The Second Most Important Question a Filmmaker Can Ask
At SilverDocs, I suggested that there are two important questions filmmakers need to ask during the process of making a film. Filmmakers already ask the first one, constantly: will you give me money to help make my movie?
But the second one -- just as important -- isn't one that most filmmakers know about, or ask often enough.
Here it is: what groups, online communities, blogs, Web sites, or non-profits do you think would be interested in this film?
I think you should ask that of everyone you meet: your cinematographer ... your investors ... your screenwriter ... your prop master ... everyone you interview for a documentary. And keep a list of their answers.
You will discover that there are magazines, blogs, fan communities, and organizations with millions of members that you should build relationships with. Let them know what you are working on. Get them (and their audiences) involved in some way -- as you are making the movie. Give them sneak peeks as you are in post-production. Give them a trailer or early cut to show at their annual convention. Enlist their help in spreading the word once you're on the festival circuit or in theatrical release. Do ticket and DVD give-aways to get their communities buzzing.
You ought to be asking this second question throughout the process of making your movie because that will help you discover who the most powerful taste-makers are, online and off. People you encounter who know these bloggers and publishers and non-profit presidents will make introductions to them for you. That's something that no amount of Googling during the post-production phase can do, unfortunately.
What's the benefit of all this? Rather than building a great Web site and then trying desperately to get people to come to it, you'll have created powerful connections to people who already have an audience, and can tell that audience about your project.
There would be no movie if you weren't good at asking question #1: will you give me money?
And there won't be much of an audience if you aren't good at asking question #2.
(Of course, these two vital questions pertain to the business of making and marketing movies. I acknowledge that when it comes to the art of cinema, there are lots of important questions, starting with, "What do I need to do to tell a great story?")