By Sandra Bertalanffy
Do I need a website for my feature, short, episodic and myself?
As you are preparing to hit the festivals you may be considering whether to print new cards or flyers, invest in a designer, print stickers, t-shirts, come up with a costume or just really any other way to stand out, bring awareness to your film or do anything else slightly resembling marketing activity. That’s all yay. Go for it and go for it good. BUT do consider step 2!
What’s step 2?
Well, imagine this scenario: Someone compliments your film (or outfit) and you successfully hand over your printed marketing material (which btw also likes to get lost). Next, your Potentially Interested New Audience Member (“PINAM”) says: “Cool, do you have a website?” URGH. Punch in the lower region. Your body freezes, you mumble something embarrassing somewhat related to “short film,” “budget” or “first project” and PINAM smiles, nods, maybe gives you a another “Cool.” and then walks away. FOREVER! Noooooo!!!! And it could have been such an amazing mutual relationship!
That’s why you want to consider step 2.
Step 2, also known as “make its easy for PINAM to find out more about you and give the option to stay connected easily.”
So back to “Cool, do you have a website?” YAAASSS. This time you say: “Yes, of course. It’s just the name of the film dot com or my name dot com.” (you are so smooth) “Great!” says PINAM and happily walks off into the sunset (hehe). Score! Because guess who PINAM may be? Your next collaborator, a journalist, your next investor, distributor or the person that knows just the right organization that would book a film screening with you in a heartbeat, fly you out and pay you to speak to the organization or just simply give you lots of money for no reason. You never know who crosses your path and you don’t want to let that opportunity slide. (And all this, btw, states true for features (narrative or doc), shorts, episodics, or your service as sound mixer.)
So remember the simple recipe: Make it easy for PINAM to find whatever PINAM may be looking for.
AND WHAT MAY THAT BE? Generally speaking PINAM wants to find out what else you’ve done, what your achievements are, what you and your projects are about, what you stand for (do you have something in common?), what you’re looking to achieve with your film, what you’re currently working on, and where the two of you may come together. Also PINAM may want to watch your film, write a review on it, or recommend it to someone else. Fantastic, right?
So let’s review:
- Meet PINAM
- Offer PINAM easily accessible info (what are you about?/what is your film about?) + the option to connect (mailing list, social media) in one place.
Let’s take a look at what to include on different websites. Whether it’s your portfolio site, your awesome new production company site or your film website. There is some crossover and great ways to connect them all.
Make sure to include the following on your portfolio website:
- a collection of your best work (gather your Vimeo or Youtube links)
- reel (Vimeo or Youtube link)
- your bio/ statement/ what you’re about (write up some interesting stuff, you can do it!)
- press, testimonials or such (has anyone said anything nice about you? - get that in writing!)
- contact option (a contact form is a smooth solution without making your address public)
- social media follow buttons including IMDb (only professionally used accounts, and yes - update that IMDb)
- mailing list signup option (you don’t have one? Start one today, even if you’re not sending out anything right now. Do not let another PINAM get away!)
If you’re pushing your production company more than your individual self, you may adjust a tiny bit. Here is your checklist:
- work samples (best work only)
- reel (sweet and short - show off your uniqueness and show it quick)
- about (what you’re about, how you work, what you offer, pricing, approach)
- testimonials (do you have satisfied customers?)
- contact option (gather social media info right then and there in your contact form)
- follow option (make it easy to be found, followed and liked)
- signup option (for what hopefully is a valuable newsletter)
For your specific film website, consider including the following:
- title, tagline (I personally also love to see genre, runtime, related topics)
- trailer/teaser (must be found right away)
- synopsis, about (keep it short with the option to read more)
- filmmakers, cast (option to link to everyone’s further work)\
- watch (is your film available to stream? to buy? to book for a screening?…)
- social media follow buttons incl. IMDb (if you don’t have a film specific one, link to your portfolio site/your professional social media accounts)
- contact, representation, or distribution info (congrats on that!)
- call to action (what do you want the visitor to do? - more on this later.)
- laurels/achievements (whoop whoop!)
- festivals, screenings (keep this updated, it shows momentum!)
