One of the worthwhile ways for independent filmmakers to build their audience for their projects is to procure entertaining, shareable BTS. To be clear, we are not referring to theK-Pop sensationthat has swept the world over, but instead, the behind-the-scenes snapshots and footage that showcase the developmental stages of your project, offer a sneak peek into your world, and unleash the potential of attracting partners, investors, and everyone else you hope sets eyes on your work. For a production company and filmmaking collective centered around helping artists practically, efficiently, and authentically materialize and deliver on their dreams, sharing the story behind the story is just as essential as cultivating a voice or expressing a point of view.
We Make Movies CEO Sam Mestman emphatically advocates BTS as an invaluable marketing tool for filmmakers, stating that "BTS gives a look into your process and your process as a content creator is what separates and defines you from all the others." OurMake Your Feature Competitionwinners have been generating video diaries documenting their process, and ourWe Make Movies International Film Festivalencourages filmmakers to submit BTS along with their projects and other press materials, because an audience loves to feel like they are privy to something more of what they already enjoy.
WHY IS BTS SO SEXY?
Content, content, content makes people content. We are living in a world that demands content, as well as an explanation as to how things function and breathe. Whether it be a feature-length documentary detailing the daily life of a celebrity, a polished interview snippet after a beloved television show, or a reel of someone showing you how they built a key piece on a sci-fi set on Instagram, a look behind the scenes has become increasingly ubiquitous.
People are curious and if you can entertain them, the more they are likely to share. The more content there is to share around your project, the further your reach is. Allow your growing audience to spread the news of your upcoming project by organically sharing what they were enticed and inspired by. Invite your audience to invest in the characters you have created by conducting a candid interview with a principal actor on set. Diversify your audience by creating content that addresses various aspects of production, such as spending a few hours following your costume director or vegan caterer as they set up their stations.
People like to feel like they are gaining access to something, like what they are witnessing is exclusive or proprietary in some way, and that they found it first. Treat your audience to a sneak peek into your world and make it personal. Speak directly to them. Demonstrate something that educates them. Surprise them with something unpredictable, unique, or privileged. Take the opportunity to present the scope of work that went into your project, while celebrating your crew. Do a time lapse video of your grips and gaffers setting up a take to perfection. Demonstrate the editorial prowess of your colorist or VFX specialist by revealing before and after pics of a scene.
Make connections ... and then make your connections happy. Building an audience is the primary reason for creating BTS content, but sometimes your audience can turn into benefactors. Sometimes the people who champion your work come with a loaded pocketbook ready to invest in you and your project. Other times, you can leverage your skills by documenting the use of gear and then cutting your partner vendor a BTS video in the form of a testimonial.
HOW TO CAPTURE BTS
Filmmakers are storytellers, so tell a story. If you are shooting a run and gun type video, still make sure there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you didn't film it that way, then create it in the edit.
Be in the moment and record the emotions and pulse of that moment, whether it's revealing an ideal location with a breathtaking view during pre-production, navigating union paperwork, or making an unsavory discovery in the edit room.
Learn the schedule of the shoot, prioritize what you want to capture, and plan accordingly. Designate positions. Have somebody on set be a still photographer, while somebody else is taking video.
Know the purpose and destination of the BTS content. Is the footage promotional in nature or is it more of a blooper reel? Are you capturing footage for a 15 minute BTS short meant to accompany a feature on a streaming platform or a 30-second cut ideal for social media?
Check in with the powers that be (the director, producers, 1st AD) to make sure your work is not an imposition on anyone. Film with permission.
Govern your style. Are you aiming for candid shots, a cinematic feel, or highlighting guerrilla filmmaking? Whatever you choose should be appropriate for the medium you are sharing the content on, speak to the audience you want to resonate with, and be indicative of who you are and what your project is all about.
Shoot longer than what you intend to use so you have plenty of choice in the editing room.
Play with time - timelapses, slow motion ...
Play with various cameras from iPhones to Go Pros to DSLRs.
As with all filming, good audio is key.
Experiment. Get creative with angles and movement. Switch up the shots (wide, close-up, racked focus ...)
Light and intentionally set the stage forformalinterviews. Ask great questions. Be prepared.
Sapna Gandhi is an actor, singer-songwriter, and content creator. In addition to TV credits such as BOSCH, SHAMELESS and SCANDAL, she has appeared in numerous shorts, features, and series, including festival darlings IN ABSENTIA (Raindance) and THUMPER (Tribeca). Gandhi has produced several series and films under the umbrella of her production company Elegant Grotesque (most recently SCRAP, starring Anthony Rapp and Vivian Kerr, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ STRANDED ON THE EARTH, directed by Mike Bruce). She is also 1/2 of the musical duo, VATAVARAN, was born in England, raised all over the states, studied English and Women’s Studies, and trained at the American Conservatory Theatre in SF.