The Complete Guide to Instagram for Filmmakers

Instagram is a major platform that’s here to stay. Which is why so many filmmakers take it seriously as one of their best methods for publicising their projects and communicating with their audience.

In this complete guide you’re going to get the lowdown on IG, plus my content strategy – the strategy that my VIP clients swear by. You’re also going to get a done-for-you project plan to grow your audience, get eyes on your films and the steps to automate your content so that you get to set it and forget it.

Part 1: The Instagram Lowdown

Instagram, as of 2019, has 1 billion users worldwide, making it the second largest social media platform. Facebook is the largest, but Instagram can generate 4x the engagement rate of Facebook. That means its users are 4x as likely to like, comment, share and click links. 

Why filmmakers love Instagram

Filmmakers love IG because it’s primarily a visual platform, so it’s practically designed for filmmakers and film lovers. Your film stills serve as incredible content. The behind the scenes snaps are a quick way to give your followers a sneaky peek of the film, plus what it’s like to be on a shoot. 

Who uses it? 

Instagram has a pretty diverse makeup of users, including brands, businesses, influencers and everyday users. The key stat that makes a difference for most filmmakers? 71% of its users are 35 and under, allowing you to tap into that key demographic that is sometimes hard to reach.

How to make it work for you

Social media can be overwhelming, especially when your weekly to do list is always too long to begin with. My clients, when we start working together, are sometimes alienated by social media and don’t really want to get involved. Which is why we break it right down and even automate the whole process, so it’ll just work in the background for you.

There are two key ways that Instagram is going to work for you. You’re going to use it to share info about you and your life, and grow an audience that is interested in what you do and what you create. This is a long-term thing, and the vital ingredient is consistency. The second way is for each of your films. You’re going to keep people informed, get them excited and start getting attention from festivals, investors and decision-makers. 

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It is tempting to skip #1 and just go straight to using it for your films, but it’s really important that you don’t.

People want to get to know you before they get to know your film. So you need to keep drip feeding content from your life before you go heavy on the project content. I hate to break it to you, but people don’t care about your film. And you’re going to go crazy trying to make them.

But what they do care about is you. They’re interested in you, your life, and what you do. Keep that going, and you’ll be able to introduce your films whenever you like, to a readymade audience that wants to see your film.

Read more: How to stand out as a creator in the Instagram age (without being spam-y)

Part 2: Getting Started 

Starting is always the hardest bit, which is why it’s broken down to a much more manageable step-by-step process for you here. 

Set up your profile 

Your Instagram profile is a snapshot of who you are and what you do. The first part: your name. If you’re already present elsewhere on the internet, then use the same name for your Instagram. For example, I use Charlotte Produces everywhere online. People immediately know it’s me, and it creates a cohesive, thought-out online presence. 

Writing a bio is always overwhelming, but it’s a key part of your profile so let’s not waste it. Start with one line about what you do, and infuse it with as much passion and excitement as possible. 

For example ~

I’m a short film director who makes films about social outcasts looking for hope.

I’m a screenwriter who creates projects about women struggling to cope and finding a better way.

I’m a film producer who makes shorts about creatives who put it all on the line for their work.

Include a line about your location. Filmmakers always want to know where you’re based. 

Instagram allows you to add one url to your profile. If you don’t have a website, put in your Facebook page profile instead. The important part is providing a link that allows people to interact with it. If you send them to your imdb page, for example, they’re pretty much getting sent to a dead end, with nothing for them to interact with. 

The last step is to upgrade to a business profile. This is 100% free, and gives your profile a much more professional look, plus a ton of audience insights.

Strategic following

When you’re looking for people to follow, be strategic about it. Instagram can be an incredible platform for making connections so use it. Look for other people in your industry, in your location, and interested in the same films you are. So if you love creating short dramas, look for people who also love making those. 

Read more: Using Instagram to get work and grow your filmmaking career

What to post & what to include

As filmmakers it’s in our nature to want a perfect image before sharing it with the world. But don’t get hung up on it – you don’t need to. The quality doesn’t need to be exceptional, you just need to share it.

Images with people in tend to do far better than any other type of content, so selfies, stills from shoots or meetings and red carpet photos will all serve as fantastic, engaging content that’ll have people wanting to see more. Snaps of awards or screenshots of emails or scripts don’t do as well. If you want to share the news of the award, you’re better off posting a selfie with the news in the description. You’ll see much higher engagement rates and people will start recognising you as a filmmaker worth watching (even if they’re the other side of the globe). Not bad for one selfie. 

You can make captions as short or as long as you like, though longer captions tend to work better. You’ll see higher levels of engagement and more interest in your projects with longer, detailed captions. It’s also important to include some kind of call to action regularly. It can be super simple:

Let me know in the comments if you… [relate it back to your caption]

So if you’re talking about a film you just watched, you could ask who else has seen it and what they thought of it.

Hashtags are a great way to get your content seen by fresh eyes, but post them as a comment instead of in your caption. You’ll be able to keep the focus on whatever you talked about in your caption, without distracting people.

Post schedule 

If you’ve read any kind of guide to Instagram before, you’ll have probably been told to post at least once a day. Personally, I think that’s a terrible idea for filmmakers. Firstly, that’s a lot of high-quality content you need to be sharing (hello stress) and secondly, you may actually alienate your followers by posting so often. 

