As a filmmaker, your film website is one of the most important tools for promoting and (eventually) distributing your film. Your film website will provide an overview of your film, including why you made it and why your audience should care.
As with any business which is promoting its products, your website needs to be responsive, well-designed, and professional. Although creating a website for your film may seem like an afterthought amidst the barrage of film festival entries and SAG dues, it could be the first impression which leads to your film’s success down the road.
Where Do You Begin?
Before we get into the mechanics of creating your film website, it’s important to understand that your website will go through two stages. The first stage of your film website is your pre-launch promotional stage. During this time, your film website will simply consist of your movie title, a synopsis, and some fancy images that express what you are trying to accomplish.
This is designed to build hype and promote the general feel of your movie, acting almost like a mini trailer.
Then, after you participate in some film festivals and get to the stage where you’re ready to sell your film (or get a distribution deal), your website should evolve from the promotional stage to the full sale stage. This may sound daunting, but it’s actually rather simple. I’ll explain how you do this later on in the article.
How To Create a Film Website
There are three tools you’ll need to set up your film website.
- Domain Name: The web address you use to promote your film.
- Hosting Account: Where your website actually resides online.
- WordPress Theme: WordPress is an intuitive website-making platform that comes with many different themes!
Step 1: Organize Web Hosting And Grab A Domain Name
The first step in getting your film website established involves reserving website hosting and a domain name. If you already know the name of your movie, you will want to reserve it as soon as you can before somebody else grabs it. You may struggle with this if your film has a more generic title, while films with unusual titles will probably be able to find [Film Title].com rather easily.
If you are struggling to find a name for your film’s website which isn’t already taken, try using some variations such as [Film Title]-movie.com or something similar. Small changes to your domain name could see it being available. Just make sure the URL isn’t confusing or hard to remember.
When it comes to hosting, you have many hosting companies to choose from, but I’ve been using Bluehost for many years and I would heartily recommend it to others. (In full disclosure, this is my affiliate link for Bluehost and they pay me to promote.)
Website hosting can be compared to the vacant lot where you’ll eventually build your office building. Your domain name can be compared to your street address. When you arrive at Bluehost, you will first need to reserve a domain name for your movie. After you have selected the term of your registration (such as 1, 2 or more years) and decided if you want public or private registration, you only need to enter your billing info and complete your purchase.
When you opt for website hosting, no matter who you choose, make sure that you pay for WHOIS privacy, or that the company you go with has WHOIS privacy as part of your package. If you don’t pay for WHOIS privacy, then anyone viewing your website will easily be able to view sensitive personal information about you such as your name and email address. This is an aspect of hosting which catches many first-time hosting out, so be sure to watch out for it and protect your private information.
Step 2: Install WordPress On Your Server
In terms of setting up your actual film website, I recommend building your site in a content management system, or CMS. One of the most popular is WordPress. Bluehost makes the set up easy – after you reserve your domain name, you will be redirected to your control panel. Once there, click on an icon called “WordPress.”
From there, you will START a brand new install WordPress on your server.
After a minute or two, WordPress will be installed in your account. You will then be issued with a username and a password. Once you have it, you can log into your new website and begin your customization, harnessing the power of the WordPress platform.
In my opinion, WordPress is one of the most robust and powerful content management systems in the world. It’s also incredibly intuitive and easy to use, being designed so that website designers of all calibers can use it with ease.
Step 3: Find A WordPress Theme For Your Film Website
Once you set up WordPress, you can choose from different “themes”, which makes it easy to create a website that “speaks” directly to your niche target audience. For example, you can use colors, styles, fonts, and layouts which embody the feel of your film and the mood that you are trying to create with it.
While there are thousands of free WordPress themes to choose from, you might also opt to get a more premium theme. The following themes have been specifically created for filmmakers:
Cinerama: A Theme For Movie Studios:
The Cinerama theme was designed for film and production companies. And it is configured to showcase your current and past movie projects. Here is more information on the Cinerama theme.
Silverscreen – For Filmmakers, and Production Companies
The Silverscreen theme quickly creates a professional web presence for film and production companies. It is configured to showcase your current and past movie projects. Here is more information on the Silverscreen theme.
Filmic – An Exquisite Filmmaker WordPress Theme
The Filmic theme is self described as an exquisite filmmaker WordPress theme. Similar to the previous examples, this theme will allow you to professionally showcase your current and past movie projects. Here is more information on the Filmic theme.
