D&E Entertainment's Jonathan Chaupin has the unenviable task of picking the winners, followed up by the noble task of helping them win. The demand on him is to accomplish it on a shoestring, relative to classic advertising and marketing methods associated with the film industry. Here's how he uses social media to champion the little guys (with the help of a medium-sized budget).
If there's any industry that demands more content than can be provided, it's the entertainment industry. With the proliferation of VOD (video on demand) services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, as well as the explosion of digital cable channels (and the dissipation of any stigma associated with non-network channels), the industry at large is begging for content.
The top tier of this tower is theatrical distribution, a place where companies used to experience high-cost, high-risk ventures before the onset of digital projection. Now, while it still has its risks, theatrically distributed content yields a much wider net of reward.
It Takes A Little Charm
The less measurable but still easily perceived benefits of theatrical distribution are the prestige and bragging rights that come along with it. While theatrical revenue is important, the recognition trickles into augmented DVD and VOD sales.
In addition to live-broadcast concert events for pre-established stars like Bruce Springsteen, D&E champions smaller films based on their individual merit, niche appeal and capacity to be marketed successfully. It's a vague cocktail that somehow turns out to be delicious, with documentaries, re-releases and narrative indies exemplifying the success of the model.
That's partly due to proven names (wait, Bruce Springsteen who?). It's also due to the intuitive savvy of guys like Jonathan and skyrocketing demand for content from movie theaters operating at 30 percent of their capacity, but it's largely due to social media. As an inexpensive advertising tool, an easily-manipulated system of targeting your audience and an instant way to reach an immense number of people, it's proving to be an essential champion for the little guy (with the help of some medium-sized dollars, I guess).
Social Media Magic
Facebook advertising allows you to specify exactly how much you are willing to spend. For micro-budget indie films, that's essential. Next, it allows you to select the specific location, age, gender and interests of your target group. With these tools at your disposal, Jonathan presented convincing testimonial to testing a wide range of demographics, analyzing responses, finding the ad that works the best and where it worked, then targeting a smaller group. Voila, you get maximized conversion rates and ideal bang for every buck you spend.
Likewise, since we're talking about media, let's utilize YouTube (only a little differently). Unlike Facebook's distinct targeting allowing you to go after your presumed niche, YouTube delivers organic results by delivering your content only to people who searched for it (assuming you tagged and categorized it correctly). So, post a video and the analytics that trickle in will show you who your niche is, letting you know where to send your limited marketing bling.
Kickstart Your Dreams
Nobody's pretending that Hollywood is itching for fresh content. They can't really afford it -- they prefer a built-in audience coming to see a franchise picture. But fresh content is out there, ripe for the picking, regardless of whether or not anyone encouraged the creators to produce it. Kickstarter campaigns are starting to provide real funding for films small and large. At Sundance last year, 90 percent of the films screened got some part of their budget from Kickstarter, according to Jonathan.
That's one indication of the prevalence of social media in the entertainment industry. It is grass roots. It is the democratization of creativity. It is ever-so-gradually evening the playing field for the small, passionate players and the looming behemoths. Proper, effective use of social media as an indie filmmaker can get you all the way from funding to distribution. If that isn't an uplifting thought, you must work for the studios.