Ryan Gielan of marketing service company, BELIEVE, helps explain how to best work the platform visited by 85% of Americans and hence enjoying an Alexa ranking of 3.

How is YOUTUBE (YT) best used for marketing indie films?

The best use of YouTube is for audience building before, during and after the filming process.

The perfect version of this would be a filmmaker who spends the year leading up to her shoot vlogging about the fundraising process, casting, producing, and any fears, hopes and challenges they’re facing.

These would be posted regularly, and interspersed with funny or interesting scripted content with a homemade feel, nothing too precious. These videos would establish her voice and build a small but loyal audience who happen to like that voice.

Then the filmmaker would upload a few homemade videos from set, showing off cast, crew and creatives and continuing the themes established in pre-production: it’s important to think of you audience as peers, they’re going to be cool with talking shop, so she would provide tips & tricks along with a personal look at the process.

In the 6-12 months following production, the filmmaker would continue to create and post videos on a set schedule, with material growing progressively more produced, while remaining entertaining. Again, interspersed with scripted, themed content. For instance, if the film is about a chef, the filmmaker would have a homemade, super-low-budget cooking show about how they get by on a freelancer or indie filmmaker living.

Every tenth video would be a clip from the film or a trailer or some piece of fun marketing material. Maybe three or four total in the 6-12 months of post-production. All the while, she would be interacting with fans, commenting on other filmmakers’ videos and channels, subscribing to channels and YT’ers with interests related to her film.

Assuming her film- like most of our films- does not get a huge distribution deal, and she partners with an aggregator to make the film available on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and VOD, she would then post those links on her YouTube channel and script and upload a personal vlog about where people can find the film.

Finally, she would spend the next year creating and uploading funny or interesting videos along a regular schedule, interacting with fans and producers constantly, and would remind people once every three months that they can find her film on the relevant outlets.

This is how she could build and maintain an audience- if she’s going to be making films for a while, it’s a good investment of her time and energy. People will connect with her and her voice, and will look for ways to engage others on the filmmaker’s behalf. Kevin Smith and Miranda July are two great examples of filmmakers who have used a similar approach to attracting and growing an audience, albeit on different platforms.

(And Sundance alum Ari Gold is a great example of a robust YouTube user who also worked with Believe for the release of Adventures of Power.  More about this below.)

Key techniques and best practices for building one’s audience or community via YouTube.

YT is built on eliminating the distance between producer and user. This is the single most important thing to remember when trying to market on YouTube, and here’s why: along with the ability to create and upload self-produced content comes the desire to interact with other creators, peers. So, YT is built and populated by tens of millions of people who interact with content and producers horizontally, not people who want to passively accept content dropped vertically from studies above.

If you decide to step into their world, you have to understand and respect their mindset and tailor your marketing accordingly. In short, it shouldn’t feel like marketing. Producers who succeed on YouTube create videos that feel homemade, personally delivered by a real human being, not a big Hollywood team directly to the individual audience member. This is why producers who present themselves to the YT community do better than filmmakers who only present their film, or their trailer. YT is not a dumping ground for deleted scenes and outtakes, it’s a place people come to be entertained.

Finally, YT’ers do carry over some traits of traditional television audiences- they like content they can count on. Videos that feel like standalone material aren’t worth connecting with, because there’s no promise of future entertainment. You have a dramatically higher chance of getting subscribers- and having your videos shared- if you upload regularly, on a given day, at a given time, with fresh content.

So… the take homes are:

1. Interact with every audience member, from day one. They’re your peers as well as audience.

2. Don’t just market. Create content that seeks to entertain.

3. Post consistently, for a long time.

These three things turn a lot of filmmakers off, and I understand that. We want to make films, and leave the marketing to others. That mindset- while totally understandable- is why so many films are just sitting on shelves.  Marketing is a lot of work, but if you invest the time wisely and follow the three simple guidelines above, you can build an audience.

About tagging strategies and captioning on YouTube: because Google bots use those for search engine ranking both on YouTube itself and on regular search, what are key tagging and captioning techniques?

Tagging and captioning are generally self-explanatory, in other words: you want to add keywords or tags to every video, and you want them to reflect the most common search terms that would lead to your video. Don’t just throw in tags that are words found in your title- approach this from the point of view of someone who is looking for a similar video to yours, and ask “What keywords would they enter?”