Posting 2-4 times per week is the sweet spot for filmmakers. Consistent enough to keep people interested and engaged, without being overwhelming for you or your followers. 

If you’re new to posting regularly, add reminders to your calendar of when you need to post. 

Get a bigger audience for your short film and up level your film career

Automate your content

This is my favourite step. It’s going to make your life unbelievably easier. It’s actually my favourite session to do with my clients, because they come back amazed, excited, and feeling a lot happier about the online game. All of which means they see better results in terms of follower growth and engagement levels. 

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But before we get all technical, let’s talk about how to automate it. 

The simplest way is via scheduling apps like Planoly. They’re free to use, and very easy to get the hang of. You can upload up to 30 images per month, rearrange your grid to look picture-perfect and add in your caption for each photo. Then all you have to do is set the time and date you’d like it posted, and Planoly will auto-upload it. Which means once you’ve clicked ‘schedule’ your job is done. It’ll do everything else for you. So you’re no longer committed to posting at 5pm on a Friday, you can be doing anything else instead.

Note: why you need to post regularly (even if you’re not making a film)

Earlier we walked through why you need to post regularly, instead of just posting about your films. The main reason? People need to feel included in what you’re doing. They don’t like being preached to, and they tend to respond negatively when someone shows up after 6 months of silence and announces they have a new film and everyone should watch it. 

That’s a bit of an extreme example, but I see it happen every single day on Instagram. And then I see their engagement rate plummet and their followers starting to unfollow. 

Think of it this way, if someone did that in real life, you wouldn’t appreciate it either. You have to give people something, and you have to show up regularly, not just when you want them to watch your film trailer. 

Part 3: Launch Mode

Now we have your profile set and your content scheduled, we can look at how you use Instagram to get eyes on your film and stand out to festivals.

Get the festival-ready films guide

You don’t need to set up a new account for every new film, it’s a lot of time and effort for zero reward. Besides, your followers are already looking at your content and waiting for your films. So let’s look at what to post during each phase of creating a film.

Read more: 5 steps to getting your short film off the ground

Development 

It’s important to post about your film throughout the entire process. People need to feel included, or they’ll switch off and ignore all film content. So show them bits and pieces of the entire process. 

You can show snaps from a meeting, of your script’s title page and of any late stage development work like location scouting. 

Let people in on the process without giving too much away.

This is the time to create your film’s hashtag. This is the designated hashtag you and your team are going to use any time you post about the film. It needs to be unique to your film, and not being used by anyone else, so do a little bit of research before committing to it. 

This hashtag means festivals, investors and other decision-makers are going to get an overview of how much buzz your film is generating online. It’s now common practice for festivals to search for your film on Instagram before selecting or rejecting you, so make your film life easier by starting from day 1. 

Get the festival-ready films guide
Finding an audience for short films

Pre-Production

This is where you start to get busy, so it pays to schedule this content in advance. If you don’t have enough content to share, or don’t want to share it before the film is released, then you can always share a selfie or a still from a meeting and go all-out in the caption. 

Production

Wondering how the hell to balance shooting a film with posting to IG? The best method I’ve seen is by getting someone in the production team to take photos throughout the day, and post a few of them to stories throughout the shoot. 

If your shoot is short, you can post after your shoot to let everyone know how it went, how you’re feeling and what your next steps are. 

If your shoot is longer, then you might want to share 2-3 posts that week, and check in every couple of days on stories. 

Remember to save 50% of your stills. Don’t go posting them all at once. You’re going to need them for the next stage.

Post-Production 

Depending on your post-production schedule, you may have time to catch your breath and post in real time. If not, no sweat. Mark out an hour in your calendar to schedule enough content until you’ll have finished post. 

Remember that your caption doesn’t have to match the photo. So you can post a still from set, but have your caption be all about post. 

Whatever you want to do, make sure you’re keeping people involved in your film. Let them see behind the scenes, show them the less-than-perfect side of it.

Read more: How to Know Which Distribution Route is Right for your Short Film

Release 

The day is finally here! Keep feeding your audience content in the run up to the release. Dropping a new film with zero warning only works if your Beyonce. So give them a second of the trailer, an interview with a cast member, a funny story from the shoot, an overview of how it feels to have finally finished this idea you’ve had for x months. This is your time, so you’re allowed to milk it. 

So there you have it.

  • You’ve Instagrammed your way through the entire development to release process.
  • You have an engaged following who are excited to see your film.
  • You’ve got attention from festivals because they’ve seen how many people are interested in your film.
  • You know the process to publicise your film like the back of your hand and you’re ready to repeat it again and again for your next projects.
  • You know how to publicise you and your work with a $0 ad spend. Take a minute to celebrate!
Get the festival-ready films guide

Part 4: Your Checklist

  1. Set up your profile
  2. Strategic following
  3. Add your post schedule to your calendar
  4. Schedule your content in advance via Planoly
  5. Add time to your calendar each day to reply to comments and engage with other people’s content
  6. Plan your film launch content in advance
  7. Schedule film content, as well as your own content, in advance
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