Oh dear: South African indie filmmakers avoid these rookie mistakes after your film is done

It took serious blood, sweat and tears, but finally your film is in the can. Congratulations!

No matter how rewarding the process of putting your project together might have been, it would be of little use if you can’t get a paying audience to see it.

And sending a DVD copy of your movie to your auntie doesn’t count as successful distribution, nor does it help justify the amount of effort (and money!) that went into realising your vision.

Getting a decent return on your investment can be a slippery slope for most indie filmmakers, but you can start by avoiding these rookie mistakes.

1. Supplying poor publicity material

The only way people would know your movie even exists is if they read and hear about it. And even if you have hundreds of friends, the best way to get word out would be through the media.

But convincing a print or online publication to run a story on your film (for free, off course) can be an uphill battle if you can’t afford a decent publicist.

The first step would be to find the right publication to suit your particular film. Imagine the audience you envision seeing your film and find a publication that also speaks to them.

One of the biggest mistakes indie filmmakers can make in dealing with the media is not supplying them with everything they need. This includes good, clean copy outlining what your film is about and explaining to editors why you think their audience would be interested in hearing about your project.

Both print and online media are picture driven, so poor quality production photos are a definite no-no.

The fact that you’ve made a movie is not news; but showing what happened behind the scenes and the fun the actors had might very well be.

An excellent set photo is one showing actors in the midst of the action, not a grainy out-of-focus cell phone picture from afar showing nothing of value.

Be as thorough as possible. If you work hard and make the editor’s life easy, they’ll be more inclined to promote your indie film on their platforms to get people talking.

2. Not taking full advantage of film festivals

Film festivals worldwide are a unique melting pot of talent, ambition and the promise of glory and recognition for the indie filmmaker.

But it would be a mistake to think these festivals exist purely as a way to showcase your latest work.

Besides screening your film, a film festival is also a place for up-and-coming filmmakers to get their name out and to meet potential investors for their next project.

It’s the ideal opportunity to meet like-minded people, discuss films in depth and get in touch with influencers you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to speak to. Use feedback from the judges and audience and incorporate them into your next project.

As introductions are made, collaborations are born.

Also, don’t be afraid to enter your movie into every possible festival South Africa has to offer. Some of the biggest include the annual Durban and Johannesburg film festivals, the documentary festival Encounters, and Silwerskerm showcasing Afrikaans films.

3. Not protecting your film against piracy

In today’s digital world, leaks and the illegal sharing of movies are prevalent.

As millions of fans flock to cinemas each week, equal amounts rush to their computers to illegally download the latest blockbusters.

But according to experts it’s not movies already showing at cinemas that get hurt the most. The damage is exponentially worse when pirates get their greasy fingers on your film before its release.

Some reports suggest a pre-release leak can result in an average 19% decrease in revenue compared to piracy occurring post-release.

Since many indie filmmakers finance their films out of pocket or with the help of crowdfunding, is this really something you can afford?

But pre-releasing your film to a select few people like critics and influencers in the industry is still a big way to create publicity and buzz about your project.

These advanced copies (known as screeners) are mostly distributed as physical discs or on a digital platform like Vimeo. However, the more people with access the greater the odds of the film leaking.

By uploading your movie to a digital distribution platform like Screener Copy you send a unique, watermarked copy to a list of recipients. A hidden bounty is added to each file and if found, the owner gets informed.

No more worrying and checking online sharing sites every few minutes to see if your movie leaked.

You’ll be notified as soon as it’s spotted in the wild.