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How to premiere your short documentary in the real world.

Plane parked in Fort Lauderdale.

Actual plane I filmed and flew in parked in South Florida.

So you’ve made your movie and you’ve been busy crafting a social media campaign for an online release and then some kind of opportunity comes along that will make your premiere stand out. Something unexpected, that drops out of the sky and into your lap. How do you transition your online release into a physical event? In a few weeks?
In the case of “On Wings of Hope”, my short documentary filmed in Afghanistan, it was the fact that the plane, which I had filmed and flown in central Asia, was being serviced stateside at a local airport (it’s the actual plane that you can see in the trailer). As soon as I heard that, I know I had a once in a life-time opportunity on my hands that I had to jump on. I mean how many times will I film a great story in a beautiful country of people who are doing incredible work serving others and then have the opportunity to share something as cool as an aircraft with my audience, as they are watching the movie with the plane parked in the same room as the screen? And if that wasn’t good enough, the pilot who would be flying the plane back to Afghanistan – yeah, I know that sounds insane, but he’ll make that 5 day flight in a few weeks – anyway – that pilot would be the same guy that tells the story in the film. So I have the movie, the plane and the pilot to pull off a one time premiere.
But how do you go about doing that? (Oh, here’s a few details I failed to mention: there is a zero budget for this event and the pilot will be in the US for 4 days, but I won’t know when until about 3 weeks before). So how do I pull this off?

The reason that I am getting in to all of this is to make one point: first of all you have to have great content, ’cause you can’t put lipstick on a pig. But with so much great content out there competing for eyeballs, you must stand out – and since this is the craziest thing I’ve done promoting my work, it seemed like an interesting case study. Will it pay off? I don’t know yet ask me in a couple weeks. Back to the promotion:

Actually let me back up even further. Before you get into anything, you gotta ask yourself: “What’s my goal?” Do you want to get your work out there? Create some buzz for your client? Fundraise? Introduce a new skill set you have to agencies? … I don’t care what your goal is, but you need to to now the endgame. Otherwise you just start throwing stuff at the wall and hoping it sticks.

My goal for this specific event, is to get my corporate documentary film making work in front of creative professionals that book people like me, in front of other photographers and film makers that want to partner up with people like me and companies and organizations that hire people like me.

First of all you need to get all the impossibilities out of the way. I mean those things that will kill the possibility of the event happening. Case in point: I got the opportunity with the movie and the plane, but I need a place that can accomodate both. If I find a hangar and a person willing to let me use it, but they tell me the rental fee is thousands of dollars, well the whole event is a no go – or it’s back to the drawing board.

In my case I called the company that is doing the work on the plane, figuring they would have a vested interest in helping me, since we’re also (indirectly) showcasing their work. I mean it’s still a long shot, but it’s worth a shot. Find out who to talk to, get through the secretary (not always easy), but I found myself with an appointment to show the CEO the short documentary – what ended up happening, was that he had gathered his 5 VP’s as well and – with a little bit of quick thinking and preparedness – the movie ended up being shown on a large TV – not the iPad I had thought would be sufficient for one person to watch. These guys were so impressed by the film that they asked me how they can help me (Hey, that’s usually my line.) Anyway – to make a long story short, they offered me the use of their 20,000 hangar, so we can park the plane next to the screen when we premiere the movie in a few weeks. If you happen to be in South Florida, you can grab tickets here and since you’re reading my blog – use the discount code “owohBLG” to get in for a dollar.

In the next few days I’ll talk about more ways to pull off an event that is memorable and makes you stand out when you show of you’re great content.

How to premiere a short documentary online.

You finished filming. Editing is almost done. The final details in the sound track are being worked on, the last color grading is being finished, the minute details are being ironed out. Your film is ready for the world to admire. But what do you do then? Do you simply upload it to your Vimeo page and hope for people to see it? Do you announce the YouTube link on facebook and wait for others to share it with their friends? You could do that – or you could follow the advice that Mary, a very successful entrepreneur friend of mine, lives by: “Go big, or go home.” However that’s much easier said than done, considering the volume of video that is uploaded onto the web every day. How can you make people notice your movie?

