Using Social Currency to Market Your Film

How Sharing Something Remarkable and Unique About Your Film Can Bring Attention…And Money

By Carole Dean

What we talk about influences how others see us.  When we talk about cool things, others want to repeat what we’ve told them to their friends. 

That is called Social Currency and you can use it to get people to notice your film. 

Get People Talking About Your Film to Get it Attention and Funding

What is Social Currency?   

People want to share compelling, exclusive content that makes them look smart and in on a secret.   That type of content is social currency.   

Wharton professor Jonah Berger, author of the brilliant book “Contagious” explains how, by using social currency, you can get more people talking about your product or idea.

Here’s an Example

Crif Dogs, a NYC Hot Dog restaurant, has a vintage phone booth in the corner.  When you enter and dial the ancient rotary phone, a voice answers and asks if you have a reservation.  If you are lucky enough to have one, a hidden door opens and you find you are in a posh 45 seat exclusive restaurant no one knows about.

The name?  Please Don’t Tell.  It makes you feel like you found a great secret.  There is no sign on the street or ads for it.  It takes bookings only for each day and only at 3pm.  By 3:30, all spots are gone. 

The restaurant does not publish its number.   It’s all word of mouth; the most powerful way to market. 

Rules of Social Currency:

  1. People share things that make them look good to others.
  2. People share things that make them seem entertaining and clever.
  3. People use social currency to achieve desired positive impressions among friends & family.

How to Mint Social Currency for Your Film

Find your film’s inner remarkability.   Give me some astonishing facts or an incredible statement I can repeat.

The Key to finding inner remark ability is to think about what makes something interesting surprising or novel. What is interesting about your film or your cast?  What is remarkable about your characters?  What is remarkable about the subject of the film?  

How about is it fiscally sponsored? 

You want to create social currency so people talk about your film and your crowdfunding campaign.  You want them to say I donated to a film and I got a tax deduction.  Or I donated to a film that raises awareness of Veterans suicide. 

That may be what gets people to talk about your film.  Then, they donate too because it’s cool to support your film and it’s cool to get a tax deduction.

By finding your film’s inner remarkability, you can use it to go viral and create social currency.

Do it right and you will end up with a different currency to use to make your film!

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcast, The Art of Film Funding, interviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.

Finalists Chosen for Roy W. Dean Spring Film Grant

6 Films in Running for 1st Roy W. Dean Film Grant of 2016

From The Heart Productions, the non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get funding, announced the 6 finalists for the Roy W. Dean Spring Film Grant.  Winner will receive $30,000 in a combination of cash and donated services from film industry professionals and companies.

Grant finalist "U Htein Lin – Mr. Bright and Shiny"

Grant finalist “U Htein Lin – Mr. Bright and Shiny”

The 6 finalists were selected out of an initial group of 22 finalists for grant.  Over 225 submissions were received for this year’s grant.  The projects included features, short films, documentary, and web series.

“Filmmakers with unique stories that contribute to society have the toughest road to get funding” said From the Heart President Carole Dean “That is why we founded the grant.  Without it’s help, these projects might otherwise never get made.”

The grant includes $3,500 in cash and donations of film services and products.  Some of which include a 1TB G-Drive ev ATC from G-Technology, a 30% discount in equipment rental from AbelCine Tech, Inc. NYC, 40% deduction on color, editing, and production services from ProMedia, and much more from those who care about helping independent filmmakers.

The films and their filmmakers chosen as Roy W. Dean Grant Finalists are:

Belly of the Beast – Erika Cohn – Documentary intimately chronicles the journey of women fighting reproductive injustice in their communities.

Holden On – Tamlin Hall – Based on a true story of dual diagnosis, the feature is a dynamic 17-year-old’s point of view journey to keep his mental illness a secret at all costs.

How the Cats Took Over the Internet – Laurin Lazin – Documentary feature film for all ages. It takes a provocative and entertaining look at the history, meaning, and impact of user-generated content… as seen through the lens of the cat video.

