together. Today, filmmaker John T. Trigonis shares what he's learned marrying Twitter to his IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign. Perhaps the most time-consuming part of any crowdfunding campaign is getting the word out about your project. Fortunately, we’re lucky to live during a time that’s made promotion as easy as sending an email or updating your Facebook status.

Twitter, in particular, has become a powerful force in the universe of marketing your campaign because of its real time nature. The challenge, however, is to keep from succumbing to the dark side of promotion––Spamotion.

Here are a few tips that I’ve learned through my own experiences crowdfunding my short film Cerise and by keeping a keen eye on other IndieGoGo campaigns.

Twitter Tip #1: Be a Prologue Before a Petition IndieGoGo co-founder Slava Rubin says it best: “The world is shifting from a world of transactions to a world of relationships.” That said, it’s probably not the best idea to jump into promoting your campaign on Twitter if you don’t already have a strong following.

I joined Twitter on May 4th, 2009. I began crowdfunding for Cerise on February 2nd, 2010, nine months after I had birthed a modest following. The first people I followed were friends, of course. Then I started searching hashtags (#film and #filmmaking, for example) and following handles like @grking and @kingisafink––people who shared similar interests. Before long, I was engaging in meaningful 140-character conversations about obscure directors like Jodorowsky and sharing my insights on filmmaking with those who followed my tweets.

It would later be these same followers who would make up my core of initial funders for Cerise. But had I not given myself ample time to genuinely get to know them, to forge actual relationships instead of networks, I would have come across as a spam artist once my campaign had begun.

Twitter Tip #2: Creativity is King It’s important to be creative when phrasing your tweets. It takes a little more time, but your followers will appreciate it since they’ll see that you’re not a @CampaignBot but an actual person who painstakingly crafts each and every promotional tweet as a affirmation of the passion he or she feels for it.

This is a pretty standard, run-of-the-mill tweet.

This tweet, however, shows a bit more pizazz and character!

But even a fun, quirky tweet like @Tearsinrain78 and @grahaminman’s will lose its charm if you see it three times in a row. Linking your personal Twitter account with your project’s can be detrimental to your crowdfunding efforts. Chances are the majority of your followers are also following your project, so if your accounts are linked, your tweets will quickly become redundant. Put in that extra effort and make every tweet from every account something special and worth reading.

Twitter Tip #3: Always Include Your (Shortened) Link When tweeting about your campaign, always include a link to its home page so that the first thing a potential funder sees after they click the link is your pitch video.

And because every letter and space is precious on Twitter, you should always use a link shortener like or I use the most because aside from its tracking capabilities, the site also allows users to customize their links, so your link could read, which will bring you to my first Tao of Crowdfunding post “Three Ps for a Successful Film Campaign.” This way, it’s easy to remember while on the go and when using a mobile Twitter client.

Another favorite of mine is Hootsuite’s Hootlet, which allows users to shrink and share a link from a page they’re currently viewing. The Google Chrome-based web browser RockMelt has similar features for maximizing your social media output, though for now it’s a close third for me since it’s still in its most primitive beta stages.

Twitter Tip #4: #Hashtag #Everything #Relevant to your #Project In every tweet you send, be sure to hashtag words and phrases related to your project and campaign. This makes it easy for random people to find your project on Twitter or through a Google search.

One thing you’ll want to do is find out what words or phrases bring specific communities together on Twitter. They’re sort of like little galaxies in a vast cosmos. For instance, if you’re making a movie, I’ve found that #film, #indiefilm and #filmmaking are popular hashtags for connecting to these communities.

Right away I know that this is a romantically comedic film based in Oregon.

If you’re working on a #vampire #film that’s got elements of #filmnoir and #comedy, then you’re quadrupling your outreach into the seemingly endless depths of the Twitterverse.

Twitter Tip #5: Remember––Don’t Solicit, Elicit I introduced this nifty slogan in my previous blog post “A Practical Guide to Crowdfunder Etiquette” and it’s here as well because it’s doubly true when using Twitter.

Asking people to visit your IndieGoGo page will only get you so far in your campaign, but if your aim is to raise upwards of $15,000, you’ll need to expand your network and start eliciting responses from potential funders and supporters.

So what’s the difference between soliciting and eliciting? Well, here’s an example of a tweet that solicits, or asks, for help:

Now there’s nothing wrong with a tweet like this, of course; it’s very similar to the “Make it happen for (fill in your campaign here)” tweet we saw at earlier. But look at this example of a tweet that elicits, or evokes a response:

Obviously, this tweet for finishing funds for the film Jenny is meant to intrigue and make you want to click the link to see just what this campaign is all about.