- press (reviews, quotes)
- press resources (electronic press kit, press pics, etc.)
- educational resources (study guide etc.)
All that being said, be sure to be clear about what stage your project is in and whether it’s available to watch at this point. And if it’s not available yet, offer a mailing list signup promising a notice about when it is (and then keep that promise!)
For short films:
You may want to be clear if this film is a standalone project or the short to an upcoming feature, or anything else you intended with this exploration. Shorts are a great leverage tool. You can give out the link to the film in exchange for an email address, call to support your next crowdfunding campaign, or funnel the viewer to your portfolio page for more info on you and your other projects. You get the idea.
Your site for an experimental film?
Make it an experience. Be creative. The website can be as experimental as your film. You may look for opportunities to show your film as part of an exhibition, or look for collaborators for a next film combining different disciplines. Use the site to lead PINAM to your portfolio page and make it easy to grow fond of your work. PINAM may also want to buy your artwork, or one of your super experimental pins, or whatever else you make.
Is it personal? Or educational? There are many opportunities in getting return on your investment with educational documentaries, for example, through pushing educational distribution and offering workshops (see example “Man on Fire”). Find your audience and find the creative solution for your specific message.
For sure mention genre and format (see example “KYNNSTLAH”. Is the season completed? What’s next?)
So, you see, there is a lot to think about depending on what you currently have in your pocket. Though a lot of it can be simple and you can get a lot done with just the basics. Stick to the most important info and the absolute best visuals you have and build upon that over time. The most important thing is to get started and go live. Refine later.
I have a portfolio site, do I also need an individual site for my film?
I’d say how you divide up sites depends on your strategy, your goals, and your time (or budget, of course).
Are you trying to build buzz around your film? Are you trying to build an audience for all your work? Both? If you have all the time or a good budget, do it all. But be mindful - There are lots of deserted film websites out there. Outdated, taken down, broken links, etc. Yes, you may not want to have a site for every film for forever, but you can always redirect that domain to your portfolio website after the run. Nothing more frustrating than an outdated, unmaintained site. Internet clutter. Yikes. We need to Marie Kondo that stuff out! Be clear on strategy and goals and make a few executive decisions first.
Now - let’s cut to the chase. It all sounds great, but you probably have no time or no money, or both.
Here are some tricks to cut costs and have a great site (with no ads):
- Take a strong visual and make a cover page with the most important call(s) to action (see list below). You can buy your custom domain for under $10 and have a free cover page up for a limited time.
- Have one portfolio site with different pages for each project. That means just one website subscription (saves money) and less to manage (saves time).
- Just buy a domain and link to your Mailchimp signup or Vimeo. This looks professional and buys you time to save up for the site.
- Come up with something even smarter and tell me about it.
And before you bump your head against the wall, unsure of what to ask for from PINAM...
Here are some Calls To Action for your site:
- Join my mailing list (… and this is what you can expect when you do…).
- Follow me/my project on social media (… and this is the stuff I will be posting…).
- Support my crowdfunding campaign (and this is why).
- Share my impact campaign video (you can do so much good with so little).
- Watch my film on Vimeo (more views, more eyes, more happy).
- Email me (esp. if you want to book me for a screening).
- Share your work with me (yes, I’m also interested in you!).
- Be my friend and love me forever (plz).
Sit back, relax, and think about what you want out of your film and out of an interaction with PINAM. Then determine how you can achieve this through a website. Choose one of the DIY platforms, (I use Squarespace) and go at it. Start easy with just a cover page and your Calls to Action and go from there. Or ask for help. I’m right here.
Keep calm and make movies.
Sandra Bertalanffy is a multifaceted German chameleon living in New York and an alum and programmer of Slamdance. She is the creator of the artist doc series, KYNNSTLAH, founder of filmmakerwebsites, and an illustrator, painter and artist. Her work has been exhibited in NYC, Asheville and Miami. She is armed with a Master’s Degree in Business from Mannheim University in Germany, and decorated with the teachings of acting, which she obtained at The Lee Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles and the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City. Fun fact: Sandra played Hitler’s mom in a Mercedes spec commercial.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, and make sure to ask about her Slamdance special offer to help set up your basic cover page.