TOOLS YOU CAN USE Maximizing a Film s Outreach with Web 2.0 By Kristin Henry, Working Films, Project Manager and Website Administrator

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1 TOOLS YOU CAN USE Maximizing a Film s Outreach with Web 2.0 By Kristin Henry, Working Films, Project Manager and Website Administrator As an independent filmmaker working on a social justice documentary, we know you want your film to make a difference. In the last five years, new interactive and web-based technologies have brought critical tools that are engaging communities and audiences. This handout will help you understand and utilize these new technologies. Interactivity is the hallmark of new technology. We urge you to think beyond having a website that only provides information about your film project. Instead, think of the film s website as a means of interacting with the audience you are cultivating. Once you have the attention and interest of individuals, then you have a means for tapping into their creativity, energy and social networks. In the end, an audience armed with information about your film project and commitment to its success then serves as the outreach engine for your film. This is what we mean by suggesting that new technology can help you do more (because the engaged audience you cultivate takes the lead) with less (instead of traveling to be in front of audiences talking about your film, you interact with audiences through your website as a supplement to the outreach you do in person). Whether you are thinking about creating a multi-year film campaign or more targeted efforts, the resources offered here will help you create a website that will engage and ignite your audience to take action in response to the message and issues in your film. 1 Consider your website to be an evolving platform so that it has the capacity to grow and change with the needs of your film and supporters. In other words, please don t be overwhelmed by the idea that all the components discussed in this handout need be on your website when it s launched. We offer a phased approach with insight on budget information for each stage of your outreach strategies. To illustrate our recommendations, we include screen shots from the website for the film, Everything s Cool, STAGE 1: PRE-PRODUCTION In the pre-production stage you should be thinking about targeting your site to the folks who will be interested in the issues in your film as well as a broader film audience. Depending on your level of experience with website development and graphic design, you may consider hiring a professional at this point for the suggested steps below. If you do hire someone, make sure your 1 By campaign we mean an intentional and systematic course of tactics for a specific purpose. For example, the film Everything s Cool is the centerpiece of a campaign to stop global warming all the campaign activities coordinated by partner organizations use the film in their efforts to stop global warming. You can also think of situating your film within an existing a campaign as a resource to further the campaign s goals.

2 2 site is designed in a way where it s fairly easy to update. You may want to have the content management system designed as an open source platform. This means that you or anyone else could add content to the site without using code. TIPS: Buy (1) a domain name that matches the working title of your film and (2) a hosting service. This may cost $180 - $240 total for two years. Site5.com and Godaddy.com are two popular domain and hosting services. They are also compatible with other services like Wordpress this is a popular blog hosting service. You may eventually want to incorporate a blog on your site (which we recommend see below). Create a simple website (this may be one page) that includes a description of your film project and contact information for the filmmaker(s). o This may be hosted on your production company s site to save on costs, but make sure that you add the metadata -- or keywords -- that will help it get picked up in search engines like Google. This is typically added in the header of the source code. o You may also include information on yourself (about the filmmakers), and how to support the film s production or outreach with donations. o Embed web analytics into the site so that you can learn where your website visitors are coming from and how they are using your site. From the web analytics you will be able to see what elements of your site are attracting and maintaining your audience. This enables you to give your audience more of what they want. The Google Analytics program is fairly easy to add and to understand. It s also free. PLEASE CONTINUE READING

3 3 Screenshot: Below is a screenshot of the pre-production stage of the Everything s Cool website. You will see that it includes the following elements: 1. A tagline for the film, 2. A photo of the crew in production, 3. A sentence identifying the filmmakers, 4. A sentence about the purpose of the film, 5. A donate button, and 6. Contact information. STAGE 2: PRODUCTION If you haven t already, we suggest that you reach out to 5 10 organizations that are working on the issues in your film. Let them know that you are doing a film featuring issues to which they are dedicated. Of course you should be clear that you are not suggesting they be featured in your film. And remember you may have already established relationships with relevant organizations when you conducted research on your film project. Early relationship building may help you in releasing a documentary that is timely and relevant. The organizations may also have helpful suggestions for ways that your website could steer visitors to actions and initiatives that the organizations already have in place. TIPS: Build your website to reflect the issues in the film by integrating the logos of organizations working on these issues. Make sure that you have permission to use the logos on your site.

