Posted by Amy with 4 Comments
On March 20, “One Tree Hill” actress and now film producer Hilarie Burton walked up to a stranger named Linda, who was speed-walking on the beach, and interviewed her about her tastes in film.
On March 11, Kelly Tenney, a co-producer for the Wilmington-based “One Tree Hill,” talked about his humble first job in show business – a janitor.
And on February 11, Burton and Nick Gray, the writer of an upcoming film, exchanged a sentimental conversation about how they became friends and started working together.
Those events from the past couple of months are all there, caught mostly on video, for the world – we’re talking hundreds of thousands of people in more than 150 countries – to see.
That’s the purpose of Southern Gothic Production’s blog. The film company’s team wanted to give transparency to what they are doing as well as engage their audience, said Burton, who started the company last fall along with Tenney and Gray.
“What’s great about the blog is we’ve created a community of people that are excited for us, so they do a lot of the work for us,” Burton said. “It’s like building an army.”
Their blog – http://southerngothicproductions.blogspot.com – is hosted on Blogger, a free blogging service owned by Google, and was an idea the team floated earlier in the year.
“It was something I was really kind of skeptical about,” Burton said. “Really, blog? So, we started this blog and all of a sudden it blew up.”
And by “blew up,” she’s referring to more than 300,000 page views in a little over three months. Some posts on the blog garner dozens of comments from readers, and some even receive hundreds.
“It was like fire, gasoline fire,” Tenney added. “It just exploded.”
What’s the secret to their blogging success?
These three, who were self-described blogging newbies a few months ago, make sure they post frequently and have turned their blog into a “vlog” – think: video plus blog – to show their candid moments and add a more personal touch to the site.
Their blog posts give an inside look at how they are building Southern Gothic Productions, their business model and their mission of staying in Wilmington and using local resources.
Gray said the blog’s fans rely on them to post every day. Burton admits she’s a little more forgetful, so Tenney reminds her when it’s her turn to post on the blog.
“We have to create content every single day,” Burton said, adding that the blogging experience also gives the team some practice for upcoming projects. “What we’ve created in the past three months is a lot of video content, a lot of written content. It’s a diary for our company.”
When ideas for blog posts get low or if they just want to mix things up, the gang will walk up to strangers on various locations in Wilmington just to get to know another face in town, then show the world, via the blog, their new friend. It reminds Burton of her days as a MTV video DJ.
“We want to talk to the man on the street because that’s who we want to appeal to,” she said. “I want Southern Gothic to be a reason people interact.”
Tenney said the blog is meant to be an interactive social network. Fans can join the site and chat in a feature on the left side of the blog and comment below posts. They can even submit their own content that the Southern Gothic team will sometimes feature.
Gray said he’s entered the site’s chat on occasion and talked to people who had ideas he could write about.
“That makes it all easier for us, because they’re telling us what they want,” he said.
And Gray is giving clues, post by post, about the company’s first feature film that he wrote, a new-age romantic comedy titled “Pedestrian.”
The team has had to work around one challenge: “How do you talk about the film you’re working on without giving away the story and ruining the film experience for your audience?” Burton asked.
So Gray gave a palm reading of Lincoln Booth, a character in the script, and introduced the blog’s audience to the film’s characters by giving their background and other small details.
On Thursday, the team met at the riverwalk in downtown Wilmington to film a video for their blog letting their fans know their blog would be temporarily unavailable on Sunday, while maintenance is done to transfer the blog to a new Web site in the works.
On Friday, after the video was posted, dozens of readers commented and wished the team good luck.
Beyond interaction and sharing the behind the scenes of their business, Tenney said the blog also creates a brand for the production company. Features of the blog also allow the team to measure their audience.
They can tell, for example, that France is second to the U.S. in the blog’s readership numbers.
Tenney said the production company and its investors will be able to use analytical information from the blog to tell which cities would be best for distributing their films, based on the audience and fan base in those locations.
The team plans to launch a new Web site soon that will be a mix of professional information, the blog and a distribution and download center for other independent films in the Wilmington area that haven’t been distributed, Tenney said.
Burton calls their team and their blog a “mom-and-pop shop,” since they do everything from building a worldwide community based on local resources to selling T-shirts to raise money for their production so they can keep their films in Wilmington.
“We want to be as open as possible,” Burton said. “The reason we make movies and the reason we work in the industry we work in is because it’s fun, so why deprive our audience of 90 percent of the fun? They’re only getting that last 10 percent and what we want to give them is the full experience.”