A Case Study in Gaining Exposure for your Film

This article was first published by Short of the Week creators Andrew Allen and Jason Sondhi. We're sharing their experience here because they learned a lot from it, and we feel it's especially relevant to the Vimeo Community. (Daniel Hayek, Video School Headmaster)

Last year, Jason and I released our festival-winning short film, The Thomas Beale Cipher, out into the great wild web. Like many filmmakers, I wrestled with the decisions of when and how to put the film online. After 8 months on the festival circuit, I decided it was time. What happened? What did we learn? Quite a bit it turns out.

First, Background

The Thomas Beale Cipher isn’t my first film, but at 11 minutes, it is by far my most ambitious. The production on the animated action-adventure film ran 18 months, with a crew and cast of about 20. Last Spring, the film premiered in front of a large 300+ hometown crowd at the Seattle International Film Festival. Over the following 8 months, the film continued to screen at a variety of festivals (large and small) picking up a handful of awards along the way.

All the while I felt a twinge of guilt. I praised the courage of online films on Short of the Week, yet I was reluctant to post my own film online. Honestly, I didn’t know the best way to do it, and I was afraid that a misstep would spell disaster for a project that I, and others, gave so much to. I knew we couldn’t just toss it up on YouTube and hope for the best. We needed a plan. And so, we knuckled down and put one together.

The Launch Plan

Simple. Get as many people to see the film as quickly as possible to build up momentum. This meant doing a few things:

1. Go Vimeo. It has a stronger filmmaking community than YouTube which may hit more viewers, but Vimeo will attract the right viewers—those more likely to pass it on to others.

2. Post early. Upload the film early Monday morning (12AM EST) to give the film a full 24 hours to rack up views and stay relevant all week.

3. Use Short of the Week as a springboard. Feature the film on our site and use our social media outlets to get the word out.

4. Harness the crew. Make sure everyone associated with the film knows the plan, and shares it with their social networks. With even 8-10 people sharing on Twitter and Facebook (even if no one individually is Mr. Popular) it's not hard to get over 1000 impressions which can be enough to reach a critical mass.

5. Target key influencers. Email a few major blogs and news sites that share an interest in the film’s topic or technique. A key consideration is crafting a good email. As curators of a site with a submit button, we know what it takes to catch a curator's attention. Have a well-designed email with a tight description, a clear statement about why the film is worth watching, a blurb about the filmmaker, and a high quality image. Make it easy for media to turn around and publish without any further follow-up with you.

6. Keep at it. All day, all week if needed—continue reaching out to new people.

The Release

We launched the film on Monday morning and continued to promote it all week. We started with what we felt was the film’s strongest asset—the visual aesthetic—and began by targeting the people we knew—Motionographer, Vimeo Staff Picks, and a few dozen others. Beaming from that initial success, we continued to ask ourselves, “What's interesting about the film and to whom might we target it to?” We approached different technology blogs and earned mentions on Gizmodo, BoingBoing, and others. As more took notice, I began to take interviews with larger publishers like Fast Company and Wired. Here’s the rundown of who took notice when and how it affected the numbers:

Monday 24th, 12AM: Posted the film on Vimeo
Monday 24th, 12noon: Motionographer, Vimeo Staff Picks
Wednesday 26th: BoingBoing, Gizmodo, MetaFilter
Thursday 27th: The Daily What
Friday 28th: Fast Co. Interview, Fubiz
Next Monday 31st: Wired

Traffic over the first 2 weeks (yellow = Loads, green = Plays)

The Results

We've been following the world of online films for the last 5 years. And we know that great films don’t always get great numbers, but the results of our first 2 weeks blew past our most optimistic expectations.

170,000 views
1300+ blog reviews/mentions
5000+ shares on Facebook
2000 Tweets

So, How Does That Compare to Our Festival Run?


What we learned

What did we learn? What we would do differently next time? Read the full article and check out Short of the Week for more insightful articles and fascinating short films.

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61 Comments

Short of the Week

Short of the Week PRO

Thanks to Dan for his interest in sharing the article! Hope it proves useful to Vimeans everywhere.

Rafael A.P. Maduro

Rafael A.P. Maduro

It certainly does interest me, as im in the planning of my first short im trying to get as many insights and all the help i need in order to polish and craft a great film (well as great as a first time short can be from an enthusiast). Nice article it really help alot and the animation is just outstanding on its own congrats and thanks to vimeo for being such an awesome platform for us

Perry Johnson

Perry Johnson

Very illuminating! A lot of useful info - thanks for this Dan!