4 4 The logos should hyperlink to each respective website, ideally to a page that features information about your film even if you are still in production. Again, these are all elements that can be negotiated in early relationship building with the organizations. Add a description about the current mobilization or public education efforts on the issues featured in your film. This is a way to site your film within a larger movement. Add a Sign Up for Updates feature to your website. This builds an audience base. When your film is finished, you will have a group of people who will want to spread the word about seeing your film. Working Films uses Democracy In Action (democracyinaction.org) services for e-blasts ( ), events systems, donations and more. Democracy In Action charges fees depending on things such as the number of names in your database, the number of services to which you subscribe, etc. The fees start at $100 a month, but typically cost around $400 a month. If you are only looking for an service, check out Constant Contact (constantcontact.com) or Vertical Response (verticalresponse.com) where the prices range from $15 - $225 a month depending on the size of your list. Include a blog on your website. We suggest that it be integrated which means it looks like it s hosted on your website, but it s actually hosted by a blog service. Wordpress is a free, user-friendly blog service. A blog is a great way to share information about upcoming screening events for your film, where you will be traveling next, how the audience is responding, what organizations are working on the issues in your film, etc. Most importantly, the blog s comments section or capacity permits a degree of interactivity between you and your audience. Again, interactivity is a hallmark of web 2.0 or new technology. ADVANCED TIPS: Create a social networking presence. Social networks increasingly function as an extension of peoples social life, so they can be powerful for boosting the reach of a film campaign. They are also a great way to cultivate an audience where individuals do much more with spreading the word about your film project than you could do alone. There s no need to register on all the networks at once. We suggest you take your pick based on which ones feel like a natural fit for you, or which ones have audiences you d like to target. Then you might want to commit to learning more about others eventually. One key factor to note wherever you register, interested audience members are going to want to interact with you. Therefore you should plan on checking into the network site and following up no less than once a week. (If you have a dedicated supporter who consistently posts comments and/or notes to you, you may want to enlist him/her to coordinate with you and respond to the queries that come in). 2 Below are some of the more popular social networking sites with information on their main functions. 2 (We list them in alphabetical order). o Facebook: for getting the word out about your project. Facebook began as a site targeted for college students so it s initial audience was fairly young. However in 2007 Facebook opened access for non-college students and the number of users For a list of the top twenty social network sites (dated June 2007), go to

5 5 o o o o has skyrocketed. While Facebook has national (even international) reach, its densest concentration of users is in the Northeast. (For more information about Facebook s increasing appeal, go to Flickr: for photo sharing. Flickr offers easy to setup widgets that will feed all photos tagged with a certain key word. 3 For example, Everything s Cool screening hosts are able to tag their photos with everythingscool and they are fed to a widget on website s Hot Efforts page. This allows us to integrate pictures from users without asking them to spend extra time uploading their photos to our website. Another example of getting more by doing less! MySpace: for getting the word out and incorporating video and photo sharing. Myspace continues to be the most popular social networking site, although recent reports suggest Facebook is pulling some Myspace users. With a MySpace profile you can send out bulletins about news and updates on your film, linking back to your main website. If you have video on MySpace, other MySpacers are able to easily add your video to their profile with just a click. This is a great way for people to spread the word and support your film. Wikipedia: to make history. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia you can create (or contribute to) an entry about yourself and/or your film project. Often when users search on Google, wikipedia entries come up on the first page of results. When adding information, please try to make it as neutral as means of augmenting its credibility. YouTube: for video sharing. Post your trailer and any other teasers that you have. You and your supporters can then easily embed the videos into websites, blogs, and other social networks online, which is a building block for viral marketing. Near the end of production add a teaser trailer and ad banner that are easily downloadable and can be spread virally by personal , blogs, organization s e-newsletters, and on social networks. PLEASE CONTINUE READING 3 A widget is a standardized on-screen representation of a control that may be manipulated by the user. Scroll bars, buttons, and text boxes are all examples.

6 6 Screenshot: Below is a screenshot of the production stage of the Everything s Cool website. You will see that it includes all of the elements from the pre-production stage plus: STAGE 3: BROADCAST, THEATRICAL RELEASE OR FILM FESTIVALTOUR At this point focus your website and downloadable materials on your broadcast, theatrical release and/or film festival tour. Make your website the online platform or one stop shop -- for what s going on with your film. This will also supplement your marketing strategy. At this point, there should be three vital elements on your website: 1. Screening events: provide activists and community members with information about upcoming screenings If you decide to allow individuals to schedule their own screenings, you may want to design screening guides to help them facilitate a more substantive discussion after the film. Instead of writing this yourself, ask the organizations with which you ve built relationships to contribute content to the screening guide (and suggestions to for take action opportunities). Your graphic and web designer should help you with formatting in order to maintain branding identity and cohesiveness. 2. Take action: provide audiences with means to take action once motivated by the film s message, and 3. Report back: provide capacity on the site for audiences to tell you and share with others how the film affected them, and whether their behavior or lives was changed in some way. This impact information is an essential resource and evidence for you to have in hand.

