Patience, a Gift No One Wants to Earn

Our film just received a great review from a well-known critic. I can’t publish it yet because they’re proofing it and haven’t told us of a release date. But, I want to give just a hint (from a very comprehensive review) here:

THE ENEMY GOD is a low budget but very well made movie. It cares deeply about authenticity and achieves that goal with the set direction, the battle scenes, and the portrayals of the Yanomamö. … The script is powerful… THE ENEMY GOD is much better than most Hollywood movies.

This is one of the great stories. It is a highly recommended movie.

The main reason I’m posting this today is because I have been reminded of the value of patience and persistence. We’ve been working on this film for almost 8 years. That’s crazy! And it will never be a blockbuster commercial success; we know that.

When we got the e-mail with the review today, we passed it on to our Writer/Director, Christopher Bessette. He deserves the accolades. And here’s what he wrote back to me, in part:

You know that you and Matt have made a completely unconventional movie. It is cutting edge because no one has done something like this before. People don’t realize it yet – but the film will have longevity because of it. Like it has been said before they will be looking it up in 200 years in the history books. People don’t realize it now but slowly and eventually it will grow and grow and they will.

Zaven (Katchaturian) from the Arpa Film Festival told me personally that they were considering giving the actors awards but then they began to question as to whether or not they were watching reality or drama.  When they realized it was drama they gave me the award. That was very kind of them… and it is a God thing for sure, but trust me… eventually it will come to pass that greater masses will realize what this means.

Isaiah 55:11 – God’s Word will not return empty but it will accomplish that for which He sent it.

God is with us!

What Christopher’s note reminded me of is that, just because I’m tired of working one more day to make this film a reality, writing more e-mails trying to get attention for the story, Twittering and Facebooking without huge followings, God is working through the film. Matt and I began it with the assumption that it was totally out of our league and was something God needed to do. He did, and continues to make His story known in wider and wider circles, where it is still unknown.

Do we have the patience and perseverance to see things through? Sometimes I think I know when God is saying to just quit something. Other times, I depend on His Spirit to confirm that, even though the breakthrough hasn’t yet come, it doesn’t mean that God has changed His mind.

Mysteries of AdWords for Indie Film

I have not read a lot of articles on the use of AdWords to promote smaller indie films. I’m sure it is being done, but I’d be interested to hear more about what has worked and what pitfalls may exist.

I have not read a lot of articles on the use of AdWords to promote smaller indie films. I’m sure it is being done, but I’d be interested to hear more about what has worked and what pitfalls may exist.

We have just begun to develop Google AdWords campaigns for our film, The Enemy God. We worked our way through festivals, found a sales agent, and are now working on some hybrid self-distribution. That is, we have sold the worldwide rights to the film but we retained the right to sell DVDs on our own sites. Therefore, we want to build our own, very specific, audiences through targeted marketing – and encourage them to check us out and buy a DVD!

There are a few things that attract me to strategies like AdWords:

  • You are able to target and customize your ads to your unique audience. (If you can’t identify and target a fairly narrow market, you may still have some thinking to do. It’s not wise to try to just say, “My film will appeal to everyone.” You don’t want to be using keywords like, “comedy film”, or “horror”!)
  • You can manage your expenses by establishing your own budget and you only pay for clicks, not impressions. The beauty of this is that you can avoid being stuck with an ad that just doesn’t work. You can tweak and re-shape an ad campaign on-the-fly or just cancel it if it’s not working for you.
  • There are tools to help you figure out if your ad is working: are people coming to the site, which phrases are attracting people, and what pages of your site are most interesting.

Our film is very out-of-the-ordinary, so that helps us in some ways. I have never seen a narrative film like it; we tell an indigenous story from the Amazon rainforest. We are working with keyword phrases that would not normally be used for indie films, such as: indigenous culture, Yanomami, and the names of famous anthropologists who are connected with the tribe. You can’t do that with a suburban romantic comedy or thriller; I think it’s a more difficult challenge to come up with unique keywords to help promote a more mainstream film. We are hoping that we can take advantage of our out-of-the-ordinary themes to help target ads to folks who might be interested in our film.

We’re only beginning to get enough data to get a good sense of what’s working and what’s not and are thinking of how to tweak ads, landing pages of our web site, messages on the site, etc. to help folks who do click on the ad to ‘stick’ with us in some significant way. We want to develop true fans as well as sell DVDs.

I’ll post again with examples of results we are seeing and what we seem to be doing right and wrong.

