What I’ve learned so far at SXSW this year…

SXSW 2019.jpg


Sheree L. Ross

by Sheree L. Ross       March 11, 2019       @shereelross

…and it’s not what you think.

I have had the opportunity to attend some amazing events where I have met some incredible up-and-coming filmmakers.  In my conversations with them the number one thing I’ve learned is that most independent filmmakers feel the same way about creating and maintaining a social media presence as they do about having a scary monster under their bed.  They are afraid of it, wish it would go away, and hope someone else will come along and take care of it.

I am constantly surprised when I meet filmmakers, screenwriters (like myself), and other independent content and media creators who have a limited or non-existent social media presence (it’s free for crying out loud!).  But I am not surprised at their reasons for hating it, not wanting to do it, or putting it off until…never.  We creatives are just too busy creating original content and getting it ready for contests, exhibition, and hopefully a sale to be spending time “playing” on the internet.  I also find that the reason many women don’t is because they don’t want to put themselves out there (understandably) for a myriad of reasons.

I feel it is important that women creatives, in particular, begin to feel more empowered to take control of their creative careers so that the economic disparity that is so prevalent in our industry (and so many others) can become a thing of the past.  I believe that social media is one way that many independent filmmakers can start to close this gap.  Most filmmakers in North America have some kind of access to the internet, and if they use it with a clear intention and a plan it can be an incredibly powerful tool.  But it won’t work if you are not on it.  It can’t work if you don’t use it on a regular basis, to promote your work and engage with not only your growing audience but with other filmmakers and content creators so that you build a virtual community that can someday be turned into supportive fans,  like-minded collaborations, unparalleled opportunities and real money.

I’m not saying it is necessarily an easy thing to do. Most women are taught to support, not to ask for support or heaven forbid brag on themselves.  And speaking of that word brag, it is not bragging to tell people what you are working on and where they can view it. And it is NOT bad to ask people to pay money for what you create (just saying).   These are certainly some of the voices in my head that still give me pause every time I go to post something or ask for something on my social media.

I also get that the thought of adding one more thing to your day that you don’t love doing, that takes away from what you do love doing, is hard to put at the top of any list.  For some, cleaning house holds more sway.  But hear ye, hear ye, this social media thing is here to stay and is an integral part of being a successful businesswoman in the entertainment industry.  Yes,  you heard me, businesswoman.  Now, I know there are many folks who create and their ultimate goal is to be staffed on a show or work for someone else, but for those of you who keep showing up year after year creating works, hoping to make a living at this thing we love you’ve got to take up the mantle of creating interesting, engaging, informative social media for yourself and all of your projects because you are in the business of making.  Marketing your projects is a must, not a maybe.

I know I’m probably not telling you something you don’t already know.  For many of you, you stopped reading at the words social media. For those of you who stayed with me you may still be unmoved to do any of the STEPS I have listed below, however, there are just three.  Three fairly painless steps to get you started.  And if you already have social media accounts but aren’t doing anything with them, you only have one step.  ONE!

Come on, you might just meet someone you admire, gain a few fans, and/or start to move your efforts from a struggling career to a successful business.


1) If you do not have a Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook page for yourself as a creative, once you’re done reading this article go set yourself up and invite all your friends to follow you (I would love to also).  On Facebook, create a PAGE (my relatives are mainly who follow me on my FB page but it’s a start).  I’m still on the fence about LinkedIn but it’s a great place to network so get on there as well.  Remember social media is an amazing place where you are sometimes just one like away from your favorite filmmaker, author, speed skater, showrunner…   Follow everyone you admire, they just might follow you back.  This is also a great way to start building your network.

If this overwhelmed you but you did it, congratulations!  Take  a deep breath and…

2) Now ALL of your projects need the same treatment.  They need their own Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook page. This is your free and amazing marketing tool where you can post  every time your project has a showing, every time it wins something, and when you get ready to offer it on a streaming platform you can tell all of us where to find it and how much it will cost to view it. Remember to put all of these things on your filmmaker page too, be creative (you are creative, remember), and give each post something engaging for your audience to hopefully share with their friends, family, and followers.
3) Make a plan to spend time on your social media promoting your projects, telling of your process, encouraging others, and interacting with your fans and other filmmakers at least 30 minutes every day.


If you already have a social media presence (I only focused on the top three but feel free to go crazy and build audiences anywhere you feel comfortable) AND are spending at least 30 minutes a day working on it, then hopefully you are seeing results.  Hopefully you are seeing more people at your showings, renting and buying your projects on the multitude of distribution channels available to independent filmmakers, and making connections that lead to better and better opportunities.

I’ve given you three pretty easy steps.  I’ve done them myself and had varying degrees of success but I feel it gets better with time. I do know it’s an important action toward my goals, so even when I don’t feel like it or want to stay shy about something, I do it any way.  I hope you will find reason and solace to join the social media evolution and that you find the time you spend and the leap you take worth the trip.





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