Internet Indies – Join the revolution

With films such as The Blair Witch Project utilizing the power of the internet, why aren’t more independent filmmakers taking advantage of this incredible marketing opportunity?

The World Wide Web. Informative, innovative and a marketing dream. And, therefore, one of the best tools an independent filmmaker can have. Independent film making has become a thriving part of the entertainment industry. And now, with the advent of the Internet, independent filmmakers have a wealth of information at their fingertips – literally – to help them stay informed and keep up-to-date with both film making news, techniques and each other.

But apart from providing a great information resource for our community, the Internet also furnishes a cost-effective and wide-spread marketing and networking opportunity, via the wonder of web sites.

Not long after I started Salmac Productions, I began to experiment with web design. Salmac ended up online in late 1997, and since then I have met, shared ideas with and formed close working relationships with dozens of other filmmakers from all over the world, some of whom now collaborate with Salmac on several projects. Via Salmac’s web site, I have had innumerable opportunities that I would never have discovered without this kind of world-wide exposure.

So I was surprised to discover that I am in the minority in Australia in my all-embracing attitude towards the web and all it offers the independent film industry. Various objections were voiced as to why other filmmakers don’t use the Internet effectively, but the two most common reasons were a lack of understanding on how to use it effectively, or a lack of interest.

As independents, who need to be open to every opportunity to learn and grow, this is almost inexcusable.

I may not have learned what I know overnight, but if I had shared this fear of the new or sense of total apathy, I would never have been able to ask Patrick Stewart (Star Trek’s “Jean Luc Picard”) questions during an appearance at Entertainment Asylum (whose interview chat room is now offline, unfortunately), which gave me the advantage of finding out his specific interests and then tailor a script to his tastes that he subsequently agreed to consider. Or meet several of my invaluable crew who came to me through visiting my web site. Or generate interest in co-productions with other independents in Canada, Britain and the US, due to being online.

And to take it further – we may never have been able to experience ground-breaking films such as Star Wars if George Lucas didn’t take the risk with, or the interest in, new technology. I mean, he’s now put nearly every aspect of his epic film series on the net to date, which gives all of us the opportunity to, in turn, learn from him … In marketing terms, the Internet is the equivalent to CGI – only a lot easier to master.

Now that independent film making is becoming big business, we have to think like business people.

Gone are the days where you can run an independent film company just on the smell of an oily rag, a couple of dollars and the romantic notion of suffering for your art, while not looking beyond the end of your nose. Companies such as Living Spirit Pictures (UK), Furious Films (Aust.) and Artistic License Films (US) are just a few examples of independents who have used their online presence to build on their offline success. Many have gone before us, many will follow, but the ones who endure are those who grow and adapt and never stop learning and taking risks.

So, the best advice I can give to new independent filmmakers is this: use the Internet – one of the greatest networking mediums currently in existence – creatively and with savvy.

Join news groups concerning film making, subscribe to newsletters from other independents and studios, visit every website you can that covers independents and film making (and bookmark the ones you find useful), email other independents you come across on the net just to say hello – and get a website to showcase what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with. Trust me, it works.

Oh, and don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it – believe in your dream, for anything is possible … YOU just have to believe it and then work towards it. And the ‘Net is one way to help you make it happen.

Originally published May 1999 © Sally McLean. All rights reserved.

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