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Building Your Film's Fanbase... The Hard Way

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I'm an independent film maker. In order to get my foot in the door of Hollywood I helped produce a horror film. I believed that we had bypassed many contenders by producing as professional-grade a film as was within our means. We still didn't know what to expect once the completed film was in our hands though. What now? Go straight to the executives? The film fests? Put it on YouTube? Of the options at this point, streaming video was, by far the most unexplored. But with NetFlix's success it certainly seemed viable.

From the film's Facebook fanpage all else could be done. We could promote, gather fans, and (best of all) a VOD platform could easily be built into the page. 

The puzzle has been getting people to watch the film. Without Hollywood's million-dollar-promotional campaigns our challenge was to reach as many people as possible and hope to get word-of-mouth working in our favor. So we went on a cross country promotional tour.

Relying on friends, family, and fans we took off from L.A. in a 1973 Dodge Sportsman painted by a graphitti artist with our logo and circled the country giving free screenings. The tour was similar to that of a band supporting a first album release - only a few people have heard of you but by the time you get to a new town and play your set you have hopefully gotten a few folks interested in buying your music. And it was so with us.

We screened our film in movie theaters, moose lodges, and even projected it onto the side of our camper for people to watch drive-in style. At each screening we made new friends. We got some media attention along the way as well. Not to mention the sight of our rolling billboard on the highways for motorists and pedestrians to see. Everything that we could do without a large bank account we did. And each fan we've accumulated has been hard won. 

This model is completely grass-roots style. It is very demanding mentally and physically. And it is all we had to work with - so we made it work. Hollywood's model is tried and true but there are ways around it. Social media is huge uncharted territory. It can be made to work if you are willing to put in the time.

Our film is called 'The Perfect House' - it is a horror anthhology. It can be viewed  on its Facebook page. The tour is documented here as well with pictures and video. 


initiated Oct 21, 2011 in Lessons Learned by will robertson (320 points)   2 3 4

3 Responses

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I find this fascinating.  In some ways the more upstart version of what Kevin Smith did in "touring" with Red State.  Of course, he came with a built-in audience, so your challenge is a bit different.

My questions back to you: how did you get audiences at each of your local stops?  What did you do to try to get them to be loyal fans and committed to spreading the word?  Were you selling any merch?  And the big one: What next?
response added Oct 21, 2011 by Mike Masnick (22,930 points)   59 99 160
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Thank you. We relied on family, friends, and especially Facebook fans to line-up the screenings. Some screenings were out in the rain, under a tarp, with an audience of four. Some were in theatres with 75 people.

Each screening we did Q & A's afterward. We were completely transparent and fielded any question no matter what aspect of the entire journey it pertained to. By getting in front of people and speaking to them one-on-one we made actual FRIENDS. Friends will remember you, support you, and spread the word.

We sold home made t-shirts, collector's edition DVD's that we will produce ourselves and ship in time for X-mas, and posters. Not many though as we only had miniscule $$ to purchase materials with.

Next we work on selling the film's rights - DVD, theatrical, foreign distribution.... Depending on the financial situation the next step is two sequels and a spin-off film for the TPH franchise.

Thank you for your interest!
response added Oct 21, 2011 by will robertson (320 points)   2 3 4
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as mike has noted, marketing (produce, connect, popular) is the hard part.


 did you try cable company freebies, as a give-away? streaming netflix, etc, i saw mentioned.
response added Oct 30, 2011 by pat donovan (140 points)   1 1 1

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