How Can I Get My Stuff To Go Viral?

by Anne Flournoy

1.23.13  Though I've been making a comedy series The Louise Log for the past five years, I've only recently realized that 'the cream does not rise' through the 78 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.  So for the past 90 days, all of my energy has gone into trying to understand how to find and connect to my audience.

Talking to people close to the huge web series successes Anyone But Me and Awkward Black Girl, it seems that both found online magazines which cater to the target demographic for their series. I've heard that if AfterEllen embeds a trailer/episode, you're pretty much guaranteed 50,000 views ... and that's an audience which includes members of the LGBT blogosphere which is a force in itself.  Anyone But Me was on AfterEllen early on in its release.  Similarly, Awkward Black Girl may have started its meteoric rise soon after it was on clutch.   

Groups never occur to me as a first move.  I always figure I'll just do it myself.  But as someone pointed out recently (I think it was Gail Z. Martin in her excellent book '30 Days To Social Media Success')  (warning: I'm still reading and taking notes from the book a month later... but I'm a slow reader) "It's a lot easier to tap into an assembled group than to gather your own."  

A resource you're probably aware of to help you do this work is  the alexa toolbar.  If you've never heard of this, try it now.  You can install it on Firefox and probably on other browsers.  An astonishing richness of information for almost any website online is suddenly on your screen: Google ranks, US and worldwide, will be the blue numbers.  Click on either of those and in the drop-down you'll see tabs for Audience (with complete demographics... education, kids/no kids, where they use the internet, age and gender)  Related Links and more.  For finding online or traditional press, blogs, whatever your target audience is engaged with, the Alexa toolbar is your BFF.  For real.

Once upon a time I poo-pooed looking for celebrities or even Influencers to help with promotion.  So confident was I that "the cream would rise" (and that I had the cream) and hey, who likes to be rejected or worse, ignored?  HA.

Laura Hanna, a colleague (and a subversive filmmaker, editor and sound editor) recommended studying the strategies of Kony 2012, strategies based on enlisting the help of Influencers on twitter.  (Google the question 'How did Kony 2012 go viral' for more details.)  Taking tips from this method, Laura and her collaborators got over 80,000 views in the first days after uploading their Rolling Jubilee video.  

What is the Rolling Jubilee?

What is the Rolling Jubilee?

My last suggestion is Emily Best's brand new, really well thought through and super-cool, alternative distribution/crowdsourcing site Seed&Spark. Whereas some crowdsourcing sites welcome everyone from inventors to musicians to backpackers-needing-a-plane-ticket, Seed&Spark is only for people making film and video.  

An overly simplified explanation of what Seed&Spark offers is: it's a platform to ask for what you need to make the work and it's a pay-per-view distribution system.  

But instead of asking for cash on Seed&Spark, here filmmakers make up something like a wedding registry-  sandwiches for ten people for all the weekends in March, a minivan with driver for Feb 28th, a rural cabin for one week.  And BONUS: when you give to a project, you get Sparks in return with which you can watch films on the site without having to pay cash.  

The very simple but maybe critical fact here is that when people are giving at this level (as opposed to with a credit card) they'll be more connected to you and to your project in 3D, that their friends and family will be more connected, that the virality of facebook postings etc. will be organic. 

This post started out as a comment responding to a discussion on this very subject on Kyna Morgan's Her Film Project LinkedIn group and things got out of hand with all the points to cover.  Plus, I'd promised I was going to blog. You might want to join that group for more suggestions from thoughtful filmmakers who are figuring out how to break through the clutter.   

(For a more current blog, please check HERE for new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.)






"Where's My New Episode?"

by Anne Flournoy

1.12.13 The project that feels like my life's work, The Louise Log, has been in production for over five years. There are thirty-four episodes online and we have a growing number of enthusiastic fans.  

Snezhana Chernova in The Louise Log 8: How To Interview Babysitters

Snezhana Chernova in The Louise Log 8: How To Interview Babysitters

But alas, in the bigger scheme of things, we are virtually under the radar. Until last fall I was operating under the delusion that if you 'make good work and put it out there' that 'the cream would rise'.  

Generous friends and collaborators tried to guide and encourage me to focus on getting the word out.  But being 1) very hard-headed and 2) more interested in producing episodes than on learning marketing, until last October, almost nothing had been done to promote this series.  

To rectify the situation, the uploads are on hiatus for a little while longer while I'm immersed in figuring out how to get The Louise Log in front of its audience. The focus seems to be paying off with hundreds of new fans and even requests for interviews and meetings.

A longer post, written in the throes of my revelation of this necessary shift, details what you can do if you want to help.  Thanks for reading.  Thanks for watching and for anything else you do to help us to spread the word. 