For instance, you’ve decided to create and upload a weekly series of videos examining all the outlets indie filmmakers have for self-distributing their films, one outlet each week. This week you’re uploading a video about how to maximize the attention you can bring to Netflix. Your audience is indie filmmakers, producers and marketers. Some obvious tags: #indie #film #netflix #name of your film. These tags are going to position the video to appear in searches by indie filmmakers and people looking for ways to rent indie films on Netflix, both of which are your audience.

Next you want to hit  #how to #promotion #marketing #self-distribution #digital. These are going to pull in indie artists in other fields, who may want to apply your ideas to their products- a book or an album, for instance. These producers of indie art are also consumers of indie art, also your audience.

Finally, someone who is looking to drive eyeballs to their Netflix release(s) is probably going to be looking for ways to measure their results, or may already have them in place. Good keywords include: #analytics #understanding #clicks #views #CPC (cost per click) #CPM (cost per thousand), etc.

Three important caveats:

1. This is a generic example, clearly. The best way to decide on keywords is to do a couple searches, find related videos, and look at their keywords. If the video has a lot of views, or seems similar to yours, grab the relevant keywords. Doing a handful of test searches from your desired audience’s perspective is a great way to stumble upon keywords you would not have thought of.

2. Your video title and description are more important. They should be keyword rich. The title should be short and the description should be long (up to 5,000 words). Don’t name the video solely based on the content, also name it based on the relevant, meaty search keywords.

3. The single greatest factor in the success of any video is inbound links. Period. Tagging, title and descriptions are useful in the long run, they can’t be ignored, but Google’s recent algorithm change has solidified organic, quality inbound links as the single most important factor in the ranking of any website, product, video.

HOW do you generate the YouTube views?  It is not just by uploading tons of videos, right? Those views are generated by having videos posted on lots of other sites, yes? Do you have a network of blogs and websites that will post video viewers of trailers or short video content that helps those views get pumped up?

There are 48 hours of video is posted to YouTube A MINUTE!! No way your videos are just going to be found on your channel just like that, correct?

A lot of this is proprietary info for our company. However, you are TOTALLY correct- just being funny is not enough, and neither is uploading a ton of videos.

There are three basic ways to drive eyeballs to your videos.

1. Share them across social networks, and encourage others to do the same.

2. Get postings and links from websites with large audiences already.

3. Advertise your videos online and on mobile devices.

We (BELIEVE) do a proprietary combination of all three for clients large and small.

I know those three bullets are vague, but we are currently writing an eBook on the subject and we can’t give away everything. But that should tell you just how rich the subject is- there’s enough material on executing the above three steps to literally fill a book.

Some examples of films BELIEVE has worked on that worked well via YouTube marketing

Some films we can’t discuss at the studio’s or filmmaker’s request, but here are two excellent examples of YT marketing that we have worked on:

Ari Gold, Adventures of Power

Ari and his team created an entire 70-video YouTube promotional campaign featuring original videos, deleted scenes, constant updates and interaction- all free to the end user. Their videos have received over 500K views, gained over 3,000 subscribers, and three of his videos even reached the front page of YouTube, officially going viral. The YouTube fan base has led to stronger DVD and digital sales.

My film, The Graduates

The Graduates was the #1 comedy on Hulu for months, and remains in the Top 10 all-time after two years. We’re competing with major studio films and stars and have held our ground for two full years. Though filmmakers remain skeptical about Hulu, we’ve had a wonderful, profitable experience there, and the hundreds of thousands of people who have seen our film have in many cases followed us across social media, bought the film or the soundtrack, and remained responsive to the projects we’ve released since meeting them. The majority of our viewers discover the film through a few consistently updated YouTube channels and webseries.

Two of the strongest performing videos are linked here. You’ll notice they appear to have nothing to do with the film or product they’re selling:

* Marketing Adventures of Power with a Halloween music video; 197,000+ views; Officially viral, making it to the Front Page of YouTube. http://goo.gl/G53Uv

* Marketing 1800Recycling with funny “Fail” videos; 3,000,000+ views; Three videos officialy viral, making it to the Front Page of YouTube. http://goo.gl/cnkk9

There are two of over 100 pieces of content we’ve taken viral for clients big and small. Couple this with a consistent output of content and some audience interaction, and you have an active and growing Subscriber base.

