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Social Media and Movies: A Match Made in Hollywood

Celebrities are far from the only ones in Hollywood using social media to promote movies. At Tribeca Film Festival’s Industry Talks in New York on Friday, the panel focused on filmmakers’ use of social networking to reach their movie-going audiences. The latest digital platforms and their impact on the film industry were also discussed. Here were the five key takeaways, some of which can be applied to PR and social media in general.

Social media helps establish brands, which typically last longer than films: Rider Strong, director and screenwriter of The Dungeon Master, explained why he went social with his “geek-focused” movie. “Films come and go, especially short films, so you need to build a filmmaker brand. It’s important to take advantage of online tools to expand your fan base.” He uses humor, visual content and behind-the-scenes footage to interact with his audience.

The balance between giving up content control and sharing with fans depends on the filmmaker: Strong said he posted a trailer of his movie online and was torn over whether to release the highlights. He was eventually persuaded to do so to build awareness. Panel moderator Mark Schiller, founder and CEO of digital firm Electric Artists, noted that filmmaker Edward Burns has integrated songs written by his fans into his movies to bring them into the creative process.

Context has become as valuable as content, if not more so: Howard Tillman, president and CEO of Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, observed, “Content is important if delivered in a relevant context, and rapid deployment is critical.” Schiller added, “If a film is well reviewed on a digital site, it goes directly to Hulu, so you can pull films into new contexts.”

Storytelling is vital to the movie content and the social media interaction: As Tillman acknowledged, “All the technology in the world is not going to change a story that sucks.” This sentiment was echoed by Lina Srivastava, a film industry consultant. She thinks of filmmakers as storytellers and considers “what she posts on Twitter and Facebook to be part of the film’s storyline.”

Social platforms now having or predicted to have an impact on the film industry were highlighted: Kickstarter is a popular funding platform for creative projects such as films, where individual investors pledge money. According to Tillman and Schiller, Facebook credits, the site’s currency now being used to buy virtual goods, will eventually be expanded. Then Facebook users will be able to use these credits to purchase movies.

Overall, Schiller was optimistic about how digital technology has reduced film production costs and expanded distribution channels. He said, “Since current cost models haven’t worked, filmmaking was becoming more of a hobby than a profession. But now filmmakers can use new digital platforms to be more profitable.”

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