Nuts, bolts, hot tips, and road-tested information from Holly Million for indie filmmakers raising money

Tag Archives: network

Outsider to Insider Tip #3: Volunteer to Connect

This post is part of my ongoing series — bordering on a rant — about how to go from outsider to insider. Doing this fuels your success in fundraising, and in every aspect of marketing and distribution for your film. I’ve become obsessed with this concept. Just ask my husband. I walk around the house muttering, “Outsider to insider. Outsider to insider.” He thought I was a little loony at first, but now he recognizes the zany brilliance of what I’m doing.

Today’s outsider-to-insider tip is to volunteer. Not just any volunteering. Volunteer with people who will help your film get money, get screened, get publicity, get connections. I just had an opportunity to do exactly this, and I’ll tell you what happened. I’m making a feature-length documentary called “A Permanent Mark” that tells the story of Agent Orange and how it has affected American veterans and the people of Vietnam. If you’re not a fan of Dow and Monsanto, this film will only make you hate them more. This is a film with a strong human story and a strong environmental story. In other words, the perfect film for a green film festival.

Environmental film festivals are coming into their own, and I have long thought that my documentary should enjoy a long run in these festivals. I’ve also learned — and have posted on this blog — that paying fees to apply to festivals is for chumps. You need to get invited to submit your film, and then you won’t be paying a dime. You also increase your actual chances of screening. So there is an environmental film festival in my local area that I have long held hopes of being one for my film. I have become friends on Facebook with the founder of the festival. So a couple weeks ago, the festival posted an announcement on Facebook calling for volunteers. And to this I responded with a vociferous YES! I looked through the volunteer options and decided to target the filmmaker brunch, because I knew it would not be a hard volunteer job, that I would meet all of the filmmakers in the festival, and that I would likely meet all the staff of the festival. Sure enough, the programmer and the founder of the festival both arrived, and I introduced myself and mentioned I am also a filmmaker who focuses on environmental issues. “Oh, what are you working on now?” they asked. So I launched into the pitch for the film, watching as they became more and more excited. The festival founder said, “We would like to see that film. Can you submit it to us when you’re done?” I said of course!

So just by volunteering, strategically, and putting myself face to face with the key people, I went from outsider to insider. Oh, yeah, and I won’t be paying any submission fee.

So ask yourself — how can you volunteer to get in front of a funder, a programmer, an investor, a community partner? Get in front of them. Help them so they will help you.

In my next post on this outsider to insider theme, I will talk about the power of just asking for the connection — I grew my Facebook following from 400 to 1,800 people in the past ten days. Find out why and how (hint: it’s about going from outsider to insider).

In fundraising solidarity,

Holly Million

Outsider to Insider Tip #2: Collect Data Like a Crazed Squirrel

Collect data, you crazy squirrel!

Collect data, you crazy squirrel!

I’ve been writing a series of tips on how you can go from being an outsider to an insider. Because being one of the cool kids is a sure-fire way to increase your chances of getting funding. Being part of the “in” crowd means people are more likely to listen to you attentively — not yawn,  not slam doors in your face, not back away slowly while reaching for their can of mace. So you need to use every tactic available to build the biggest personal network you can. In other words, Collect data like a crazed squirrel.

Imagine that you are a rabid squirrel on an insane personal mission to collect every nut from every tree. You need to start squirreling away the contact information of as many people as you can, starting right now. Because you are going to ask them to support your film with a contribution.

How many people do you personally know? Take a wild guess. Chances are that you will be wrong, and that your answer will be too low, rather than too high. The average person knows about 1,500 other human beings — unless, of course, you’re Lois Weisberg, then people write books about you. Think about it. How many people did you go to school with from kindergarten through college? How many people have you met through clubs, parties, volunteering, family connections, work connections, social media, blah blah? And how old are you? How many years have you been alive on this planet to network with your fellow mortals? The longer you have been here, the more people you have met.

Now, do you keep in touch with all of these people? Do you even know where half of them live? Undoubtedly not. You probably don’t keep in touch with all the people who are your “friends” on Facebook, even if there are one or two obnoxious ones who post a bit too frequently (for that I apologize). That’s true of most people. But it’s not going to be true of you. You will invite every person you have ever met to be your Facebook friend, your Twitter follower, your buddy.

Do you have an email list? Oh, good. Because that is going to be so unbelievably helpful to you in the fundraising work ahead. Collect every goddamn email of every person you have met and put that into a database of some sort, whether it’s Filemaker Pro, Vertical Response, or just a plain vanilla Excel spreadsheet. Religiously add new emails to that list, along with the person’s name and any other useful information like phone numbers, each and every time you have a new contact crop up.

Put a widget on your film website’s home page where people can give you their emails so they can receive updates on your film. Yes, people still do that. You can set this up so the data automatically goes to Vertical Response or whatever email management site you are using and is entered into your database. Considering that Facebook changes its algorithms for displaying posts more frequently than Mark Zuckerberg changes his hoodie, you don’t want to rely on Facebook to get the word out about your film project. You want the ability to deliver “push notifications.” These are more direct and more cost-effective than Facebook ads. Oh, and don’t forget Twitter. Twitter still works. So build up your Twitter following. Only problem with Facebook and Twitter is they don’t give you emails for your followers. But LinkedIn does. Gold! Jackpot! I love you LinkedIn! Download the emails and add them to your film outreach list. Sure, you can take off anybody who might get bent out of shape if you start sending them film updates. But I personally err on the side of asking for forgiveness and not permission. I have over 14,000 people on my personal email list. How about you? Not quite? Keep going.

All right? Ready to hit the ground running, you crazed squirrel, you? That foam collecting around your mouth tells me yes! Just start collecting contacts. Trust me. It will make you a superior human being — when it comes to fundraising.

In fundraising solidarity,

Holly Million