MEECH GRANT PRODUCTIONS
CONSULTING, COACHING, DIGITAL MARKETING, SOCIAL MEDIA, PARTNERSHIPS/PR
VINE OF THE SOUL
Vine of the Soul: Encounters with Ayahuasca is a TV length documentary film. Produced and directed by Richard Meech (Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and The Modern World, In the Shadow of a Saint), it explores the mystery of ayahuasca shamanism, offering insights into the nature of spirituality, mystical experience and self-healing through a heightened state of consciousness.
Around the time of the release of James Cameron’s blockbuster, Avatar, I happened to read an op-ed article in The Globe & Mail by Richard Meech. Entitled “Sacred brews, secret muse”, it drew parallels between the Avatar tree deity and the “vine of the soul” -- a sacred medicine brewed from plants by Amazonian shamans. I discovered that Richard was a filmmaker and that he was about to release a documentary focused on the ayahuasca experience. Sensing a great marketing “hook” -- not to mention opportunities to tap into a niche audience, I contacted Richard and pitched him on an integrated marketing campaign to support the launch. Richard agreed and so we began working together.
GreenHAT put into place a strategy that had digital and its heart and traditional at its edge. We began our outreach to forums where we knew the core audience came together online. At the same time we built out the social media channels for the film on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We worked closely with Richard, coaching him in “best practices” for social media so that he could manage the channels and provide an authentic voice and a point of contact for fans and followers.
We developed a short-term content strategy for the website, optimizing the written content for search and creating a blog. Later, we would be responsible for re-developing the website on the WordPress platform using a responsive theme that was desktop, tablet and smart-phone friendly. We uploaded the trailer and video “extras” to YouTube, optimizing the channel and individual video for search. The Vine of the Soul trailer (and video “extras”) were embedded in the website to promote YouTube views. Topping things off, we undertook an outreach campaign to bloggers, audio podcasters and other influencers within the ayahuasca community.
When the TV premiere was delayedl, we changed strategy officially launching the film at MAPS Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century Conference in San Jose, CA. Working with Richard, GreenHAT was able to set-up a number of event and community screenings, including a festival screening at the Boom Festival in Portugal, the largest EDM event in Europe. While Richard was in charge of festival submissions, we worked behind-the-scenes to find partners to host community screenings. Any screening booked would have to “pay for itself” and cover our monthly fee. To fulfill this goal, we organized a series of virtual screenings, which included a live Q&A via Skype with Richard. A licensing fee was charged to offset expenses and ensure that the community promoter would have a vested interest in seeing the event succeed.
We also partnered with Reality Sandwich, which put Vine of the Soul in front of its core audience via on-site banner ads, newsletter items and profiles within the large Evolver community. On the traditional side, Richard was able to place a second op-ed piece in The Globe & Mail, and was cited in several mainstream articles on ayahuasca. We also wrote and distributed a quarterly newsletter, which featured production updates and news items of interest to the ayahuasca community.
Richard proved to be an excellent student and was able to grow his Facebook following from a few friends to 2,400 fans. Open to sharing his knowledge, Richard has been able to take the Facebook page much further than we imagined, turning it into a “must visit” resource for people want to learn more about ayahuasca. Early in the process, a decision was made to link Facebook and Twitter accounts as Richard strongly preferred the former channel.
To date, the Vine of the Soul YouTube channel has received over 60,000 views with the trailer placing consistently in the first five results for terms for “vine of the soul” and “ayahuasca”. We were able to build the “vine” database from several hundred individuals to over 3,000, providing Richard with a strong base from which to build an audience for subsequent projects.
Most importantly, we were able to break-even or make a profit on all campaign programs. To date (spring 2012), we have sold over 1,200 DVDs and 300 download-to-own versions. An HD/SD version of the film found a home on iTunes in the spring and was in profit well in advance of the first cheque being cut by Apple.
Richard continues to do community screenings around the world -- and to sell/rent DVD, download-to-own and iTunes versions of the film. He was most recently at the Desert Rocks Festival in Green River, Utah.