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) accounts to keep his friends informed, but he didn’t use any social media tools to promote the movie — something he regrets today.
“We could have used social media to connect with more audiences,” said Lampard, whose film focuses on the aftermath of the Kosovo conflict. “After the war, Serb and Albanian diasporas popped up all over the West — in Europe, North America, even Australia (
). Beyond raising awareness among festival programmers, I like to think we could have set up our own independent screenings within the Balkans and these diasporas.”
While Lampard’s film generated some attention in Kosovo, it went largely unnoticed outside of Europe. Could social media have made a difference? Lampard isn’t certain, but for his future films, he plans to do what many filmmakers are already doing — using social media to aggressively promote their work.
Like Two Summers in Kosovo, most documentaries are produced by a small team on a tight budget. Since social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are free, it makes sense for documentary filmmakers to take advantage of them. But that doesn’t mean that just anyone should be doing the outreach.
Psihoyos, whose husband directed The Cove, stressed that social media tools work best when the people behind them have a genuine passion for what they’re sharing. For Psihoyos, The Cove is “her baby,” so its online presence is something she takes very seriously.
“I have a style that I have developed so I bristle when I see the tools used badly,” Psihoyos added. “Blatant marketing bothers me…Yes, I remind people that The Cove will be on Animal Planet, but I also ask who is live blogging it? I like to grow and feed a community.”
Different National Networks
The Cove was successful in the United States, but it was made primarily to change whaling policies in Japan. Psihoyos used Facebook and Twitter to promote The Cove at home, but in Japan she used a platform called Mixi to ensure she reached the Japanese public. “We had to hire translators to set us up on Mixi, which boasts 80% of the market there,” Psihoyos said. “From the start, we have been hoping to get the Japanese people aware and active on the issues taking place in Japan.”
Aside from the ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter, Kickstarter, the online funding platform for creative projects, should be on the radar of every filmmaker short on cash. Despite being barely over a year old, the startup has proved itself an impressive resource for documentary funding.
The Delta Smelt (working title), a documentary about the precarious fate of the largest estuary in the western United States, recently reached its $3,500 goal with contributions from 36 backers. Another film, Keepers of the Earth, easily surpassed its goal of $20,000 by raising over $2,500 thanks to over 300 backers. Amazingly, these successes aren’t unusual on Kickstarter.
Connecting With Other Filmmakers
), the high-quality video hosting site, to share their clips. But the platform is also a great network for professionals to chat about their craft. Philip Bloom, a veteran filmmaker who has worked for Lucasfilm, BBC and others, uses the site regularly for feedback on his work and to explore the films of his peers.
“Many of the colleagues I work with these days I’ve known from social media — that’s how we’ve become friends,” said Bloom. “It’s a great way of learning about things and helping each other out. I think it’s absolutely essential.”
Before the Internet (
), documentaries typically reached the public’s attention once they were featured in a film festival. Social media may have made it easier for filmmakers to get the word out about their work, but now even festivals are using social media to connect with filmmakers and their audiences.
Jennifer Nedbalsky, the Program Manager for Human Rights Watch’s Film Festival, said the social networking site for group meetings Meetup is important for her community outreach. “It’s a wonderful way for audience members to involve friends,” said Nedbalsky. “It also multiplies the amount of people you can reach, while taking less work from audience members to share.”
Theresa Riley, the Interactive Director for the PBS documentary series POV, often learns about the films submitted to POV through everyday social media tools like Facebook, but POV is also experimenting with new methods to promote their filmmakers’ work. Recently, POV asked viewers of Food Inc. to host a post-film potluck dinner with friends at their homes. About 130 potlucks were held, and viewers uploaded pictures of their experience on Flickr (
). POV also hosts live chats with the filmmakers via Cover it Live the day after a film screens.
A New Approach?
Arguably the most ambitious use of social media by a documentarian is Vaquita.tv, a free web-based documentary project entirely reliant on social media for its promotion. The documentary itself, which is broken into seven web-friendly parts, sheds light on the dire situation of the Vaquita, a Mexican porpoise on the brink of extinction. With about 250 porpoises left, filmmaker Chris Johnson “felt there was no time to spend years making a film to only watch the Vaquita go extinct during [the film's] production and finding a market.”
The urgency of Johnson’s cause is evident throughout the site, and in a recent blog post he even asked, “can social media save a species?”
“Social media is a great ally during the production of a project, the marketing of it, and potentially keeping the issues addressed in your film in the media for a long time after someone has watched it,” Johnson said. “I believe that you never finish making a documentary film.”
More Social Good Resources from Mashable:
- The Real Value of Social Media for Social Good [INTERVIEW]
- 5 iPhone Apps to Help Fight Poverty
- How Non-Profits Can Maximize a Foursquare Account
- 5 Cool Non-Profit Uses of Location-Based Tech
- Are Social Media Giving Contests Good for Non-Profits?
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