SIFFology: A Blog for Seattle Int’l Film Festival Programmers & Staff

Overview:

I’ve had the idea to get a blog for the programmers at SIFF up and running for a few years now, but there just wasn’t the time (or resources) to make it happen. By the time one festival had wrapped up and we all took a breather, it was time to get started programming the next one and, priorities being what they are, this blog seemed to always fall by the wayside. However, this final project holds much promise for actually getting the blog up and running.

Currently, I’m finishing up an Interactive Marketing Manager contract position with SIFF, so have been planning and implementing their social media strategy on and off since early May 2012. As part of my “legacy”, I’d like to leave them with two things (in addition to an editorial content calendar, so I guess three, actually): a social media ROI dashboard and a blog. The former is relatively self-explanatory and I feel the latter is the missing piece of a true audience engagement strategy. I say this because most film festival programming takes place in a proverbial “black box”, where your film goes in and then, six months later, you find out whether or not you made it into the festival. If you did, great; they must’ve liked your movie. But if you didn’t, there is very little information available to filmmakers about how they might improve their craft to increase their odds next time.

Of course, this blog will do more than merely hone in on a handful of films that did or didn’t make the cut. Ideally, I would like it to serve as an online “face” and “voice” for the organization, allowing staff members of all stripes to post their various SIFF-related thoughts, reflections on their job and insights into the filmmaking and festival presentation process that they have gathered over the years. It would be tied into our various social networks and, in some ways, serve as another marketing platform. However, the tone and the style will be honest, upfront, as transparent as possible, and, above all, fun.

Audience:

1) Filmmakers: I imagine your typical independent filmmaker, dedicated to their craft, cost-conscious (festival submission fees add up quickly), creative, passionate, fairly tech savvy, and smart. They’ll appreciate a film festival, especially one as big as SIFF, pulling back the curtain and offering a peek at the people who make the festival happen each year. This will probably be our most engaged group. They  will post comments, share posts and generally interact the most with the blog and its content.

2) Festival Staff: This will probably be a smaller audience, but could be more engaged, per capita. This segment will consist of programmers and administrators at other film festivals from around the world, seasonal and full-time staff, festival volunteers, and others who have an interest in the inner workings of a film festival (which could include other film bloggers). Once we begin promoting our blog, I think we’ll see an early uptick in visits from peers at other festivals. The festival circuit is highly competitive  and they’ll definitely want to give this a look. However, I hope they will see it as a resource, and not a challenge (or rebuke). Ideally, this would become a highly networked knowledge sharing hub where the exchange of ideas and best practices takes place on a regular basis.

3) Film Lovers: This third audience category is the most broad, but is still differentiated from the general public. These will be people who go out of their way to see independent and/or foreign films, are power users of Netflix and Hulu (and others), still frequent mom and pop video stores (like Scarecrow Video in Seattle). They could be SIFF e-news subscribers and are probably Seattleites. Though I think this blog’s reach could eventually extend beyond Seattle (and the PNW), I don’t think that will happen before the end of SIFF2013 next June, so for now, I think we could focus most of our tangential cultural posts on happenings in the Seattle area.

Competitive Analysis:

Sundance Film Festival

http://www.sundance.org/festival/blog

This is, of course, the granddaddy of all film festivals. It’s not the oldest, but it’s certainly the best and most respected. They also have a pretty good blog.

Tip of the Hat:

– I like the embedded videos on the right side of the blog. This is a great way to keep engaging content front and center.

– I like how the blog is integrated into the overall site. You don’t have to leave their site to get to the blog and it maintains a cohesive design flow with the other site elements.

– Because they mix the blog posts with press releases and other articles, there is a ton of content.

Brush of the Shoulder:

– It’s tough to find. It’s a sub-domain of “Stories”, which is not very intuitive.

– It’s not updated very often. I’m imagining it’s done by seasonal interns, so it’s more content creation for SEO purposes than a real window into the goings on at the festival.

– Social media buttons are way down in the bottom right corner. You need to scroll all the way to the end of the page to even see them. They should definitely be higher and more prominently placed.

Sarasota Film Festival

http://www.sarasotafilmfestival.com/news/blog-news

SFF is a well-respected regional film festival in Florida.

Tip of the Hat:

– Social is prominently displayed on the right hand side of the blog, along with “Volunteer” and “Donate” buttons. Very effective.

– There is a button to download their iPhone app right below the social. Good placement of an important festival-going tool.

Brush of the Shoulder:

– It’s not very pretty to look at.

– The content is very dry and looks like mostly rehashed press releases.

– Again, the blog link is a sub-domain of “News”, which is a little more intuitive than “Stories”, but still relegates the blog to a secondary position.

– Post formatting is janky and there is no byline.

Maryland Film Festival

http://blog.md-filmfest.com/

Much like the Sarasota Film Festival, the Maryland Film Festival is another well-respected regional fest. It also leans pretty heavily on the fact that John Waters is from Baltimore, so they have a little extra cachet that he brings to the proceedings each year.

Tip of the Hat:

– Engaging content. Finally, some seemingly genuine on-the-spot, off-the-cuff posts.

– The blog is easily located in the header nav bar of the main site, though one drawback is that it takes you to another web page.

– Social and other connectivity/calls to action buttons are prominently displayed.

– Comments seem active. Always a good sign, imo.

Brush of the Shoulder:

– This site is truly ugly. Sorry, MFF, but it’s bad.

– Twitter feed widget is broken. Bad sign.

– There are no page breaks in any of the posts.

Conclusion

I think I have some pretty solid benchmark blogs to help guide my design, and will also have some of the resources of the SIFF MarCom department at my disposal, as well. Not only will this be a fruitful class exercise, but I think SIFF will get some real value out of this blog if they are able to maintain focus on creating content on a regular schedule.

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2 responses to “SIFFology: A Blog for Seattle Int’l Film Festival Programmers & Staff”

  1. Kathy E. Gill says :

    Good start, Brad! Sense of humor evident (brush of the shoulder). For the final project plan, you’ll need full-featured personas for each of those groups.

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