Over the past year in DOX Magazine, several filmmakers have shared their experiences with new ways of building audiences and finding funds using the Internet (see box). In particular Paul Devlin (Nnov-2008) evaluated his experience with ArtistShare, a website originally aimed at helping musicians to fund their music through their audiences. Devlin concluded that the model had potential but that it would be necessary to identify suitable films and filmmakers and to take the time to develop a fan-base.
The magic words here are crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. According to Wikipedia, crowdsourcing is “taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call.” The strategy relies on Web 2.0 technologies. Crowdfunding, on the other hand, is on the other side “an approach to raising the capital required for a new project or enterprise by appealing to large numbers of ordinary people for small donations.” The combination of the two seems to be the core of business model 2.0.
Recently, US journalist Scott Kirsner published Fans, Friends and Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age (FFF), a guide to this new business model. It discusses how to build an online audience that will both be your funder, co-operator, and your audience. It also addresses ways to include fans and stakeholders in your project creatively. The book includes tips and tricks, interviews with artists who tried such strategies, and a wide range of references and URLs to further information and online tools.
The release of FFF is a good moment to take a European pulse: how do European filmmakers build their audiences online? Are they including them in their projects and are they generating funds from them? Four European filmmakers, tracked through sites IndieGoGo and Wreck a-Movie (see box), share their experiences and views on the main elements of Kirsner’s book: searching for your crowd, getting funds, involving your crowd in your project, and keeping in touch.:
Elena Rossini is working on The Illusionists, a feature-length documentary about how women’s insecuritiesy about their bodies are manipulated and exploited for profit. Ernst Gossner is working on Global Warning – The Thaw of War, about the threat, dangers, and likelihood of WWIII. Steven Dhoedt is filming Inside the Metaverse, a documentary exploring the rise of online virtual technologies and their impact on present global society. And David Baker has made a fiction film, Mission X, about a documentary film student caught up in a revenge attack by a gang of mercenaries.
Film-related websites as well as social networking websites create an opportunity to gather a crowd around your project. But, as Kirsner puts it, there has never been a noisier, more competitive time to try to make art, entertain people, and tell stories. Despite the competition the filmmakers interviewed seem to find a way. Elena Rossini mentions two reasons to go for internet crowds: the subject and the audience. As she says: “In the film, I denounce mass media and advertising for saturating our lives with images of idealised beauty and censoring images of real women’s bodies. I challenge the status quo and the very essence of mass media. In France, where I live, film production companies get their funding for documentaries from TV stations, which are heavily dependent on advertising. I wouldn’t want a big cosmetics company to pressure a TV network to drop my project or to severely edit it, under the threat of pulling advertising. Well, there is very little such companies can do to an independently funded film. Also, women’s voices often go unheard, as our cultural institutions and mass media are male-dominated. But when it comes to the Internet, all bets are off: women have as many chances as men to publish their writings and videos. The web is the most egalitarian medium that has ever existed.”
Rossini combines working online with that of off-line platforms, such as conferences and women’s organisations. So far, she has focused on audience building. Twitter has been an effective tool: “I started a profile six months ago, posting daily links to articles from my research and also mentioning stories about larger feminist issues. Followers started pouring in and in the span of a few months, I had connected with hundreds of women.” She has recently met a number of her Twitter contacts and counts on organising another ‘Twitup’ with Illusionists followers soon.
Dhoedt’s Inside the Metaverse contains characters whose lives have been intertwined with a virtual locus: “So really we are aiming at the cyber-human: online gamers, users of online virtual worlds such as Second Life, where all kinds of people hang around, and users of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. So there is no clear cut profile of our audience.” For the moment he relies on his blog, his Facebook page and his IndieGoGo page to build an audience: “IndieGoGo seemed the most interesting because it is aimed specifically at filmmakers. And also, social network sites like Facebook and webmail such as Gmail are included in the platform. It’s very efficient.”
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