How to premiere a short documentary online. 

 March 13, 2013

By  Pascal Depuhl

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 …

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    Pascal Depuhl

    Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.