Twitter Tip #6: People Need Their Space Some people (myself included) still prefer to append their own messages before an “RT” and as much of your original message as possible. However, if by the time you click “Send” your character count is at zero, you risk possibly losing a personalized retweet that could elicit funds from other people’s followers.

The retweet button can seem a bit cold a way of spreading the word about your campaign, especially if the person doing the retweeting feels strongly about your project. A well-crafted tweet is no accident, but remember to keep it short and simple and leave at least 15 characters available for that super passionate backer to RT with ease.

Twitter Tip #7: @Everybody Whenever you thank a contributor, be sure to mention (@) that person on Twitter. If you’re not sure if they have a Twitter account or don’t know that person’s handle, do a quick Google search of that person’s name and “on Twitter” and you’ll find him or her fairly easy.

The crowdfunders behind Jenny are thanking by name and by Twitter handle.

Even if they don’t use Twitter much or if their little pastel egg of a profile picture hasn’t hatched into the person you know and follow, show your appreciation anyway so it’s on the record, transparent and in plain site of everyone.

Bonus Tip: Avoid “The Flood” at All Costs! Charlie Chaplin said it best in his famous speech at the end of The Great Dictator: “You are not machines, you are men” (and women!) That said, do not flood your feed with tweets exclusively about your campaign.

This example speaks a thousand words.

While crowdfunding is a full-time job and you should maintain a steady presence on Twitter while you’re campaigning, you should still be interacting with your followers in ways unrelated to your #Project. Remember, people give to people, not @bots. Once you nurture and maintain those relationships as a person more than a campaigner, you build a network that will walk beside a person they’ll forever be proud to know and support.

At the end of the day, it’s really all about personalization. That’s the most important thing to walk away from after reading this Tao of Crowdfunding blog post aside from a handful of helpful Twitter tips that will make your campaign a bit more approachable and more likely to reach its IndieGoGoal.

Ambition In The Best Sense (aka Lance Weiler)

I've had the pleasure of working with Lance Weiler for maybe two years now.  I love how he thinks.  I love how he takes that thought and transforms it into action.  Process is more key to what he does, than virtually anyone else I have worked with.  The journey is the destination.  He is willing to walk without knowing where it all might be going.  He is collaborative to the Nth the degree.  His vision for cinema truly knows no limits.

Wired Magazine singled him out this summer as one of the fathers of transmedia.  BusinessWeek credited him with changing cinema alongside Thomas Edison, The Warner Bros., and James Cameron.  Between his features, The Workbook Project, & DIY Days, the man is profoundly generative.

If you were in Sundance this past week (and even if you weren't), you probably witnessed how he infected Park City with a Pandemic.  Others certainly did.  Jamie Stuart shot this beautiful video for Filmmaker Magazine on Lance's Pandemic activities. FearNet has acquired his short which was screening at the fest. For those that like to hold their stories in their hand, you can follow it on Twitter here. AND  of course there is a website. Granted, I am producing the feature, but believe me when I tell you it is thrilling, horrifying, beautiful, and groundbreaking; it's a shame you have to wait until I raise the money to see it.

Christine Vachon and I also got to speak to Lance for KillerHope on Hulu.

Lance created this short as a style template for collaborators throughout the world to help capture the outbreak in their local territories.  Check it out and get filming!

Better Use Of Twitter Avatars

Facebook now allows you to select which avatars or photos show up on your profiles as your "friends". This is a useful tool, particularly if you want to drive new traffic to one of your associates. Twitter however does not allow this. Isn't it about time that they did? Write to them and let them know you'd like this. I did.  This is that tweet I wrote:

@Twitter Could you make it so I could select which avatars show up in my Twitter profile? Thanks. I would appreciate that.

"What is the Golden Triangle and Why Should Filmmakers Care?

Chris Dorr returns today with another guest post. Much of the most important innovation on the web today occurs within what some call the Golden Triangle.

The three sides of this triangle are social, mobile and real time.  Though the poster children for this triangle are Facebook, the iPhone and Twitter, this innovation extends far beyond these three companies.

This triangle is creating a major shift in how people experience the Internet.

Now many people are;

1.  Always connected to the Internet,

2.  Constantly connected to their social graph and,

3.  Perpetually acting as a bridge between the virtual and physical world.

People have the Internet in their hands as they move about the real world and they are breaking down the old distinction between our "virtual" and "physical" worlds.

This process will accelerate as more people buy smart phones, which they are doing at a rapid pace.

So why should filmmakers care?

Filmmakers, distributors and theater owners want to bring people into theaters to see their films.  The golden triangle continuously spins off new tools that enable them to do so at a low cost.

So here are three suggestions;

1.  Encourage people to bring their cell phones to the theater. (And use them there!),

2. Improve wireless access within the theater. (So these phones are easier to use!) and

3. Before and after each screening use the theater screen to enable people to communicate with other people in the theater and their friends outside the theater. (About films in general or the film they are about to see or have just seen.)