This is where I am today. “On Wings of Hope” – the documentary I filmed in Afghanistan in 2012 is finished. And I’ve decided not to go home, so all I can do is go big. Really big. For the last 2 months, I have been crafting a social media campaign that will talk about the premiere. What’s that mean? In short that means you want others to help you, by talking, blogging, posting, tweeting about why this should be watched by their friends, followers, reader, … in the first place. The easiest way to convince some one to help you, is to find out how this premiere can help them or their company and not yourself. That may seem a little counterintuitive at first, but hang in there – I’ll explain what I mean.

A couple bags worth of equipment.

A couple bags worth of equipment.

How do you figure out who would profit from promoting your film? OK. Before you read any further, you need to understand on thing, if you don’t have great content – stay home – no one’s gonna want to get behind mediocre stuff. In my case “On Wings of Hope” is some compelling content. It plays in Afghanistan, it’s about a humanitarian organization, that provides air transport to other NGOs and lands in places, that you wouldn’t drive your car on, beautiful footage, dangerous country, intriguing story. Sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah. Who can profit from promoting your film?

So the first thing I did, was grab a photo I had taken of all the gear that went to Afghanistan with me – and write down every vendor of every piece on that photo. I made a list of everything and everybody that made it possible to film the movie (remember think big), for example the outfit that made the boots that kept my feet warm, the company who build the aircraft we flew in, … you get the point. Finally I looked at the relationships I have with bloggers, manufacturers, professional organizations, social media gurus, the list goes on and on (literally).

With that list in hand I get on the phone. And Skype. And Twitter. And email. And facebook. The easiest people to get behind you are those you have a relationship with, especially if you’ve helped them in the past with some of their projects. Remember the social in social media? It’s not about quantity it’s about quality. It’s about helping each other. Last time you helped them, now they’ll help you, especially if them helping you helps them. Got it?

On skype with Nino OWOH

On Skype with Nino Leitner,discussing on how to promote the online release of “On Wings of Hope”

Reach out to them. Start with the people you helped.  Talk to the guys, you produced a workshop for, the company, that you’ve made a video featuring their products for free, the professional organization, whom you volunteered to film their event. You haven’t done those types of things? It’s a lot easier to go to the next level of people you want to reach, if you can say:

Hi there, (name of person you met at _______________) I am putting together a screening for my movie and Nino Leitner, Cinevate and ASMP are all going to help me promote this event. I believe this event can help you” [Remember? ‘Help them’? Otherwise reread the second paragraph] back to the conversation“this event can help you by showcasing your _________________. How can we collaborate to make this successful for both of us?

The first supporters are the hardest to get. Once you can rattle of 3, 7, 15, … known bloggers, organisations, companies it becomes a lot easier for the person you’re communicating with to say ‘yes’.

So after a month of work (no I did not say this was easy, fast or wouldn’t cost you any sweat) I had half a dozen motion equipment manufacturers, 8 or so pretty well positioned bloggers and 4 photography and video organizations behind the online release. They agreed to tweet about the launch, give me guest blog spots on their blog, feature the release on their websites, post it on facebook all on the same day, the day the movie releases. Everyone has also was not to talk about this before that day. So far so good. I’m well on track for getting some decent momentum behind the online release of this film. I’m not expecting it to be the next ‘Gangam Style’, but it’s going to do much better than if I would have uploaded it to vimeo and told a few of my friends.

That’s how far I got, when I got the phone call that changed everything …

7 years ago

What a dripping faucet, taught me about great customer service.

…and why a high tech firm ends up being worse than chinese water torture!

It’s work getting a new customers. Not that retaining them is easy, but it  takes a lot more effort to land that first job, than it does to do a great job and be hired again. But have you ever thought to put a dollar figure on how much you value them? I recently had two experiences with two very different companies and learned first hand how much each of them was willing to pay to keep me as a customer.

