Five Fatal Flaws of your Indie Film Website

I’m trying to contact as many micro and low budget filmmakers as possible. Those who have completed and distributed, in any form, a feature (preferably narrative) film. I am doing this for my Raindance Postgraduate Degree research.

For my sins I have to go to a lot of indie film websites. A lot. And it is more often than it needs to be – because it needs to be never – very painful.

I’ve compiled my top 5 list.

1. No Contact Us Information

Are you KIDDING ME?!?!! You went to the effort of making a website for your movie and you didn’t put a contact us form or even your email address in the typical replace @ with (at) form? You do realise that you have just cut yourself off at the knees, don’t you? Probably 90% of people who go to your site that want to contact you will not look any further.

If I had to guess I would say that more than 50% of the ‘official’ websites for micro and low budget films have no contact information.

2. Facebook is not your website

OMG. WTF? You think that setting up a Facebook fan page is all you need to do? While it is PART of a strategy it should not be the whole strategy. It is very difficult to have private conversations on FB and let’s face it, this is what email is for. Also, you have very limited control over your page and design on FB (which for some of you is a good thing as we find out in point 3) but really, do you want your destiny held by Facebook?

I will expand on this and say that any other site like Facebook, where you can put up a page about yourself or your project, is ALSO NOT YOUR WEBSITE. The sites that are not your website include: YouTube, Wikipedia, KickStarter, IndieGoGo, Film Festival pages… you get the idea.

Spend the $10 and get your own domain.

Extra ‘fail points’ for thinking that your IMDB page is good enough.

3. ‘Clever’ or ‘Arty’ design

You have a friend who is a clever web designer. Or you yourself are an artist. That’s nice. But please don’t be tempted to have some super sexy, graphics heavy, Flash/HTML5 video driven site that is unusable from anything but a high end pc. Yes, put your – YouTube hosted – trailer on the front page. Yes, have social media buttons. No, don’t make me wait for media to load. Or make me regret going to your site from my iPhone while I am on 4G.

4. Not updating

Many websites I visit seem to just peter out. Often there are no postings after production is done. There MIGHT be a posting about some festivals, but I have gone to films from festival website links where they don’t even mention being in that festival. Now… if I was running a festival and I knew you did that why would I put your next film in it?

During fundraising, pre-production and production you have to update a lot. Lots of photos, behind the scenes, etc. Of course you have to do that. But even in post-production and definitely in distribution you also need to do that. Keep a dialog with your audience.

5. No Website

Of course, this is the worst one. As I said in point 2 – get the domain name for your film. You should do this way way early. Even before fundraising. Because you should be naming your film something that is unique and people can find (see bonus tips below). Once you have that domain name, get some free hosting or cheap hosting, put up a wordpress site and get going. It doesn’t take much and you can do it yourself or find a friend who will do it for free or next to nothing. Please pay attention to point 3 and don’t make it overly complex or ‘clever’. ‘Clever’ is the enemy of ‘usable’.

If you are stuck on this point then contact me and I will help you out.

Bonus Tips:

6. Check Google Results

If you google on your film name and you are not on the first page you’ve got a problem. Especially if you add ‘My Film Name’ + ‘Filmmaker Name’ and you don’t show up in the top five.  It means your website is not being tracked well by google or you have called your film something ungoogleable. Like it or not, Google ranking is a vital tool in the promotion of your film. As I stated above, keep uniqueness and ‘googleability’ high on your list when thinking of your film name.

7. Check spelling and links

Nothing is worse than seeing spelling mistakes or even worse, mistakes in links that cause the link to not work. Double check and test your site. Please.

 

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Phil Smy

I am currently a student in the Raindance Film Degree Masters program. This site comes from the research I am doing as I learn more about film production and distribution.

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