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How To Boost Your Online Presence #5: Film Festival Expert, Christopher Holland


This week on Skwigly, we’ve been enjoying an epic relay race of wisdom, all on the topic of building an online profile. So for Fridays last leg of advice, let’s pass over to mentor and advisor from the world of Film Festivals, Chris Holland…

Chris is the author of Film Festival Secrets, an essential guide to the circuit, and runs the accompanying site which holds tonnes of info including podcastsblog and the first two chapters of his book. Fittingly, he is also Operations and Marketing Director of Atlanta Film Festival, one of the most innovative and inclusive events on the circuit. With these roles as a base, Chris works tirelessly to make the world of festivals accessible and relevant, always reaching out to newcomers with help and guidance.

Film Festival Secrets Christopher Holland (5)

As other contributors this week have highlighted, and Chris will explain in greater detail, building an online profile is about including everyone. It’s about using the wonderfully democratic benefits of the internet to connect with people, who will hopefully then connect with you, and then your work.

An example of going that extra distance online can be found in how I first met Chris. I made a short film, and like many directors new to the festival scene, I felt lost and quite alone. After the initial festival rejections, which can be devastating, I reached out to anyone who could get me on the right track. Of all the emails I sent out, the one who responded with the reassurance I needed was Chris. He watched and assessed my film, and offered praise combined with constructive suggestions on how to proceed. He wasn’t looking to be paid for this advice and, heck, I’d already bought his book, he just saw someone who needed the answers that he could give. His generosity with time and clarity of advice meant I immediately signed up for every list and feed on his site, and so he gained a genuinely loyal follower.

I know having followers is the language of cults, but as a creative online, that’s what you want. People who are engaged in what you do, and who are waiting for the next installment. You want to build an audience who feel connected and will share what you do, much as I’m doing here with Chris. Online, nearly everyone is projecting a persona. Chris is, I am, everyone on this site is. It’s not wrong or ingenuous, and it’s mostly done in the best of spirits. As you’ve read this article, what you need is take note of what you see online, different peoples approaches, and find what works best for you…

Chris’s thoughts on promoting yourself online…

My thoughts on finding and building an audience have been much the same for the last two decades of working in the film and technology industries, but the specifics seem to change monthly if not weekly! After years of plugging away at my blog and inconsistently tweeting into the ether, I have come to recognize my two stodgiest assets — my book and my email list — as two of the most effective and reliable marketing tools I possess.

In no particular order, here are some thoughts/tips that I hope will be useful:

  • If you’re not trying to grow your personal email list of fans/friends/followers, you’re doing it wrong. Social media followers are fine but there will always be the possibility that the social media site itself will decide what those followers should and shouldn’t see. Email is as “close to the metal” as your message can get, so don’t let anyone else come between you and the people who are interested in your work. (Just don’t engage in spammy behavior.)
  • Adopt the “drug dealer” mentality  – to excess. If you’re a content creator, you have to give content away over and over and over until you build a fan following rabid enough to pay for content just because they want to support you. You can also offer something that realistically can’t be offered for free (like a printed book or a gold-plated statue of your main character), but first people have to want to buy them. That only comes from giving away enough content that your fans fall in love with you and that thing you do.
  • Be consistent about where and when you release new content. (This is one I really struggle with. I’ve had a podcast for 5+ years and I’ve only released 20 episodes.) People really respond to the idea that they’ll find something from you every week in their inbox — if you publish at random times in a number of different media, it’s harder for your would-be-fans to add you into their habitual behaviors. Automate where you can, and bank content (or republish old content) for those slow weeks.
  • Set aside time to just be helpful. I regularly go onto Twitter and answer filmmaker questions about festivals, or to offer words of encouragement to people who are submitting their work for the first time. I don’t try to drive traffic back to my site or ask them to follow me, though some of them do anyway. Sometimes I even answer emails from filmmakers… at length.


You can view the other “How To Boost Your Online Presence” articles here:

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