Heather Menicucci, Director, Howcast Filmmakers Program, is writing weekly guest posts for the YouTube blog on filmmaking in the digital age. You can catch up on previous posts here.
Today being a filmmaker is more and more about using tools other than cameras and editing software – social media, mobile platforms, websites, and even augmented reality technology – to bolster the work, attract and engage audiences, and make money. Many filmmakers are being dragged into this new world kicking and screaming or simply overwhelmed by the options.

Enter Ingrid Kopp, Director, U.S. Office at Shooting People, and her Digital Bootcamp, which I got a chance to attend at DCTV in New York on Monday night. "The technology should serve you and your creative practices" -- that was one of the first things Ingrid said to the audience of about 20 filmmakers. She went on to explain that all these new technologies are like a painter's palette. If you choose all of them, you'll end up with gray. They are there for you to pick and choose what works for you and your film.

This is excellent advice but questions still remain: Which one should I use? How do I use it? And do I really have to? As filmmakers raised their hands to ask questions it became clear that tailoring a web, mobile or other technology campaign for a film is a very personal decision and should be informed by the project and the filmmaker's goals. Are they happy simply with people seeing their work? Do they need to recoup some investment? Are they trying to invoke social change? Ingrid talked about a new production title, coined by John Reese, Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD), which a filmmaker could hire to create and execute a digital campaign, taking all this into consideration. She compared this to hiring a cinematographer. You could opt to shoot yourself, but if you have the money, why not hire someone with experience and skill.

That said, you don't need to hire a PMD. You don't even need to build a website, post your trailer on Facebook, or send even one tweet. But, if you're ready to dive in, Ingrid offered up fantastic insights and tips, some of which I'm going to share right here:
  • If you do one thing, create a home for your film online -- a website, a blog, a Facebook fan page, or a YouTube channel (of course) -- so that audiences know where to go to get information about you and your project. All your other online presences should link back to this main place.
  • Collect email addresses and zip codes from your audience. Remember that Facebook and Twitter could shut down your profile any time. In order to retain contact with your audience, ask for their email addresses. And, while you're at it, their zip codes too. Want to plan a screening? You'll know where to start based on where your audiences live.
  • Put your trailer online and allow people to embed the video. Embed and spread!
  • Much of the really creative stuff happening on the web is being launched by brands. Filmmakers can learn a lot from their unique uses of new technologies. Here are two excellent examples Ingrid screened: The Last Exorcism Chatroulette campaign and the choose-your-own-adventure campaign on YouTube for Tipp-Ex.
  • If you’re going to start a fundraising campaign on a site like Kickstarter, create ancillary content around the campaign to promote it and get people excited to pitch in. Be creative with your rewards to really entice donors. Embed a video on the campaign page too -- campaigns with videos earn more.
  • Think about creating video clips other than your trailer that you can release strategically throughout the entire production process.
  • Don't do anything halfway. If you start a Twitter account for your film and only send one tweet, your project will look "dusty" as Ingrid put it -- a perfect adjective.
  • It's never too early to start building an audience with any kind of digital campaign. You can leverage your audience to solve problems with your film (anyone know a shooter in Dallas?), share their own footage, help with fundraising, write about your project, coordinate screenings, buy DVDs, and tell all their friends how great your film was.
In her brief but jam-packed session, Ingrid shared numerous sites, best practices, recommend reading, and noteworthy examples. Rather than link to them all here, here's a link to her Digital Bootcamp wiki where you can view the full presentation and check out tons of other resources. Ingrid called herself a bit of a "technological Utopian" and you can see that in her Creative Commons wiki where readers are also free to edit and share their own ideas.

I’m pretty sure I’m in that camp too, but I had to play devil's advocate and ask: “What do you say to filmmakers whose response to all this is, ‘I don't want to. I care about making films and not all this other superfluous, unrelated media?’ “ Ingrid simply said, “Then you don't have to. If this other stuff is distracting from your film or what’s in the frame then you shouldn’t be doing this. This should never compromise your film. My hope is that filmmakers will see these tools as another creative outlet. If we’re not embracing this technology, we, as filmmakers, could be left out of something amazing.”

I couldn't agree more. Thank you, Ingrid, for a great evening and all the information you share through your wiki, Twitter feed and Shooting People.

Heather Menicucci, Director, Howcast Filmmakers Program, recently watched “The Rent Is Too Damn High Party's Jimmy McMillan at the NY Governor Debate.” Come back next Friday for another session of our “Modern 101 for Emerging Digital Filmmakers."