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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.


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