— by JUSTIN D. HILLIARD —
On March 12, at 10 in the evening, I got an e-mail back from Jon Reiss (author of “Think Outside the Box Office” and director of “Bomb It”) saying that he could, in fact, work us into his busy schedule. I immediately got my shift covered and after a very late night working on Saturday, the “3 Thumbs Up” crew drove down to Austin to meet Jon at SXSW on March 14. Regarding our film, Jon was on my list of the top three filmmakers/experts that I felt we had to have their input as part of our documentary.
Jon Reiss is an award-winning filmmaker, teacher and a leading expert on film distribution and marketing for the digital era. Simply put, when it comes to the future state of film and media distribution alternatives, this man gets it. And thankfully, he’s willing to impart some of that knowledge with other filmmakers, although he’d be quick to note that the title “filmmaker” limits the potential audience outlets of distribution and disregards the creative range that artists now have in utilizing other transmedia options. I know, a lot to wrap your head around … you wanted to make a film, have it picked up and not have to bust your ass to get it in front of as many people as you possibly could … you thought that finishing the film was the tough part. Think again. Finding your audience is crucial, and it begins in the conception phase of the project.
With “The Other Side of Paradise,” we had an initial small, loyal fan-base, but nothing too crazy though. As we went out, traveling with the film on the festival circuit (attending as many fests as we could), we slowly realized that we could have done substantially more work, very early on in pre-production, to help our audience start to grow.With the documentary “3 Thumbs Up,” Arianne, Ryan and I set out to exhaust almost every attempt we could think of to further engage our audience. This ranged from live events (featuring music and more), gallery openings, CD release parties, and the list goes on. At that point, it was the end of 2009, and we hadn’t even cracked the surface of the millions of different ways to connect with an audience and make them aware of the project.
As we continue shooting the doc, now we are shifting from the conception phase to pre-production with “Swallow.” There is a continual urge to push our creativity and find other ways to build early awareness for the film. The early promo art and this weekly column for It’s Just Movies are early crucial keys to expanding the market of the film. Again, we haven’t even cracked the surface.
What else can we do? What are some ideas (comments are VERY welcome — in fact, one random comment on this article by March 19 at midnight EST, no duplicates/no jokes, will get a free physical copy of the STANTON “The Other Side of Paradise” soundtrack!)? We have an indie sci-fi in the works … what special interest groups fit in that potential fan demographic? Should we put on a live concert or make it even bigger? Should we take the crowdfunding via IndieGoGo and Kickstarter and really push that to the max, seeking out a donor with a large challenge donation (like Ken’s) and turn it into a city event? Are there any charities or organizations that would have a specific interest in our project? What other video promos or promotions could we be doing? These are just a sample of all that “continual urge” to keep thinking of new ideas, ways to get our low-budget film in front of as many people as possible. We have to build our audience, and we have to do it now.
I’m going to let Jon do his own speaking – check out this promo clip for “3 Thumbs Up” – a partial interview with Jon Reiss we shot early March 14. Visit www.jonreiss.com for more information about his work (and pick up the book – it’s amazing!).
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“Making SWALLOW” — a weekly column exclusive to It’s Just Movies — is following the film from pre-production through distribution.
Justin D. Hilliard is a writer/director/producer and co-founder of Striped Socks Productions. He attended the University of Texas at Arlington and received his BFA in Film – Cum Laude in 2004. His previous films are “The Other Side of Paradise,” “3 Thumbs Up Doc” and “Wednesday.”