A beautiful thing entered my life this week: the Roku 2 XS. It’s a wireless unit the size of a small box of Whitman’s chocolate, and I think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Ten minutes after opening the box I had access to an almost cable repertoire of Internet content – on my TV. The biggest selling point for me was the impressive amount of access to independent films and online video content (i.e. Hulu, Netflix, SnagFilms AND Vimeo!). But how did those channels even acquire said content? Digital distribution. Still, even if a filmmaker has their work available through these channels, it doesn’t mean instant audience gain. Awareness has to be built; campaigns have to run; and viewer relationships have to be fostered if filmmakers want to attract an audience, and therefore, a profit. One may argue that since it’s hard enough to land a theatrical release, campaigning for Internet viewership must be harder – especially with the sheer amount of content on the Net. On the contrary, as Dustin Woodward, ‘WebConnoisure’ blogger and freelance SEO professional says, “People that are passionate about your film’s topic are out there and want to find you. And it is a level playing field—Hollywood studios have trouble ranking #1 for their own film titles!” With the Web and the power of social media, filmmakers without deep pockets can quickly spread the word about and exhibit their work before it even sees a theater. And, should a filmmaker get the privilege of showing their film in a theater, a solid support system may have already been built under their work. Which comes first, the horse or the cart? I opine that, for the film industry, the Web is now the horse and the theater is the cart – not the other way around.
As far as churning your film through the glut of content like cream to the top of milk, this is where SEO, or search engine optimization comes in. But it’s not just about the film’s brand. Brand building also centers on the filmmaker him or her self. Sheri Candler, marketing expert and publicist for independent filmmakers, specifically, says SEO is key to building a personal brand. “Your Personal Brand. Your online reputation. It’s the same thing.” Know your professional name and how that translates, or doesn’t translate, across the web. Consistency builds relevance, and relevance builds trust. The filmmaker is the representation of the work. As a unique representative, are you ranking positively with search engines? Sheri continues, “Filmmakers interested in building a personal brand on the web do not have the luxury of anonymity.” SEO and brand building is not simply a nicety. For filmmakers, they are essential.
However, the seriousness of SEO should not overshadow content. Buzz will fall flat without any substance behind it. If you have a choice between spending time on your blog and producing creative works, produce creative works. Nobody wants to be considered a poser. Talk is cheap, and it’s bad for business. Even still, try to find a balance. From my end of the Roku, I won’t get the pleasure of seeing your works if my channels can’t find them. Get your stuff found. I’m sure I’m missing out.
** For kicks and giggles, watch this Shakespearian work on SEO. As serious as having a robust web presence is, it’s always good to keep it real: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnMW0NRPVOo&feature=related