Now I Know: The Benefits of Buzz for ‘Black Sheep’

A look at the important next steps following the final export.

Now I Know is an ongoing series in which independent filmmakers share solutions to hurdles they’ve encountered while transforming an idea into an independent film. This includes all aspects of the transformation, including pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution.

“As an independent filmmaker, understanding marketing and distribution is so difficult,” says British-Asian filmmaker Reshel Shah Kapoor. “I always knew it was important, but I didn’t realize how important until I made my own film.”

According to Kapoor, learning how to create “buzz” is paramount to an indie film’s success.

“The bigger the buzz, the more the film festivals will pick it up,” said Kapoor.

Kapoor has worked on previous documentaries as a producer, but the 70-minute documentary Black Sheep marks her directorial debut.


Scene from “Black Sheep.”

Black Sheep examines the mystery behind Hijras, the term for transgender women in India. Shunned by Indian society, these women are often forced to make a living as beggars and sex workers.

The film has shown at the Bollywood International Film Festival and the World Human Rights Film Festival, among others. Narrated by Kapoor, she appears diegetically as she dives into the personal journey of seeking out who these women are beneath their feared labels.

Overall, Kapoor spent about a year bonding with the Hijras in Mumbai, India, spending two to three days at a time with the Hijras in their houses or offices. Filming spanned over 40 days, resulting in 107 hours of footage.

After the film wrapped post-production, she immediately sent the finished product out to about 30 film festivals. As it turned out, this wasn’t the best approach. Because there wasn’t yet a buzz around the film, it was rejected by about 80 to 90 percent of the festivals.

She has since learned from the experience, and one of her biggest lessons learned was the importance of identifying the film’s audience.

“Know how to create the right buzz,” says Kapoor. “For example my main audience is Asians all around the globe, as well as [in] India … so it was important that I contacted media based on these demographics.”

For Kapoor, recognizing who she wanted to reach with her film allowed her to narrow and concentrate her efforts to achieve greater results and stronger buzz. While it’s easy to answer the audience question with “everyone” – casting such a broad net can actually undermine the marketing attempts of lesser-known filmmakers looking to establish themselves.

Once she understood who would be interested in her film, she then sought out media that reflected those values and interests. Narrowing her scope led to small successes early on which helped to generate that much-needed initial buzz.

Black Sheep is set to screen at the Seattle South Asian Film Festival in mid October.

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