¢55 a day bought Earthlink 6 months of my loyalty

Enter Earthlink. I just received a lesson in how to treat a long term customer, actually I got a lesson in how not to do it. Let me back up for a little bit, I have been a customer of Earthlink, an ISP, for over 15 years. That’s long term and that’s commitment in anyone’s book. (I bend over backwards for clients that I have worked with for a lot less than that.) OK, back about 6 months ago, we started experiencing problems with our internet connection and our VOIP, both provided by Earthlink. I started calling them to get the issues fixed. You put up with the typical (frustrating) scripted trouble shooting – you know the “Is your modem plugged in?” kinda stuff. Then you buy the $99.- modem, since the phone technical support can not figure out what’s wrong and says it must be the modem (we did that twice at $99 a pop). Two weeks later the modem shows up, a short time after that you call back, ’cause it’s not the modem and your back to “Is your modem plugged in?” tech support, but you put up with that because you have a relationship and you want to give Earthlink the benefit of the doubt.

However, in the last two months we’ve had about 5 technicians out, people from the phone company that run the copper line, people from the company that Earthlink leases the DSL service from and Earthlink people themselves. (The only guys, that knew what they we’re talking about, were the AT&T telephone techs and the Covad IT guys.) Anyway now the service starts dropping DSL sync for hours at a time, which means not internet and the dial tone disappears for days on end (The last no-dial-tone-episode lasted 10 days). Many phone calls later (from my cell), that always begin with the promise to fix the problem today and “Is your modem plugged in?”, I finally – after 6 months call Customer Service, to ask for a refund – I figure I should get at least the 10 days with no dial tone refunded.

The absolute best quote comes from Savio, an Earthlink Customer Service Supervisor. After talking for about 2 hours, here is how Savio explained, why Earthlink wouldn’t give me a refund on non-working services, that I paid full price for:

“Because of the complex nature, availability and underlying infrastructure of Internet Service, it may not be possible to provide a best guaranteed Service to everyone.”

Savio, Customer Service Supervisor @ Earthlink

Wow. I was floored. Earthlink is unable to provide me with a dial tone or a internet signal that does not drop or disconnect every couple hours, because of the big bad internet. Buh huh. Seriously? I had called, because I believed that I was entitled to a rebate, not a credit for future services, but actual money back into my account. The Customer service rep I was speaking with earlier, Michelle, had promised me a refund of $82.50, but couldn’t get her system to do that. That’s where Savio came in, to get this fixed. He couldn’t figure out how to do that either (full disclosure: I did have a phone rep refund me $30.- earlier for the same issues, so I know he can do that, if he wants to), but he told me that he was sticking to his decision to offer me a credit. He was impolite, self-opinionated, stubborn and unwilling at best or incompetent at worst to help me get this issue resolved. In short he absolutely did not care for Earthlink’s customer. In his defense I have to say neither did anybody else, so it must be the companies culture.

I got a phone call from Alex @EarthLink corporate, after requesting Savio to connect me with his supervisor, who conveniently was not available. So Savio set up a call back from corporate and in 5 minutes Alex had refunded me $69.90 to my bank. Do you think I’ll recommend Earthlink? I’ll give you a hint AT&T currently has a technician at my house, that is installing their internet service and VOIP at my house. It’s gonna be 3 times the speed at half the price. As an added bonus their technician is friendly, knowledgeable and is even setting up our whole (and it’s a fairly complex) Wifi network; which he isn’t required to do. He is here to set up the modem in my house, but he went way above what he had to do, feeding voice and data back from the modem through my in wall cables into switches, patch blocks and routers, helping me set up 3 separate Wifi zones in the house. He did not leave, until he was sure that everything worked although AT&T does not provide support for your home network. He did a phenomenal job. (Thanks Greg.)

The dripping faucet, that turned into the sweetest sound I’ve heard in a while.