AJ Kievenaar

AJ Kievenaar Plus

Great info, thanks for sharing. I finished a film a while back and want to get more attention for it, I think this will help tremendously.

Weldon Byrn

Weldon Byrn Plus

You should rename this piece “How I used my position with Vimeo and got crazy, mad numbers of views for my film. You should work here too...” and use it as a recruitment tool.

Daniel Hayek

Daniel Hayek Staff

Their video was released long before Jason became a member of our team.

Jason Sondhi

Jason Sondhi Staff

'tis true, being congratulated by Sam after being Staff Picked was the first time I had ever even talked to a Vimeo Staff member!

Weldon Byrn

Weldon Byrn Plus

My apologies then...

When you have a story like this that suggests getting ones film on Staff Picks and then a website he runs is something everyone should do, raises some concerns when it’s owner works at Vimeo.

Weldon Byrn

Weldon Byrn Plus

Here's an idea...how about a piece on what you look for in work that will be on Staff Picks. Overwhelmingly the stuff I see there deserves to be on Staff Picks however, I see just as many that are as good or better than never see that type of exposure. Ideas on promoting INSIDE of Vimeo would be as valuable as this piece...

Again, my apologies for calling out Jason.

Jason Sondhi

Jason Sondhi Staff

Two really good points Weldon, we should have thought to clarify my relationship to all of this better than we have.

I will say that while the post is about our personal experience, it has broad applicability and getting on SotW or Staff Picks isn't the be all end all. It is about maximizing your chance that "someone" with an audience will discover your work. A lot (well maybe only a few) of Vimeo's most recognized videos were never Staff Picks.

Jason Sondhi

Jason Sondhi Staff

As to your suggestion, I or Sam would love to write a piece like that for VVS too! Hopefully we will, but a lot of the advice remains the same. What we watch is based off the recommendation of others: outside sites we respect, or the channels and likes of creators within Vimeo. Or the Discover tag, which is sort of community speaking about what is hot at the moment. Following the advice of this article makes it almost assured that your film will pass through a Staff Picks curator.

NotWorkingFilms

NotWorkingFilms Plus

Great article.. and yes, Jason is right: sometimes happens that a "no-Staff Picks" video get a huge diffusion! It's the case of my "Pacman Highway", hit more than 200k views in a year (45k in 1 day) and it was never Staff Picks. Vimeo is the starting point, not the end of your promotion campaign.
Remember the days when you were forced to send your work to overbearing companies to be distributed, and it was really the ONLY way to reach people? God bless these days, now you can reach the whole world even if you live in Antarctica.

Caleb Yule

Caleb Yule Plus

Followed a pretty similar path in January. I didn't mean for things to go as well as they did but this method certainly is a winner

Mo Twine

Mo Twine Plus

Thanks for the article. About a week too late for me and my short Bummer, unfortunately.

Vertical Online

Vertical Online PRO

This is a great case study. Thanks for sharing - and congrats on the film.

kakounet

kakounet

Great ! Can be very useful, thanks for that informations.

The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass Plus

Great film, great info!!! I wonder if the same goes for webisodes or mini-docs?
Love the music in the opening sequence!

Kris Peck

Kris Peck Plus

thanks for the article. I used to concentrate my efforts on getting into film festivals around the USA, but have narrowed it down to just a couple local festivals and then go directly to VIMEO.

BRYAN ANTHONY RAMIREZ

BRYAN ANTHONY RAMIREZ

I did a new study by adding a counter on my website to see how many views I get just by having two films at AFM this year, as well as playing in the festival market. Started today 17 views in a couple hours. With no online direct presence.
irezproductions.com

Mauricio Thomsen

Mauricio Thomsen

Great article, thanks for the tips!
Check out my channel for DIY music videos with only one 60D :)

alec birkbeck

alec birkbeck Plus

very useful, thanks.
Do you consider film festivals to be the same bucket as film competitions, or will film comps provide a different level of exposure?
for example, the Virgin shorts film comp (UK) is heavily sponsored and successful candidates can receive fantastic film related prizes such as exposure to well known directors and also film funding. In addition, they're shorts get shown at national cinemas before the mail films...

Short of the Week

Short of the Week PRO

Film competitions are great, but there are no others on the level of the Virgin comp, and most are just really lazy, without providing the filmmaker real opportunity. Even the Virgin one, because of the nature of the competition, does not really inspire great work.