7 7 TIPS: Design and add downloadable materials (screening guides, fact sheets, etc.) to your Take Action section, or create a section for your downloadables. ADVANCED TIPS: If you are planning house parties around the broadcast to increase your viewership: Have a web designer create a screening headquarters (see more on this in the DVD Release section) offering downloadable materials: o Template flyers that make it easy to plug in location information to help advertise the house party or community screening. o Web banner ads to promote the release and create viral messaging. These should include html code for bloggers and social networking sites. o Screening guide that lays out the steps to host a successful screening event that is tied to local or national actions, and includes resource (or action) sheets co-branded with partner organizations. o Downloadable screensavers and backgrounds that people can use to show their affinity with the film and campaign. If you are planning a theatrical release or film festival tour: Find out if you partner organizations have chapters in the areas where your film is screening. Otherwise, do a search for similar organizations. Check with the venues to know about the flexibility and limitations of the theater so that you can invite organizations to participate by hosting a Q&A after the screening that is issue-focused and tied to current on the ground efforts, hosting a table in the lobby to inform the audience about the issues and give them a way to get involved, or hosting a panel or an event at a nearby location after the screening. Make sure that the information for the host organization is included with the general screening information on your site which will entice people to come out to those particular screenings. PLEASE CONTINUE READING

8 8 Screenshot: Below is a screenshot of the film festival stage of the Everything s Cool website. You will see that it includes all of the elements from the production stage: STAGE 4: DVD RELEASE Extend the life of your film by retooling your downloadable resources to speak to the needs of the community organizers who will use your film as a resource. (Note: When editing your DVD, consider including activist extras short pieces targeted to the needs of organizers. Please consult with Working Films for more information about this.) This may not take much effort if you have engaged partners early on. TIPS: Create a Screening Headquarters that will allow people to sign up to host a screening will be key to your efforts. If your budget is tight, Brave New Theaters (bravenewtheaters.com) is a great place to promote your film for people to find a screening or host a screening. All you have to do is fill out an online form to create your own profile at [yourfilm].bravenewtheaters.com. You can embed your trailer and a link to where one can buy your DVD. See Iraq for Sale's Brave New Theater site (iraqforsale.bravenewtheaters.com) for an example. Then you can link people from your website to your Brave New Theaters profile to host or find a screening. They also have a network of thousands that are already hosting screenings of independent activist films. See the engaged scenario for additional options.

9 9 ADVANCED TIPS: Since a screening Headquarters (where individuals can sign up to host a screening) may be key to your outreach efforts, you may create a Brave New Theaters profile as outlined above. Another option is to use or upgrade your Democracy in Action (DIA) services to create your screening headquarters. Using the DIA events features will allow you to track information on your supporters that sign up to your list, donate to your film and campaign, as well as create a screening headquarters and more. o See Ghosts of Abu Ghraib s screening headquarters (ghostsofabughraib.org/screeninghq.htm) for an example. On this site we were created a form for hosts to fill out to tell us about their screening. When they submit the form, it brings them directly to the Buy the DVD page. They are simultaneously sent a personalized thank you message for making the commitment to hosing a screening. When a community member wants to see if Ghosts of Abu Ghraib is playing in their area, they can look at an online listing of upcoming screenings or search by their zip code. When one finds a nearby screening, they are able to RSVP to the host, or them through a form to find out more information. For Everything s Cool, we hired Radical Designs to increase the functionality of our site and DIA tools. In addition to the Ghosts of Abu Ghraib site, we were able to include an events map that allows people to visually see if there is a screening in their area, and see how many there are nationwide. Radical Design s events system also allows us to collect online report backs to show the collective efforts and impact that people are catalyzing from their screening events. PLEASE CONTINUE READING

10 10 Screenshot: Below is a screenshot of the DVD release stage of the Everything s Cool website as well as a screenshot of the Screening Headquarters page that was created by Radical Designs. You will see that the site includes all of the elements from the theatrical stage plus: PLEASE CONTINUE READING

11 11 CONCLUSION In addition to this guide, be sure to talk with your colleagues, supporters, graphic and web designers as you move through the stages of your website s development to ensure that you are meeting the needs of your audience. It s important to maintain the current content of your site and social network profiles, so review them every two weeks to a month depending on how much is going on with your film and campaign. Your audience will be inspired to get involved when they feel that they can interact with you and that they are part of a larger effort. **For more information about the contents of this handout, please contact Kristin Henry, Project Manager and Website Administrator at (910) or

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