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This chapter is from the book

See and Be Seen

Development is a good time to get involved in your local film and video scene. This includes attending festivals, attending meetings, readings, and screenings, and perhaps taking a few classes. You'll meet people of various levels of skill and experience, hear about all sorts of projects, and may even have the chance to work on a few no- or low-budget sets.

Television commercials (especially local nonunion shoots), corporate and industrial videos, and so on, are more good places to get experience on a set. You may even get paid for a couple days of work.

Don't limit yourself to this circuit, though. It's easy to get caught up in talking about movies and never making them. Reach out to people outside of the video and art communities, especially local media and small businesses. You'd be surprised at who wants to make a commercial or training video. Lots of people are interested in making shows for their community organizations—you can get some valuable experience and do a good deed. Moviemaking isn't for the shy, so get yourself out there.

You can also check some of the resources listed in Resources.

Create a contact list. Include all possible media outlets in your area, distributors you think would be interested in your show, the trade papers, and other print and online magazines about DV, independent movies, and so on. Make it a complete list with names, addresses, phone numbers, Web sites, and so on.

Watch the local shows broadcast from local stations for the names of producers. You can contact them directly. This is also true of local radio stations, especially public radio. A simple, sortable database will handle this material nicely. Code your list according to each category:

  • Local press.

  • Trade press. The trades and interested print and online magazines, user groups, e-mail lists, and so on. See the Resources section for listings.

  • Distributors.

  • Possible funders. Venture capital firms, investors, donors, rich relatives, and so on.

  • Other. I usually include contact names of other producers, directors, and writers, as well as festivals and markets.

See the Resources section for listings that will help you develop each category of your contact list.

PR

Press releases can be handled in two ways: You can hire someone or you can write them yourself. If you decide to do them yourself, write each one ahead of time and have the envelopes stamped and addressed. Later, all you have to do is fill in the blanks, print the most recent, stuff the envelopes, and drop them in the mailbox. Plan a minimum of five mailings of press releases over the course of your show.

Your first press release should be an announcement about your company and your current project. Try to keep it to one page with a couple of quotes. Figure out the one thing that sets your project apart from all of the other DV movies you hear about. Geography? Location? Subject matter? There has to be something and that will be your hook.

The trick is to send out enough material to keep people interested without annoying them. Annoyance can be allayed by relevant, interesting, and entertaining information, so put some thought into your press releases. If a reporter thinks you might be an interesting interview, she or he might just give you a call.

Work the Web

There are two kinds of contact you need to make: getting your message out to your potential audience and getting your message out to your potential partners. The Internet is instrumental to both of these endeavors.

  • World Wide Web—If you don't have a Web site, get one. Register your domain name and use it on everything—your business stationery and swag. Swag refers to shirts, hats, and other stuff you give away. If you don't want to design your Web page, hire someone. A Web page is an inexpensive way to promote and keep promoting you, your company, and your project. Remember to put your press releases on your Web page. If you don't know how to create and maintain a Web site, consider trading video work in exchange for Web help.

  • E-mail—Opportunity doesn't just knock. It e-mails. Opt-in e-mail is a great way to remind people of what you're doing and to build the kind of relationships that keep returning benefits to your show. Just don't spam.

  • Online communities—Online communities are great places to find support and like-minded people. Lurk for a while to figure out whose opinion is actually relevant. A lot of information is useless and picking out the gems takes a bit of work. Consider building, supporting, or contributing to an online discussion group, newsgroup, forum, or chatroom for other DV moviemakers.

Collateral

Imagine you need $35,000 from an investor. An investor is interested in your project and has asked to meet with you. You pitch with your whole heart a project that's ready and a company that's in place. It goes really well and the investor gives you a big smile when you shake hands before you leave.

Then she asks for your card.

A business card is often the first contact a potential partner has with you. It's your lead marketing piece and it makes an impression. If you're handing out cards obviously printed from your computer that are poorly designed and not even proofread, it says something about you. And it's not good.

If you don't think that investor isn't going to make a judgment based on that card, you're wrong. If she can't trust you to produce a decent business card, how can she trust you to make a motion picture? Your entire pitch is designed to remove any obstacle to a possible partner saying yes to you. Don't let a poorly crafted business card wreck it. The only thing worse is no card. It says you're not prepared.

Get your business stationery ready. Design it yourself if you're so inclined. You may be able to trade a screen credit for some design or print work. Make sure your contact information is correct and proofread everything before going to print.

You don't need four-color printing. Black ink on crisp stock with a bit of style says you mean business. And that's what people need to know.

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