INTERVIEW: Documentary filmmaker Andy Milkis – Part 2

On Monday, we introduced you to documentary filmmaker Andy Milkis.  Today, Andy shares some great tips on how to use a variety of social media platforms to market an independent film. His first film “5…6…7…8…” premiering on March 27, 2010 at 12:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Ocean Front Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom.  Tickets can be purchased here.

VOXPOPNJ: Did you use any social media platforms in the making of the film? For example, posting a request for equipment, staff, etc. on facebook.

ANDI MILKIS: 5…6…7…8 was my introduction to the world of social media.  I started filming in May of 2007.  Like any documentary project, it takes time for your subjects to become comfortable with cameras and microphones about.  For the first couple of months, I was very much on the outside.  I am sure that the age difference between myself and the kids contributed as well.

Later that summer, one of the Nova girls asked me, “Are you on Facebook?”  I had no idea what she was talking about.  She showed me Facebook on one of the studio computers, and guided me through the signup process. I was 33 then, and it was the first time I felt out of touch with what ‘the kids were doing.’ I looked at Facebook and thought, “what the hell would I ever use this for?”

Well, by the end of that day’s filming, I had 30 Facebook friends – all of them Nova members.  That’s when I had the eureka moment of what Facebook could mean to me as an indie filmmaker.  I only filmed the team on Saturdays, but they were together all week.  Through their wall postings, etc, I was able to stay informed as to what was going on.  I don’t recall reading anything shocking, but I was able to find out how the weekday rehearsals went, and how they felt about upcoming performances, etc.  This all helped me prepare for Saturday, giving me an insight as to who I should interview, and what questions I should ask.

Additionally, I created a “group” for the film (it wasn’t called 5…6…7…8 at the time) and used it to let the girls know when and where I would be filming, and to recruit their help.  As a part-time filmmaker, there were several events that I could not attend, so I would ask the girls if they would take a camera along (mine or theirs) to capture B-roll, etc.  It worked out extremely well.

VPNJ: Which social media platform do you find most useful and why?  You mention a good response from Facebook – how did you “grow” your fan page?

AM: The only social media platform I used was Facebook, with the exception of posting a trailer or two on YouTube.  I set up the fan page back in September of 2009, and got a couple hundred of my friends and their friends to sign up.  After a month of stagnant fan numbers, I decided to check out Facebook Ads.  I found the price very reasonable, and the keyword/demographic targeting to be superb.

I set up a very modest budget, about $10 per day, based on clicks.  I entered in keywords that made sense – Dance, Dance School, Documentary, Film, etc., and set the age range as 12-50 throughout the US.  It worked, and I would get an additional few fans a day.  I kept an eye on the statistics that Facebook Ads provided, and adjusted the keywords to match what the parents and kids @ the Pulse seemed to be in to.  When Dancing with the Stars was on TV, I added that to the keyword list.  Same with Glee.  That seemed to help quite a bit.  Once I got into the Garden State and Bufflalo-Niagara Film Festivals, I limited the location range to New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  By narrowing the location range, it seemed like I was getting more impressions aimed at my exact audience, which resulted in a noticable increase in the number of daily fans added.

VPNJ: Please expand upon your use of Google Maps – it’s an approach that doesn’t immediately come to mind in terms of marketing.  How long did this take you to complete?  What type of email did you send and what type of response did you get from the dance schools?

AM: 5…6…7…8 is my first film, and this is my first experience with film festivals.  I spent some time talking to other filmmakers, doing some research online, and checking out a great film called “Official Rejection.”  I came away from this with the understanding that the key to being successful at a film festival is to pack your screening with a huge audience.

I don’t have any friends or family near Asbury Park (the Garden State Film Festival), and definitely no one up near Buffalo.  The festivals offer outlets for promotion, but the two most likely options were advertisements in the festival program, or local newspapers.  The program ads are expensive, and I’m one of 50-100 filmmakers now inundating the local press with releases about my film.

I was in the shower one morning when it hit me.  The prime audience for my film are people who can relate to the subject matter – Dance school owners, staff, students and their parents.  If I could get the message out to them, directly, then that would be the best hope for filling the theater.  I went to Google maps and typed Asbury Park, NJ.  I then clicked ‘search nearby’ and entered dance school.  I was shocked to see that within 20 miles of Asbury Park, there were 61 dance schools!

My math went like this – If each school has 100 students, and only 2 kids from each school come, plus one parent, then there’s 180 seats filled!  And it wouldn’t cost me a cent!  Most of the schools had links to web sites, so I set about emailing as many of them as I could about the screening, complete with a JPEG of the poster.  Over the next couple of days, I received several positive responses.  One even suggested taking an entire class to the screening as a field trip!  I picked a few of the ones closest to Asbury Park and drove to the schools to drop off posters and flyers.  I’m hopeful that this effort will pay off and have started the same strategy for Buffalo.

Please support independent filmmakers by attending events like the Garden State Film Festival.  VoxpopNJ is proud to support a number of film initiatives in Asbury Park including the Shore Screenwriting Seminar this summer at The Showroom and “The Asbury Park in 3” film challenge this September.

One response to “INTERVIEW: Documentary filmmaker Andy Milkis – Part 2

  1. Mrs Mary Miller

    I fond this a very interesting interview, very informative and will be taking my granddaughters who are involved in dance to this show. It sounds incredible

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