I haven’t worked in the film industry for a long while and my clout in Hollywood is next to nil, nada, none. Instead, I’ve been working in digital marketing and advertising. The stuff I’ve learned. Wow. It’s allowed me see a gapping hole in the indie film industry.
The Missing Tool in the Kit
Out there in the world, talented filmmakers have access to so many tools that were once far out of reach. Film was expensive, an editing bay took up an entire room, and don’t even get me started about sound equipment. Now these tools are easily found in your pocket. Not only do they have easy access to the tools, they have access to the distribution channels! Some of these filmmakers are mediocre, a few are better off doing something else, but the lot of them have an acute ability to craft a story for the screen. But for reasons I can’t explain, their talent ends there. They lack the ability to get anyone besides their circle of friends and family to watch their masterpiece.
It kills me to see this happening. I try to help, but sometimes it feels like I’m screaming, “Hey, you guys!!” like Rocky in The Goonies, and no ones’s turning around. They’re too busy worried about the right gear, fearful their film might not get picked up at Sundance, or worse, get signed by a major studio only to end up going straight to DVD. (Poor things)
The Curse of Knowledge
If you made it this far, I’m here to tell you there is hope. All you have to do was build up hype using a great creative campaign. Sounds easier said than done, but it’s actually extremely easy these days. You can do the whole thing from the same coffee shop you wrote the script in. “But I made a Facebook page for the movie!” you say? Sorry, but making a film isn’t the Field of Dreams. “Make it and they’ll come” is delusional. It’s not your fault though, so don’t sweat it. Unlike a Pixar movie, this story has a villain in it and the villain is called “The Curse of Knowledge”. (I like to imagine it looking like the Eye of Sauron, but you can use whatever visual device works for you.)
“The Curse of Knowledge” is what happens when someone says, “So, tell me about yourself.” and you freeze. You don’t know where to begin. Since I was born? Do they wanna know what I had for lunch? You’re crippled and in a panic you start from the beginning. Luckily, “The Curse of Knowledge” has a weakness.
Kill Your Darlings … Kill Em!
If you don’t know the saying, “Kill your darlings.”, then you might wanna rewatch your film after I tell you. “Killing your darlings” means you should make characters we love suffer or say goodbye to shot that took 4 days in a real typhoon to get because it’s gonna make the film better. The same philosophy can be applied to killing “The Curse of Knowledge”. It takes time and careful consideration to select the ways you’ll convince someone to watch your film. Separate yourself from your film and think to yourself, “Why should I spend my time and money, moments in my life, to see this movie?” Your first 100 answers to this question will be shit, throw them away. Doesn’t matter how clever.
A lot of people will try to teach you SEO or social media marketing, but those are just tools. You have to learn how to sell yourself and/or your movie first. Alright, I’ve run out of steam for now but if you’re trying to make it today as a filmmaker, it’s an exciting time. Take this stuff to heart and read Dan and Chip Heath’s Made to Stick, which dives deeper into “The Curse of Knowledge”. Learning to beat it can be applied to pitching your film to a studio, trying to get into a festival, and attempting to get a distribution deal. It works for even making your film.