Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

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Sunday, 24 June 2012

WholeLottaSoleapalooza #6 - Some thoughts on advertising and marketing

I had a glorious time at the Belfast Film Festival - what a wonderful sociable city, it's also beautiful - but there were a couple of things that puzzled me about the festival's marketing in the city. These are some thoughts but take with a pinch of salt what with hindsight being what it is.

Big events advertising smaller events

My primary focus in going to the festival was to see the European premiere of Terry George's new film Whole Lotta Sole, which was showing on a Sunday evening. Obviously I'm going to make a weekend of it so I had a scour through the programme to see what else might be on. I was delighted and surprised to find that Terry the director was going to be 'talking film' on the Friday evening and that the film's editor Nick Emerson was going to be talking about film editing on the Saturday afternoon. I love hearing people talking about 'the making of' process and really enjoyed hearing from music composer Harry Gregson-Williams recently at the Sundance Greenwich festival in London. As I bought my tickets for Terry's and Nick's events I wondered why the ticketing website hadn't suggested these additional, relevant options to me when buying the tickets for Whole Lotta Sole.

It's true that it can be a bit annoying when websites try and promote other events to you so I suppose it has to be handled carefully but Amazon manages this quite effectively with its 'other customers bought this' while suggesting alternatives. It seems a shame not to let someone buying tickets for a film know that the people behind the film are also doing other events. Nick had two films in the festival (
Good Vibrations opened the festival on 31 May) so his film editing event could have been linked to both. On the plus side the festival managed to get another booking fee out of me and I do not begrudge them it :)

After I dropped off my bags at my hotel I went for a walk and tripped over the the Waterfront Hall where the
Whole Lotta Sole premiere was taking place. I had a look round and was puzzled that there were no posters advertising either the film event, or the Belfast Film Festival as a whole. When it was open I popped in and asked if there were any posters for the film going up. The pleasant staff member pointed out that they had other events going on before it took place (true) but I could see that they also had posters up for events happening in the future. I spotted only one official Belfast Film Festival poster up but it was pointing inwards. I've seen (online only) the poster for Whole Lotta Sole and it might well be a temporary one - I think it was put together to take the film round the festival circuit but it's absolutely gorgeous and it would have been lovely to have had a few dotted around. I was half tempted to get some printed up and sneak back late at night with some blue tack ;) I think it would have been nice for the people involved in the film to have seen their own poster up, and it might have made for a nice photo opportunity too.

I knew that the film was being shown in the 2,000 seater auditorium and hoped that lots of people had heard about the event - I needn't have worried though because as I got chatting to people in the Belfast (and explaining why I was in the city) it became pretty clear that EVERYONE knew about the film, and about Terry George, and most of them seemed to be coming along to the premiere. As it happens the event was sold out and there was some very good advertising via TV and newspapers, even without any film posters - hooray.

Other ways of advertising smaller events

Terry's talk on the Friday was excellent and interesting and even though the venue and time changed (it had been 7pm at the Black Box but became 8pm in a cinema theatre on Donegall Street) the co-ordination of the change of venue was really good. I had a telephone call from the organisers letting me know it had been shifted and all went well and I got there in plenty of time. There were helpful posters up outside telling venue goers what was going on at each venue which was a nice touch, however they only really emitted information to people already attending an event and perhaps looking at the posters just to check where they were going.

But I think they missed a trick in not using these posters to promote the various different events to passersby though, not just the people who'd already bought tickets or knew about the events.

Pretty much everyone in Belfast already knows exactly who Terry George is - he and his daughter Oorlagh have just won an Academy Award (Oscar) for their Belfast-based short film
The Shore, and they were congratulated in the Northern Ireland assembly - but people might not know that he was speaking at an event before the premiere of his film. Might as well add something to the poster that makes it really clear.

