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Film Marketing & Blogging: What’s The Point Of Social Networking?

The Twitter bird drawn as if it is dead

I had an existential crisis the other day.

As I was typing up some new inane tweet, I got an email from Twitter telling me that yet another vacuum cleaner salesman in Los Angeles was starting to follow me on that site just because my profile says I live in L.A. And I thought to myself: “What the heck is the point of all this?”

Well, I know what the point of all of it is: To drive more readers to the Underground Film Journal!

Isn’t that what Twitter mostly is? A non-stop stream of “Hey, look at me! I’m witty! I’m insightful! Won’t you please buy whatever nonsense I’m selling?”

Ok, it’s not all nonsense, but if you don’t think I’m trying to sell you something on the Underground Film Journal, well, I am. Obviously, I’m trying to sell people on the idea of watching all kinds of great, under-served and under-appreciated movies. But, I’m also trying to sell myself as the “underground film guy.”

So, with that, like every other schmo trying to sell something on the Internet, I took to Twitter, got completely sick of it pretty fast, but have been trying to ramp up my activities there and across several other social network marketing platforms in an effort to sell myself better. I even signed up for a site called Klout that keeps track at how well someone is marketing themselves. (Although, they seem ridiculously behind in logging activity.)

Pushing myself semi-relentlessly is exhausting. However, I do have to admit that I’m getting results. The amount of output I generate nowhere near equals the same amount of input of traffic I receive, but I can’t dismiss whatever positive results I get.

But, that’s not the real lesson here. It’s not, “Do it, you’ll get some hits!”

The real lesson came to me a few days after my existential crisis. And the lesson didn’t come via Twitter.

It was over an email correspondence with a filmmaker during which the word “community” came up. Now, normally, I bristle at the idea of an online community. Having produced¬†the Underground Film Journal or the past few years, I have felt less like I am part of a community than I feel like a person who is into the same shit as some other people who blindly bump into each other in the dark from time to time.

The Twitter bird flying

The reason I felt that way is because my main dealings with other underground film folk is via email or private Facebook message or some other private messaging service. I exchange emails with this person. I exchange emails with that person. I write blog posts by myself. Interacting with people on a strictly one-on-one basis never felt like a group or a community. Just me interacting with people here and there.

However, because of this email conversation, I started thinking about it a little bit more. Particularly I thought about my 2010 Movie of the Year pick, Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then, directed by Brent Green.

Just three years ago, I had no idea who the heck Brent Green¬†was. But, he was brought to my attention by Drew Henkels who, doing some marketing of himself back in 2008, asked me to promote a live show he was playing with Brent. Perhaps, I would have encountered Brent’s work without Drew’s, but that was my first introduction.

In fact, I know I would have encountered Brent’s work without Drew, at a short film screening at the AFI Film Festival organized by Mike Plante, another guy I email with. So, I email Brent, Drew and Mike, as well as Brent’s partner donna k., who maintains one of the best filmmaking blogs out there.

I mean, that’s kind of a community. For the most part, yes, I communicate with them all individually via email, but we all know each other, so there’s a group feeling. And it is true I did get a chance to hang out with Brent, Mike and Donna at a Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then screening last year, so there’s some personal contact.

Maybe there’s not a singular underground film community, but there are pockets of them out there. Recently, I seem to be introduced — over the computer, but introduced nonetheless — to all kinds of people who know other people who know other people I didn’t know they knew, etc.

So, I’ve kind of taken a new attitude towards the whole social networking thing, mainly by taking a psychological edge off of the marketing thing.

Those of us into underground film, or just plain ol’ obscure indie film, are always trying to promote ourselves as filmmakers or experts on films. If we don’t, then nobody is truly going to watch the movies we’ve made or the movies we love. And a lot of that promotion is going to be blind flailing in the dark, randomly bumping into fellow travelers.

But, there’s a place to stop doing the promotion, to stop viewing our social networking contacts as just contacts. Again, yes, that’s part of the game. I’m now approaching social networking as genuine interaction. I like to ask questions of the people I follow, I try to start up conversations that have nothing to do with underground film. I want to be more broadly engaged.

Maybe on some level I’m just fooling myself, that pretending to have genuine interaction over Twitter is just another self-delusional method of marketing myself. But maybe I can self-delude myself enough to eventually make it true.

Underground Film Feedback (8 comments)

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  • Rupert says:

    I sort of too had an existential crisis of the social networking type, and it saw me giving the flick to several well known SN sites like FB and MySpace – I went into re-write myself over-drive, completely reinvigorating my spacial presence Online, and at the same time giving the house a good bit of the old re-arranging. It’s difficult when I take enormous over-doses of pleasure from the media and video experiences I divulge in, only to have most of my Internetworks probably unnecessarily tangled – Blogging is the feast though, and I think the Underground Film Journal remains a sturdy supportive beam for underground film, Social Marketing and Networking sites come and go, but it seems because Blogs work on the .com Website premise, they are the more durable steeds.

    • Rupert: You’re absolutely right. I read an article quite awhile ago, at least a year or more, about always keeping in mind that your website/blog is your “mothership” and everything else is just frivolous. Keep the mothership in fine working condition is the most important thing for guys like us running websites.

      And thanks for the kind words! Everybody needs to follow your Snuffbox Films site!

  • Curtis says:

    So, did you end up buying a nice vacuum? :)

  • Mike, interesting. I have also been rather ambivalent about social networking until recently. I always thought and still do to some extent that Facebook is a sealed box that you dump data into and it’s greedy and won’t spit the data back for you if you want it. But if you use it with that understanding, you can get quite a lot out of it. So I focus on how even the smallest number of connections on something like Facebook exposes me to bits and pieces of stuff that I’d never have found otherwise. It’s amazing what I’ve stumbled across by connecting to fewer than 30 people.

    Most of my conversations with people in the realm of blogs/Facebook, etc. have more depth than the conversations I have face to face with regular friends.

    I will say though that I absolutely despise Twitter. It is in fact a totally useless medium unless used for news updates. Every time I type into it I feel just like a big fool.

    But if I see you wandering aimlessly somewhere in LA, I’ll grab a beer with you.

  • Alessandro: My issues with Facebook are fodder for a different post. (Last night, I was waffling between writing that post or this one for awhile. This post won out, obviously.) But, you hit on the proper point: Facebook’s privacy wall, which has morphed between actually keeping oneself private to “We’re going to hoard all your data and not share.”

  • Brian says:

    I feel the underground film community is pretty spread out all over the world. It’s thanks to sites like BadLit that we can cross paths with one another. Mike and I have never met before but we all know the same filmmakers and festival directors because of his site. In a way I think of BadLit as a beacon for filmmakers and festival directors to converge and form networks and friendships. Using twitter, facebook and other crap helps me promote and inform about upcoming screenings but I also use it to connect with people on the independent film scene. It’s a great way for all us filmmakers to keep tabs on each other’s progress and “like” what we are up to and what we accomplish.

    When I post some update about how my films are doing and what I am up to, when I see filmmakers and festival directors like and comment on what you’re doing, it’s encouraging. We can’t all afford to go to the festivals and hob knob but I will say when you do get to attend, it’s great to establish friendships and networking and then maintain them when you start to follow their twitter page or friend them on facebook.

    Does that make sense at all?

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