“Why does this matter, or how does this help?” are the questions we hear most often when explaining the value of a successful viral video or webseries to a potential client. Taking the examples above, there’s obvious value in getting hundreds of thousands of people to interact with your material. Couple that with a widely available film, and the viral video that had nothing to do with your movie just became a great ad for you and the film. People who are truly entertained by the viral video will visit your channel and poke around, and that’s when they’re most receptive to marketing materials like the trailer. You’ve won them over by not marketing at them, and now they will seek out your marketing.

As the price of digital goods rapidly drops toward zero, filmmakers who build an audience on YouTube will have a huge advantage when it comes time to ask people to pony up for a ticket, a download, a soundtrack or a t-shirt, because not only will they want to spend (to help you keep producing content) they’ll also share the videos, becoming advocates who advertise on your behalf.

What are some good benchmarks in terms of reasonable numbers to shoot for in terms of trailer view etc…?

This is a complicated question, because we can assist clients in getting any amount of views, so it completely depends on two things: your budget, and your audience. If you’ve spent time developing an audience, you have to spend a lot less to get and keep people interested, which is why we provide so much (and such specific) advice on audience development before, during and after filming. If you’ve done nothing to develop an audience, it’s going to cost money to get real eyeballs on your marketing material.

Simply uploading a trailer to YouTube is a good step- it’s about as basic and necessary as a website- but it doesn’t guarantee a single view. I would focus the benchmarks on content creation and interaction with fans- try to create and upload one new piece each week for a year. If you have a good concept and you interact with fans, your material will stand out, because you’re a filmmaker, after all- making interesting content is your life.

Any other good marketing platforms you work with to market films?

We use Twitter and Facebook, of course, but there is no silver bullet. You must create content and interact with fans.

The digital revolution continues to bring prices down, but the upside is that the same outlets that bring prices down also corral audiences into niches. 85% of the country visits YouTube, every conceivable niche is represented there, and they’re all looking for entertaining content. It can be a massive platform for any filmmaker.

Another upside of the digital and social media revolution is that with so many on-demand options, audiences are seeking and finding more and more independent films, months and years after their release and sharing their discoveries with friends. The need for an “opening weekend” is moot. Don’t get me wrong, if you can have a big opening weekend anywhere, take it. But if not, your movie on Netflix or Hulu will look just as fresh in a year as it does today. We advise clients to keep their YouTube and social media presence just as vibrant and fresh two years after their release as on Day 1. Releasing an indie film today is much closer to opening a small web-based business than it is to releasing a studio film.

Distinguishing marketing on YouTube via distributing on YouTube: how it works, what is viable, and what are reasonable goals to shoot for:

I wish we could speak intelligently about the YouTube screening room, but it’s so new that we don’t have a lot of work to point to. It appears studio films are gaining some traction there, but it’s too new to have numbers and benchmarks.

One important note that may work with earlier comments: As the YouTube Screening Room grows and people become more accustomed to buying professionally produced content while visiting YouTube, it will be hugely advantageous to have a large audience within the YT ecosystem already. The ability to direct your Subscribers to your film without having to leave their chosen social media is incredibly valuable. But, again, its value is proportional to the size of the audience you’ve developed.

More about BELIEVE:

Believe handles YouTube, Facebook and Twitter campaigns for clients in the entertainment industry. We scale campaigns to project budgets, provide rich targeting across all social media, and deliver an audience to your film. We’re filmmakers so we understand the challenges that artists face when it becomes necessary to take marketing into your own hands.

For more information about BELIEVE and their fees etc contact:





March 21st, 2012

Posted In: DIY, Marketing, Social Network Marketing

Note from Orly: This blog post was researched and written by Bryan Glick, a new addition to the TFC family.  Forthcoming will be an analysis of the actual releases out of the festival from past fests and this year’s.  This will be a group effort on the part of all of us and we welcome any and all info.  And now let us begin…

With SXSW just around the corner, now is the perfect time to look at the world of deal making at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Over 100 films had their world premiere at the festival. Almost half of them now have some form of distribution in place but the numbers vary greatly based on what section the film screened in. On the high end is the Premiere section. With over 80% of the films getting acquired. Unfortunately things aren’t as rosy for films that were part of the World Dramatic section. Only one film has been bought thus far. The (#/#) below indicates how many films per section were “bought”.