Also, the festival had a
fantastic logo that looked a bit like an owl made out of film reels - helpful to add it too, even if only in black and white. Doing so would also mean that the event's other details could be more prominent and the information about the event 'packaging' (12th Belfast Film Festival) could be further down the page.

Possibly you can't really add other's logos (eg Academy Award / Oscar is probably a protected term) but I'd have mentioned some of his other films... perhaps including the one that's having its premiere in a couple of days (the film showing apparently sold out on Sunday morning but there were some left on Fri / Sat). Possibly there wasn't much room though! Anyway Terry was hilarious and he took us through The Shore while explaining how scenes were written and filmed and a little of the behind-the-scenes stuff. Great fun.

When I arrived near the venue for Nick Emerson's talk the guidance A4 print-out poster helped orient me which I assume was its main intention, but why not stick a logo on it and draw attention to the fact that he has two films in the festival. To be fair his poster was directly below a large official poster for the festival so they were a bit more obviously linked (possibly Terry's poster was beneath a film poster but I don't remember). His talk was also fascinating and he showed a variety of clips and explained what was going on. He also showed stills from the studio where he and colleagues assemble films from the raw material and explained that they post pictures on their wall of an image that evokes a scene and this helps them see the order of things and what needs to be done etc. The nature of this event - it's probably quite niche - meant that it was hosted in a small venue, and it was packed so probably didn't need that much advertising anyway.

While I was in Belfast another event was announced that I didn't want to miss either. Brendan Fraser (starring in
Whole Lotta Sole and in Belfast for the premiere) was going to introduce Gods and Monsters, one of his films from 1997 starring Sir Ian McKellen and Lynn Redgrave. I found out about it late on the Friday evening after Terry's talk when I got back to my hotel and caught up with the festival tweets. The information was also posted to the official Facebook site.
The tweet announcing a new event (click link to view original tweet)
It's a lovely tweet but doesn't contain a direct link to the page where you can buy tickets (the 'call to action' as I believe they're called, probably by marketing people). Someone tweeted in response to ask where they could get tickets and the reply was perfectly clear but still didn't have a clickable 'go here and buy tickets' link. Readers of the tweets can easily go to the QFT's Twitter profile and find the cinema's website address there and track through to find the tickets (that's what I did), or google the event - but my suggestion is that if you want to sell tickets make it ridiculously easy for people to find the relevant page. Also, the page had a 'buy tickets' link only at the bottom - I didn't really need to read the 'about this event' to know I wanted to buy tickets so I'd also vote for having two 'buy tickets' buttons, one at the top and one at the bottom.

Tweeting from official accounts and posting messages to official Facebook pages is all very well but it can be a little bit 'if you build it they will come' - yes and no. It depends who's online and who's looking at your page. Someone retweeted @jasonalba's tweet the other day "If you build it they will come... WRONG. Build it, then go find them, and bring them to it" and I'd agree with that.
(Incidentally in searching for that tweet on Google I came across this lovely example of involving film fans in promoting a film and getting it into local theatres.)

blogging about Brendan's Gods and Monsters event a few of his fans got in touch to let me know that they'd missed it, but were actually in Belfast and could have come along had they known about it. It turns out that his fans tend to be on Facebook (where I don't go very often) and not so much on Twitter and IMDb which is where I posted info about the event. So that advice is for me too because once I had secured my own ticket I wanted to let anyone else that might want to go know about it. If you're a fan of Brendan Fraser and / or Gods and Monsters and you happen to be in the same city it's a bit disheartening to realise you were that close but ultimately missed the opportunity to sit in a small theatre and hear him talk about making films and working with Ian McKellen and Lynn Redgrave.

For official tweets (and possibly even Facebook updates), I think they need to be posted more than once, a few hours apart, so that a different audience is reached - the tweet needs to be varied of course otherwise it's spammy. Bloggers often use phrases like "
for the morning crowd" to acknowledge that they're republishing information but for a different audience who may not have seen it the first time and confirming to people who did see it the first time that it's the same info (they don't need to click again).

