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How To Market Your Short Film Online: The Missing Scarf

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This month the animation community was abuzz with the online premiere of 2014’s big film festival success The Missing Scarf. The film received a huge reaction on social media during the week of the release, but was this a purely organic response from the film and animation community, or something more coordinated? Wanting to unpick the details of this online campaign, Skwigly asked director Eoin Duffy to reveal his marketing secrets. Asking the questions is fellow director Robert Grieves, whose film Sausage has shared many a festival screen with The Missing Scarf, and who is currently planning its online release.

Firstly, that must have been a thrilling first week of The Missing Scarf online. Now that the dust has settled, are you satisfied with how it all went?

Yeah, it was a crazy couple of weeks and I’m delighted with the results. I guess I didn’t know what to expect but with 1/4 million views in the first two weeks I’m pretty happy.

For me, part of researching the release of my film is watching how others are presenting theirs. Clearly The Missing Scarf has been one of my case studies (sorry for the stalking!). In preparation for your film’s release, where did you go for information and inspiration?

This article – “How We Launched Our Film Online: The Thomas Beale Cipher” – and a PDF book called “You’ve Got It Made – Short Film Distribution Guide” by Nigel R Smith. Two good reads.

I’ve heard of the importance of gathering the best marketing team possible for the days around your films release, pulling in crew, family and friends. What support did you have over that crucial period, and what time did you personally invest in this release?

I didn’t enlist a team but on launch day a lot of family and friends naturally chimed in with tweets and posts. I did hover collect the contact details of blogs that showcased my work in the past, people I’ve worked with, festivals I screened at, news sources that mentioned me before, and any other connection I could think of. On the day of release I let them all know.

Can you explain the involvement of the influential website Short of the Week?

They featured my work before so they were happy to take on TMS. It was also a more credible source to reference than “keep an eye on Vimeo next week”.

The brilliant vocal performance of George Takei forms a huge part of the films impact, but it also played a major role in the marketing. What were the benefits in having an American icon attached to your film?

The majority of interest has been from the animation/design community. So no major or noticeable impact from George’s following. But certainly having his name attached to the project raised the profile of the film in ways we can’t measure.

One of the other huge guns in your marketing arsenal was being shortlisted for the Oscar. How has that impacted on the film’s profile and aided the online release?

The news generated the foundation of a fan-base which steadily grew until the film’s online release. Also, a few news sites that covered the shortlisting went on to feature the film’s online release.

On the day of the premiere, the online influencers tweeted and posted exactly as you must have hoped. Was this good preparation on your part, or did you also have to coordinate the social media response on the day?

I shared the release with all my contacts the night before and then crossed my fingers on the day of release. So I had little impact on the final Social Media response but I was delighted to see it naturally spread.

You conducted a very effective premiere count-down with regular ‘coming soon’ posts and a special ‘coming soon’ animation. Were you able to monitor the effectiveness of this in the build up?

Like everything else its hard to monitor these things. With only a few hundred views I guess each “countdown” post didn’t receive that much attention but I’m sure it helped in some way.

The film received the all important ‘Vimeo Staff Pick’. Was this a surprise or were you able to get their attention before Monday’s release?

I was in the lucky position that Vimeo had been following the project for months and were eager to see it online. Its always a surprise to get a Vimeo staff pick, and equally humbling to be under their radar the past few months.

The Missing Scarf screened at around 100 film festivals, many of which tweeted to watch it online. It’s an interesting paradox as festivals are focused on enticing viewers to real world screenings, not to Vimeo. How did you find the willingness of festivals to get in involved?

Film festivals regularly tweet/post about past film’s online release so it made sense to reach out to them. The majority didn’t respond but I was grateful for the few that did.

You’ve found great success across English speaking territories, but countries like Brazil and South Korea also have a huge interest in online animation… Do you plan to market to other regions and if so, how do you plan to tackle any language barriers?

Simply put – no. Logically I should look into further publicity in other regions but I’m very eager to leave the project where it landed and move onto the next thing.

The obvious question, but what have you learned from the process of releasing the film online, and what would you do differently?

With the release of ‘The Missing Scarf’ I feel there was a lot more I could have done to push it to the masses. But I also feel it got the audience it deserved – not crazy huge, not tiny. So with no desire to be a marketer, this works for me. I’ll continue to make projects that I’m personally happy with. I’ll release it to my contacts, and if it spreads beyond them, excellent!

I’m guessing the motivation for promoting your film is to raise your profile, thus getting a flood of exciting offers. So tell us Eoin, any such offers as yet?

I’m happy to say that a number of industry heads came my way. I’m still deciding what direction I want to take but I hope to announce it soon. I’ll be sure to let Twitter know 🙂

Thank you Eoin. As expected, an invaluable array of tips for any filmmaker sending their film into the abyss of online animation.

What strikes me is that although we animators get a hard time for our ‘lack of social skills’, we’ve actually become very sophisticated PR people. Eoin’s performed an inspiring feat of not only creating a stunning film, but then single handedly building a huge online following. I’m not sure he sees it that way, but for a man with “no desire to be a marketer”, his marketing skills are pretty damn sharp. And as he’s already proven and will go on proving, from each project you build both notoriety and, essentially, contacts.

No film maker should feel they have to become a marketing or PR guru, and many animators would prefer to drive a blunt pencil into their eye ball. But for many of us who have laboured over our cherished projects, getting them seen by a wide audience means flirting like mad with the internet. So with that I’m preparing to treat Facebook to my best chat up lines, buy Twitter some drinks, and grind Vimeo into the dance floor.

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  • Jon

    Interesting interview with lots of insights into the process of marketing an animation. Glad I read it, and well done to both interviewer and interviewee, both films are excellent!

  • JK

    Great interview – always interesting (and helpful) to hear what really goes into making a successful impact on the web.

  • Pat Wintersgill

    Interesting, I didn’t know film festivals supported the films they screen in that way outside the festival itself. I love the philosophical squirrel, I would like him to mentor me through life please (at least until the extinction of the planet).

  • Aaron Wood

    Really interesting read and some great tips and thoughts to take to our soon-to-be-released short 🙂 Cheers Robert!

    • All the time spent making the short, never the time spent promoting it. Here’s to changing bad habits! Best of luck with your Film Aaron…

  • Stanley Schmitt

    Good point about the English countries, in fact website like short of the week have a awesome list of English film but quite limited with production from other part of the world, for that purpose, I would suggest http://www.shortfilmconnection.com.

  • Pingback: Animation Studies: Promo Kit : The doings. | Animating Life()

  • Pingback: Podcast: Eoin Duffy (“I Am Here”) - Skwigly Animation MagazineSkwigly Animation Magazine()

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