Independent Films by the Numbers

The marketing of Independent Films

Archive for December, 2007

Sharing Films between Festivals

I just added a new feature to the database site, which allows a visitor to see how many of the films listed for a festival are shared with other festivals. This is kind of interesting if you want to your film show at many festivals. Some of this information may be biased by festivals occurring at the start or end of they year, but it is still fascinating. Here is the list ranked by percentage of films shared with other festivals:

75% Newport International Film Festival (2007)

65% Sundance Film Festival (2007)

63% Chicago International Film Festival (2007)

60% Telluride Film Festival (2007)

59% Hamptons International Film Festival (2007)

55% Vancouver International Film Festival (2007)

53% Seattle International Film Festival (2007)

51% San Francisco International Film Festival (2007)

49% Woodstock Film Festival (2007)

48% Sarasota Film Festival (2007)

47% Florida Film Festival (2007)

47% London Film Festival (2007)

47% Mill Valley Film Festival (2007)

45% Cannes Film Festival (2007)

45% Toronto International Film Festival (2007)

44% South by Southwest Film Festival (2007)

43% Maryland Film Festival (2007)

41% Slamdance Film Festival (2007)

39% Los Angeles Film Festival (2007)

36% Berlin International Film Festival (2007)

36% Tribeca Film Festival (2007)

32% Ashland Independent Film Festival

31% Silver Lake Film Festival (2007)

28% Palm Springs International Short Film Festival (2007)

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Tracking Film Activity

As you can tell I like to look at films through the lens of data. When you are promoting your own independent film, I would argue that collecting data on your film’s activity should be a continuing activity of yours. As an independent, you do not have the resources of the big studios who share a bent for data collection about their films. You probably cannot afford expensive press clipping services and the like, but this does not mean you are not without means.

By monitoring your film’s website for inbound traffic and a smart use of search engines, you can rival the media monitoring capabilities of the big boys and girls.

One of the great things about the web is its ability to track things. Your own website has this wonderful capabilities whether you realize it or not. Every click a user makes can be tracked by even the simplest of web servers. The challenge is making sense of this data.

The good news is that you are not without options to help make sense of the web log data from your site. Many ISPs provide reporting for sites they host and Google now offers a free analytics package at http://www.google.com/analytics, which you can enable by placing a small bit of HTML code on the pages of your website. Once installed, a web site reporting tool can allow you to track all sorts of behavior on your site. For purposes of monitoring your film presence online, I recommend taking a look at the number of unique visitors (aka “uniques”) and any report showing inbound linking to your site.

The number of uniques show how popular your site is. If there is activity/buzz online about your film, it will typically result in an influx of visitors that can seen as increased unique visitors. We use unique visitors over number of page views, since a single user can view more than one page. Individual requests of your website (aka “Hits”) are typically not a useful measure, since each page can result in many hits.

When I marketed the documentary Shelter Dogs, it was easy to see any message board posting or e-mail blast sent with a mention of the film. The number of uniques would shoot up over night, and then it was just a matter looking at the inbound links to see where the traffic was coming from. If it was a website that I could access, this enabled me to read the vox popular of the film in almost realtime. Given the controversial nature of this film (you would not believe it), this work was invaluable. We were able to see the positive and negative reactions to the film and our PR efforts, and tune our messaging. It also enabled us to find audiences interested in the film that we have not anticipated, such as ethics programs at colleges.

Not all online activity results in traffic to your web that you can track, so in addition to the website tracking I like using a healthy dose of search engine work to round out my regular data collection. In this work, it helps having a unique film name, such as “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Films with more common names such “Interview” are harder to find in search engines — the search term interview yielded 30,000,00 results and there were 3 films on the festival circuit in 2007 with this name. It becomes hard to find your film in sea of results and confusion.

The best way to work with a search engines if your film has a unique name or can be tracked using some unique feature (e.g. the main character’s name, director, setting, etc…) is to set up a Google Alert, which is a trigger in the Google system to send you an e-mail when a new news article comes out mentioning your film, a blogger post a new post, etc… An alert is easiest set up from the News tab on the Google interface… type your search term in the News search box, hit enter, and at the bottom of your results will be a link to get the latest news on your search term. You can choose what to receive (news, blog, etc..) and how often. I typically get a daily digest to limit my e-mail and ask for comprehensive results. It can be your own low budget clipping service!

This might all sound overwhelming, but once you get things set up and get into a routine it you might enjoy it. It is easy to feel that your film is making no impact. Tracking your film enables you to see how much an impact your film is really having.

BTW, I advise having a thick skin and a sense of humor in this work. Anyone can say anything good or bad about your film. If it gets bad, you need to take a deep breath and move on.

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Update

I have been quiet of late due to work and my efforts to add more festivals to the www.lathrios.com film festival database. I am working on Outfest and Ashland. I recently added in the Hamptons, London, Sarasota, and Vancouver Film Festivals. I will in the next few weeks be adding more functionality to the site and build out some better analysis of the individual festivals. Work, work, work.

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