The Seed&Spark Blog

Ten Digital Tips For Filmmakers with Throwing Fruit

August 18, 2015

• Seed&Spark

Renée Olbert is the Chief Content Officer at the media platform startup, Throwing Fruit. Her journey to reach this point in her career has taken her down many different roads and uniquely positions her to provide interesting insight to filmmakers. Olbert, a graduate of York University in Toronto, is a former actor and producer, whose credits include working with greats like two-time Academy Award winning director Malcolm Clarke. She is also the award winning creator of the successful web series "Seeking Simone." She hung up her red carpet dress a few years ago to address the systemic failures she faced in the industry by co-founding and running content at Throwing Fruit. The platform is a content management and creation system which provides filmmakers the tools they need to create native mobile apps using their content. This enables filmmakers to control their own distribution as well as create interactive communities for their fans via mobile devices. 
Given her multifaceted background, we asked Renée to discuss her top ten digital tips for filmmakers from lessons she’s learned along the way:
1. Content Rules Above All Else
“This may seem obvious, but I think many people overlook the importance of having legitimately strong content to work with. In our ever-evolving culture where we are becoming more concerned with how many “likes” something achieves, how many ‘views’ we have, and ‘going viral’, content creators are often missing the first step to success: making content that people care about. Artists are nothing without a strong script and strong talent. As such, make sure you and your script is ready. Make sure it is the best that it can be before releasing it into the world. We live in an age of unprecedented accessibility to content, which is amazing for creators. But it also means that consumers don’t have to sit through anything they don’t want to. I don’t think competition is a bad thing. Often, artists don’t like to think about that aspect of life, and I understand that. But ignoring competition doesn’t make it go away. Embrace the competition and let it motivate you and push you to make the best content you are capable of.”
2. Find your Audience
Sure, a film about Tibetan monks milking cows sounds AMAZING. But is it going to sound amazing to enough people? Maybe. And if that is what your film is about, you need to seek out those like-minded souls. Olbert says: “I actually think niche projects do best on alternative platforms. Giving a voice to subjects and interests that don’t see the light of day in mainstream media has a lot of power because you are servicing a need that has been ignored by traditional distribution models. As a content creator myself, that is where I found most of my success. With "Seeking Simone," we built a series around a community that was largely ignored in mainstream entertainment. Because we were serving an underserved market, we found success and developed very, very loyal fans. It is a mentality I’ve carried with me into my new position at Throwing Fruit and it is also why we did so well with A Brony Tale. That film focused on men who love the cartoon My Little Pony. That’s a topic that is definitely not explored in mainstream entertainment. But there was a huge audience out there who felt the story of these men whose ideas of masculinity and friendship that differed from the norm resonated with them on a profound level. Sometimes the films that don’t appeal to the masses are the ones that have the most impact in building a fanbase that will follow you to your next project.” 
3 Ask for Help and Use your Audience 
Olbert invokes an '80s icon to illustrate her point about the perils of grassroots filmmaking: “We all want to be the MacGyver of the film world. But the reality is, it takes more than duct tape and some string to make a great film. It takes perseverance, patience, and—yup, money. Use the platforms at your disposal, such as Seed&Spark, to crowdfund to reach your goals.”
But Olbert urges people to be realistic about their goals. “Don’t make the mistake of asking for the moon. Yes, we all know the Veronica Mars campaign essentially broke the Internet. But, people, it was Veronica Mars. It was always going to break the Internet! Be sensible about what you are asking for—whether it’s a DOP who will work for free or a campaign to finish funding your post-production. People want to help you to succeed, but they also want to feel appreciated. Remember to incentivize the process and above all, respect the fans who help you achieve your goals.” Olbert also encourages people to ask for help: “The biggest lesson I learned with Seeking Simone is that you never know until you ask. We were very successful in many non-English speaking markets, and although I am fortunate to be fluent in French, my Spanish leaves much to be desired! We put out a request for help and soon our multi-lingual fans had translated our series into several languages. It is something that wouldn’t have been possible had we not asked. And I’m very grateful we did.” 
4. You are Worth It 
So now you have a completed project. And you are proud of it. Now what? “The biggest thing we tell content creators is to stop undervaluing themselves. We always find ourselves asking ‘Why are you settling for so little money?’ There is another way! As content creators, we have power. Unfortunately, we’ve also forgotten that we do. You don’t have to sell your film to a distributor for pennies on the dollar. It really is time to take back control over our destinies and push back against an antiquated system that tells us that we have to accept the rules of a game that were set 80 years ago. There are alternatives to the system—in fact, when you think about it, you really don’t need the system at all anymore! Leverage amazing platforms like Seed&Spark which provide you with all the tools required to crowdfund and distribute your project. Or my platform, Throwing Fruit, that enables you to create apps surrounding your content to power the next generation of interactive experiences. The bottom line is, you don’t need to settle. It is a brave new world, and the studios are nervous for a reason.”
