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10 Ways to Market Your Underground Film Online for (Mostly) Free

By Mike Everleth ⋅ July 4, 2006

Ok, your film has played at several underground and independent film festivals. Now what? How do you get the rest of the world interested in your movie? Obviously, you need to have a good online presence. But say you’re not particularly technically literate and/or, like most filmmakers, you’ve blown all your money on your movie and can’t afford to pay someone to create a snazzy website. These days there’s so many different free promotional tools on the web, that it’s a crime if underground/indie filmmakers don’t take advantage of them.

So, I’ve compiled a (hopefully) comprehensive list of all things filmmakers can do for free, or for really cheap, on the Internet to promote their films:

1) Get listed on IMDB.com! This is the absolute first step any filmmaker should do once they’ve completed their film. If you’re not listed on IMDB, then your film may as well not exist. As a professional entertainment writer for the web for almost 8 years now, I go to IMDB as the first spot to look up details for any film ever made. And I’m not the only one. IMDB does have some restrictions about what you can list, so check out their “New Title” guidelines. But if you’ve made a film and it’s played in at least one festival or it’s a film meant for general release, I’m sure you can get in.

2) Get a free blog. The prevailing perception is that a blog has to be a personal diary of some sort. But, a blog is actually just a website created with a certain type of software. While blog programs do lend themselves most easily to keeping online journals, you can create just about any type of website with any blog program.

There are three main blogging platforms you can sign up for: Blogger, TypePad and WordPress. (There’s also the LiveJournal platform, but I don’t recommend that for a reason I’ll get to below.) All three act basically the same way: You sign up for a blog “name” and are then assigned a URL within the platform’s system. Once you have your blog, you sign into your administration panel and blog about whatever you want. If you’re not particularly computer savvy and what I just wrote sounds confusing, I assure you getting a basic blog up and running is extremely easy and created for people without computer experience.

TypePad is the platform I am the least familiar with and Blogger is, I believe, the most popular. But I heartily recommend WordPress. I personally create¬†the Underground Film Journal with the standalone version of WordPress, but their hosting solution is basically the same product. And I particularly like the function of creating separate “pages” in WordPress rather than date-organized “posts” for filmmakers to create cast, crew and other types of informative pages. Also, WordPress comes with great themes that are easily updated to create really unique film websites that don’t look like your standard blog.

3) Upload production stills to Flickr. Now that you have your new website/blog, you need to fill it up with content, right? One of the best ways to let people get a real feel for your film is to have production photos or film stills for visitors to look at. Most websites have their own image folder that they upload photos to, but since we’re creating a site for free you can go through this great photo upload tool. Your images will sit on the Flickr site, but you can use special image links to have them also appear on your website, where other websites, like a review site like the Underground Film Journal, can download or link to them. The only drawback to Flickr is that your images are limited to web-friendly display dimensions. But if somebody, such as a magazine or newspaper, asks you to send a hi-res image you can…

4) Send hi-res photos through YouSendIt.com. If a publication needs professional quality images to accompany an article or review of your film (or yourself), do not email large files as you’ll probably crash somebody’s email program doing that. Instead, upload your hi-res images to You Send It and an email will be sent to your recipient who can then download the file from a private location at the You Send It site. Just put a note on your blog that hi-res photos are available and let people contact you for them.

5) Upload your trailer. Don’t think you have to have some kind of fancy-pants trailer with dramatic music and quick cuts to black every 2 seconds (actually, I hate that kind of trailer and I wish studios would knock it off). Just slap together a couple of key moments and scenes from your film, upload the trailer to all of the video sites that have proliferated on the web within the past year or so and “tag” the trailer with any and all appropriate keywords that will let people find your video.

And don’t just upload the trailer to one site and call it a day. None of these video sites (that I know of) ask for exclusivity. Different people use different video sites for their primary source of video, so it’s good to hit them all. The 3 main sites you need to hit are IFILM for whom I used to work), YouTube and Google Video. For other video sites, just do a search for video and they’ll pop up or keep your eye out for what other video sites other filmmakers are using.

Finally, the best thing these days is that you can grab the trailer you’ve uploaded to and embed it into your own blog post.

6) Get a MySpace page. Sure MySpace is used mostly for singles to hook up, but it’s really evolved into a legitimate promotional tool for filmmakers. MySpace even recently added an “upload video” feature to their site, so you can post up your trailer as well as stills and even keep a separate blog over there. Even though you can do everything on MySpace that you can do on a regular blog, I highly recommend that you don’t use MySpace as your exclusive promotional tool since only other MySpace users can access everything you upload there, while on a blog every single person in the world can download your photos, etc.

7) Get an IndieLOOP page. IndieWIRE‘s community section is just like MySpace, but just for independent filmmakers and film lovers. I don’t have a MySpace page, but I did sign up for IndieLOOP recently. You can view my profile here. Much of independent filmmaking is all about the networking, so it’s nice that there’s a place like IndieLOOP on the web.

8) Comment on other people’s blogs. Ok, so you’ve got your own website/blog, how do you drive traffic to it? Well, a lot of it has to do with getting listed properly on search engines, but any tips I have on that would take up another entire article. But what else you can do is find other independent filmmaking blogs and leave legitimate comments with links back to your site. Don’t just leave stupid comments like, “Hey, check out my movie website” because that’s really obnoxious and is actually considered spamming. But if you read a blog posting and have something serious to say about it, then comment away.

9) Send review copies to movie sites. This tip isn’t quite so free since you’ll need to pay the postage to send a DVD or a tape through the mail. But do your research and find out which sites, like the Underground Film Journal, are open to reviewing indie or underground films and either look up their submission guidelines online or send an email asking if they’d like to review their film. It’s best to find some kind of review archive listing on each site and see if your film is the kind of film that site typically likes. For example, you don’t want to send a horror movie to a site that’s generally hostile to the genre. But there are tons of sites devoted to horror films who may be receptive to your work.

10) Sell merchandise through CafePress.com. This is more of just a fun thing to do than a serious marketing tool. But have a friend create a cool looking logo for your film, upload it to CafePress and they’ll sell lots of different products with that logo on it, including t-shirts and coffee mugs. Heck, you can even sell a nice bound copy of your screenplay through CafePress‘s new book publishing program.

If you follow all these steps, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to have the next underground blockbuster on your hands. Although, you might. But having a professional online presence is extremely important for all filmmakers these days. And doing some marketing online is better than doing nothing at all.

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