WORLD DRAMATIC- (1/14) Only the film “Wish You Were Here” was bought by a North American distributor (Entertainment One). It also is in English with a somewhat-name cast.

WORLD DOCUMENTARY- (6/12) “Payback” (Zeitgeist) and “Putin’s Kiss” (Kino Lorber) were both bought before the festival. The latter, after playing IDFA.  “5 Broken Cameras” was also bought Kino Lorber. Indomina couldn’t resist “The Imposter” and SPC got “Searching for Sugar Man”.  “Indie Game: The Movie” was bought by HBO to be remade as a television series. They opted to reject other offers that would have included a theatrical run but they are doing their own DIY theatrical.

US DOCUMENTARY- (7/16) “Marina Abromovic: The Artist is Present” was an HBO DOC coming in and HBO also bought “Me @ The Zoo” prior to Sundance starting.  Sundance Selects snagged both “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” and “How to Survive a Plague”, Magnolia opened the gates to “The Queen of Versailles” and unsurprisingly National Geographic went for “Chasing Ice”.  Most recently, The Film Collaborative sold this year’s audience award winner, “The Invisible War” (the deal is being announced in a couple of days).

US DRAMATIC- (7/16) “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “The Surrogate” were both bought by Fox Searchlight. “Safety Not Guaranteed” is the first Sundance film to be acquired by Film District. AFFRM, run by Ava Duverney the director of “Middle of Nowhere” will be releasing the film in partnership with Participant.  “Nobody Walk” was one of the many Magnolia acquisitions at the fest, and not to be outdone IFC took “Simon Killer”. “LUV” was the only film from the section to score a television deal, which it was able to do as part of its theatrical deal with Indomina. It will premiere on BET. It is worth noting that 5 of the 7 films that have sold were award winners. The only award winning film from this section not to sell yet is “Smashed”.

NEXT- (3/9) These films are all relatively low budget and tend to fly more under the radar than the US Dramatic films. Since they were cheaper to make they are also far more likely to get their investment back. “28 Hotel Rooms” wooed over Oscilloscope, while Magnolia added “Compliance” to their buying spree. The Film “Mosquita Y Mari” was acquired by Wolfe Releasing. The Film Collaborative negotiated the low 6-figure deal and will do the theatrical release.

MIDNIGHT- (5/8) Magnet already had “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” going into the festival. “V/H/S” was also bought Magnet, which is the genre arm of Magnolia. LD Entertainment won the bidding war for “Black Rock”, “The Pact” will be released by IFC Midnight, and “Excision” made the cut for Anchor Bay.

PREMIERE- (13/16) Not surprisingly, this is the section that produced the most deals and also some of the largest deals of the festival. The Weinstein Company’s new Radius VOD Label acquired “Lay The Favorite” And “Bachelorette”.  Samuel Goldwyn and Sony partnered to get “Robot and Frank”. “Arbitrage” was acquired by Roadside Attractions and will utilize the same day and date VOD approach that was done with “Margin Call”. IFC added “Predisposed” and Liberal Arts” to their packed slate. Meanwhile Imagine took “GOATS”, Focus nabbed “For a Good Time Call”, SPC took “Celeste and Jesse Forever”, CBS Films opted for “The Words, Millenium went with “Red Lights”, Magnolia snatched up “2 Days in New York” and ATO got in the game with “Shadow Dancer”

Notably absent from this list and still seeking distribution is “Red Hook Summer” which is the latest film from Spike Lee. The other two films (“Price Check” and “California Solo”) from the section yet to sell both did not premiere until the second half of the festival.

DOC PREMIERE- (5/8) “Ethel”, “The D Word”, and “About Face” all had HBO DOC deals going into the festival. “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap” Was acquired by Indomina and “West of Memphis” wound up in the hands of SPC.  “Room 237” was also bought out of the New Frontier section which is known for more experimental film-making IFC will release it.


