Surfing The Reef
By Rodney Appleyard
Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all form part of the standard toolkit for today’s filmmaker. Director Andrew Traucki is hoping to take the concept a step further.
While cameras are rolling on The Reef another set of cameras will stream the action live across the internet on the film’s website on November 5, turning viewers into voyeurs of the production process.
And uncensored footage of the film’s key protagonist – a relentless 15-foot great white shark hunting a group of four friends – is a key lure as the filmmakers attempt to ultimately turn a public fascination with man-eaters into an audience.
“This kind of marketing strategy is absolutely vital,” Traucki says.
“It’s unfortunate that Australian film budgets and the mentality inside the Australian industry doesn’t usually get behind original marketing strategies like this. I have ended up building this one myself, late at night with my web team.”
It is not the first time Traucki has brought audiences behind the scenes to drum up interest. On his debut feature Black Water he launched a viral campaign that combined real footage of a crocodile with a man falling into a swimming pool, giving the impression he was being attacked.
The footage attracted 1.5 million hits on YouTube before an age restriction was placed on it, which killed the campaign, while the release of bigger-budgeted crocodile feature Rogue also stymied support.
“Rogue got the TV support behind it and everyone was too scared to back an Australian film about a similar story, so we didn’t get very good distribution at all in the end. But we did well on DVD sales.”
This time, he hopes the excitement generated by filming his team performing live on the day, mixed with pre-recorded interviews, shark clips, and off-the-cuff conversations, will be enough to build momentum behind the film.
“I’m glad that we managed to get the website up before production, which includes clips of real sharks that I filmed, because we can point the media and interested parties to it. At one point, one of the sharks tried to eat our camera whilst we were filming inside a cage in South Australia, which was quite exciting.”
Traucki thinks it strange that some distributors do not think it is worth having an internet marketing strategy.
“Maybe if you’re targeting the over 60s then you don’t need such a campaign. But if you want to be in touch with young people under-35, you have to try these things. Having ‘virals’ and a strong internet presence gets people talking about us online.
“I’m a huge believer that one of the main problems of the Australian film industry is not down to the scripts or production values but it’s because of the way they are marketed. We should make sure the marketing budgets on our films are at least 30, 40, 50 per cent of the production budget because that’s what it is for the US movies.”
He is hoping that if he attracts a big enough audience to watch the live web stream, it will lead to a broader distribution deal for the film.
“It’s hard to work out at this stage if it will get a decent cinema life. The biggest release we can hope for is 30 screens, which is what you get for Australian films, unless you make something like Australia. But you can hardly call that a big push.
“It’s also difficult for genre films because we are stuck between being viewed as art house productions and mainstream movies. The mainstream cinemas have so much US product, why would they bet on an Australian movie? And the art house cinemas don’t want to know about genre. So there’s a gap in the market there.”
Check out The Reef’s live stream, shark clips and other extras at www.reefmovie.com.