Stranger at Home – Luis Remesar – Documentary film about a Navy psychologist’s mission to hold military medicine accountable for solutions to the mental health epidemic decimating our warrior class.

The Coverup – Malina Fagan – The documentary reveals startling information previously hidden from consumers that links exposure to low dose chemicals used in soaps, lotions, baby shampoos, deodorants, etc. to devastating health effects such as cancer, infertility, birth defects and more. This solution oriented film teaches viewers how to protect themselves, their families and the environment, and challenges our government to protect the public.

U Htein Lin – Mr. Bright and Shiny – Vanessa Smith – Documentary on a Burmese artist who was sentenced to prison without a fair trial and who spent 6 and one half years in prison.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

Now in its 24th year, the Roy W. Dean Grant is awarded 3 times each year.   There is a Spring, Summer and Fall Grant.  The Fall Grant is now accepting entries and closes September 30th.  Films submitted to the grant can be short films, documentaries or features from early stages of pre-production to those needing help in post.

The grant has been integral in helping talented artists with great stories get their films produced.  Recent past winners of the grant include the award winning “Heist: Who Stole the American Dream” and “The Winding Stream: An Oral History of the Carter and Cash Family”, and Mia: A Dancer’s Journey which just won an Emmy award.

About From The Heart Productions

The 501(c)3 non-profit was founded by Carole Dean when she saw how many filmmakers with important, new, and often controversial stories were having trouble getting financing for their films.    From The Heart is a fiscal sponsor for films which allows donors to get a tax deduction for their donations.  Their Intentional Filmmaking Class that teaches filmmakers the tactics on how to get funded is now open for enrollment.  Classes start September 26th.

Your Mind is Your Greatest Asset for Filmmaking

Use Your Knowledge and Intention to Get Films Funded

by Carole Dean

In the beginning was the word…..

I am lucky to be able to teach indie film funding in our Intentional Filmmaking Class with actor/writer/producer Tom Malloy.  Tom is owner of Trick Candle Productions and has raised over $20 million for his films as well as having produced, Screamers, Hero of the Underworld, and Fair Haven.

We both believe that your mind is your greatest asset for filmmaking.

RD IntentionIn a recent episode of my podcast The Art of Film Funding, Tom covered How to Devlop a Feature Film From Scratch.

“Everything you can see was an idea at one time” he started,” that chair you are in, the computer you are using, everything in your room started as an idea.”

“When you get a compelling idea for a film he says you should feel the energy of the universe in it. That’s when it can be powerful.  That’s when it’s worth the time to seriously consider it.  You need to be completely sold on this idea and know that it can be made and you are the one to make it.”

Once you feel an idea this strongly you need to get it on paper.  Moving that thought from your head onto paper will start the process of bringing your film into this third dimension where you can birth it.  Pull out your notebook and start to write about it.  Put down all the information you get.

Then start considering, is this something that I could really create, is this for me?  Start visualizing yourself making the film and see how it feels.  If that works then go to the next step start to develop it.

Most importantly, don’t tell anyone about this in the writing stage.  Keep all of that energy inside you and use it to create.  You are not ready for rejections.  Just use this energy for creating.

I know from reading many applications to the Roy Dean Grant that this is where the rubber hits the road.  Many people have ideas and only a few have really developed them.

Tom puts his full attention on the project when he gets that idea and feels the universe is behind it.   Documentaries and features.  He stays on the project while the energy is there and he knows that it will work.

This has helped him make many films. The secret seems to be, “is this project for me?”  “Is it worth my full time and attention over everything else in my life?”  It’s either dive in with 100% dedication or let it go.  Only you know the answer.

In our Intentional Filmmaking class Tom and I take people by the hand and walk them through the funding and the attachment process.  It’s amazing to watch how filmmakers develop themselves while developing their film.

