Filmmakers, particularly those with an independent vision, often run up against a brick wall when dealing with the maximum-profit-obsessed studio system. Yes, filmmaking is a business, but even Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, two of the most famous industry heavyweights, think that the blockbuster-driven business model could spell eventual doom.
But with social media, lesser-known storytellers have an increasing voice, giving an ability to challenge traditional gatekeepers who have previously been able to keep such visionaries out of the profit-first cycle. If you don’t have an extra $35 million in marketing costs stashed away to promote your film, I have three words for you: social media platforms.
So which filmmakers have used social media to promote their indie projects? Here are five filmmakers on my radar that are revolutionizing very specific social media platforms:
Edward Burns on Twitter
If I were to provide a prototype of what a filmmaker should do while on Twitter, I would direct them to Ed Burns’s account. I know from reading Burns’s latest tweets that he is now writing a Brothers McMullen prequel, and, further, he recently crowdsourced the titling of the project. “The Brothers McMullen prequel title ideas. Which one do you like? The Young McMullens / The McMullen Boys,” tweets Burns.
Who would have thought, 18 years after The Brothers McMullen, Ed Burns would not only still have an interesting career as a storyteller and producer, but also be highly socially relevant and hugely effective at communicating via social media. At over 61,000 followers strong, Burns is a textbook example of what to do right on the microblogging platform.
Ed Burns engages fans – constantly, in fact. He rarely takes even a week off of Twitter unless he’s in scriptwriting/work mode. He keeps Twitter followers informed of his work with tweets like: “I’m writing the script now. If all goes well, we’ll shoot sometime in the late Spring” or “I had to throw out the McMullen sequel idea. I just didn’t fall in love with any of the ideas I had about where to find them 20 years later.” He’s always informing about work-related issues that will be interesting enough to re-tweet or at least favorite. Ed Burns has turned his Twitter account into a highly engaging feedback zone, one in which to interact — unfiltered — with super-fans of his work.
Emma Coats on Tumblr
If you haven’t checked out Emma Coats’s Tumblr Story Shots, you should do that now. It’s an account devoted to capturing all the wisdom of filmmaking, through sketching, storyboarding and more. Formerly a story artist at Pixar, she now dispenses wisdom through her critically-acclaimed and beautifully illustrated Tumblr, as well as at public speaking events. On Tumblr, Coats does interviews, wrestles with the art of framing, talks about all manner of social-media related things, and writes insider notes about the industry.
Kevin Smith on Facebook
What makes Kevin Smith’s Facebook page (as well as his updates and his Vines) so compelling is the overall sense of intimacy. Kevin Smith uses Facebook the way it’s supposed to be used: to convey a sense of “family,” or community, around a cause or personality.
Smith is a wealthy, successful celebrity, sure, but he got his start in this business as a nerdy, fully accessibly guy from Jersey that will never, ever stop loving comic books and memorabilia. He’s kept that up on his Facebook page. Here’s just one example of his unique approach to self-disclosure, self-promotion and filmmaking excellence on the social network. He recently wrote: “IT WAS 20 YEARS AGO TODAY…On October 3rd, 1993 at 11am, we screened CLERKS for the first time at the Angelika Film Center as part of the IFFM” along with a photo of a $50 check – his entry fee. And the rest is history.
Spike Lee on Kickstarter
Everyone remembers the epic celebrity crowdfunding fails, with Zach Braff’s seemingly chief among them. But Spike Lee has a different story altogether. He made his Kickstarter appeal personal, cutting a video, sharing of himself (Lee, famously, posted his favorite movie list, generating controversy and increasing his campaign’s visibility) and successfully raising $1.4 million for his next thriller about human beings addicted to blood in just 30 days.
Adam Goldberg on Vine
Vine is the now-famous iOS app allowing users to capture six looping seconds of stop camera action. Have you seen Adam Goldberg’s Vine Tribute to Oscar Madison? This is perhaps one of the reasons he was hailed early as “The King of the Vine,” for his 6-second experimental indie loops. He has also been called – at this early date – Vine’s first “auteur.” While it’s still early in the game for Vine, Goldberg is clearly the most effective, articulate filmmaker using the micro-video platform regularly. Honorable mention also goes to: David Lynch, who revealed his first Vine this Spring.
Social media grassroots approaches to marketing films and content can provide effective ways to get the word about projects and most of all, to engage with (and grow) a fan-base.
Any thoughts on social media? Have you found it to be a successful way of getting attention for creative projects? Let us know in the comments.