The person that accompanied me to
Whole Lotta Sole (she saw my Sunday afternoon tweet offering my spare ticket to the premiere) mentioned that she'd been keeping an eye on Twitter for mentions of the film's name as she'd been trying to get a ticket but it was now sold out. She'd have liked to have gone to the Gods and Monsters event but didn't know about it and unfortunately I didn't send my tweet on the 'right channel' for her to see it. I did retweet a couple of variations of the QFT's tweet but failed to include a mention of Whole Lotta Sole which would have waved it under the eyeballs of other people too who might be looking out for that.

@miabo6190 tweeted "Just found out brendan fraser was at the premiere of whole lotta sole on sunday at the waterfront...going to cry!" - she also thought that the film festival wasn't very well promoted. I'm not sure I'd agree with that at all -
Whole Lotta Sole was sold out to an enthusiastic, packed audience. While there didn't seem to be any bunting going up for for the festival or anything like that (plenty for the Olympics) plenty of people seemed to be going to the events and as mentioned they all knew about the premiere. However I still think that social media could be exploited and co-ordinated for the overall festival a bit more.

It's just not possible to reach everyone of course. Plus it can be difficult to know how to measure the success of a social media 'campaign' and someone's time may well be better spent co-ordinating interviews with TV and newspaper channels so I'm really trying not to sound critical. I didn't know until after the event that there are several Facebook groups of Brendan Fraser's fans where I could have pinged the information myself so I don't come out of this particularly well either ;-)

Here are some suggestions, humbly offered by someone who knows full well that she doesn't have to pay for someone's time to do any of this...!

Twitter hashtag
- there were some tweets with #belfastfilmfestival (it's a great tag, a little long but absolutely clear... could also investigate #bff2012, #bffest, #belfastfilmfest etc) but venues didn't seem to be using them consistently, or retweeting festival-goers tweets (and reciprocal retweeting by different venues of each others' tweets) while adding the hashtag. 

Retweeting others' tweets is a very good way to engage with an audience, and bunging a hashtag on it might encourage its wider use. It can be really helpful for venue websites and festival websites to have the hashtag displayed prominently - even better if an official tweet feed is fed onto the homepage via a Twitter widget. This lets site visitors know that they'll be able to pick up updates on Twitter. This doesn't work in all settings as it will definitely depend on the demographic of the festivalgoers, of course some won't have any interest in Twitter.

- of different sizes, everywhere. Well, costs permitting! I didn't find any festival booklets in my hotel although there may have been some in other hotels and B&Bs. If printing out a bit of A4 details with an event on it, exploit the lovely logo and bung that on. Having posters up acts as ambient advertising - sneaking an event or product into people's consciousness. I think people probably have to see two or three posters before they'll even really notice what they are or what they're for.

There actually were some nice film festival banners in the part of Belfast that I wasn't staying in (near the Crown bar) - that was cool to see.

- I supplied my email address to the festival so that I could receive a copy of my ticketing info. I'd have been happy to be on a mailing list telling me of new additions to the programme or any changes. Obviously they'd have to ask my permission to use my information in this way, but I don't remember being asked.

****** New bit starts ****** 13 July 2012

Use of URLs - create an account or shorten without one at
Unless your web address is very brief you might want to shorten it whenever it appears on something where the reader will manually type it in - it's quicker to type. If it's in an email, Facebook or Twitter you can just want to use your regular URL (Twitter will use its own shorterner anyway to ensure the URL takes up no more than 18 characters) because people can just click on it. But even in these situations you might want to use because of the information you get from that site about how many clicks have come via that route.

For example if you wanted to find out if you got more clicks from Facebook or Twitter you could post the same message on both but use a different URL and then compare - this is pretty crude (there are plenty of reasons why the click rate is different). For any link just add the + symbol right at the end of the URL and press enter and you'll see how often it's been accessed.

