Lately I’ve been feeling like I should be sitting at a dimly-lit bar, with a gin and tonic and cigarette in hand, saying “Strange times, darling”.
But that would involve taking up smoking and actually leaving the house, so the alternative is sat on the sofa with a cup of tea brewing and typing,
Darling, these are very strange times.
Especially if you’re like me and have a plan for everything.
It took me a few weeks to figure out a plan for this crazy situation, but plan I did, and today I’m giving you 4 ways you can use the corona downtime to protect your career as a creative filmmaker.
1 ~ Find your ‘thing’
Every successful person in the film industry has something they’re known for. It makes them memorable and marketable.
Tarantino, for instance. I tell you we’re going to see a Tarantino film, you automatically have an idea of what’s coming. Just from his name.
At its deepest level, your ‘thing’ is a combination of stories (and characters) you love, and why you need to tell them.
Once you know that, you can move to the surface level, which is how you tell those stories.
Now you might be wondering how you can shrink every film idea into one neat little line. It’s possible. It’s the first thing I do with all of the filmmakers I work with and it takes us about half an hour.
Your thing isn’t something that you can find out from other people. You need to take a bit of time to explore what you love, and work out how your story makes you the right person to tell those stories. Get clear on who you are as a creator.
This information feeds into protecting your career in 2 ways.
When you get to making (and you may still be able to make now), the how is going to be front and centre. But when you’re networking and/or pitching, your story and the stories you love are going to be the most important part.
Because the people saying yes or no aren’t really interested in your idea. They’re not interested in what kind of camera you want to use. Not yet.
They’re just interested in you. So give them something big.
Start by saying, “Hi, I’m [name]. I make films about people [verb] for [big goal]”
“I make films about people fighting for their dreams and finding clarity”
“The stories I tell are about people willing to do anything for their goals, for better or worse”
“The films I make are about people society doesn’t usually shine a spotlight on”
There’s room for variety. One thing you’ll find once you know you’ve gotten your own line ~right~ is that you never have to think about it again. All your new ideas will automatically fit into this line, because it’s centred on you and the stories you love.
2 ~ Developing your stories in self-isolation
A good way to use all this time in limbo is you get all of your stories and ideas pitch-ready. When things eventually go back to normal, there’s going to be a huge rush, so it’ll pay to be ready.
The key things you’ll need are a logline, summary and audience breakdown. Sometimes these are the only things needed to secure interest and open the door to investment.
When things start to open up again there may be fewer barriers and restrictions to getting your film made because places are going to be so desperate for content.
You can follow this logline template for all of your ideas:
A [format] [genre] about a [adjective] [main character] who must [verb] to overcome [struggle] in order to [big dream]
Example: a feature-length romantic comedy about a ditsy California girl who must get into law school in order to win her boyfriend back.
But if you’ve got all that ready and you’re still facing weeks of self-isolation, put together a proposal for each of your projects.
Most importantly, don’t just focus on the creative side of these. Stand out from the masses of proposals by including an audience breakdown, shooting location info, budget info, comps and character journey.
Next week you can join us live to get your films pitch-ready and create a killer proposal.
3 ~ Create a professional slate
Having a slate full of ideas that you love is the next step for filmmakers who want this to be their career (not just an expensive hobby). It keeps you busy and proves to investors, platforms etc. that they should work with you.
It also means you have plenty to fall back on if your pitch isn’t going so well.
Building your own slate is a big professional step, but it’s also one of the easiest things to do. Simply start by adding all of your ideas into one doc.
The most relevant info for your slate isn’t pages and pages of story and character descriptions. It’s:
- 2 sentence summary
- Audience breakdown
- Distribution plan/ideas
This is the only info anyone looking at your slate will need. It’s also the only info you need to be able to pick up an idea whenever you want to start working on it.
If you’re the type to get an amazing idea, scribble it down in a notebook, and then have no idea what you were thinking when you reread it a week later, this is going to change your (creative) life. I used to lose so many ideas that I thought were incredible, because I wrote down the most unhelpful, unusable info. Idea machines, I see you.
The last step is to break down your slate into 3 parts: could make now, could make in 6 months, could make in 12+ months.
These sections stop your slate from becoming an unreadable mess, and also allow you to vary your pitch material. If you’re meeting someone who only does low budget shorts, then talk to them about ideas from your ‘could make now’ section. If you’re talking to a lover of sci-fi, period drama or action, talk to them about ‘could make in 12+ months’, because those are the ideas that will need the most time, money and planning.
4 ~ Build your own audience
Thanks to social media, data tracking and online stats, anything to do with audience often feels like a 21st Century concept. But its roots go back to the very first films.
‘Audience’ is simply who you can bring to a film, and who you are making this film for. The more people you can bring with you, the better your chances of your ideas being picked up, securing funding and attaching cast. Read: the better your chances of making a successful film that can launch your career.
The thing to remember about anyone in film, is that they just want people watching. Whether they run a funding program or own a cinema, all these people want is a guarantee that people will buy a ticket to watch your film.
Bringing your own audience to the table puts you in a whole other league, and it’s thanks to social media that you can do this easily, without needing a huge amount of time or money.
Read more: 2 ways to stand out to a film producer
The three steps to audience analysis and growth are to find them, market to them and then automate it.
We’re going deep into all of this next week during the masterclass series. Here’s where you can save your spot
You know the stories that you love to tell, so find the people who love those stories. Who regularly goes out to the cinema to watch films like yours? A quick Google search is the best place to start.
Once you’re clear on who your audience is, you need to let them know you exist. So knowing your audience’s age bracket, find out which social media platforms they spend the most time on. Pick the two most popular results and focus all your marketing efforts there.
The trick to this is posting consistently, regardless of where you’re at with any of your films. You need to post 2-4 times per week in order to stay present and relevant.
It used to be that you needed people to see/hear about your offer (in this case, a film) 14 times before they took any kind of action. So it would take 14 separate posts until they actually watched the trailer, let alone went out and bought a ticket for it.
But now, people need to see your offer 21 times before they’ll take any kind of action.
This is just because of how much content there is out there. Plus, everyone is in scrolling mode 95% of the time. It takes a lot to get you to stop scrolling and click on something.
Which is why this consistent content is so important.
But before you start adding a crazy long list of things to do to your daily plan, think about automating your marketing.
All this really means is using an app to schedule the posts in advance. Personally I use Planoly, and it means I spend an hour each scheduling my Instagram and Facebook content, meaning I’m consistently sharing relevant content and getting way more time for other things. At the moment that’s just trying out new hot chocolate recipes and watching TV, but it’s still nice having the time for it.
So there are 4 ways you can be protecting your career and productively using all this free time.
Next week there’s a live masterclass series you can dive into that’s going to have you:
- Understanding the market in the current climate
- What you can do to protect your films during an indefinite lockdown
- How to protect your career while you’re self-isolating
- Developing a killer slate (in just 1 day – not clickbait)
- The producer’s guide to corona-proof audience building
- Leveraging your audience to secure funding/make your first feature/sell out screenings/all of the above
- Putting together the best creative proposals of your life (get ready to start hearing more ‘yes’)