In other words use these digital tools to enhance the social aspect of the film going experience.

That's right, create a better social experience--a key reason most people go to see films in a theater in the first place.

Chris Dorr has been a movie producer, studio executive and creator of online and mobile services. He consults on digital strategy and business development. Find Chris at

SUPER Twitter Group List Debuts

Perhaps the greatest contribution the AmerIndie scene has made to film culture has been the demystification of the filmmaking process. It once was a very closed-door operation, and as a result shut out many people from joining by sheer intimidation.

The Studios are evidently very concerned about opening it up further, since so much of the hype/sell is about control (and the timed release) of information. Reports have been in the media about contracts prohibiting Twittering from set. I have also heard about other stars being contractually required to Twitter a few times each week.
Now granted I think that anarchy never gets a fair shake, but I also believe that a community is also about responsible behavior. And adults don't really need that defined for them: they know it whey the are in it. I am really excited by the possibility of looking into a movie process by the Twitter Feeds of the cast & crew. We have one for the movie SUPER that we are shooting right now.
Okay perhaps seeing into the operations of this endeavor might send the folks in the white suits off to every indie film shoot. Blood. Drugs. Potty talk. We have got it all. But hey, I'm encouraging it.
I sent this letter out to the cast and crew after the second day of filming, and we are now finishing up our third:
First off, let me just say: WOW! I was told that this was impossible but you are all proving it otherwise. It's been a short prep with a tremendously ambitious schedule, and we've been making the days (54 set ups today!) and everyone has such a great attitude and spirit. I am loving this film, this crew, this town, this total experience. Thank you.
Secondly though, let me tell you that by working on the film SUPER you are participating in only part of the experience. You now have the chance to get inside the minds of the cast, crew, director and producers -- thanks to the miraculous and free broadcast platform know as Twitter.
Did you know that our star Rainn Wilson is one of the leading Twitter communicators? Over 1.6 Million people receive his daily tweets. Mr. Gunn is no slacker himself in that department with over 20,000 receiving his feeds. And both these guys are really funny.
Me, I use twitter primarily to try to figure out where our film business is going and to try to point it in the direction I want. Everyone on it use it to promote and spread the news, music, and information they want. Hey, even some folks I know have found their significant others on it.
And know what? I found this project on Twitter when Rainn posted about it. This movie would not have happened because of it.
Registering is free. Just go to , select a screen name, and start selecting some people to follow. Or take my advice and write some tweets before you follow them, but really do what you want to do. You can find interesting people to follow by looking at whom your friends follow and clicking on them to follow.
But here is where I think it gets really interesting: I have set up a SUPER group where I list the feeds of everyone involved in the making of the movie. I would like to add your Twitter Feed to the group. So if you join, email me and tell me what your Twitter name is and I will add you to the list.
You can also find all the other Super folk there to follow.
It will give you and the world a new perspective into the film. I am encouraging you to do this, because I have had a lot of fun doing it, and I think we will all learn from doing it. And I think it will be really cool to show the world SUPER from the inside out. But we need your help.
I do request your confidence and discretion though. There are some things we may like to not reveal to the general public, like how the story goes or how things look, and we hope you can respect that, and after all you've read your contract and know what you can and can't do any way, right?
Anyways, thanks for working with James, Miranda, Lampton and all of us on this film. Together, we can make something really great that we will all be proud of. Let's spread the word about what we are doing here.
Any way check out the feed and you can see what it is like to be on set, sort of...

Great Promotion! Great Cause! Hopefully A Great Film.

 Mark Wynns hipped me to this campaign via his Tweet. Check this out.  They holding the first ever TweetAThon to raise money for CARE and promote the film A POWERFUL NOISE.

You can help fight global poverty on Twitter! Just tweet “#apowerfulnoise” anytime from March 2nd to March 5th, and NCM Fathom will donate $.10 for up to 50,000 Tweets to CARE, an organization working to end global poverty, in honor of the upcoming one-night event featuring the acclaimed documentary A Powerful Noise.

In honor of International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 5th, Fathom Events presents the acclaimed documentary, A Powerful Noise. This exclusive event will be followed by a live panel discussion with top experts and celebrity activists. You can be a part of the discussion by submitting your question for the panel here.