The brand new replacement faucet Kohler send us

Replacement parts Kohler send almost added up to an complete faucet.

Now let’s look at another customer service experience I had recently. When we remodeled our kitchen 10 years ago, we bought a used cast iron sink for $4.- and splurged on a Kohler faucet ($300.-). Recently it began dripping. I called Kohler up with a partial serial number and the customer service rep that was on the phone was very friendly and knowledgeable and able to find out what faucet we had in about 5 minutes. I had no receipt, nor was I showing up in her database, but nevertheless she took another 5 minutes to figure out all the parts she needed to mail me (it ended up being the whole faucet, with the exception of the handles). The one and only caveat she asked me about, is if I was the original owner. One week later at absolutely $0 cost to me, the parts show up at my house. Wow. I was floored, but this time in a good way. Kohler cares about their customers and stands 100% behind their products. There was no argument, no “because of the complex nature, physicality and underlying infrastructure of the plumbing in your house, it may not be possible to provide a drip free faucet to everyone” scripted excuse. Just a very pleasant voice on the other end of the phone line that genuinely cared for me the customer.

How much are your existing customers worth?

When I need to by a faucet in the future, I think it’s safe to say that I will by a Kohler faucet. And I won’t be too concerned about the price. Now who do you think I’ll recommend as an internet service provider …

 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like to read what a bad cup of coffee can teach you about good customer service.

How to change 100 minds in 15 minutes.

Moving photos, film, video, motion work – what ever you want to call it – is a powerful medium, but it’s not easy to objectively measure it’s impact in an objective, empirical way.  I had the opportunity to present a short 15 minute documentary film with a professor friend of mine the other day, as we showed it to about 100 students on the north campus of Miami Dade college.

Live polling via text and twitter of studio and virtual audience

In addition to showing the film to a full auditorium we streamed it online at live.depuhl.com and were running a Twitter Q&A session, text and tweet polling the audience before and after the movie, in addition to a focus group that, was interviewed after the event – a cornucopia of tech and data, which allowed us to measure the impact that the story we were telling, was having on the audience. And boy where we surprised, when the results came back.

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8 years ago

Why you must be willing to fall out of a tree, to stay creative.

You’re on the tree already.

Creative people often struggle to break out of a the type of work that they have been doing for a long time. They have climbed up the creative tree and have grown accustomed to the branch that they’ve ended up on. Then one morning you wake up and you’re not happy, because the work is always the same or you know that you can do better or you wish you would do more than just crank out _________________ (fill in the blank).
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How to get hired for a video shoot in 43 minutes on facebook.

Facebook is a waste of time. I don’t need to know what you had for lunch today” is a common response that I hear when I speak with people about why I am involved in social media – hmmm, what did I have for lunch today … but back to the point of this post: I wanted to share with you how I got booked to shoot a video shoot from my facebook post in less than an hour.

I have been getting into shooting video over the last few months – you can check out some of my films on vimeo – and I have been seeing that there is a lot to learn from a photographers perspective. I purchased my first HDDSLR 3 months ago and got booked on my first paid video production last week, so I posted a blurb about editing this shoot on my facebook page.

Blurb I posted on Facebook about editing the video last Thursday.

I tagged my wife (the beautiful model in the photo) and left it at that. I also did not design the post to be anything special my comment on facebook merely read: “Spend most of the day editing a commercial movie project, while learning Adobe Premiere, incidentally the client was very happy with the rough cut :)

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Behind the scenes at the Miami International Boatshow

I’ve been writing about an exciting project that I had the privilege of being a part or: a 5 day behind the scenes time-lapse and video shoot of the set up of Meridian Yacht’s ‘booth’ at the Miami International Boat Show 2011.

You’ve bee reading about all the planning that goes into a commercial time lapse project and I have also broken down how to pack for a multi-day photography assignment like this. I will post about the actual photography of this job, which is now been completed as well as how to put the whole project together, but in the mean time enjoy a short video trailer: