By Ciara Lacy, Director and Producer of Out of State
I’m a big fan of design and strategy–– when they’re done right they make everything sooo much better–– and I think good work embraces these processes from the start. So, of course, film should be no different, especially when it comes to outreach and engagement. A well-conceived outreach and engagement plan has the potential to help create an army of supporters behind your film and its goals for change making. More importantly, this army of supporters developed early on can help your project gain vital attention even during production, garnering the interest of funders, festival programmers, press, stakeholders, and hopefully your dream distributor.
While I fully acknowledge the high return potential of an early-start outreach and engagement program to achieving your goals, I also acknowledge there are instances where building a following for your film at the start might not be in its best interests. Projects that are investigative or private in nature might require a more quiet production and post process to ensure completion. However, if your film doesn’t require this, definitely start building social media and stakeholder connections sooner than later. This helps ensure authenticity in your outreach, and you never want to feel like the partnerships you forge are thin.
Of course, there’s always a balance. If you’re working on a film that could take three to six years to complete, which sounds like a lot but is more than possible, audience fatigue is a real consideration. The right target audience loves getting the occasional update about your project, but you also don’t want to push too hard and leave them feeling like they’re tired of waiting. So, build your following organically as you make your film, pushing harder when you know solidly that you’re around six months out from the first public exhibition of your film. There are many opinions on when to start your hard push – some may earlier or later – but I feel like this is reasonable.
Once we started engaging on social media for OUT OF STATE, our goal was always to let posts organically take on a life of their own allowing our audience to be our champions. Our most successful posts to date have been those that have more shares than likes as this meant people were eager to share our content. Video, particularly our trailer, and still photos performed well, especially when connected with screening opportunities. Recently, we’ve begun making graphics with screening information that people can share on Facebook or Instagram to get the word out about the film. The response has meant a lot to our small team.
Perhaps my biggest tip outside of timing your campaign: find the right people for your team! It’s so easy, after all the hard work of just making your film, to feel fatigued when you get finally get to the point of releasing it. Don’t leave all the weight on your shoulders! Scale-out your team. Find a social media manager, find an outreach partner coordinator, find someone to help manage your festival run. These could be full-time paid positions, they could be part-time or even volunteer, but get the help you need. After all the incredible work you’ve done to make your film, give it the strongest life possible to do the best work in the world by having enough people to do it. I know we couldn’t have gotten through this part of the process without the help of our associate producer Alorah Kwock or our social media guru Shane Makanui-Lopes!