Filmmakers Need to Find a New Lens

Yesterday Sara Kiener wrote a great post on Hope for Film on the pros and cons of Kickstarting for Theatrical Distribution.  It led me to write this comment on the blog which I repost here in modified form.

I have been asked by many independent filmmakers some version of the following question. Can I raise $400,000 on Kickstarter? (Plug in various amounts for the question.)

I always answer by saying you just asked the wrong question. The right question is how many fans do I have?  If a filmmaker is not already active on social media, the answer to that question is either I do not know, or better yet, none.

Now the essential question is how do I get fans?  Why? Because without them, you will not get any money on Kickstarter.  There are many answers to how to get fans.  And unless a filmmaker is prepared to work very hard and explore and use social media to find the answer that works for them, they will never get anywhere with crowdfunding.

But to do so, they have to fundamentally change the way they think.

Strangely enough most indie filmmakers share a mass media mindset with the people who run major movie studios. Both groups falsely believe that people are passive consumers who simply want to watch what you give them. The Internet has changed all that.  Now people are powerful users who want to engage with and share media.  Passivity has been thrown out the window.

The question each filmmaker has to ask is this–Do I want to take on the arduous task of really engaging and empowering those people who like or might like my work? Do I want to involve these people in my process from creation to distribution?

Or am I just going to ask them for a buck?

Do independent filmmakers really want to grab a new mindset, grapple with social tools and thereby really connect with people?  Are they prepared to find a new lens through which to look at themselves and at their audience?

In order for more to do so, they have to cast aside the mass media mindset. They have to not only look at their potential audience in a new way, they have to look at themselves in a new way.  They have to get rid of their own passivity. Those filmmakers that take the leap and really work hard at it, have a chance to gather fans and create a sustainable business. But changing the fundamental way you think about the world and how you see the world and therefore how you act in the world is very hard to do. Most indie filmmakers, to date, are not doing so.

And the indie film world (composed of filmmakers and film lovers) suffers as a result.

So find a new lens.

About Chris Dorr

I consult with companies on digital media strategy and business development. Clients include Samsung, MTV Networks, Tribeca Film Festival, Shaw Media and Canadian Film Center. I created the Future of Film blog for Tribeca. I have worked in the movie business for Disney Studios, Universal Pictures, Scott Free and in the digital media business for Intertainer, Sony and Nokia. Contact me at chris@digitaldorr.com or follow me at @chrisdorr
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  • ivalscifi

    I’ve been thinking about this as it impacts television. The equivalent word to fans that I use is followers. I think YouTube, which is a social network with a video manifestation, has pointed the way, via its premium channels and ad models, for content creators to monetize followers. 

    How many followers does NBC have? How ’bout the NFL? Modern Family? Housewives of Atlanta? Rihanna? Sponge Bob? 

    If you can generate 200,000 followers, you have a business. If you have 10,000 followers, you can Kickstart a business that might generate 200,000 followers. 

    We’re moving into a world of followers and away from a world of ratings.

    • chrisdorr

       Ian, Thanks for your comment.  Great that you connected this to the world of television. You are right about the new world we are moving into.  This idea of followers will put pressure on the old system of ratings and be a genuine competitor.  And in turn this will affect how ad dollars are spent and where they are spent.