It's not what you know, but who you know ...
Fiona Milburn of Transmedia NZ looks at how Make My Movie used audience engagement and social media networks as a strategy for success.
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Audience Engagement is a key concept in transmedia storytelling. As Anna Jackson points out in What the # is transmedia?, transmedia offers “media creators an approach to making content that allows us to connect with audiences in meaningful ways across different platforms, to provide richer media experiences that fit with the way that we, as audiences, engage with media in our daily lives.”
But, audience engagement is also playing a significant part in the funding of creative works. It is now quite common for practitioners, of all kinds, to run a crowdfunding campaign as part of their overall media financing strategy. As Helen Baxter (MsBehaviour) says in Million Dollar Ideas “describing a crowdfunding campaign as an ‘event’ is apt as it gives people an experience, souvenirs, memories, and something to talk about.”
Another, less common, but often highly visible “player on the financing block” is funding by way of organized competitions. Here’s three different examples of competitions in the creative space:
- Your Film Festival is an initiative backed by Ridley Scott, YouTube and Emirates Airline. The Prize: “Ten finalists will be selected by the YouTube community to fly to the Venice Film Festival, with Emirates Airline. In Venice they will compete for a $500,000 film grant to create a new work with Ridley Scott, Michael Fassbender, and a world class team.”
- theaudience is a partnership between Amplifier and NZ On Air. Described as a socially interactive and engaging music website that specifically focuses on unreleased songs and supporting up-and-coming artists, fans can vote for songs to earn places on a chart. Then, up to 10 times a year, the #1 track will be “fast tracked for consideration” for a $10,000 NZ On Air Making Tracks grant.
- Make My Movie (MMM) is “an innovative multi-platform project that utilizes graphic design, social networking, a webseries and the public to decide which idea should receive $100,000 to be used to create a low budget feature film.” It is a collaboration between nzherald.co.nz, NZ On Air, the New Zealand Film Commission and V48HOURS organiser Ant Timpson
Let’s take a closer look at the way MMM engaged with its audience …
MMM: "the end game must always be an audience to view the work".
‘That’s when we thought...... Wait just a cotton-picking minute! Why don’t we make the potential "audience" a significant partner in the process. So that the audience actually have a direct connection to the film from its inception, right through to its release.’
- September 2011: filmmakers had one month to upload a synopsis and poster to the MMM website, and “drum up” support for their idea. The poster needed to “sell” the movie idea to the general public and judges.
- November 2011: the judges, all film industry experts, created a shortlist of 12 films from the 757 entries received. How much did public support play in this narrowing down of the entries? According to MMM, it played a part but was only an indicator at this stage. They didn’t want to let great talent and projects slip through the gaps simply because they were yet to open a facebook account.
- Shortlisted teams had one week to submit video pitches. These needed to both showcase the idea and demonstrate the team’s ability to turn that idea into a movie with a $100,000 budget. This time, a panel of five experts, with the public representing one expert (or 20% of the vote) assessed the applications and decided on the four final teams.
- December 2011: the finalists had almost two months to finish a feature film script with the winning team announced in January 2012.
- The winning filmmakers have three months to produce their film, How To Meet Girls From A Distance, which then premiered in Wellington & Auckland, to sold-out audiences at the 2012 New Zealand International Film Festival.
Building social media networks as a strategy for success …
The MMM initiative successfully utilised traditional and online media to engage and develop an audience for both its competition and the winning film. This can be broken down into several stages:
Using their existing networks, the NZ Herald, V48HOURS, MMM Sponsors and individual MMM Organisers promoted the competition to potential entrants. Competition entrants were the project’s first audience wave.
As filmmakers entered the competition, they started promoting their film proposals amongst their own social networks in order to gain personal support. Many of those who discovered the MMM project in this way stayed to follow the competition directly. This was the second audience wave.
Additional audience waves came as existing supporters continued to promote competition milestones to ever expanding social networks. MMM also made it easy for supporters to remain engaged with the project by staggering the competition “deliverables” and by posting regular webisode updates.
Once supporters discovered MMM and became engaged with the competition, many started a deeper exploration of the individual projects. At this point, filmmakers had the opportunity to start their own audience engagement cycle. Note, the audience engagement cycle is a two way cycle which can be joined at any stage. Start by building personal networks which can then be leverage into project networks.
And finally, I saw How To Meet Girls From A Distance at its Auckland debut. It’s a great film and deserves you support. Go see it as soon as you get the chance!