What Your Business Can Learn From An Indie Sundance Film

What Your Business Can Learn From An Indie Sundance Film

Above all else, we know that Utah is famous for being the home to Boostability headquarters. We are, however, also willing to accept that Utah can be famous for other great things, like the Sundance Film Festival.

A Little Sundance History

Robert Redford started the festival in 1984, naming it after his character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Over the last 31 years, the Sundance Film Festival has grown into a prestigious festival where many films have grown from little baby indie films to great big blockbusters nearly overnight.  You may know some of these films as Boyhood, Napoleon Dynamite, Little Miss Sunshine, The Blair Witch Project, and even the first film of the Saw series.  Breakthrough directors, like How I Met Your Mother‘s Josh Radnor, have made their debut at Sundance, and many of the great actors and actresses we know today found their way onto the screen via challenging and beloved films like Precious or Juno.

But not every film enjoys raging success. So how does one “break through,” exactly?

The Award For Best Supporting Website Goes To…

Finding funding for your film is much like going to bat with personal investors or venture capitalists to secure investments for your small business.  Tweet This I have helped both films and small businesses pitch their ideas, and I’ve been there when they received feedback from their potential investors.

Two recurring pieces of advice the investors give – regardless of the industry – are to “create a user-driven website” and to “grow your social media presence.”

For the young and determined filmmaker types, this advice comes as no surprise. Presenting a new project as a web-teaser long before the film ever reaches its first audience has become the new norm.  Tweet This However, in my experience, a lot of small business owners are reluctant to revisit their web design, and many feel like social media is an unnecessary evil that ultimately takes away from their business.

This is the part where I go, “Well, how do people know about you right now?” The most prepared business person will quickly reply with a report of numbers.  But numbers aside, let’s look at the general “how” of it all: people work for you, know about you, invest in you, and otherwise trust you because of either a) your presentation or b) word of mouth.

Well, guess what?  In this digital age, your website is your presentation, and your social media is your word of mouth. While face-to-face referrals still work wonders for business, an online presence is an undeniable force that small businesses can no longer do without.

Let’s use one of my favorite Sundance films as an example of what a powerful online presence can do.

From Film To Fame

What We Do In The Shadows is a mockumentary film about vampires living in New Zealand.  While the film features many great artists and actors, the most recognizable is Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame.  Knowing this, the film rolls (or should I say, “roles” – pun intended) with his reputation and makes sure that Jemaine is at the forefront of the website, social media, and all other marketing materials for the film.  Keying into the fact that his wit and sarcasm is part of what made Jemaine so famous, the film’s social media presence adopts his general persona, which has helped the film gain noticeable traction.

But Clement’s charm wasn’t the only thing this movie had going for it; the film also had great online outreach.

Here are a just few key elements of the movie’s website:

  • A responsive interface that allows both desktop and mobile users to have a pleasant scrolling experience
  • Immediately visible availability – with a call to action that is natural and encouraging rather than over-presumptuous
  • Links to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, in order to keep fans a part of the conversation
  • A unique hashtag for the movie, which allows new fans to share in the commentary
  • Readily available key information, including background on the actors, a long list of awards and press, project history, and a program of where the film is currently showing
  • A “Family Album” that contains on- and off-screen photos from the film project – just for fun
  • A mailing list sign-up option, so visitors can subscribe to more information about the film and other films made by these nearly-famous New Zealanders

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And it doesn’t stop there. Here are a few essential components of the movie’s social media presence:

  • Daily posts to Facebook and Twitter, and weekly posts to Instagram
  • Links to social media profiles in the header of the website and in email campaigns
  • Other engaging posts that do not concern the film or include an encouragement to buy the film
  • Sharing other relevant posts to keep fans engaged and capture immediate interest from browsers
  • Visual links, photos, or videos in all posts
  • Focus on the most well-known star, without making it all about him
  • Sharing relevant posts from the film’s other social media profiles – encouraging users to follow their production company as well, for example
  • Engagement with followers (retweets, etc.)
  • Light and funny posts, even while encouraging a purchase

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Careful and consistent attention to web presence and social media did what street marketing, email campaigns, or public relations efforts might not have been able to accomplish alone: it brought worldwide success to this strange and quirky independent film.

What do you think your business can learn from the independent film industry?  Let us know in the comments below!

The Sundance Film Festival runs from January 22 to February 1, 2015.  To learn more about the festival, visit www.Sundance.org/festivals/sundance-film-festival.

Caz Bevan
[email protected]

Caz is the Founder of Be Impossible marketing agency and Co-Founder of Anhelaré startup advisory. Caz has extensive experience blending business goals and marketing tactics into comprehensive company strategies. Her creative innovation and expertise has helped shape customer experiences and drive continual engagement for a variety of companies and products including Sony Music Entertainment and SpeedTV. Connect with Caz: Linkedin