But social media still a gray area in terms of impact

Like their studio cousins, indie producers are trying to harness the power of the Internet to find talent, generate revenue and reach out to audiences. Also like their studio cousins, they’re still often stumped about the right approach to such tools as blogs and social media.

Consider a recent foray by Killer Films. The shingle pacted with a hotel chain to make three short films, and held an online competish to find the winning projects, with the requirement that they all be filmed in a hotel room. The effort spurred some to question the banner’s boundaries.

“Someone told me, ‘That’s so commercial. I didn’t think Killer would do something so commercial,’” said the outfit’s co-head, Christine Vachon, at last week’s Netherlands Film Festival. “But there was absolutely no supervision of our content and we got to do whatever we wanted. It gave a break to a young filmmaker who may not have a voice otherwise, and it gave us the opportunity to discover new talent.”

The value of tapping into the online realm is also hard to measure, says Vachon.

She recalls that another filmmaker, choosing between two actors to cast in a role, checked how many followers each had on Twitter. He went with the one with the larger number.

But there still seem to be more questions than answers when it comes to the new tools.

“Does 10,000 Twitter followers mean that 10,000 people are going to come to the cinema?,” asked Vachon at the fest’s Variety Militans Lecture. “If you have the maximum number of friends on Facebook, is that a legitimate platform for advertising a film?”

And does goosing a film’s profile artificially yield gains or just backlash?

“It comes down to a question of authenticity,” Vachon said, advocating that positive buzz about a pic be allowed to grow organically online, rather than by trying to plant favorable comments. “We recognize when someone is trying to manipulate us into going to watch something.”

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