Here’s How to Get Your Videos Seen by the Right People

As an independent filmmaker one of the biggest challenges you face is getting your work noticed. How do you get your killer reel into the right hands? How do you build meaningful connections that will help you make the leap to the next level of your career?

We tackled these questions (and more!) in a Story & Heart webinar featuring Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Dan Riordan of Gnarly Bay, Matt Brue of Capture, and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker (and Story & Heart co-founder) Justin DeMers.

Justin kicked off the conversation: “A big part of being a filmmaker is getting people to see your work - and not just views, but the right people who are, ultimately, going to hire you.”

Dan agreed that 99% of the time “it’s about making great work and then doing everything you possibly can to get that work in front of the right people.” Then once you’re hired, “you have to do that process again.”

That makes perfect sense, but *how* do you get the work in front of the right people? Here are 7 tips.


1. Do awesome work and build a strong brand: If you create amazing things, your reputation will speak for itself.

“We only release videos that show our passion projects and personal projects. Anything we put on our Vimeo channel at this point is something that we really really believe in. The effect of that is that it passes that feeling to the audience, I hope. Where they think ‘if Gnarly Bay put a video out, it will be worth watching because they give a shit.’”  —Dan Riordan of Gnarly Bay

“I think it’s super important to have a consistent brand and voice and that you provide quality content even if you’re going out and shooting without being on assignment. Every piece of work I get is from reference and word-of-mouth.” —Elaine McMillion Sheldon of Requisite Media

“Being able to show clients what you can do is probably more important than what you have done.” —Matt Brue of Capture

2. Pinpoint influencers: They’ll help to amplify your message and spread the word (but remember there’s a thin line between networking and stalking).

“While working on ‘Hollow,’ which is about a community in West Virginia that’s lost 80% of its population, I created Google alerts on keywords related to the project. So I’d get thousands of news alerts and started to make a massive list of who was writing about these issues as a way to pinpoint influencers. I decided [documentary filmmaker] Morgan Spurlock was someone I needed to reach out to because he’s from West Virginia….I worked with the designer of ‘Hollow’ and created this sweet DVD. We went to a film screening of Morgan’s in Boston, but Morgan left after the Q&A. We just walked outside the theater and took off running and chased him down and scared him to death. He was really freaked out by us. We gave him the DVD and later he tweeted about the project, which was on Kickstarter at the time. It actually did help. But I literally chased him down, which sounds insane.” —Elaine

3. Make connections: Sometimes it really is about who you know.

“Try to make personal connections so that hopefully when the right projects come up, they will call you. Everything is exponential. The more work that you do, the more people might come calling later on and also the more stuff you have to show. It’s all about building the resume.” —Dan

“We’ve built our business word-of-mouth. For me, it’s been simple things like shooting someone from an agency a text message like ‘hey, hope you guys are doing well’ and literally, the next day, we’ll get a request for a new job. Just stay on people’s radars….The simple relationship things have been the biggest payoff for us - just staying in touch, letting people know that you really care whether you’re working with them or not, that you enjoy them and you believe in what they’re doing. Whatever we can do, even if it’s coming down and taking corporate headshots of your new employees. We’re willing to do that to keep the relationship and the dialogue alive. And that’s translated into a lot of great work and a lot of money over the course of time and a lot of new opportunities that if we were just out there trying to get a very specific type of agency or specific type of work, it just wouldn’t have happened.” —Matt

“Before I made ‘Hollow,” I was finding people through hackathons and different meetups, just going to film festivals and meeting people that are leading discussions and panels, going up to them afterwards and meeting them. I’m a big list keeper and I collect business cards and I log everyone into the spreadsheet. Following up with people, starting with strangers, asking them to introduce me to someone via e-mail….I met one woman that we pitched to because she started following me on Twitter. Constantly keep your antennas out.” —Elaine

“Try to make friends. There are so many people out there who can do so many cool stuff with cameras, but there’s only one me. I try to be as personable and accommodating and memorable as possible off-camera. Just remember as much as the work is important and the camera is important, you are your greatest asset. Your unique value comes from who you are as a person, not from what you can do with a $20,000 camera. Make sure that’s as much a  priority as doing great work with and that the experience - and not just the film - is memorable.” —Matt

