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We want to go viral – online distribution as it happens

I’m obsessed with Vimeo stats, for me they are the digital equivalent of crack. When we’ve released a new film out into the online world, I’m clicking refresh repeatedly and if someone “likes” the film I go a bit loopy.

But up till now, we’ve never released our film online in an organised fashion so as the stats crept from 53 to 54 I’d hug myself and murmur gently “Vimeo staff picks is coming, Vimeo staff picks is coming”

NB. Vimeo staff picks is the dream, if you get on there, you’re basically guaranteed 30 000 hits.

But that doesn’t happen. In March 2010 there were 16 000 videos uploaded daily to Vimeo. (I discount Youtube here because frankly Vimeo is just so much better as to hardly be worth commenting on) That was 3 years ago, it boggles the mind how many are uploaded per day now. Our documentary about a small charity in Niger is unlikely to make the leap without a push.

So for our newest online release, our animated documentary Act of Terror, we decided to get serious. Because we wanted the stats, but also because the film covers some issues we think are really important, like police accountability and civil rights, so we want it to be seen by as many people as possible.

To go along with my stat fetish, I’d been reading about how other successful short films had got all their hits. The first and arguably best piece of the jigsaw puzzle was this article by the good people at Short of the week:

Without repeating everything, it makes clear that you need to have a strategy and you need to put a lot of work into it. This makes a lot of sense.

In Hollywood, the distribution costs are huge, between a third and half of the whole budget. Obviously when you’re making a short documentary like we are, 35p is going to do nothing for you.

So what have you got? As an independent filmmaker, you’ve got the desire to get your film seen, and if you want it you’ll make the time to do it. Think like Hollywood and make sure the amount of time you spend on distributing relates to the amount of time you spent on production.

Take time to build a campaign; make a great poster, craft good tweets, emails, facebook postings in advance. Think about who your film will appeal to, who do you know who has a big online reach? Who do you not know that has a big online reach? Who are the tastemakers, because they’re the ones who’ll get your film seen and get those stats up sky high.

So our release date was yesterday, we made the video live and then got to work and we’ll see if all this planning will make our video go viral. Everyday Gemma and I will be blogging about our experiences, what went right, what went wrong, and what we’ve learnt along the way.

Here's the first one:

But what about you? What are your experiences of online distribution? I could talk stats all day so come and join us, get involved in the discussion below.

Thanks for reading.

Fred and Gemma,

Fat Rat Films

  • Hey everyone, come to talk to us. In the meantime here's our video blog for Day 2:

    Day 3 coming in the next couple of hours...

    6 years ago
  • Good read guys.
    I think you're right, it's not just about the video now (although that is still the most important part), people want the whole package, they want the buzz created in the build up to the release via social media , posters and trailers.
    Then when the film is released they want to know everything about it via an in depth blog or BTS video detailing everything from pre-production to what camera and lenses you used.

    That in itself is a lot of work for an independent filmmaker, but your viewers will be grateful of the hard work you put in.

    Unless you create something so unique and spectacular and/or are lucky in who your film is exposed to, then getting a staff pick requires more than just uploading a video and sharing it on Facebook.

    Great video guys, I will make it London one day ;)

    6 years ago
    • Thanks Mike, you're right it is a lot of work;from building the website, compiling the email list, to tweeting and messaging all the relevant people...

      But so far I feel like the process has been really worth it, because it only takes one or two of those messages to hit home and it can have a huge impact.

      I guess then it's the question of what does it actually achieve? Is it better than the festival route or do they go hand in hand? I love seeing our films in a cinema at a festival and talking to people about it afterwards as much or maybe more than I love seeing the stats.

      But you had a film on Staff picks didn't you? how do you feel like it's furthered your career or maybe more importantly furthered your ability to make the films you want to make? Especially against putting it in a festival.

      Finally, got any tips for all of us trying to get our film our there?

      Thanks again for getting back, everyone should check out Mike's film Shelter, its awesome:

      6 years ago
  • So I'm currently in a similar position to you with the release of my Campaign Trailer for a web series I'm shooting called The First Musketeer -
    We do pretty well on Facebook but I feel I'm not utilising the other networking platforms available particularly well, for example I think I'm failing at Twitter. I'm a pretty quick learner but it's getting the hang of multiple formats and how one thing works on Facebook but might not work on Twitter.
    How do you keep track and "work" all the different ways of promoting yourself, and also how do you promote both a YouTube account and a Vimeo account without spamming the same content constantly.
    Lots of questions I know...

    6 years ago
    • I'd say definitely stick to one video hosting platform, and Vimeo is the by far the best.
      Twitter takes a bit of time to get used to, the best way to learn how to use it is by spending a lot of time just hanging out on twitter. Shooting People have some useful lists on there of people to follow.

      6 years ago
    • I agree with Steff, here you want to have one main place for people to see the trailer and vimeo is much much better.

      We use twitter to try and contact people we think might be interested, blogs who write about civil liberties issues for example. I'm sure they'll be lots of different areas you can cover, say historical reenactment people might take an interest, to give you a random one. Find their tweet account, and write them an enticing tweet with a link to your indiegogo page.

      You might not get lots of replies, but be persistent.

