As a filmmaker, you probably already know that your film needs a web site. And if you don't, then hear this: you do. (Yes, even for short films, though a sub-page on your main company or personal web site will probably do for a short.) A Facebook page is not enough. A web site serves as the ambassador for your film to festivals, press, your audience, and the film industry. Your site can even increase your film's chances of getting into festivals, for reasons we'll discuss below.
Here's a quick look at the information your web site should contain at a minimum.
- Contact info - including your email address, business phone number, and social media handles. The phone number is especially important for festivals, who may want to call you about acceptance, venue changes, or problems with your print. Don't want to give out your cell number? Sign up for a free Google Voice number and set it to ring through to your phone, or simply notify you of new voice mail.
- A synopsis - about 200 to 300 words. Notice I did not say "plot summary." The differences are subtle and the terms are often used interchangeably, but for our purposes think of a synopsis as an appetizer, and a plot summary as a tasting menu. The synopsis makes you want to eat more, while the plot summary gives you an idea of what the full meal would taste like. (For more advice on writing synopses, see this article at Film Festival Secrets.)
- Still images - not too many, but enough to give a festival or journalist a few choices if they're trying to write about your film. Ideally these would be shot with a still camera, but screen grabs will do if you neglected to take pictures on set. Sometimes a great still image is all a festival needs to hook an audience into seeing a film, so put your more arresting pics up on the site.
- Video - you're a filmmaker, so show us what you can do. This doesn't necessarily have to be a trailer, but for features it's a good idea. Short films? Give us a clip, or a 15-30 second trailer if you feel like putting one together. If a programmer is interested in a film and needs convincing, behind-the-scenes footage or interviews can give him a sense of what you're like as a person. Programmers are human. They can be persuaded based on gut feelings, particularly if two films are running neck and neck.
- Cast & crew info - 100-200 word bios describing where you and your cast/crew are from, and previous film work. You can omit other work experience and life details unless they pertain to the film's subject matter.
- News - if you have upcoming screenings or distribution details to share, put them here. Likewise any new developments from your cast and crew. If they just got cast in a TV series or Hollywood movie, that's reason to celebrate and spread the news. It also gives festivals a sense of how engaged you are with your film. A news section that hasn't been updated in months is a bad sign.
- Laurels from other festivals - yes, we want to know what other fests you've played. Don't worry about premiere status worsening your chances at other festivals. We're going to find out anyway, so just be up front about it. Festival laurels are stamps of approval and let us know that your film is worth looking at – more so than the stack of unknown films on our desks, anyway.
When a festival programmer gets curious about your film, the first thing she's likely to do (even before watching it!) is to Google the title and your name, to see how well it's doing on the festival circuit and to get a sense of how much attention you're paying to the marketing of your film. Don't get caught without a respectable looking site that provides the necessary information to make a good impression.