4. Stay in touch: remind people that you’re out there doing good work.

“When I first started doing weddings, I felt like I had a pretty good portfolio, but I didn’t really start getting really good weddings and being able to charge high dollar until I started popping in for coffees and trying to get on wedding planners’ radars. With photographers that I really like and want to shoot alongside them, I would just do everything I could, take them out for pizza or coffee or beer. I would send little Christmas cards that were handwritten, and say ‘hi’ to people as often as I could, just staying present in people’s lives. Just let them know that whether we work together or not, I care about what they’re doing. If they posted a new wedding on a blog and I saw it, I’d comment on it. Just stay on people’s radar - that’s so huge and so often forgotten when you’re just thinking ‘business, business, business, we need money.’ But it’s people who bring jobs to you.” —Matt

5. Customize your work for each client: There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

“Once I realized that it was up to me to create the audience and that’s very challenging, it’s been a matter of not pitching the same thing to everyone, but pitching a version that relates to their audience because that’s the audience you want to tap into….In the beginning, I was a little arrogant where I felt ‘this is the project. You should take it the way it is.’ I had to learn to be flexible.” —Elaine

“We realized that every time someone would call we would try to find something that catered to their project. If it was a medical company, we’d send them a bunch of medical work. If it was a sporting goods company, we’d try to send them some sport. I think there’s some merit to having something in the region of what you’re potentially going to do. We put a reel together of some projects we got paid for, some we didn’t get paid for, and some we just thought up on our own. It was a combination of what we’ve done, but also what we can do. It definitely set a tone for the kind of projects we want to do. Being able to show clients what you can do is probably more important than what you have done.” —Matt

“When you’re thinking about getting your work in front of whomever you want to get it in front of, it’s about understanding their perspective and needs. It’s not just ‘here are the types of films I love. Do you love it too?’ The other component is how are they ultimately going to use it for whatever purpose they’re going to use it for? Make sure that your presentation includes that. Understand who you’re pitching to.” —Justin

6. Be social (as in social media): participate actively and generously in social media. You never know who you’ll meet.

“Making the jump from wedding stuff, we were just pumping out content and throwing everything up. We almost felt that we owed it to our clients to post everything to our Vimeo channel. In the wedding world, it’s very shareable. Facebook was huge for us. People would blog and Facebook their wedding Vimeo link. Our business was built by other people sharing their own videos on Facebook and even Pinterest. We put a lot into each wedding film and they were worth sharing.” —Matt

“I find Twitter really helpful to reach out to people and to share work and to join Twitter chats to learn more from other people and be part of those discussions so your name is in the mix in those types of conversations.” —Elaine

7. Keep hustling: It’s up to you to make things happen.

“Everything is going to come back to the story...a bad story in front of the right people isn’t going to do anything. It’s got to come back to some sort of compelling story. Putting all this work into getting your stuff in front of the ‘right people’ is only going to go so far if your work isn’t compelling and isn’t engaging.” —Justin

“People appreciate hunger and drive because not everybody has that….Don’t just tell, you have to show. So get yourself out there. Do a project. If you want to work for a shoe company, do a spec project on a shoe. Get yourself out there in front of the eyeballs that you want to work with.” —Matt

“In my experience in the agency world, going that extra mile, doing that reel or demo review, responding to RFPs, all that stuff is a huge deal in getting your stuff out there, showing that you’re hungry and that you want to work. That’s a big thing. It’s not desperation, it’s just hunger and that you care and that you’re going to put in the effort. That’s what separates the people who have great agency relationships and the people who have great videos that no one ever sees.” —Justin

“There’s never a day where you can sit back and wait for things to happen.” —Elaine


Have you had success getting your work seen by the right people? Share your tips and suggestions in the comments section below. 

View the Full Webinar

To hear more from Justin, Matt, Elaine, and Dan and to watch the full "How to Get Your Work Seen by the Right People" webinar visit the AcademyofStorytellers.com.