THE BIG PLAYERS this year were smaller and mid-level distributors. HBO Docs had the most films in the festival going in but IFC and Magnolia left with acquisitions from multiple programming sections and each got some of the most sought after films. Indomina acquired three films, all of which were in competition. Fox Searchlight also went big by acquiring two of the biggest films in competition. Compared to last year though, they were relatively tame. With the recent acquisition of “West of Memphis” SPC has rights to three films from the festival. Leaving empty handed were The Weinstein Company’s main label, Open Road Films, and Relativity. All of these companies went looking for films that they could take wide; given their absence it would seem unlikely that there are many “Little Miss Sunshine”s from Sundance 2012. Which might explain why

VOD is IN. Many of the deals include VOD as a central component. Whether or not any can duplicate the success of “Margin Call” remains to be seen. That said filmmakers and distributors alike were far more willing to embrace the opportunities that VOD enables. Rare exceptions were films such as “Black Rock” which opted to reject a number of VOD centered offers. They will instead have a traditional theatrical run.

BIGGER ISN’T NECESSARILY BETTER when it comes to making your money back. While several films in the premiere section were able to get seven figure deals, it was far from enough to cover their budgets. Meanwhile smaller films like “The Pact” and “Mosquita Y Mari” were able to recoup and then some.

FINALLY, If your favorite film hasn’t been bought yet, that doesn’t mean it won’t get bought in the future or follow a solid DIY approach. “Being Elmo” was not bought until several months after Sundance last year but has gone on to gross over $250,000 theatrically. And films are still getting bought from the 2011 festival. “Restless City” was just acquired by AFFRM.

South By Southwest, here we come!

More Sundance deal analysis to come too…

March 2nd, 2012

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, Film Festivals, Theatrical

Written by Sheri Candler, co author of Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul

This post was originally published on February 21 on Sheri Candler Marketing and Publicity’s blog and republished with additions on the Tribeca Future of Film blog February 27. There is one new addition at the end of this post.

I know, collective groan “yet another social network to keep up with?” Seems like there is a new one born every minute and many of them fail to get off the ground. But here is why Pinterest might be a site you should consider using for your production.

-In just one month (December 2011-January 2012), Pinterest saw traffic increase over 155% and over the last 6 months, traffic increased by 4000%. As of this month, they had over 11 million unique visitors to the site and over 10 million registered users from all over the world.

-Statistics show Pinterest drives more referral traffic on the Web than Google+, YouTube, Reddit and LinkedIn combined. The beauty of pinning photos/videos is they link back to websites, thus driving traffic. They are nofollow links, so it doesn’t help with SEO, but any link that drives traffic to a site is good for awareness and conversion.

-Mainly, the site now attracts women in the age range 25-44 who love fashion, home decorating and family related products. As it gains more of a following, this is bound to change. Still, if that is a target demographic for your film…

-Activities are based on images so rather than having to write a lot, you can simply post photo collections and they don’t even have to be your own photos! I think this is the highly attractive thing about Pinterest, in fact I am hearing about Pinterest addiction. Users typically spend 11 minutes on the site each visit. User scanning pictures is a lot more enjoyable than scanning status updates on Facebook clearly. Plus there is no EdgeRank to deal with. Once someone decides to follow your boards, they continually see new additions you make in their stream whenever they log in.

-The key for users doesn’t seem to be gaining followers, but gaining repins meaning they want to have people think what they pin is cool (or hot, or whatever). They strive to be INFLUENCERS and that is exactly the people you want to find and connect with. Because people can follow boards they find interesting, it is possible to have many more followers on your boards than you do on your account profile.

-It integrates with your other social accounts like Facebook and Twitter and hopefully Google Plus is coming. There are embed badge widgets you can install on your website to integrate all of your social channels. Word of caution, at the moment the site only connects to Facebook PROFILES not business or professional pages, so you probably shouldn’t opt to sign in with Facebook if you are using this for your film, just sign in with your email and don’t connect to Facebook. If you want to tie Pinterest to your Twitter account, make sure it is the one you use for your film and when G+ comes online, make sure you have signed up using a gmail account for the production, not for your personal gmail account. However, other users can sign in with their social accounts and things they pin show up in their Facebook or Twitter stream, very handy for word of mouth spread about you and your film.

