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Underground Film Loop: The Terror Of Traffic

For those who don’t know, in addition to the Underground Film Journal, since 1999 I’ve made a living creating content for a number of other media websites. Some of them were run by big media corporations, some were small start-ups and one is a non-profit. Although each website had different creative goals, they — as well as the Underground Film Journal — all share one common über-goal:


The reason why is obvious: More pageviews means more revenue. Yes, I am concerned with such things with the Underground Film Journal even though the site focuses on non-commercial and artistic cinema. When I fire up the ol’ computer every morning, pageviews are the third thing I check on. (First is email, second is ad revenue.)

However, generating revenue isn’t the only reason I’m so obsessed with the Underground Film Journal’s pageviews. I am genuinely concerned and devoted to bringing underground film to a larger audience. Thankfully, we finally have the means, i.e. the Internet, to do just that. Underground film isn’t just left to dingy repertory houses in big cities anymore. It can be everywhere and anywhere. And the more people who are checking out the Underground Film Journal and reading lots of pages, means more people are being exposed to challenging and unique works. As my friend Kenneth Hughes said to me over lunch one day: Art matters.

And, yes, to be quite frank about it, if I could generate some revenue at the same time as bringing art to the masses, then that would be swell, too. I’m not, but a boy can dream.

In a related vein, in a recent article, I posted up some thoughts about how filmmakers could better utilize their own film promotional websites to build a bigger, better community and a more engaged audience. Having an “engaged audience” means turning more pageviews. So, it was my idea that filmmakers, for their film promotional websites, to post up more content than the standard synopsis, trailer, cast, etc. pages and put up behind-the-scenes videos, daily film stills, location reports, etc.

In response to that article, filmmaker Nathan Wrann wrote on his own blog that he liked my idea, but then gave the practical reason why it’s nearly impossible to make tenable. The reason, if I may paraphrase, is, “Time is the enemy of us all.”

More importantly, though, Wrann brings up an even better point: The Rube Goldberg-ness of online film promotion where a filmmaker is just pretty much promoting the same thing to the same small group of supporters on different platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

That Rube Goldberg scenario also applies to film fan sites, like the Underground Film Journal, which is why I think it’s important to build a strong underground film loop that includes both the fan sites and the filmmaker sites. Although, I’ve been pretty much been keeping those two things separate — the fan sites and the film/filmmaker sites — when I write articles like this one. Well, until now, I guess.

But, all of us will be better served if we can figure out two things: One, how to drive more traffic to our individual sites and; two, how to keep that audience engaged to turn more pageviews once they get here. Wrann is absolutely correct about the Goldberg-ness of it all, but the thing with more mainstream film websites is that the Goldberg contraption has so many users and participants, it appears to be less Goldberg-like than it actually is.

The last issue raised by Wrann that I want to address is the cost-effectiveness of feeding a small Goldberg whirligig. For the most part, the cost-effectiveness is going to suck. If the Underground Film Journal were somebody else’s business, I wouldn’t invest in it if I were looking to make a profit on it.

And that’s just for a fan website with low overhead. Filmmakers have it worse since they have to finance their films first. Wasting a lot of time on the web is just that for filmmakers: Wasting time. Standard promotional websites are fine from the cost/benefit viewpoint. If you’re a filmmaker, what do you really want to do: Make films or turn pageviews on a website? Well, there’s gotta be a happy medium somewhere so that we all benefit.

To that end, I’ve recognized that since declaring 2010 to be the Year of the Underground Film Loop back in January that most of my articles on the subject have been theorizing ones like what you’re reading right now. I’ve been doing some thinking on more practical articles to write, so that might be where my energy is going because I really haven’t done too much to bolster the loop so far. However, I’ve been mighty impressed by how some folks have taken the ball I lobbed out there and are running with it. So, that’s encouraging.

The Underground Film Loop exists. Now we just have to figure out how to build up all of our traffic.

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