Our next class starts in late September 2016.  I teach the Trailblazer Class for documentary filmmakers and Tom is my co-instructor for the Mastermind Class for Short and Feature filmmakers.  Full information is at

If you are passionate about your project this class will take you to the next level.


Don’t Myth Up Your Crowdfunding Campaign

Let Go of These 5 Myths to Raise Money for Your Film

by Carole Dean

The reward for crowdfunding your film comes not just in money, but knowing that others support you and your work.  At From the Heart Productions, we’re partners with Indiegogo and have helped filmmakers raise over $2 million for their films.

But, that support or money did not always come easy.  We provide lots of resources to create a successful campaign and fiscal sponsorship that allows tax free donations, but it took work and dedication from filmmakers.

And that only happened when we got them to let go of the myths they have about crowdfunding.

Myth 3 – I’ve got 45 days reach my goal so I can take my time.

Myth 3 – I’ve got 45 days reach my goal so I can take my time.

Myth 1 – You build it and they will come. 

Nonsense.  No matter how fantastic a campaign page you create, how important the cause, or how great the concept, you need to bring your crowd to the crowdfunding campaign.  You will probably get 98% of your funds from you own email list.  Not from Facebook, Twitter, or any of your social networks.  Just from people you know.   Focus on getting your list to send to their lists is the first trick of crowdfunding.

Myth 2 – My film’s budget is $85,000 so that is where I need to set my campaign goal. 

Your film’s budget has nothing to do with where you should set your campaign goal. Raising money is not easy so why set your goal for an amount you will have trouble getting.  Break it up into achievable segments.

How to know what you can raise?   Use the number of names in your data base and multiply by 5 for the number of donations you will get.  Example: Let’s say you’ve got 1,000 names.  1,000 x 5 = 50.  So, you can expect 50 people will give you money.

At From the Heart, we have an average of $100 per donation.  That means for 50 donors you can raise $5,000.00 (per those 1,000 names).  Don’t plan on getting much from your name on your social networks.  They do not donate much.  Focus on your data base where you can send emails every 5 days.  These are your prime donors.

Myth 3 – I’ve got 45 days reach my goal so I can take my time.

You may have a 45 day campaign, but it’s critical to hit 30% in first 72 hours.  If you hit that, your campaign has an 80% chance of succeeding.

What amount can you raise in 3 days?  $3,000.00?  You may want to work backwards and use this calculation to set your ultimate goal.  If you think you can raise $3,000 in first 3 days, then you ask for $9,000 and you can probably hit it.

Lots of work?  Yes, but the payoff is more in marketing than you would ever imagine.

Myth 4 – If I don’t hit goal, I still get money so that’s ok, right?

Hitting your goal is essential.  The record of how your campaign performed and how it was accepted by others will be out there forever.  While not necessarily an accurate judgement on how successful your project will ultimately be, it will be seen by some that way.

Distributors want to know you understand social networking.  They think crowdfunding is an example of how good you are at marketing so they judge you by your success.  Be prepared for this.

Myth 5 – T-Shirts make great perks.

I like gifts that are personal and I like you to be part of the gift.  Send me something personal.  John Trigonis, Film Campaign Strategist at Indiegogo, wrote a poem for those who donated to his campaign and he was very successful.

Make your gift something that sets your project apart and makes other take notice.  One crowdfunder asked his potential donors, “Where is your dream vacation?”  Then, he took a picture of you and put you in that location.  He did very well because people posted these items on Facebook.  That got him new leads who eventually donated because of the extraordinary gifts.

Whatever you do on your campaign, let go of the myths and you will be much more successful.

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers.   She is also the author of The Art of Film Funding: Alternative Financing ConceptsHer Intentional Filmmaking Class teaches filmmakers on how to get their films funded.  New classes begin February 29th

Making Fair Use as Easy as 1, 2, 3 (Part 2)

by Carole Dean

When can you use Songs, News Clips, and Plays in Films

You know that song you hear that you can’t get out of your head?

