BUTTERFLIES is currently making the rounds on the festival circuit and Brym sees that as another good way to garner support for her film, but hasn’t found it effective in getting interest from distributors. “When it comes to distribution, I can't say that the festivals are effective at all. Distributors don't go to indie film festivals to purchase films, not anymore, unless it is Sundance, Toronto or Cannes. These film festivals are not really for low budget, independent filmmakers. We have had only one real interest resulting from a festival screening (at Action on Film Fest). All of our other distribution offers came thanks to our presence on social media,” says Brym. (Author's Note: Just before this issue went live, I was notified that Butterflies was purchased for distribution by UK's Journeyman Pictures.)
Filmmakers who have a longer experience with using festivals and social media to attract attention to their films are Stephanie Silber and Vic Zimet of Home Team Productions. Their quirky documentary about a man who purposely chooses a homeless existence for himself and his family, RANDOM LUNACY: VIDEOS FROM THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED, spent years on the festival circuit garnering plenty of critical praise by the likes of the Village Voice, Rolling Stone and the Kansas City Star, as well as best documentary awards from the Connecticut, Westchester, and Rockport Film Festivals. Though the road was long, ultimately they secured a DVD release as well as a worldwide broadcast TV deal with a distributor. “Like a lot of filmmakers, we were convinced that RANDOM LUNACY was an original and compelling story, and if crafted well would result in a deserved payday. Despite years of labor, fame and fortune turned out to be a mirage,” says Silber.
Filmmakers Stephanie Silber and Vic Zimet had a long road to distribution with RANDOM LUNACY.
The company did have a marketing and distribution plan set from the start with the original strategy being to make a TV deal. “Our initial sights were firmly set on a TV sale, in particular HBO. We saw that network as the one with deep pockets as well a reputation for airing finely crafted and prestigious documentaries. We sent an early cut to them in 2006, only to receive the first of what would be many rejections. Though they were encouraging, budget cuts together with the network’s desire for political films translated into “No”. In retrospect, we believe that we probably hurt our chances by sending out an early version that was in low res and scratch mixed. Today, we’d tell other filmmakers to beware of sending out less than a polished film,” said Zimet.
All along, the filmmakers were using social media and their website to connect with an audience. “Since MySpace was the first site to be in vogue, we created a page and we seem to have attracted a bevy of highly talented international musicians, filmmakers and festivals. At this point, we really do not view it as a viable marketing tool anymore for us. But, we always post or blog an upcoming screening on it. The two sites we put our energy into are Facebook and YouTube. With Facebook, each of us not only has an individual profile page, but we have also created pages for Home Team Productions and all of our titles: RANDOM LUNACY, SONGS & STORIES, and BLACK 47 AT CONNOLLY’S. We try to put up fresh content frequently on each of these pages,” says Silber.
The company also has experimented with Facebook advertising to attract new fans. “The nice thing is you can try things out really inexpensively. With a budget as low as a buck and a quarter a day, we can generate fans for our film pages. The ads are simple in design and easy to create, allowing us to do it ourselves and change the message as often as we like. We have increased our fan base this way and have at the same time increased sales of DVDs and downloads. We also post videos on YouTube. We’ve felt a certain frustration with spending time cutting trailers and seven-minute packages describing festival experiences only to find out that a poorly shot video of teenage Hula dancers goes viral! Nonetheless, posting our videos does drive some traffic to our sites. We’ve also found that posting video responses on other related videos on YouTube increases views. We like using TubeMogul because it allows us to do just one upload and simultaneously put it on a variety of video sharing sites, as well as providing analytics, ” Zimet said.