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.
Before we get into the mechanics of creating your film website, it’s important to understand 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 your are tying to accomplish.
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 evolve from the promotional stage to the full sale stage. (Don’t worry, I’ll share more on this a little later in the article.)
How To Create a Film Website
There are three tools you’ll need to set up your film website.
- A domain name: The address you use to promote your film.
- A hosting account: Where your website actually resides online.
- A WordPress theme: WordPress provides a quick way to set up a film website.
Step 1: Grab Hosting and Your 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. While there are many hosting companies, the one I’ve been using for years is Bluehost. (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.
When it comes to creating a domain name for your film website, I suggest you got with a DOT COM domain name. For example if your film is an environmental documentary called Toxic Soup, you may want to grab ToxicSoupMovie.com. The other stuff that ends in DOT IO or DOT NET might be readily available, but may be harder for your audience to remember.
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.
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. And 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.
In my opinion, WordPress is one of the most robust and powerful content management systems in the world. And it’s easy to use. 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. You can then create and modify your content and change the entire look and feel of your website, with the ease of sending an email.
Step 3: Find A WordPress Theme For Your Film Website
When we launched the film website for Toxic Soup, we focused on getting environmental activists to join our newsletter. In addition 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.
Share Your Story
In addition to your email registration form, your film website should include a video that tells your prospective fan about your movie. 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. And 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.
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!”
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.
The purpose of an audience list and why you need it!
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 3rd party email providers.
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.)
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 to customize registration forms you can embed on your website.
As a filmmaker, depending on the word of mouth potential of your movie, having a promotional film website can help you take advantage of initial movie marketing opportunity.