Hey folks. I have taken a little bit of a hiatus but I’m back baby. And today, I am super excited about this new column that I am introducing to you on this site. It’s kind of the reason why I started doing this blog in the first place: to showcase fresh voices while pulling down the veil over how to market your film online. And there is a ton of value we can learn from real-world case studies.
In today’s inaugural edition, I am excited to be interviewing Nina Gielen of Filmshop, whose film has attracted a growing interest in the online horror community and has done some damage on Seed&Spark.
So without wasting any more time, let’s jump in!
What is the name of your film and what is it about?
Our project is an anthology horror film called The BLDG: Five Stories of Horror—five chilling tales set in the same creepy building, where dark forces seemingly conspire to manifest its residents’ worst fears.
The project originated with members of the Filmshop collective, united by their love of the horror genre and coming together with the goal of creating a fun and unconventional omnibus film that would transcend some of the tropes we were tired of seeing in existing horror films.
The five segments range in tone from the hallucinatory and carnivalesque to social realism and cover themes such as guilt and punishment, madness, and misfortune befalling those who exist at the neglected margins of society.
Rather than attempting to go into production on all five segments at once, we decided to crowdfund to complete the first of five shorts that make up our anthology…and use this as a stepping stone and proof of concept for additional fundraising and for going out to production companies and other prospective collaborators.
How did you try to reach out to the online horror community?
Several of us were already followers of a number of online horror outlets. We basically just compiled a list of blogs and websites that we either knew of directly or that others in our network had recommended.
We had written a press release about the project and our crowdfunding campaign (focusing on an incentive we were especially proud of, which entailed us literally selling our souls as a crowdfunding perk) proved to be really useful to provide as a template.
So I would definitely recommend having a pre-written press release on hand, and maybe an image or two-ideally a mockup of a poster. And we just went ahead and reached out to any outlets we thought might be interested, usually writing cold emails.
I also sent the press release to a few filmmaking groups I was a member of (not exclusively horror-oriented) and it got shared several times via those routes as well.
Which blogs did you get it featured on?
We were featured on three blogs during our crowdfunding campaign:
Modern Horrors: ‘The BLDG: Five Stories of Horror’ Is a New Anthology Seeking Funding
“To entice potential contributors, the team behind THE BLDG: FIVE STORIES OF HORROR produced a short teaser for the first of their five segments. It’s called In The Bowels of the Building. It’s about an aged janitor who must fight off an infections goo. The teaser is short but very well done”
Horror Buzz: THE BLDG: FIVE STORIES OF HORROR Indie Anthology Needs Your Help to Get them into Production Mode!
“The BLDG: Five Stories of Horror, filmmakers Nikolai Basarich, Dane Benko, Nina Gielen, Zach Griffin, Nicholas Heet, Danny Kim, Heather Taylor, and David Wittlin are offering a special incentive to their campaign contributors: Their souls. They are giving their souls up in an effort to crowdfund for this exciting new anthology.”
Gorezone.net: “THE BLDG FIVE STORIES OF HORROR: The first teaser of this upcoming horror anthology is now here, check it out!”
What was the Seed&Spark process like? Was it easy to get your content onto the website?
Seed&Spark is very filmmaker-oriented, so they coached us a lot before we even launched in terms of how to break down our “ask” into different components to show how the money we raised would be used, and also on what types of incentives to offer.
They also provided feedback on our campaign video, which we subsequently ended up revising and trimming a couple of times. So that was helpful.
We pretty much decided to pull the trigger on our crowdfunding campaign in order to be able to participate in Seed&Spark’s “Communal Nightmares” rally, during which about 30 filmmaking teams competed for a chance at being awarded an additional $25,000 in production funds and a first-look distribution deal with 3311 Productions and The Orchard.
The idea was if a team succeeded in raising a minimum of $7,500 in contributions and 1,000 campaign followers, they would get to present their film to a jury including the producers of acclaimed indie horror films It Follows and Creep.
We raised the required minimum in cash but didn’t end up with enough followers to be able to pitch our project. But we did get green-lit, so we got to actually collect the funds we raised, and participating in the rally provided a much-needed kick in the butt to finally launch our first short into pre-pro[duction]!
Were there any mistakes you made in the process of crowdfunding or attracting viewers or anything online?
I would probably say we could have been even better organized and more prepared in advance with our messaging.
We were a large team of eight, and while having more people on board can maybe definitely helpful in terms of divvying up the workload…it can also make organization that much more difficult. My takeaway is that [the] ideal might be to have a campaign run by 2-3 very dedicated people who are able to put in a couple of hours every day.
I think drafting crowdfunding outreach emails in advance would have helped a lot too, so you don’t end up in panic mode if there’s a lot to do during the campaign.
Coming up with a list of people to write to, what you want to convey to them, being as sincere and forthright as possible, and then drafting the actual letter in advance. It should be specific to that person or group of people, so you’re probably writing dozens of these.
We did make a schedule for campaign updates but probably should have had a precise schedule in place for posting to social media as well…ideally you’re still posting content that’s interesting and actually relevant to your project.
Your main goal includes audience building-what is the next step in doing that?
Seed&Spark really emphasizes audience-building as part of their process, which is why you can collect “followers” who don’t pledge anything in addition to actual contributors (all contributors automatically become followers). The idea is, if you run an additional crowdfunding campaign later on, you already have a certain number of followers who will likely be interested in your next project.
During our crowdfunding campaign, we encouraged our Seed&Spark followers to follow us on our various social media channels as well. We started out with a Facebook page and then added Twitter and Instagram.
Each of these platforms attracts slightly different types of users, so we tried to cater to them as best we could.
We’ve been posting about our own progress as well as indie horror news items and showcasing some “real-life” haunted locations around NYC (in conjunction with an incentive we offered: having your portrait taken in front of the haunted location of your choice).
This is going to continue to be a focal point for us in the near term, connecting with as many people in the online horror community as we can via social media.
We also have a website we’re looking to launch soon. And down the line, we may offer a newsletter as an alternative way of keeping people informed about our process in addition to the Seed&Spark communication.
Visitors to the website will be able to sign up for future mailings, and everyone who’s already a follower through S[eed]&S[park] will be asked if they’d like to opt-in and subscribe.
What has been the most creatively fulfilling part of the project?
I think setting up our campaign really served to propel us into pre-pro[duction] in a way and prompted us to create various “assets” needed for fundraising—including a rudimentary poster, a teaser trailer for In the Bowels of the Building , a video introducing each of our five segments, and a lookbook—which in turn helped shape our creative vision of the actual project. So that’s been pretty exciting.
How do you think you can bring that creativity out to the marketing phase? Digital or in real life?
We want to continue to offer some of the same elements that we hope served to engage prospective audience members during the crowdfunding phase—for example, continuing to post about haunted locations around NYC as we location scout and posting some pictures of our findings.
And also, with our social media/marketing content, try to tonally match what we hope the final anthology film will be like… posting content of genuine interest to our prospective audience that includes elements of suspense, humor, the supernatural and the occult.
Well, there you have it. A few minor bumps in the road but they got their film greenlit! Special thanks to Nina Gielen for providing her online crowdfunding and digital marketing experiences and we hope to be sharing updates on her project in the near future.
Check back in with us next time where we’ll be enjoying learning from another case study from a different fresh voice!