Additional Film Website Examples
You can then create and modify your content and change the entire look and feel of your website, all with the ease of sending an email. WordPress allows you to create a custom-made professional-looking website which represents your film in the best light possible.
If you choose a good theme, you will be able to showcase a website which is fast-loading, responsive, mobile-ready, well-designed, and well-organized. In a nutshell, you’ll have a professional-looking promotional website without having to pay professional web designers to make it!
When we launched the film website for Toxic Soup, we focused on getting environmental activists to join our newsletter. In addition to capturing emails, the Toxic Soup landing page had another goal – we wanted to let people know that Toxic Soup was more than just a movie; it was a movement. And we wanted to get our audience to help spread the message.
As a result, we used a website which not only advertised the film via a trailer (which played in the center of the screen) but a theme which had a prominent sidebar asking visitors whether they wanted to subscribe to our newsletter to find out more about the real-life events that were happening with our cause.
Share Your Story On Your Film Website
Using an email registration/subscription form is a great idea no matter what genre your movie is, and we recommend using a WordPress theme which comes with one. In addition to your email registration form, your film website should include a video that tells your prospective fan about your movie. This could be an official trailer, or it could be more of a stylized pitch which details what your film is going to be about.
A good example of this can be found at Cow Power, a documentary focused on turning cow poop into fuel. I met the filmmaker, Allison Gillette, when she attended my panel discussion at WestDoc. I especially like her email registration form. Do you see how it is limited to just asking for the email?
Many marketers agree that asking for less is more. You see, rather than cluttering the screen up with needless details, simply asking for an email is a great way to simplify your film website and collect the information you need. Most visitors to your website will be tech-savvy enough to understand how to interact with your film website without needing excessive detail.
Add Testimonials On Your Film Website
Just because you do not yet have a movie, does not mean you cannot find at least one early fan excited about the prospect of your movie. An example might be “Hey Jason – I can’t wait to see your ninja zombie movie!”, for example. These early testimonials could also big up the film by talking about your previous work as a director.
For example “Hey Jason, your last film was magnificent with breathtaking cinematography – I can’t wait to see what you do with this new film!” If your film is a sequel to another film, or if it follows a series of films that you are making, then this process is even easier, as you can use the glowing reviews of your earlier film as quasi-testimonials for your upcoming release.
At their core, these early testimonials simply need to demonstrate that someone else knows about your movie. To do this, you will want to contact your subscribers and ask them if they’d be willing to give you a testimonial about why they signed up for your mailing list. We live in an age of heightened data privacy, so if someone is willing to hand out their email to you, they probably like you and are excited about your new film! As a result, you can probably get a testimonial out of them if you ask nicely.
Why You Need A eMail Mailing List!
The primary objective of your film website during the promotional stage is to get people to enroll in your mailing list. To do this, you will want to research several third-party email providers, deciding which is the best one for your needs.
Two popular email marketing providers are MailChimp and Aweber. I actually utilize Aweber to manage our Filmmaking Stuff mailing list and I totally love the service. (Full disclosure, in addition to using the service, I get paid to promote Aweber.) Whatever service you choose, make sure that it has features which are right for you and your campaign.
After selecting your preferred email management service, your next step is to actually create the registration form!
As mentioned previously, you should only ask for the most essential information. In my testing, asking for anything more than a name and email dramatically diminishes opt-ins. Both MailChimp and Aweber make this very easy, as they allow you to customize registration forms you can embed on your website.
Keeping your registration forms simple not only makes your website look better – it increases your chance of opt-ins too! It’s better to have a concise and to-the-point film website as opposed to a cluttered and disorganized site which disorientates visitors, so bear this in mind throughout the process.
If you’re a filmmaker who largely depends on word-of-mouth for your promotion, you really strongly need to consider creating a promotional film website which can help you to take advantage of these 21st-century movie marketing tools and opportunities.
Although you always need an element of hype and word-of-mouth for any film promotion, a professional website acts as a touchstone for your movie’s promotion, providing interested parties with a centralized place to access information, news, and trailers surrounding your new film. It also puts a professional foot forward, representing your film in a positive light.
Although you can always hire a web developer and webmaster, making these tweaks yourself will save you money, and a lot of time and hassle too. The WordPress platform comes with a dozens of themes which suit movies of all styles and genres, so there’s always something to help you. Visit our affiliate partner Bluehost and start your film website today.