There is a “scoreboard” of sorts showing how many boards and followers you have over all, as well as followers of only certain boards and repins of your pins. The site also allows you to glean from others what they are interested in. You can start to “listen” to what your potential audience thinks is interesting by viewing what they select to pin. You don’t follow people as much as you follow things, ideas, topics on Pinterest. You can repin something someone else has posted and this can open the door to a conversation. They can do the same with your pins and you are alerted via email when someone does this and it shows under that image on your board. This is an enormous help when you are trying to figure out what to post, what boards to create, what resonates most?  While Facebook is about people and brands, Pinterest is about things and interests. You can only post images or video and some comments and tags in text on your boards.

I only recently started using it for the Joffrey project I am working on which is why all of my boards are devoted to that. Looking at them gives a good idea on the kind of thing you could use it for on your production. In my workshop presentations, I talk about posting regularly on your social channels and not just information directly about your film, but also about the interests of your audience; those who would be a fan of your film and of yourself as an artist. I am using the boards to show Joffrey history through pictures and videos; the ballets they created, the ballets they revived, their alumni dancers, Robert Joffrey through the years as well as photos of the merchandise available to buy through our site. It’s a balance of audience interest and promotion for the film.

I noticed Ted Hope is using his boards to express his personal interests , things and people he admires and wants to draw more attention to, his artistic accomplishments and resources he uses that he thinks would be helpful to his connections. All of these things help in attracting an audience both to his films, but also to his professional life as a producer. His personal tastes are reflected in all of his boards and none are devoted to posting family vacations! The point being, we can get to know Ted as a professional person without his having to reveal too much private information.

Other artists in the indie film space currently starting to use Pinterest are writer/director James Gunn; transmedia educator/artist Christy Dena who uses her boards to showcase ideas about narrative, interactive and game design ideas she has discovered;  filmmaker Erik Proulx has created boards that show his advertising and design background and what he finds inspirational for this. You may remember his short film Lemonade about those who were laid off, particularly in the advertising industry, and found inspiration to reinvent their lives completely. I think Erik is kind of into these inspirational, motivational, life changing stories which is why he is making another film called Lemonade Detroit about a city that is reinventing itself. Filmmaker Gary King uses his boards to show his inspirations, showcase actors and actresses he loves and his career accomplishments. Film blog Film School Rejects uses their boards to keep readers updated on this year’s Oscar contenders, interesting movie posters their readers might like and films they are watching.

Pinterest is just getting started so don’t be alarmed that you have missed the boat. You still have first mover advantage here. You must join by invitation only, but those invitations aren’t difficult to obtain. You can request one on their site.

A word about self promotion

As with any social network, you should be using Pinterest to directly connect with audience on a personal level, not as a one way promotional channel. Use creative ways to showcase your personal identity and vision and use it as a magnet to attract those most interested in what you, as an artist, have to say. You will find your audience is much more willing to stay with you across projects when you are mindful of their interests.Sho us your style, the way you see the world, the way you tell a story, not just “buy my DVD.” Contribute something of value to the community, and they will keep coming back.

Populate your boards before you start trying to add followers. As with any new endeavor online, you need some interesting content first. You wouldn’t promote a website that only has a landing page that says coming soon, so start by thinking through what you want to say about yourself and your work, who are you trying to attract (this could be different types of audiences, which is fine), and analyzing visuals you can use from your own assets. Also, the account can have more than one contributor which is good for sharing the responsibility of board maintenance with your marketing team.

As with anything you do online, track referral traffic coming to your site via Pinterest. If you use Google Analytics, you can find out how to do this here

Pinterest is dead easy to get started on, but if you like tutorials, watch this video.

Pinterest jargon

A Pin-an image added to Pinterest by a registered user

A Pinner-someone who is a registered user of Pinterest

Pinning-the act of sharing an image on Pinterest

A Pinboard-a collection of pins usually categorized around a topic, interest or theme

Repin-sharing some else’s pin on one of your own boards

Pin It Button-a widget badge one can embed on their website to let others know about a Pinterest account. Also a bookmark shortcut one can add to a toolbar to easily pin something  seen online to one a board.

ADDED: see this infographic

A Marketer’s Guide To Pinterest: Pin It To Win It [Infographic]



March 2nd, 2012

Posted In: Marketing, Social Network Marketing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2017 The Film Collaborative. All rights reserved.