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Our friends at IFPFilm Presence and the filmmakers of After Tiller treated a packed house at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP to an illuminating case study of the film’s outreach campaign and audience-building strategy. POV is thrilled to be presenting this important film in our upcoming season on September 1st.

After Tiller filmmakers Martha Shane and Lana Wilson, along with Sara Kiener and Merrill Sterritt from Film Presence, laid out a compelling case for outreach being a top priority for filmmakers – from pre-production to theatrical release and beyond.

Shane and Wilson spoke about their outreach goals for the film, which were, simply, to have as many eyes on the film as possible – from all ends of the ideological spectrum. One of After Tillers successes is telling the emotional and personal stories behind late-term abortion, without setting a political agenda.

Here are a few of our favorite takeaways for filmmakers from the evening:

  • Outreach Early and Often: From the first day of pre-production, you’re meeting and talking with people interested in your film. Keep a spreadsheet of everyone you meet and their contact info. Early contact builds loyalty and you’ll have a crowd of partners and viewers who are excited for your film’s release. A crowd-funded campaign is a good way to create a network of early supporters invested in your work.
  • Think Local: Identify key issue-based organizations that might be interested in your film. Reach out nationally, but talk to local chapters as you make the rounds on film festival circuit.
  • Who Is Your Audience?: You made this film for someone – who do you want to see it? Who has access to your intended audience? Hit the phones.
  • Tailor Outreach Around Key Moments: Be aware of what doors are opening when – and how to be ready when the door does open. Supporters you’ve reached out to in the past will feel personally involved when the film gets attention.
  • Outreach as Fundraising: Make a list of influencers and organization leaders. Get in touch early. Don’t just ask for money, ask for their ideas. This creates real engagement with your partners rather than a one-way ask. They feel involved and invested.
  • Film Presence’s Hybrid Approach: If you have a distributor, they can work together with your outreach team to get as many eyes on your film as possible – and tap into your network of partners. A local chapter of a partner organization or fans you’ve met along the way can drive a theatrical screening. Or, if a theatrical isn’t in the cards, your distributor can let your outreach team know that they are free to schedule community screenings in that area, so that people who want to see your film will have the opportunity in their community.

By keeping line of communication open with their intended audience, the filmmakers had avenues for their financial, press and outreach goals – and it all started with a spreadsheet.

POV’s Community Engagement and Education team continues this kind of outreach work by working with educators, community organizations and public media stations to present free screenings across the country.  In addition, we produce and distribute free discussion guides and standards-aligned lesson plans for each of our films. Interested in screening After Tiller in your classroom or community? Join our Community Network to host a sneak preview screening of the film starting July 7th.

Be sure to tune into the POV broadcast of After Tiller  on PBS September 1st! Register your Premiere Party for a chance to win DVDs, posters, coffee, chocolate, popcorn, and more!

Get more documentary film news and features: Subscribe to POV’s documentary blog, like POV on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @povdocs.

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POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 400 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.