As soon as we signed the domestic distribution agreement for my feature No God, No Master, one of the first things the distributor’s PR people wanted to know was whether or not we had created a Facebook page for the film. I told them I had created such a page, but it wasn’t much of one and fewer than 100 of my Facebook friends had ‘Liked’ it. I immediately made the distributor an administrator of that page and now they use it to post press releases, film reviews, updates on its release and most recently, a link to the film’s theatrical trailer at Indiewire, a website that is film central for all things indie.
Since I’m not of the generation that grew up in the Internet age, I now use social media the way that pretty much everyone else uses it—to connect with old friends and to announce my goings on to the world. Until just recently, I viewed Facebook as a tool to talk to colleagues and as a place to post links to articles I’ve written on my film sites. It’s been effective in helping to build a subscription base for those sites and has connected me with other filmmakers I might otherwise never have met. It’s also isolated me to some degree, allowing an escape from the real world where most long-term relationships are made. However, this week, I’ve been tracking the Facebook “Likes’ on Indiewire’s posting of my film’s trailer, which was done only three days ago, and as I write this sentence, that number is about to surpass 1,000, far exceeding my expectations.
What exactly does all of this mean? Well, it means that 1,000 people in the world like my film’s trailer and are sharing it on Facebook with others. Some of these people are industry executives, but most are cinephiles and fellow filmmakers who go to Indiewire for the latest indie news. In the scheme of things, 1,000 ‘Likes’ is a drop in the bucket compared to the numbers of film goers it ultimately takes to make a film profitable, so you could argue that all those ‘Likes’ are little more than an endorsement by those who track films as a hobby. There is no P&A budget for my film, so social media and industry websites are a useful marketing tool for indies. The trailer ‘Likes’ for NGNM at Indiewire have put the film in the top 5% of film trailers that are “Liked’ on the website, so I’m hardly complaining. Still, I’m not sure what these ‘Likes’ will do for the film’s bottom line.
What I may not be considering is the ability of a website to elevate the profile of a film to buyers, theater owners, film critics and the like. These people need a place to go to learn about the film and although we have our own websites for this purpose, appearing on established websites that cater to the film industry adds credibility. Giving Indiewire an exclusive to the film’s trailer is a smart move in this regard, for both the distributor and for Indiewire. Any parties who may be interested in the film are directed to one place to watch the trailer and Indiewire gets the traffic, and thus more subscribers. I get this equation, but I’m not too sure what it can do for my film career. It’s not as if my phone is ringing off the hook with offers to direct another movie or from agents who are eager to represent me as a result of watching a trailer. This will only happen, if at all, when the film succeeds financially and artistically upon its release.
My skepticism is compounded by years of seeing my films go through cycles, from conception to release, and still waking up at the end of the journey looking for my next investor. This is, perhaps, the blessing and the curse of independent filmmaking—you’re only as good as your last ‘Like.’ I’ll take the attention for the film anywhere I can get it, but I hesitate to make more out of it than it deserves. Meanwhile, I’ll watch a number go up and be grateful for those who took the time to press a button on a web page. Liking someone’s work is never a bad thing for the liked, even in cyberspace.