Top 10 Take-Aways From NALIP's 2013 Latino Producers Academy

By Kimberly Bautista

Here's the "inside scoop" on the key concepts that helped the 6 documentary teams and the 4 new media teams bring their projects to the next level at NALIP's 2013 Latino Producers Academy in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This insight will help you with your next fiction, documentary and/or new media project, so take note! 

1. You need to visualize your project as your product. This means consider the audience or user your customer, and define your product from there. Audience first! Thinking about your audience differently--and actually imagining a few of your audience members' names, hobbies, and interests--will help you think about what speaks to them, and will assure that they have as few barriers to entry to your content as possible, says Jonathan Archer, LPA New Media Manager. 

2. Building from the previous concept, make sure your platform and distribution outlet is useful to your audience/user, and make sure they use the tools you are trying to reach them with. Do some research and figure out if your target age range consumes their media via Facebook, television, radio, or in the cinemas, etc. This should shed some light on how you go about executing your product. Heidi Boisvert, New Media mentor,  asks "How will we seamlessly integrate our product into our users' lives?"

3. You need a blueprint to bring your ideas to life! What's the user flow? How will your target audience find you and your content? What's your manifesto or log-line? What do you want to accomplish with your content? All this needs to be on paper. Richard Saiz, LPA Program Director, says, "don't shoot 100 hours of footage before you write your treatment!" The treatment should give the feel for your story, and your plot should be the through-line. 

4. Build your team! Find mentors, get expert advise, bring on crew members that compliment your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses. You are a creative and wear lots of hats, but the stronger and more diversified your team's talents are, the quicker you will be able to get your content to your audience. Great examples of strong collaborations at the LPA 2013 include Monika Navarro and Elizabeth Ai of "Marked 4 Life"--who had initially met at the 2011 LPA,--and Dawn Valadez and Katherine Saviskas of "Turn It Around" documentary and the "Rise High" phone application--who had met at their shared time at the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC). 

5. Identify community partners! They will be your best allies in connecting your content to your target audience/users. Look for institutions and organizations who are doing work around your topic currently, they'll likely be privy to promoting your work on their social media networks. (Hint: Brad Lichtenstein, Documentary mentor,  of "As Goes Janesville" also suggested to check out @ThunderClapIt, which is a great tool to crowd source for social media reach.)

6. Seduce your viewer, and reveal things as your story unfolds! Be it a new media, documentary, or fiction product, you want to captivate your audience, and leave them wanting more. Maybe if they come back for more, they'll pay for it the second time! Consider rolling out your content in stages, just like smart phone applications give you a little taste, and then ask for 99 cents when you hit the download button. 

7. Minimum viable products help you gauge how successful you will be in engaging your target audience. Perhaps you launch your transmedia project in one town initially, and build, measure, and learn from there. You can access your effectiveness and reach, and improve at your next roll-out phase! This works for films too, as you can release a trailer or a short version of your film, assess response, and adjust to meet your highest possible potential. Also, think of this concept of having a "soft-launch" (starting small) when you're in outreach and distribution. 

8. Create milestone goals for yourself. Whether it's a conceptual slideshow, a solid verbal pitch, a polished written proposal, or a certain number of community screenings or festival premieres, it's vital to set some perimeters for yourself. It seems like the sky is the limit, but if we don't set goals, we will never be satisfied with our small triumphs. 

9. Ready to bring your project to the next level? So much can be accomplished in just over a week's time! Buckle in, harness down, forgo some hours of sleep, and get ready! If you're able to hire an A-list editor or a visionary new media guru, even for only a couple days, you can primp your project in a serious way, and put your best foot forward with funders. 

10. Together, sí se puede! The landscape for funding and completing independent film and new media is shifting, and it may seem that funders and programmers have less funding outlets and slots, but as a community of filmmakers and content creators of color, we all benefit from each others' success. Some of our biggest supporters are our colleagues and mentors, so let's continue to create opportunities for supporting each other, and brainstorming and collaborating together. 

Latino Producers Academy was made possible by support of our funders and sponsors from Corporation of Public Broadcasting, HBO, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Fledgling Fund, POV/American Documentary, Latino Public Broadcasting, Univision, and the California Arts Council, among others.