Here is the 5th and final part of my 'workshop' on film production.
I will post Sid's comments in the next day or two.5. Distribution
This is where you bring your film to the attention of potential audiences. It includes advertising and marketing.5.1: Have critical friends9
They may tell you what you don’t really want to hear, but it is worth it!
When I started my YouTube channel I was, and still am to a large extent, a one-man show. I don’t do patience very well and that meant that I would upload a video as soon as the edit was complete, and this was very much a case of act in haste, repent at leisure. When it was too late I would spot, amongst other things, the continuity errors, the scenes that lacked pace, the typos in the titles and the wrong credits. My viewers on YouTube are not backward in coming forward either. They would spot these things. They also criticise my choice of music and its volume, my voice, the lighting, and the quality of the audio, not to mention my sanity.
Since 2014 I’ve shared my videos with some critical friends before I’ve made them available for public viewing. They have been kind enough to endure watching the videos and they return brutally honest feedback. This process can be quite uncomfortable at times and has sometimes led to sequences that have taken me hours to edit being scrapped entirely but in every case the final video has been much better because of getting third party feedback.5.2: Choosing a Title
Words are important.
Your video has been completed and thanks to your critical friends it’s the best it can be. Now how do you build an audience and get people to watch it? Your choice of title is very important as, in my experience, when people search for videos on YouTube the highest weighting in the search algorithm is given to the video’s title. Also a catchy title can help you hook viewers.
Here’s a few pointers you may find useful when deciding on a title.
It’s a good idea to include keywords your audience is likely to use when looking for videos like yours. Tools like Wordtracker will suggest synonyms with higher search volumes.
Use the word “video” in your title. Many searches for videos include the word “video.”
Google truncates page titles somewhere around the 66 character mark. Any longer and you’ll see an ellipse at the end of your title. Clean, non-truncated SERP10
listings tend to have higher click-throughs.
It’s a no brainer but titles must be descriptive. Use the title to quickly summarise what the video is about.5.3: Choosing a Thumbnail
A picture is worth a thousand words.
YouTube picks three still frames from your video for you to choose from but it also offers the option to upload a picture of your own. I always pick my own picture. Select or upload a picture that shows what's in your video. A good thumbnail stands out and draws viewers’ attention. My most watched videos tend to show cavers, mainly Mark, negotiating constrictions, but Richard here has a really great expression on his face.5.4: Promotion of your masterpiece
How do you bring your film to the attention of potential viewers?
I’ve just completed a highly unscientific survey of my recent Facebook posts and the results are quite interesting.
- I get most post reactions from posting a photograph.
- If I post a video which autoplays I get around 66% of the post reactions that I get for photos.
- If I paste a link to a YouTube video I get approximately 33% of that I get for photos. Also the choice of thumbnail has a very large effect on how people respond. A non-engaging thumbnail and the response rate goes down to less than 10%.
None of this comes as a surprise. Photos offer instant gratification whereas watching a video requires effort and an investment of time. Even when one of my favourite filmmakers posts a video I will often put off viewing it until I have some free time, and then I might never get round to it.
On the other hand the explanation could be that my videos are crap and if I was the only one whose videos were largely ignored then I would have to agree.
Film companies have advertising departments with huge budgets at their disposable. I don’t and I assume you don’t either. I promote my videos by posting them to:
- My personal Facebook profile.
- My Caver Keith Facebook page.
- The Dudley Caving Club Facebook page.
- Cavers of Facebook and Descent Caving Group Facebook groups.
- UK Caving.
- r/caving on Reddit.
- My Twitter feed.
However in spite this initial push most of my YouTube video views come from YouTube suggesting/recommending my videos. No one outside Google can tell you how the YouTube algorithm that suggests videos to watch works11
, but it’s obvious that the videos of successful YouTubers, i.e., those with high view and subscriber counts, get their videos promoted more than those who are less successful. So having a successful channel is very important if you want people to watch your videos. Although having a high subscriber count gets you views it doesn’t follow that it will be your subscribers who mainly watch your videos. 96% of my video views are from people who do not subscribe to my channel!5.5: Success can have its perks
Commissions, sponsorship and offers
I’m a nobody. In the caving world I’m nothing more than an average caver. I’ve not discovered any new cave (although it’s not for lack of trying), I’ve not led a caving expedition, I’ve never carried out a daring rescue, I’ve never had anything published, in fact I’ve done nothing noteworthy at all.
However according to the Advertising Standards Authority having 30,000 plus followers on social media gives one enough influence to be considered a celebrity, and I have almost 84,000 subscribers to my YouTube channel, and this has had its perks.
I have been asked to produce conference opening videos, I’ve had lighting equipment supplied by Fenix under a sponsorship deal, I’ve had clips from my videos shown on The One Show (about 4 seconds worth), I’ve been interviewed on local radio, articles about me have been published in newspapers, I’ve recently been approached to make a caving podcast, I regularly get asked to review new products and I’ve made a cameo appearance in a horror story, The White Road by Sarah Lotz, in which I also get a very flattering mention in the acknowledgements.5.6: Don’t be put off by failure
It’s not possible to please all of the people all of the time
According to money saving expert Martin Lewis to be successful involves 4 things.
- It’s necessary to have talent.
- Hard work is vital.
- Have focus. Zone in on what you are good at.
- Most important of all is luck. Accept that failure is part of the journey and don’t take it to heart.
which was based on Charlie’s Angels, the TV series from the 1970s is the video that took me a great deal of time to film and edit. It is also one of the films I’m most proud of. After it’s showing at Hidden Earth 2018 it attracted the following comments:
"To use this as the opening AV for Hidden Earth was in my opinion an extremely poor choice."
"Quite a number of people commented most strongly and said that it left them completed uninspired."
"At the end you could have almost heard a pin drop such was in my opinion the lack of WOW Factor."
So in conclusion I guess I must have some talent; I do work really hard; I generally have focus and I have embraced failure - big time!Credit Where Credit’s Due
Of course I couldn’t have done it all by myself. Countless members of Dudley Caving Club have supported my efforts over the years, and I give every one of them my grateful and heartfelt thanks. However I must give special mention to the following amazing bunch of friends. Brendan Marris
who has starred in many of my videos, contributed remarkable photographs and has produced some amazing graphics. Ian Millward
aka Bosley from Keith Caver’s. Another of my stars and a very supportive critical friend.
I mustn’t forget to also mention Keith’s Angels:
who is my biggest star, get it? If not watch the film. He has also allowed me to use his fantastic photographs, is a brilliant actor and has a wicked sense of humour. Jess Burkey
, my most supportive critic.
who is a fairly recent member of the crew but has supported me in all of my efforts wholeheartedly.
And finally my thanks go to Sid Perou
and Antonia and Andy Freem
for acting as critical friends.
9 Critical friend has its origins in critical pedagogy education reforms in the 1970s and arose out of the self-appraisal activity which is attributed to Desmond Nuttall. One of the most widely used definitions is from 1993, A critical friend can be defined as a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person's work as a friend.
10 Search engine results pages are web pages served to users when they search for something online using a search engine, such as Google. The user enters their search query (often using specific terms and phrases known as keywords), upon which the search engine presents them with a SERP.
11 Since I wrote this I've found this video that attempts to explain the YouTube algorithm. It makes sense to me.