How To Make A No-Budget Web Series: Writing The $?@!? Script

by Anne Flournoy

12.29.09  Okay so you’ve found a story that’s in the public domain which you’re rabidly excited about and can use however you want. Or, more likely, you haven’t. In desperation you’ve settled on a character with a strong desire which could lead her/him into conflict. The operative word is ‘could’. But HOW?

I’ve found Syd Field’s Screenwriter’s Workbook extremely helpful: it’s a step-by-step approach that breaks the job down into what to do today. It’s simple. He treats screenwriting like brick laying. My copy ended up in tatters from over-use and I eventually had to buy a second one. 

But, before we get ahead of ourselves, what if you’re not shredding your copy of Syd Field? What if you spend most of your time and energy ridiculing or second-guessing any idea you might have? How do I know this? 

Should the day come when you can no longer bear the thought of your script, much less of approaching your desk, you might want to take a crack at Lawrence Block’s Write For Your Life affirmations.  It’s astonishing to think that a sophisticated subconscious can be tricked by a tape of affirmations but I’m telling you, this one works. And it has for me for years. 

Strap on some headphones and go for a walk- or find a baseball bat and hit your mattress. I come back feeling refreshed, recharged and eager to sit back down (and it’s not just from pounding the mattress). For a preview of the tape, click here and advance to 2:13 into the video. (The guy listens to the very tape.) (No, all of the affirmations are not so completely crazy.) 

Should your problem persist (i.e. no story is emerging), it’s time for systemic nutrition – Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way

Run to the nearest bookstore and buy the book. You can do it on your own or better yet, get a few friends to form an Artist’s Way group and do it together. The Artist’s Way is a workbook jam-packed with challenge, fun and inspiration. I met one of my favorite actors in an Artist’s Way class and have been in a little Artist’s Way group with friends since before I ever took the class. I can’t recommend it enough. And this is from a person who is ‘not a joiner’. 

These tools have been trusted friends since my first attempt at writing a feature length script. I’d love to hear your suggestions on how to outfox writer’s block. There’s plenty of room in the comments section below so please be my guest. 

How To Make A No-Budget Web Series: The Script

by Anne Flournoy

12.17.09 When the script for what was supposed to be my second feature failed to attract a producer, I decided to kick back and take a crack at viral videos. Compared with sustaining a story for ninety minutes, how hard could it be to come up with one to three minutes? I loved ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’! And I know lots of kids. . . 

The Louise Log

The Louise Log

Follow my example and you too can ruin a summer. I spent every day for two months just missing a thousand great moments– and this in spite of the camera perpetually in my hand. As my dear producer friend Hanna finally advised: “It’s easier, Anne, if you have a script.”

Considering the reception that my ‘second feature’ script had gotten, I was feeling a little gun shy about my abilities as a storyteller. Casting around for a classic story, a very old classic story for which the rights would be in the public domain and not an issue seemed like a good idea. Ideally this story would take place in a few naturally-lit, simple locations which I have access to- for example, my apartment. Best case scenario, this story would involve a minimum number of actors. Obviously it should not require anything fancy like a car crash, an explosion or a real policeman’s uniform. 

A major stumbling block arose: I’m a very slow reader and, worse, reluctant to pick up any printed matter unless it’s a self-help book. 

Please scroll up to the blog tab at the top of this page for the more detailed and informative 12/29 installment of this cliff-hanger blog. And if you need a break from reading, here’s the link to an episode (217 sec) from my series: The Louise Log #13: Louise And The Repairman 


Art/Money Ratio Conundrum

by Anne Flournoy

12.13.09  Two days ago,  Ann Convery forwarded an astonishing email about art, criteria and money.

As an artist more excited about making things than promoting them, I’ve suffered my share of anguish at the difficulty I’ve had supporting myself with my work. I can’t seem to shake the belief that if it were good, it’d rise to the top. And especially now, with the internet and the potential for virality, if you’re doing really good work how can it not go viral? How can you not gather fans and (eventually) make a living? 

Here’s the email:



Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007


Joshua Bell playing a violin worth $3.5 in the D.C metro

Joshua Bell playing a violin worth $3.5 in the D.C metro

A man with a violin (pictured) played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

The conclusion made by the sender of the email was: if we can miss out on this, how many other things are we missing because they’re not framed in time and place as ‘important’ or ‘great’ ?

My conclusion is the flip side: context and promotion are still king. People are inundated. They’re still looking to the gatekeepers to tell them what’s good, what to spend their time and money on. 

So take heart. (talking to myself here. . .) Modest notoriety-and-income from creative work are not (necessarily) a measure of worth or potential. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. 

The next blog here is going to be the first in a series on everything I’ve learned and am learning about ‘going viral’. 

(For a more current blog, please check HERE for new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.)