Finding Your Audience: An Independent Filmmaker's Roadmap

From building a fan base for your project with Facebook to securing funding through a Kickstarter campaign, filmmakers are faced with a greater number and variety of promotional opportunities than ever before. As the landscape continues to morph at a break-neck pace, what’s an artist to do?

To give Festival filmmakers and Sundance Institute artist alumni a road map, the Institute hosted immersive workshops on Monday, January 24 in Park City during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Facebook’s Charles Porch and Erin Kanaley provided insider tips for creating and maintaining a Facebook presence that most effectively engages an audience around a film as it progresses from pre-production to distribution and beyond. Kickstarter cofounder Yancy Strickler shared real-world examples of Kickstarter projects to illustrate the do’s and don’ts of conducting a successful campaign on the platform.

A top tip provided by Facebook’s Porch: Create a voice that is personal and authentic. That voice will be the foundation for a casual dialogue between filmmaker and fans, which will in turn foster a community around the film, its themes, and even the past and future work of the filmmaker. Referencing the ’80s hair on display on the Facebook page for Sundance 2010 film Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Porch called out visual content as a critically important element of audience engagement. In particular, grainy cell phone photos of small details or experiences generate interest while strengthening the personal connection between filmmaker and fan.

Also emphasizing the importance of content that is personal and unique, Kickstarter’s Strickler identified a project video as key to the success of a campaign on that platform. He cautioned against using a film’s trailer in place of a more personal video appeal. The most successful campaigns use video to introduce the team, share their process, and express the sensibility of the project as a whole, he said. Before answering questions from the audience, Strickler advised that the single best way to create a successful Kickstarter campaign is to back a project by another artist. When asked how many in the room had used the platform to support a project, nearly every person raised a hand.

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