Bokeh FX

Bokeh FX

Thank you for the thought provoking Launch Plan... great strategy! I'll review this and plan a similar strategy when posting my next film.

Michael Hudson

Michael Hudson

Great tips on viral marketing, will try this on my first short launch.

APEIRON FILMS

APEIRON FILMS

Very helpful.

How often can this method be used, before all those sites and blogs that generate traffic drown in an ocean of mediocrity?

Contrary to the guy who made this one short film, I would say that you just have to select the right festivals (namely the ones that don't have submission fees, like most European festivals). This way the costs stay low.

It also depends on whether or not you made a film to compete with many others and snatch away the attention from them. As a director, I enjoy my artistic freedom immensely. My large network of collaborators helps me grow and improve my works.

Online exposure can indeed be much bigger and faster than traditional festivals, but I like to entertain cinema audiences as well.

The over 150 festivals that screened some of my films and the awards I collected show me that a strategy of wide distribution serves me well.

Pablo Mcfee

Pablo Mcfee

Whoa...And the film is decent too! My pupils loved it!!! Cheers for the whole story guys..

Nic Wassell

Nic Wassell Plus

Really enjoyed the film! But may I use this case study on how to gain exposure for my film to gain exposure for my film? :)

vimeo.com/51376923

Great advice all through though!

HM studio

HM studio Plus

I haven't any words i would like to say "I very very love this video" graphics and design, story about this man

Joey Oliveras Jr.

Joey Oliveras Jr.

Great article. Thanks for sharing. I've been advertising my student film to other sites that shared a similar interest in what I filmed. It was hard to invite any filmmakers to view my video because my video is not related to any catagory that may interest them. It's a simple video I did of myself interacting with video game characters. It was pretty much fan based, yet I improvised an original story with it. This is the only video I was able to make when I was in college for a year. (Long Story)

Inviting filmmakers to view my film can be a little intimidating for me personally. The lack of comments can be even disheartening at times. But, I won't let my current statistic define my film. I'm confident in my accomplishment, and I know I still have much to learn. But at least, I know I have the potential to produce a film for people to enjoy. That passion will never die. My first student film only shows that I am capable of much more. If nothing else, at least I can. And I will.

Joey Oliveras Jr.

Joey Oliveras Jr.

Thanks for sharing this article. I feel encouraged. It will be a long while before I can afford any resources to do filming. But I'm confident that somehow, I'll find a way to do it. Makes for an interesting journey of itself. Part of the magic of filmmaking is living the adventure. Such experience provides a fresh perspective to visual story telling.

Carlos Meyer

Carlos Meyer

Thank you for this really helpful article!

raajendra a. vaidya.

raajendra a. vaidya.

Very insightful article. Thanks for the info, Dan! this really helpful article!

Richard Borge

Richard Borge Plus

Thanks for the article and film. Very insightful and inspiring to me as a relatively new film maker.

Alex Mallis

Alex Mallis PRO

awesome. I find the hardest part is not necessarily knowing the blogs you want to hit, but finding direct contacts at those blogs to send emails (i.e. boing boing, huff po, etc)

Any advice on that?

CSM Films

CSM Films Plus

Yeah I don't think they want to tell anyone. They had something technical which was cool but this also isn't a guaranteed way of getting exposure either.

Eric Kolelas

Eric Kolelas Plus

Thank you so much for this!
I had been pulling my hair out trying to work out how and when to release my film 'Fifty Pence' online. (trailer: vimeo.com/33811915)
You're plan seems like a good one to maximize relevant interest in a film!
Looking to release either on the 1st or 2nd monday of april (a bit worried of april fools backlashing on the film)

Do you think that uploading a few days early and making it public on the monday would affect which week the film stays relevant for?

Brittle

Brittle

Making a short on your own makes it hard to promote too...without a crew to post in social media!

Just posted my short film beast! Check out the trailer: vimeo.com/59348789
Thanks!

ShaunVain

ShaunVain

Wow. really great article for marketing videos on vimeo. I'm working on a new channel. vimeo.com/vanity any advice for generating forward momentum would be appreciated!

Life Cycle Films

Life Cycle Films PRO

You say this - "We launched the film on Monday morning ...... and began by targeting the people we knew—Motionographer, Vimeo Staff Picks, and a few dozen others. "
I was wondering why you think your Vimeo staff picks targeting was successful in comparison to the loads of other requests they (now you!) no doubt get? What was your tactic?

Anders

Anders

A digital frontier

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