Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Independent films have four (4) primary audiences: Friends, Family, Followers, and Fans. Each audience comes with a different measure of loyalty and network effect when it comes to purchasing your content and advocating for you as a filmmaker.
The strength of your friends' loyalty to you as an artist is in direct proportion to their perception of you as an artist and the work you produce. If they think that you and your work are great, they'll consume your content and spread the word. If they think you're anything less than great, they'll be congratulatory of your efforts but will reserve their support for what can be done behind the scenes. The simple truth is that, in public, your friends want to associate with and be associated with the best parts of you as this association is a reflection on them as well.
If you're seeking your friends' support in consuming your content and spreading the word, it's important to be realistic in your expectations. Not only will you have a limited number of advocates in this group, the extent of their advocacy is fickle as it is determined by how their affiliation with your content will make them look. It is not simply determined by friendship alone.
Generally speaking, family operates like cheerleaders. They stand on the sidelines and cheer you on as loudly and enthusiastically as possible. Though cheerleaders are great at game time, their cheers tend to fade when you're no longer in view. After all, cheerleaders don't cheer once the game is over.
For your family to remain engaged in a meaningful way, they have to have something to cheer for. There has to be something exciting and new for which they can sing your praises and share continued excitement. This is where things like film festival appearances (and awards), interviews, articles, critic reviews, photo shoots, and other events come into play. By keeping the excitement fresh and new, they can continue to celebrate your journey with renewed enthusiasm.
Your social media following is a mix of friends, family, colleagues, and complete strangers who, at one time, had an interest in who you are and the content that you posted. Followers can be active (engaging in your content via likes, follows, comments, and shares) or passive (only viewing your content). The level of engagement you'll get from your following (when it comes to purchasing your film content and/or spreading the word) depends on their engagement with you on social and how closely aligned your film content is with your online brand.
When it comes to leveraging your following, you have to be sure to give them what they came for. Diverging from your brand causes confusion and uncertainty which leaves your following without a clear expectation for what to expect. Mobilizing a confused audience is like herding a roomful of blindfolded cats: it won't be pretty. The goal here is to stay on brand and to further emphasize your brand with your film content.
Your true fans are those who are with you no matter what. These people have proven their loyalty by following and engaging you on social, supporting you in person whenever possible, and by consuming whatever content you produce. Your true fans have a compelling need for an association with you and the value that you deliver. Mobilizing your fans is as easy as making content and letting them know that it's available.
When it comes to creating profitable content, your true fans should be the target of your work. Imagine having 1,000 true fans who are willing to pay $10 for your art once a month. That's $10,000 a month. Not too shabby. The support of your true fans is not fickle nor fleeting so long as you consistently provide them with access to you and your content. Though building a base of 1,000 true fans is no easy feat, the work is most definitely worth the payoff. Gary Vaynerchuk's book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook provides a blueprint for the gives and takes of building a true fan base.
Your friends, family, followers, and fans should all be a part of the equation when you are looking to monetize your work, but it's important to have your expectations in order. As an indie filmmaker, a major key to your success is the people you bring to your film, not simply the film you bring to the people. If you can build an audience of true fans who are chomping at the bit for your next project, the marketing and the selling become so much easier and so much cheaper. Our advice is to you is to play the long game from day one. Jab, jab, jab until you've got them where you want them. The right hook is where it all pays off.
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