Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How To Build Your Audience

Fellow filmmaker and friend Gary King wrote a great article this past week for New Breed which is a spin-off from Workbook Project where a collective of uber smart and talented filmmakers share insights and experiences from the front lines of independent filmmaking.

It is a site I check in with as often as I can. It is a great way to get a pulse of the latest happenings from those who are in the heat of battle...fighting the same filmmaking fight I am.

Gary's latest entry is entitled "Find Your Audience So They Can Find You." In my mind, there is no tougher hurdle in the world of independent film than finding your audience. We do not have a mega-budget of millions of dollars for Television Advertising, Radio Spots, Full Page Newspaper Ads, Billboards, etc. In Gary's article he is getting a discussion going on what steps an independent filmmaker can take to overcome our greatest challenge.

Screening of Gary King's New York Lately

The truth is that this is no easy task. This dilemma is the one that causes me the most sweat and equity. It is this skyscraper of an obstacle that makes me question myself the most. Whether it be my intellect, my talent, my art, my passion, or my love.

As a storyteller, as a writer, as a filmmaker, as an artist...I can say that it starts with me. I am trying to please myself first. To tell a story, to make a film...that would entertain me. Then beyond that, I want my work to connect with an audience. I seek to be validated. To have another person react to my work. They do not have to love it, they do not have to sing my praises.

Really what I am working towards is for others to discover my work and to have it leave an everlasting imprint. I want my work to affect my audience to their core...where from that moment forward they will come back for more. Whether it is that film, a new film, or an older one.

For years now I have made films and I have worked on building an audience. From firsthand experience, I can say that on most days it just feels insurmountable. All these years, all the time and all the energy and I have built a very modest audience. Please allow me to say that I wouldn't trade you for anything. To those few of you who are loyal readers of this blog I am graciously grateful. To those of you who are champions of my work I owe so much. Thank you. I am hoping you will be there to see my work grow and evolve.

I know why so many various artists ease on their passion towards their art. Why so many filmmakers stop making films. I believe it has less to do with the creation of art, with the actual making of a film. It has to do with finding one's audience. To satisfy that inter-personal connection we crave as humans. It is the fuel we must have to survive as artists.

I believe only in rare circumstances can an artist live a normal healthy life, and be okay with their art never connecting with their fellow people. It is late and maybe I haven't put enough thought into, but I welcome you to contradict this point I am making.

I am trying to imagine the stage performer who is perfectly content playing to an empty house, the athlete who doesn't care about displaying their physical gifts and talents to a jam packed arena, and the happy filmmaker who spends two years meticulously crafting a film just to watch it alone in his/her basement.

This leads me to my personal task at hand. What is the current audience I am trying to build? Is it millions of folks? Maybe someday, but not right now.

Do you want to know how many people I have in my 'dream' audience? 'Dream' referring to the amount of peeps that can help set me free. Maybe not set me free, but I would be ecstatic to reach. I have an exact number. A goal that I am trying to attain. Without putting any judgement on it, I am going to write 7500. This is something I realized on a train ride up to Santa Barbara to see Jamin Winans film INK. As I stared out the window and watched the moving landscape scroll by, contemplating my life as a filmmaker. It hit me that I do not necessarily need millions of people to see my work.

With my film, Night Before the Wedding, my goal is to reach 7500 people. If we can do that, then the film will be a success. Whether or not we can do that, I do not know. This is what I am striving towards. Whether it is achievable or not, I can simply say that I haven't gotten there yet. So I will continue to be creative. I will continue with my passion. I will continue until I surpass 7500. And I hope you will be here as I do.

I have quite a few ideas on building an audience. Some secrets I would love to share with you. Though this information is premature as I do not even have an audience of 7500 people yet. Perhaps one day soon.

Having said that, here is my final thought for you. The only ideas that matter are the ones you execute.

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