5. Your Audience Wants More of YOU
Olbert firmly believes that we are entering a new era. “We are in the era of the Super-Fan and content creators have to realize that the only thing more important than the content is the audience. So, treat them well.” She believes that interactivity is key and that it can take many forms. For example, for the release of the documentary A Brony Tale, efforts were made to have a presence at the largest Brony Convention (BronyCon) in the US. The director, Brent Hodge, was in attendance and made a concerted point to connect with his core audience. And as Olbert notes, it paid off in spades. “Having that audience know that you really care about them, it was a huge step in getting the word out about the film and creating an audience that wanted to support you.” As for Throwing Fruit, they believe that interactivity within the app ecosystem will become the norm. “Seed&Spark is addressing that as well at the very initial stages of production. We all want to create fan destinations where audiences know they will get the best of what the content creator has to offer. We believe that further innovation such as integrated chat, simulcasting and bringing people together is key for the success and longevity of a project.” 
6. Get Your Content Out There NOW 
“We believe it’s never too early to start building a following. Did you crowdfund? Then you already have an audience to cater to. Just started shooting? Great! Create buzz by releasing teasers as you go. Think of preproduction and production as your first and second phase of grassroots marketing. That’s not to say we think you should reveal who your Keyser Soze is, but we do think there is incredible power in bringing your audience into the process. There is no need for it to be shrouded in mystery - Use the entire process to your advantage and build momentum for your film’s release.” 
7. Create Destination Viewing
"It’s important to give your audience exclusive material, notes Olbert. “You have to create a system that organically drives traffic back to you. One of the best ways to do that is to continually release new material so that your fans have an incentive to keep coming back. Thanks to Twitter and Vine and a host of other amazing publishing platforms, attention spans aren’t getting any longer, s o the more you can do to remind your fans you exist, the better. Given the increasing fragmentation of publishing, what Throwing Fruit aims to do is tie all your distributive outlets into one, creating an omni-channel of content for your audience. But knowing where that audience is, and then offering exclusives via that medium will strengthen that connection with your user base.”
8. Test the Waters Using Metrics
Olbert believes the future lies in using analytics to your advantage: “You’re promoting short form video via Vine, you’ve released your feature on Seed&Spark, but how do you know what your audience is watching and really engaging with? Filmmakers need to use analytics to see what works and what doesn’t. We believe that analytics will be a particular game-changer for the film industry. Right now, does any filmmaker really know who actually has seen their film? Outside of ‘followers’ on social media, how can you cultivate that following if you don’t know who they are? Being able to harness the power of knowing what your core audience likes and doesn’t like will be incredibly useful in creating stories that resonate with your audience. As an example, at Throwing Fruit, we offer filmmakers an analytics dashboard so they know what their audience is doing; what country that user is in, what they watched, and what device they watched on. Did they share the video? If so, what did they share it on? All of these are valuable insights into how you cater to that audience.”
9. Accept that Viewing Preferences are Changing... Rapidly
It’s important to “Accept the change and embrace it,” says Olbert. No, your film may not premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, but that doesn’t mean a huge audience won’t see it. “As filmmakers we need to let go of what traditional success means in this industry and welcome the opportunity to potentially reach a much larger audience by using alternative platforms. Seed&Spark is a perfect example of how filmmakers are making the best use of alternative distribution. What they are doing is such a gift to bourgeoning filmmakers. Are cinemas going anywhere? No. But neither is digital consumption.” According to Olbert, you can ride the wave, or be left behind. “We are in an era of collapsing distribution windows. There’s no reason not to have a simultaneous release. If your audience wants to see it on the big screen and they are fortunate enough to live in one of the ten cities that it is premiering in, amazing. If they want to watch in the comfort of their homes in pajamas, what’s the difference? In our opinion, there isn’t any.”  
10. Try and Monetize Everything You’ve Got
Olbert believes that all content has monetary value in some shape or form. However, following her aforementioned tips will likely put you in a position to be able to charge for that demand. But she warns, “Don’t get hung up on price. Think about the medium you are in and what your contemporaries are charging. We all believe our work should be sold for millions of dollars but (sigh) for most of us, that won’t be a reality. That doesn’t mean you can’t wake up one day and be worth millions like PewDiePie.” Olbert feels that the key is to not price yourself out of the market. “Would you rather have 100 users paying $0.99 or 10 people paying $9.99? And remember there is gold in your outtakes and from the footage left on the cutting room floor. Sometimes what doesn’t make it into the film becomes as memorable as what was in it! Find that footage that your fans would want to see and make some money from it by pricing a la carte, finding sponsors or running ads."



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