“The Enemy God” in India

We got our 1st peek today at The Enemy God film’s web site for its release in India. It will be live in 5 languages! Almost ready for public consumption.

Our distributor is working on language translations of the film for this release and others in Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and Scandinavian countries.

You can get your copy today on DVD (shameless plug!) if you click HERE.

How Important is Branding in Games and Films?

What am I doing today to develop that level of trust and comfort and influence with a specific audience, through the things I create?

I admit that articles like this discourage me somewhat.

The Spiteful Critic: Branding, Games, and Films

In this particular article, Lewis Pulsipher emphasizes the game world. It’s a great discussion of the realities of the power of brands to attract audiences. There is tremendous power, credibility, and trust in known identities. For large segments of audiences for every kind of media, they are attracted to the known. Even a person’s perception of quality is influenced by brand awareness (see the article’s study on McDonald’s food and kids in taste-testing). It is more difficult, and expensive, to introduce something new and different, that’s why game companies and film studios turn out ‘based-on’ products and sequels. They hesitate to take a chance on a property where they have to introduce entirely new characters and stories when they can exploit the existing interest of a large group of people who are already fans. This makes perfect sense.

But, most of us don’t have access to those kinds of stories and properties. Where does that leave us?

Of course, there are segments of audiences that actively seek out the unknown. These people might even intentionally avoid major brands. For these people, the idea of eating at McDonalds, buying coffee at Starbucks, or seeing a film in the ______ franchise is anathema. I would say that I tend that way, but I do have my brand favorites, like my Mac computers. I probably respond to Apple’s marketing in much the same way a kid might respond to McDonalds’. They have me hooked in some way. Is that an entirely bad thing?

For smaller content creators like me it can be a daunting task to even imagine cracking a general audience market. However, every creator, no matter how small, should take the time to understand and develop a brand identity. We live in a world, if guys like Seth Godin are to believed, made up of tribes – each with identifiable interests, needs, and places where they hang out.

It should be possible for almost anyone to create products that speak to specific tribes, that are of value to them, and products that develop trust and credibility with them. As we create for that niche, we have the chance to create a brand out of products that speak in similar ways, have similar values, and give that audience the same feeling that kids get when they eat at (or think about eating at) McDonalds; or, perhaps, the feeling I get when I enter an Apple Store. The best brands feel like home, or even better, to their audience. They make you feel like you, or like you want to feel if you were the best you there was.

So what am I doing today to develop that level of trust and comfort and influence with a specific audience, through the things I create?

The Death of Merely Good Films

The loser in a world of almost limitless entertainment choice is not the hit, but the near-miss.

“The loser in a world of almost limitless entertainment choice is not the hit, but the near-miss.”

As a maker of films that fall into ‘niche’ categories, I appreciate new technologies that enable us to reach smaller audiences in new and creative ways. When I began my career, the options were few and if you had a film that wasn’t a mainstream film, it was almost impossible to get it to audiences. You could show it on one of the Big Three television networks, in theaters, or…

…I guess there were VHS tape and home video stores. But the reality was that everything was pretty locked-up, especially for smaller filmmakers who had films that would appeal to a smaller segment of the audience. Even if you could identify them accurately, it was really difficult and/or expensive to reach them.

The development of broadband internet and social media and all of the other constantly changing technologies now make it possible for us to target and actually touch audiences with niche media. This is the promise of the new media world and we are all clinging hopefully to that promise!

Interestingly though, another side-effect of the new media world is what I would describe as a widening gap – kind of like what happens in developing economies. Instead of a great, flat, democratic media landscape where everything has equal footing and ability to impact audiences, we are seeing an interesting trend in the world of the ‘blockbuster.’ While there has been tremendous growth in the production and distribution of small films to small audiences, there seems to be a greater emphasis at the opposite end of the spectrum. What is being lost is in the middle – those films that aren’t quite blockbusters but are bigger than the niche film. Are the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer?

This interesting article (originally from The Economist) describes the phenomenon very well. “Independent filmmaker earning a living in world where blockbusters dominate”

How does this impact folks like us? It’s not really my dream to make ultra-low-budget films ($0-50,000) for the rest of my career. But I am called to stories that fit smaller niches. It would be nice to be able to gradually make larger films, fill the gap between the blockbuster $150 million films, or even the average $50 million studio feature. Isn’t there a huge market now for low-budget films that are of high quality, made for $3-5 million? I know people who are aiming there. This article suggests that they are in for a battle for an audience.

What do you think?