Build Your Audience First: How a $1 Million Canadian Film Contest Puts Social Media Marketing at the Heart of Film Development

For over a century filmmakers have been making their films and then taking them to market.

Is it time to reverse that process?

Should indie filmmakers - in the new digital age - build their audiences before they shoot their pictures, not after?

According to a Dec. 8th, 2012 article in Toronto's The Globe and Mail, Vancouver-based digital entrepreneur J. Joly has come up with a contest for Canadian indie filmmakers to test that New World approach - putting social media marketing right up front at the very beginning of the film development process.

According to Robert Everett-Green in The Globe and Mail, Mr. Joly has devised a contest along the following guidelines to test whether social media can improve the visibility of indie films:

"Any three-person team with a two-minute trailer and $150 can sign up from now till Feb. 21 [2013] for a 17-week program that will run participants through a series of competitive “missions,” designed to build a following and refine film ideas. By the end of June, one team will emerge with up to $1-million in funding (from private sources and tax credits), six months to make a film, and a release in Cineplex Odeon theatres in January, 2014. “My whole disruptive model is based on getting filmmakers to focus on audiences first,” says Joly. “It’s not an afterthought to making the movie.”"

Just as professional baseball was disrupted by New World data-crunching techniques (as depicted in Moneyball), Mr. Joly says: “If we can get Canadians to fall in love with Canadian filmmakers early, we believe we can be the Oakland A’s to the New York Yankees of the big studios.”

Will the build-an-audience-then-make-your-movie approach work?

No one can say for sure. But it might just be worth a try.

As Robert Everett-Green writes: "Put the concept before your immediate community and beyond, take note of who responds and why, and you can build your project and “audience equity” at the same time."

Thanks to Siobhan O'Flynn for sharing the link.

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