The Audience Attention Deficit

Let me paint a picture. A potentially curmudgeonly picture, but I promise it has a point – bear with me. Each week I get bombarded by film folks who take to heart the part of the idea of transmedia that microfunding can help them reach their filmmaking dream, but who don’t take to heart the part of the advice we give that the engagement and strategy is just as important.

The most common amounts asked for: $1 and $5 (more commonly delivered as the guilt trip of “the price of a cappuccino”). I am one person. If I gave each time I was asked by everyone, I’d be out $7,553 in the last 10 days alone. Now figure in the fact that only ~16 people out of all those who’ve asked have ever interacted with me on any other level in social media beyond the ask. Those ~16 people are a combination of real life friends and folks whose work I’ve seen before.

Looking at the streams of the entire sample group, only 30 or so out of several hundred begging for money talk about any topics other than, well, begging for money. In other words, listening to these people who all share a dream doesn’t often add any value to the amount of attention I’m spending on listening. A select few share useful advice or engage and talk to people, etc, but mostly it’s just “gimme gimme gimme”.

Filmmakers should strive to remember that their audience’s time and attention is valuable. I realize that to you, the aspiring filmmaker, your dream is just as valuable, but how likely is the average person to fork over money to you if you treat your social stream like a target for an Amway pitch or a corner for panhandling? Some filmmakers say “But I’m trading ‘producer credits’ or swag or raffling a few signed copies or a non speaking part in the film for money”. I’ll give you that the perceived value of a give away coupled with an ask makes what you are doing seem less ‘Amway’ on the surface, but most of your listeners would rather trade you their attention, and eventually money, for real valuable engagement. For learning something about making a film. For trading techniques or ways to save money, for words of encouragement, and more. Give aways should never be your focus, any more than a steady stream of begging for money should be. It makes what you are asking and offering valueless to tie it in to pseudo producer credits and such.

You need a to see yourself as part of a larger picture, escaping the blinders of your goal for even a moment each time you sign in to your networks to see how you can be and do more than your ask. You are not interacting in a vacuum or a silo. You are one of many who need help financing a dream. Your ask contributes to a great, vast pool of asks made by many. What are you doing between asking for money that gives camaraderie, help, value or interest outside of the film or fundraising for it? How are you making your interactions worthy of the attention (and eventually money) you are asking people to give you?

Note: This post is written from the point of view of the non-film industry audience member. The folks who have no desire to be “in a movie” or to get their name in your credits – they just want to watch a good film and enjoy  themselves. These are the people you want to buy tickets, DVDs, digital copies of the film, rentals on VOD, etc. Not everyone wants to feel invested in your project – some people just want to enjoy the end product. You should be building relationships as much as or more than you fundraise to make that segment of your potential fan base happy. If you want the filmmaker point of view, this post by Ted Hope outlines it nicely.

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