Last October at the Cork Film Festival I attended a talk with Fred and Gemma of Fat Rat Films. They make charity and documentary films, and in one day they managed to get 25 million views for their short, Act of Terror. Which God did they pray to, you ask? Well, no God. They planned the success of their short. Planned? Yes, they planned the whole damn thing. And you can too.
The idea, according to Gemma and Fred is to plan a whole experience. Give your audiences access to everything they could wish to know about your film. Give them an incentive and make it impossible for them to say no to your creation. To that end, here are some of their top tips, with a few embellishments from yours truly.
1. The Right Film at the Right Time
According to Fred and Gemma, having a topical subject always helps. So look at what is going on around you. Whether you are releasing a comedy, drama or a non-fiction, audiences, for the most part want to see stories that they can relate to life stories, experiences and emotions. So look at what is happening around you, look at your own life experiences; and question how you can use it to make a short film.
2. Contributors and Crew
The Fat Rat crew brought this to the forefront of their talk, and I am definitely highlighting it. While it may be mainly directed at those of you who have contributors, I believe the same can be said of the crew and cast. Don’t screw them over. Do so, and you might have already signed the mortician’s certificate on your film. Be very careful in how you represent and treat those you document, and those involved in your film. Make sure they know the terms of work and the intent of the film. You want all of these people to help distribute the film after. You never know who they might know, or be friends with on facebook!
3. Set a Release time and Time
Doing so will create excitement about your film, giving a sense of exclusivity. It will also give you the chance to create an audience through the press, social networking, etc.
4.Visual Art
Get a striking poster and/or logo to go with your release date. Whether it be a still from the film or something ad hoc; it will brand your film and help promote it to the press release and through social media accounts.
Fred and Gemma suggest creating a dedicated website for the release of your film. Have on it all the details you want the public to know; release date, production stills, the making of etc. You don’t have to employ someone. You can build your own with virb or wordpress.
6.Social Media
To follow that website link up facebook, Instagram and twitter accounts, (maybe even a snapchat if you’re inclined). Make sure you create an official hash-tag too. The Fat Rat Crew believe they may have lost out by not creating one. As their film grew larger on the day of release they feel they may have actually have had enough tweets/views to officially list as ‘trending’ on twitter, but they couldn’t as they didn’t have an official hashtag. So make sure you have one to promote your film!
7.Email Database
Remember all those festivals, screening and networking events you went too? Well now is the time to pull out those business cards. Create a press package with all the details of the film: website, social media, release date etc. Gemma and Fred suggested personalizing these depending on your relationship with the recipient. You don’t want to spam a future employer or annoy a friend. Also investigate and target relevant groups that your film might connect to. Maybe include clients or former collages too. Email them on the day of launch as well.
Have a look around at blogs, websites and journalists who write about short films/the arts etc. Such writers will already have a following and will be able to help attract viewers to your film. Also research any related organisations or writers that your film may be relevant too. Send each of these a personalised email with your press package.
9.Start a Blog
Now this is a clever idea by the Fat Rat duo. By starting up a blog, you can personally keep track of the film’s success for later reflection. But, more importantly, it gives your audience and the media new content to spread after the release of the film. It will help keep the momentum of your film up after the release date.
10.Not to depress you…
…but after all that it may not work. So pick a God and pray anyway.
*The Peril of Advertising
Now, on a side note I want to mention something Gemma and Fred brought up in their talk. Be aware of others trying to make a buck from your film. It may happen, as in the case of Fred and Gemma, that a major organization will want to post your film on their website. This organization may feel, or sense, that your film is viral material, and attach an advert before it. Make sure, in your discussion with the website/organization that you investigate their intentions, and fight your corner for some of the cash if possible!
So, at the end of all that you might have noticed that going viral ain’t easy, it’s a lot of work. To achieve the success that Act of Terror rightly received, Fred and Gemma had to take a week out of work before their release date. But for them it was worth it, as they got their message and film out there.
So, plan, plan and plan again! I wish you good luck. By the way don’t forget to pick that God…

Any thoughts? Email me at lorna@disfmf.ie
Lorna Buttimer. Follow me on twitter @buttimer_lorna