Why Twitter Works

"It seems when you give people easier ways to share information, more good things happen"

Twitter Co-founder Evan Williams speaks at the Ted Conference.  I have been playing with Twitter for about a month now I think.  I still remain unsure of ultimate opinion on it, but Williams makes enough good points for me to keep the experiment going.
The most exciting thing about Twitter is the possibility of real time searches.  What are people thinking about whatever it is you are concerned about right now?  Granted it is a bit like the problem of documentary film: you can only ever film someone being filmed.  Here, with Twitter, it is only what are people who like to tell people what they are thinking about, thinking about X right now.  Still, when my film opens, you know I am going to be doing Twit Searches on the hour.
There seems to be four main types of tweeters: 1) the too much info addict - those that share all they are doing all the time; 2) the large conversation networkers - whether it is subjects or activities shared among large groups (mind you in 140 characters or less); 3) the pushers  - sellers and marketers that want you try what ever they have; and 4) the curators and referral service sorts that offer up what they found.  It's this latter group I subscribe to and follow and so far like where they take me.  I can't consume as much that is out there but like the quick hits I get.   Williams discussion of the intersection of the final two in social action and charitable giving gives me a lot of hope for the platform.
And in this latter group though, I see tremendous growth opportunity.  There's many services that could be provided.  I am excited for what the future will bring.

Twitter Do or Twitter Don't

I have been playing with my Twitter, not obsessively mind you.  I don't want to go blind or get hair on my palms.  Mostly I use it to link to interesting articles that I don't have much to say on, things I wish others would read too.  You know, the stuff I would like to have a conversation about.  Follow me and see where it goes...

I do find my mind changing due to the Twitter-phenom.  Maybe it is the combo of everything.  It feels like Social Network discourse and Twitter are for the distribution of raw ideas or promotion of the fuller meal.  Blogs are for the half-baked dish.  I still lean towards traditional media for the fully cooked offering.  Nonetheless, being only in month four or so of this experiment in communication, I feel like my brain is re-wiring itself for the sound-bite-esque concept, for whatever is needed to fit on the Twitter page.  It's a bit discouraging.  I like the deep thoughts of days gone by.
Movie Marketing Madness touched in on the Twitter evolution and assorted symptoms.  It's a nice collection of links and worth reading.
This article on Why You Should UnFollow Those Who Don't Follow You is getting a lot of notice.  It's written from the perspective of business first, and not surprisingly I don't agree.  One thing I enjoy about Twitter is the unique information it brings me, working as a filter of news on my select interest.  I am not interested in what people had for breakfast or how their sick cat is doing.   It seems like Twitters might want to split themselves in two if they need to provide the personal details in an effort to gain followers of those who don't want so much information.  We shall see shall we not?
And the WSJ has decided also to tell you How To Twitter.  They sum it up as a broadcast tool to promote yourself.

Why Filmmakers Need Twitter

Okay, I haven't written that article yet.  Maybe someone else has and I just haven't looked for it.  If you find it let me know, but I did find Why Studios Need Twitter (via Movie Marketing Madness) and Guidelines For Brands Using Twitter.  Mash them up and filter it through your cinema-obsessed mind and see if it has a beat you can dance to.

Twitter Review (sort of)

I confess: I am truly new to all of this social networking stuff.  This blog is about two and a half months old.  I think I have only been on Facebook for 5 weeks.  Our film production company has a MySpace page but I am not a MySpace member.  I know I blog about some stuff here that the digi-elite embraced eons ago.  Let's just say although I am a newbie, I am passionate advocate -- and a textbook example of how you can teach an old dog some new tricks.  And I recognize how much my community has to learn.  Admit it: the film biz is filled with Luddites.

I was a very slow at making a commitment to the social network world.  I pondered FB membership for months.  And I mocked the young 'uns in our office who sang its praises.  I am a convert now, but I am still only using it to maintain a dialogue about the emerging new paradigm for non-Hollywood cinema (I hate describing things in contrast to, but ...).  To that end, I am have the same issues Pericles commented on the other day: I am confused whether I should just "confirm" everyone that friends me in an effort to expand the circle, or should I limit my connections to the people I actually know or do, or could do, business with, or at least those that have the courtesy to write and explain why we should be "friends".  I lean to the former but haven't jumped in yet.  Some of my hesitancy comes from my expectant embrace of the more social aspects of the technology -- and frankly I don't want to be more social.  I have been trying to figure out how to have more time to myself and my family for a long time.
Which brings me to my fears of using Twitter.  When I was looking for an article on how Twitter might be best applied to the film world, Beth's Blog led me to the OReillyRadar posting of some of their report "Twitter And The Micro-Messaging Revolution" .  I'd love to see the whole report; if you want to buy it for me for the holidays, you can do so here.  Reilly's preface documenting his adaptation to the technology echoed what I had suspected -- he joined for business reasons and soon found himself using it for social updates too.  It was inspiring though.  
I would like to hear further how filmmakers have effectively used Twitter to communicate with their audience, but this piece alone, got me a lot closer to embrace the present a bit more.  Any filmmakers out there with Twitter experiences to share?