      Always try and get into conversations with people, respond rapidly and initiate them yourself.

      You can use a service called hootsuite which allows you to schedule your tweets in advance if you don't have time to be on there constantly. That allows you to be posting out regularly, rather than sending out lots of tweets in one go, which is off putting for your existing followers.

      Try and make a schedule for the week ahead, think about what media (do you have behind the scene photos for example) you'll be sending out when.

      Make a list of people who'll be interested in the subject anyway, include contacting them in your schedule so you know when to re-contact them.

      Does that help?

      6 years ago
  • Yeah I think time is an issue with Twitter for me so Hootsuite would help as I can't get on Twitter that often.
    And why would you advise Vimeo over Youtube? I prefer the practical sides of Vimeo but I went with Youtube for volume of audience...

    6 years ago
  • I don't think there's a right and wrong answer to this, but for me, we only use youtube if there's a very good reason too. I don't feel that the amount of people using a service translate to the amount of people watching your film. So then our decision on which plaform to use is based on the folowing.

    Technically, the videos look much better on vimeo, the layout of the page is nicer, to my eye it looks much more proffesional. The stats layout is much easier to use too which is helpful to see how your video is doing.

    In terms of community, Vimeo is the home of filmmakers, whereas youtube is the home of every single person with a camera phone and an amusing baby. The vimeo community is more supportive of what you're trying to do and the groups and channels are a good way to get your film seen.

    Have a browse through these groups/channels, follow some good ones and then share you're video. Email individuals on there with your film, people take the time to watch and respond intelligently.

    You're right that there are many more people on youtube, but I don't personally think that means you'll necessarily get a bigger audience. I think it's about who you get the video to, which tastemakers will pass on your film.

    So for me that makes Vimeo better, because your film will look nicer, it makes a difference when you're sending it out as part of a package. I guess it depends on your target audience. Who do you think is going to watch the trailer and give you money? Have you identified different interest groups who naturally take an interest?

    Because in the end, this is an important (as every decision you make about your distribution campaign is) but relatively small decision. Youtube vs Vimeo is not where your film will live or die. It's all about what you do once you've uploaded it.

    What are the next steps for you?

    6 years ago
    • OK very interesting point. We have already been selected for a couple of online streaming services dedicated to web video, like Blip for example, and so nearer to the time we are going to make the tough decision on which platform to stream the actual series.
      I think maybe Youtube might remain a useful platform for promotion, and will be worth maintaining a channel on for behind the scenes snippets, but that it perhaps isn't the best place for the full episodes themselves, which was something I'd considered.
      However, we have to make the series first so there will be some time before I have to chart the pros and cons for each platform.
      I do need to look more closer at the Vimeo as a platform though and get a better idea of what it can do in the long run.

      6 years ago
    • @Harriet Sams That sounds like a good plan let us know how you get on.

      6 years ago
  • On a similar (ish) note and once you've uploaded the film out into the big bad world wide web, an application called "mention" is helpful in tracking your project/work, its a lot like tweetdeck or other applications where it collates all links into a single inbox regarding the keywords the user enters, in this case, the keywords probably will either be the name of the film or on a bigger picture, the name of your production company. It alerts you of new "mentions" in real time what people might be saying about your film on tweeter or forums or just some random indie filmmaking website so if something negative comes up, you have the ability to instantly rectify that before shit gets out of hand, very powerful tool, highly recommend it. There are others that do the same job, but cost quite a bit, "mention" should be ok for low budget projects.

    But just to give a shout out about Act of Terror, it's a great film and everyone who owns or works with a camera in Public Spaces, stills or film should WATCH it!!! Highly appreciate Gemma's and the filmmakers effort to send out the message in a decent manner, as I practice photography on the streets and very well knowing how some of the police, (and majority of public) have no clue about a filmmakers/photographer's right in public spaces, I was well glad that someone stood up to the law and made it right, or more coherent. Well done fat rats!

    6 years ago
  • ..and ofcourse, a great effort/fight from Gemma too!

    6 years ago
    • Thanks Shoaib, so glad you liked it. It is really important for anyone filming on the street to know this stuff. what happened to Gemma was horrible and knowing your rights will prevent it happening to you.

      Just started playing with Mention - that is a fantastic piece of software. I can't recommend that highly enough - Thanks for putting that up here.

      does anyone else have any good bits of software, internet sites they use for online distribution?

      6 years ago
  • Film festivals have become a bit old fashioned lately. However, a good festival strategy prior to online distribution can really help a film get noticed on Vimeo and other platforms, at least in my experience.

    6 years ago
    • Festival presence and a good set of laurels on your poster frame definitely help it to be seen. Plus the programmers of that festival are normally happy to promote it online. And the main one, seeing your film in front of an audience on the big screen.

      I don't think the two are mutually exclusive but I think that depending on your film, one route can be better than the other. For this film, we felt that it would work better online than in the cinema, it would reach the audience it needed to more easily.

      Since it's gone Viral, we've had offers to put it in festivals (and the fee's been waived) so it can also work that way round. I'd say tailor it to the film. Some films are meant to be seen in cinema's but others, and particularly if you have a specific audience in mind, will get a much wider reach online

      6 years ago