A new technique for creating buzz for a new movie has been to put deleted scenes on the web. This generates interest without compromising anything from the final cut. It seems to be happening more and more, beginning with Borat through the recently released, Knocked Up. Some studios even put actual scenes from the film up for viewing. CinemaTech posted about a documentary posting clips before the actual film is finished. Is this a good idea for the self-distributor? How much is too much?
I'm a big believer in the power of the internet in promoting your movie, and think you should give away stuff to the potential fan (i.e. buyer) to interest them in what you are making. Anything you can do to involve the surfer will only compel them to return for updates and hopefully a sale when the project is complete. Create a void in them then fill it with the end result.
Giving away your work with the intent to sell is a powerful idea, but you have to be smart about it. At first I thought you should just post your whole feature somewhere, and tell everyone on the net to go watch it. This, coupled with a commercial at the front of your movie (and your website featured in the letterbox), would drive people to your site and potential sales. If people like your film, you give them a way to get their own copy.
Since then, my thoughts have changed a bit. While I still think you should give them a free version on the web, you should tailor the release to be internet-friendly and last over time. This is why I like the serialized release model. Break the film into 10-15 short chapters and release one per week on a video sharing site like YouTube. This will stretch awareness of your movie over weeks instead of just one day. Have your movie for sale before the first chapter hits, and those who are really drawn into your story will buy it so they won't have to wait.
I can't say I like the idea of posting film clips from an unfinished film (especially in a narrative), but there is lots of "behind the scenes" stuff that you could post that is exclusive to the net, and not on the DVD. This could be raw footage from your documentarian (you do have one, right?) that you could offer in lieu of a polished "making of" feature on your disc. How about links to your research used to write your script? Or audition video? Or story boards? You could do all kinds of things to draw people to your site and keep them there for awhile. Just be careful that your not spoiling your own movie by giving away too much.
One reason I started this blog was to create an audience for a film I hope to start making next year, and self-distribute in 2009. Maybe if you like what you read here, you'll follow me as I put together my first feature film. If you're interested, maybe you'll watch the episodes as they unravel and be so taken that you'll just have to buy the affordable DVD. If not, I hope you enjoy the journey anyway.