The Affect of Social Media on the Film Industry

By: Brittany L. Reid

Social Media has become a predominant trend for today’s generation. Everyone is able to connect to other people around the world just by reaching out and talking to them through social media websites. One business that has been greatly affected by the rise of this trend is the film industry. Not only are movies becoming more available for online viewing, but they are also being produced and distributed with the help of voices on social sites such as Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. These voices are really movie fans who guide producers in how they should promote and distribute films. The voices are so powerful that they have the potential of serving as the essential, driving force behind the very existence of the film industry in the near future. Movie fans who are users of social media sites influence film marketing, film production, and the success of film distribution.

Film Marketing

According to the article “Top Social Media Websites for Film Marketing,” many of today’s most popular websites are the same venues through which directors and producers interact with their audience in order to market their films. These websites are used to generate traffic and buzz about movies in different ways, whether the films are in the planning, pre-production, production, or post-production stage (Chaitanya, 2010). An article on Blog.complete.com entitled, “Finding Watchmen: Why Social Media Matters in Film Marketing” focused on the most searched sites people visited to look up information for movies. The sites were tracked between November 2008 and February 2009 and revealed that about 18.5% of searchers went directly to the film’s website, while about 18.4% visited Wikipedia.com, about 6% visited IMDB.com, and about 4.8% visited youtube.com. These numbers can be attributed to the fact that visitors travel to various sites for various reasons (Baird, 2009). For example, Youtube is the primary source used to promote trailers and clips for a variety of films. People comment on the trailers and give their opinions on the scenes, characters, and their expectations of the plots. The movie audience can also track the production of those films through sites like Facebook if the movie company continuously updates their page with new information. Facebook also utilizes new modern trends such as cross-platform storytelling and getting fans to promote their films.

Onedegree.com explains how cross-platform storytelling is a beneficial marketing strategy for directors. In the article, “How Social Media is Empowering Independent Filmmakers,” it is explained that the basic concept, “Allows the story’s character(s) to live in other platforms before the film is released to give them a broader life and further help with the film’s publicity” (Hamburg, 2009). For example, directors could make Facebook pages for the film’s characters, in which they live their own lives until the film’s release date. Fans can then interact with the characters and get to know more about them, as well as gain insight to their role in the film before its debut. Through this interaction, fans connect directly with a variable that is significant to the functioning plot of the film.

In addition to this, whether the fans are visiting Facebook, Youtube, or another social media site, there is no doubt that they will forward links and messages of the film’s statuses to their friends, contributing to the marketing of the movies. Fans can also donate money and promotional materials such as posters, banners, t-shirts, etc. in order to help with the marketing of the films. Directors also utilize social media sites in order to help with film production (Hamburg, 2009).

Film Production

The production of a film consists of many variables such as casting, funding, and searching for shooting locations, costume designers, makeup artists, and more. These different aspects can be easily accessed through the usage of national and international social media websites. Today, directors have taken advantage of the social media trend to create their own versions of popular sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. An article entitled, “Social Networking and the Film Industry” explains how these newly created sites are essentially a type of networking created specifically for the movie business (Halfon, 2008). The sites are beneficial because they expand to the national regions of the globe and are created in many different languages. So if movie-makers wish to produce a film in a foreign country, they can connect with costume designers, makeup-artists, and look for filming locations in that country by using social media sites made specifically for the movie business. Several of these sites include KinoRezo, which is the French equivalent of LinkedIn; CineFriends, which is the French equivalent of Facebook; and Canes2010, which is the English equivalent of Twitter. Yet professionals are not the only ones who can utilize these sites. Anyone who has a general interest in making movies can use these sites, as well as a network on TriggerStreet.com, in order to promote their material.

TriggerStreet.com allows anyone who has created movie-scripts, screenplays, trailers, clips, comics, or anyone who simply likes to critique films, to gather in one location. The website is essentially the film industry’s version of Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter all merged into one place. The positive thing about TriggerStreet is that both professionals and non-professionals are aware of the site. So, people can make connections and gather the contacts of those looking to become big-time film directors, and help them along the way. However, even though people can follow professional directors on social media sites like Twitter, the problem may lie in the fact that those professionals may not be the best means of trying to achieve renowned recognition in the film industry.

(Click here for link to PBS article: “Can Social Media Chatter Predict Oscar Winners”)

Film Distribution

Even though prospective movie directors attempt to seek out middleman distribution companies to help them with their movies, their search is not always successful. Many movie-makers attempt to send their movies to film festivals in hopes that a big company will see their films and opt to help fund, promote, and distribute said films. However, a very small percentage of movies shown at film festivals are actually chosen for funding and world-wide distribution. An article entitled, “Film Publicity 2.0-Part 1” displays a video which reveals that about 2% of films being made are accepted into top film festivals, and even then not all of the movies viewed at the festivals are distributed to movie audiences (Hamburg, 2009). Instead, directors should consider self-distribution by communicating with their audiences directly. This can be done by promoting and showcasing movies on their own film-websites, on sites such as TriggerStreet.com, or even on social networking sites like Facebook or Youtube.

Even when it comes to delivering special features to the audience to enhance the marketability and successful distribution of their movies, directors may soon be able to avoid costs that come with distributing film on dvds altogether. In the article, “Social Media-Social TV and Building Audience Communities Online,” it is revealed that a new technology is in the works that will allow the TV audience to accesses special features of programs they have just viewed from the comfort of their own home. In other words, the features will be available on the same technology that they just used to watch the movies: their television screen (Papworth, 2008). In the past, people have relied professionals in the film industry to contribute to the success of their films both in cinemas and in terms of critical reception after distribution. However, it is now getting to the point where those professionals may not be needed at all.

Conclusion

Social networking has now become the equivalent of a movie’s pre-screening before it reaches the final draft, is edited, and is ready to ‘print’ for the big theaters. Today, there is more one-on-one interaction with the film audience in every single stage of creating a movie. It is very possible that soon, film festivals and movie-cinemas, like the print industry, may become endangere and that the entire film business may be conducted wholly online. According to “Filmmaker Magazine Summer 2008: When The Audience Takes Control,” many sites are already opening the path for this, such as: Tangler.com (forums), Tv.com, BlogTV.com, Ustream.com (for live streaming which allows filmmakers to communicate with their audiences), Ning (a free service that enables you to easily create your own social network for your film with the same features as site like Myspace and Facebook), and more (Weiler, 2010).

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