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Sunday, July 22, 2007

'1/2 a Soulja': Putting Clips from an Unfinished Indie Movie on the Web

At a gathering of documentary producers earlier this summer, this question came up: how much of my project should I put online before it's finished?

There's nothing to promote yet -- no theatrical or DVD release, no television airing.

Some of the producers present didn't like the idea of putting anything up on the Web before they were done. They wanted to focus on their work, and they weren't always sure what shape the story would take. They resisted the idea of letting anyone "behind the curtain."

We talked a bit about the advantages of putting some footage up:

- You can point prospective interviewees or funders to the site, to give them a taste for what you're doing and persuade them to get involved.

- You can build an audience for the finished work, inviting them to sign up for an e-mail list or an RSS feed. Then, you can communicate with them when there's something for them to see or buy.

- For a non-fiction project, you might even discover new sources of information -- like people who stumble across your site, and are experts on your topic or know someone who you ought to be interview. For fiction projects, you might connect with an editor or cameraperson or marketer who wants to get involved and help.

There's a story in the New York Times today about a physically impaired panhandler, Byron Breeze, who is participating in the New York Triathlon. He has no legs, and only one finger on each hand. From the piece:

    Mr. Breeze makes his living largely by panhandling, spending most weekdays at the intersection of Madison Avenue and 60th Street. He has been a regular fixture there since 2002, and likes to refer to the panhandling as social networking. He has met many people on the corner, including Kathleen Kiley, a filmmaker who is making a documentary about his life. Clips of the film can be seen on the Web site Soulja (slang for soldier) is Mr. Breezeā€™s nickname.

Pretty lucky that Kiley has already built a very nice Web site for her project -- with seven short clips on it.

I wonder what sparks will fly, as the result of a good site and some nice national publicity in the Times...

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