What if you can’t get it out of your film?

Then, it becomes a question of fair use and a question for entertainment attorneys Michael Donaldson and Lisa Callif  (who happen to be the leading authorities on fair use).

While they were both guests on my podcast The Art of Film Funding , I asked Lisa an important question I hear often in my Intentional Filmmaking Class.

Is the music in your film incidental or non-incidental?

Is the music in your film incidental or non-incidental?

If a documentary filmmaker is shooting a film and a song is playing in the background of the location is it possible to claim fair use and if so for how many seconds?

“That answer has a couple of questions, “responded Lisa “depending on how the music was captured”

Incidental vs. Non-Incidental

The first example she gave is of a filmmaker shooting in a bowling alley and music happens to be playing in the background.

“If you capture it completely incidentally and you don’t edit the scene to the music, it’s just there, the filmmaker, as a director didn’t make any creative choices about the music, it probably is going to be fair use under our incidental tests.”

But, if is not incidental?

“If the filmmaker had any creative decision to what music was being played or how long it was being played, how loud it was, then it wouldn’t be fair use.  It’s a little different, it’s a lot different than our three step test, it’s really isn’t incidental use, purely incidental or not.”

Incidental vs. non-incidental is a very important part of the fair use doctrine.

Michael and Lisa just worked on a fictional film by a very famous director which was shot outside a music festival.   A lot of the music from the festival bled through during the shoot into the dialogue scenes.   There was no way to separate it out.

“We said it was fair use as long as it was contained only as background.” Michael answered. “as they were talking not used as any kind of underscore which was what Lisa was talking about earlier. Using somebody else’s stuff as underscore is never fair use in the US.”

What about using news clips in films?

Another question filmmakers in my class ask is about using news clips in their films.  Can they claim fair use or should they buy them?

“The test is exactly the same.” responded Michael referring to the incidental as opposed to non-incidental qualifier. “That test isn’t just for feature films or just for photographs or just for sculptures, it’s for anything you use in your film and documentaries often use news footage.”

He pointed out that a filmmaker needs to avoid the temptation of using news footage to tell or advance a story.  That would not be allowed under fair use.   The news footage needs to illustrate the story.

“You can’t get lazy and say, I will just stick in the ABC story that night that says: So and so got killed. You have to make that point by some interviewee or someway, and if it is appropriate, you can tell it straight from the news footage.  A lot of the docs we work on use news footage, it always has to illustrate or support a point you are already making.”

Is it possible to film a theatre play and claim fair use?

Yes, if the use of the play is to illustrate your point you are making.

A documentary they were assisting was about a local theater that showed how the creation of one of their productions.  It started with casting of local talent, building sets, rehearsals, etc.   Songs were used all the through.  Then, they go to opening night which, of course, is an actual production of the play.

But, it turned out that was ok to use.

“If you have to make a documentary what it’s like for a local theatre to put on a musical, you can’t tell that story without showing something of opening night.” Michael explained.

“You just have to make sure that you don’t overdo it. You are not substituting footage for entertainment value, but rather to show what it is like, when local people, non-professional decide to put on a major Musical.

“We did a wonderful thing for Michael Yuri, he runs a contests in Texas… where high school students read scenes from famous plays.  Obviously, if you are making a documentary about this phenomenon in Texas, you show them reading the scenes.

“There is a lot of circumstances with excerpts from plays, but the rules are exactly the same: Plays, music, film, broadcast television, cable shows, architecture, photos, the rule is:

“Are you using it to illustrate the point you are making, the use is reasonably appropriate and is that connection clear?”

Carole Dean is the president and founder of From the Heart Productions and author of The Art of Film Funding, 2nd edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  Her unique, innovative Intentional Filmmaking Class teaches filmmakers how to get their films funded.  New classes begin in September.  Discount for early enrollment.