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Facebook’s ‘Seen’ Initiative Helps Connect Underrepresented Filmmakers With Audiences

Facebook is hoping to reduce barriers for filmmakers from underrepresented communities, launching a new marketing initiative, “Seen,” that aims to bring more attention to films by minority filmmakers.

It’s a much more democratized way to market movies, said Brickson Diamond, founding member and chair of the Blackhouse Foundation, a group that hopes to bring more diversity to Sundance and other film festivals. The initiative, he says, gives filmmakers more data that could prove useful in negotiations with potential distributors or sales agents that show the strength of audience demand for a particular film.

Diamond’s Blackhouse has partnered with Facebook’s Creative Shop, a team of strategists within Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram that works with small businesses to make social-media marketing campaigns, for the program.

The first film to participate is “A Boy. A Girl. A Dream,” a love story about two people who meet on Election Night, starring Omari Hardwick (“Kick-Ass” and “For Colored Girls”) as a Los Angeles club promoter and Meagan Good (“Think Like a Man” and “Brick”) as a visitor from the Midwest. The film is directed by Qasim Basir, based on a screenplay by Basir and Samantha Tanner.

The film’s producer, Datari Turner, called the campaign “groundbreaking,” adding that it helps reduce the often-high cost of marketing a film. The week-long campaign for “A Boy. A Girl. A Dream” helped boost the number of followers on its Facebook page from 100 to more than 50,000. The ads reached nearly 17 million people and had nearly 16 million unique video views. Nearly 38,000 people shared the ad for the movie. “Facebook is a part of most people’s everyday lives,” Turner noted.

The data available, as well as social-media reaction, offers a wealth of information for filmmakers, Turner said. “One thing we learned was how popular Omari Hardwick and Meagan Good were,” he added. “You definitely have to have an awareness of how popular the actors are that you put in the film.”

Jen Louis Barrett, head of entertainment for Facebook Creative Shop, said the initiative should help elevate the voices of minority filmmakers, connecting them directly with audiences.

“The challenge is not in these films being made,” Barrett said in a statement. “The challenge is in getting them seen. We are proud to be able to work with organizations like The Blackhouse Foundation to help raise awareness of the opportunity across Facebook to connect audiences to their films through the entire life cycle of their film development.”

Diamond said he is excited by the potential to reduce advertising and marketing costs that can be put toward the production of projects. Moreover, it’s a good way to gauge sentiment for films.

“This shows the audience reach before there’s even a full feature to be reviewed and seen,” said Diamond, who first created Blackhouse in 2006. “In the decade of doing this, I haven’t seen anything like this.”

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