If you've got Google Analytics and other 'webmaster tools' from Google you'll probably get all sorts of information but can be helpful too. It also lets you create a QR code for any website address URL.

QR codes - people with smartphones can download a free app and 'snap' to your site
These are still a bit of a gimmick I think, but unless you've used a url on your poster (see above) it's probably quicker to get out my phone, fire up the scanning app and take a picture of your QR code which will immediately take me to your website. You can even use to create yourself a free QR code for any page, each page on your website can have its own QR image. Each page can have more than one QR code / URL too (see above).

****** New bit ends ****** 

Slightly more random thoughts
Post adverts about events on other sites and pages and get people (however peripherally) involved with events to share it with their own networks. Almost every time the concept of advertising or marketing comes up I suggest postcards in newsagents' windows as a cheap way to reach lots of people (everyone goes into a newsagents don't they?). Having said that I've never tested this theory so it might be a really crap idea.

Local DVD shops
- no idea if this'll work but it seems to me that people who go to films might also buy films. Possibly they'll buy them online but they might buy them from local DVD shops (I see Belfast has an HMV and another DVD shop) - how about offering £1 off a DVD with a festival ticket. I didn't go to any of the DVD shops so I don't know if they sold film events tickets in there but that would seem sensible and probably not, as one might first think, putting sellers of films in competition with one another. However I'm really not an expert.

Further reading

See also Is there a Songkick for films?
It's very easy to find out when your favourite band is on tour, less so for films or directors etc giving talks.

WholeLottaSoleapalooza #5 - Premiere of Whole Lotta Sole

These are placer pages and will be replaced by the blog posts when I've written them. I wanted to get them in some sort of (chrono)logical order so am just posting blanks for now, to be replaced with the later text. It also creates an address for each post which lets me link to them even though they're not really there yet.

WholeLottaSoleapalooza #4 - Actor Brendan Fraser introduces Gods and Monsters

**Spoiler alert**   **Spoiler alert**   **Spoiler alert**   **Spoiler alert**

This contains spoilers that give away the story and ending of the 1998 film Gods and Monsters (if you’ve not seen it - and I recommend that you do - you can get it on DVD at Amazon: 1999 version | 2011 version - in which they spell it Brendan Fraiser...). 

**Spoiler alert**   **Spoiler alert**   **Spoiler alert**   **Spoiler alert**

This post is part of a series about my trip to Belfast for the Belfast Film Festival. I wrote this one first because I didn’t take notes at the event and needed to get it all down! It’s actually the shorter version – it was getting a bit unwieldy so I cut some bits out but if you were there and think I missed something important my email address is above, thanks. I’ve tried to keep the swooning to a minimum ;)

Brendan Fraser attends film premier at belfast film festival
Brendan Fraser attends film premier at belfast film festival” - by fluterirl on Flickr, creative commons licensed. This photo was taken a few hours after the lunchtime Gods and Monsters event, at the premiere of Terry George's film (in which Brendan stars) Whole Lotta Sole.
Hearing about the event
The event was a last-minute addition to the festival programme, announced on the Friday afternoon of the Belfast Film Festival and spotted by me much later that evening as I caught up with the festival tweeting. I’m glad to have spotted it as I’d have hated to have missed this.

The introduction
Once we were in the theatre Brendan came in and said ‘Hi, I’m Brendan’ to everyone which made me chuckle but it was nice to hear his voice directly, obviously I’ve only ever heard it through cinema or TV speakers before! Then he was properly introduced by one of the festival people. 

Before he started to tell us about the film he explained that he was in Belfast for the Whole Lotta Sole premiere and hoped we’d all come along. He was also very complimentary about Martin McCann around whom the film's story revolves – having seen the film later on that evening I’d agree, he’s excellent and the film is hilarious. I may have mentioned that my friend Amanda Hurwitz is in the film, she plays Mary Ellen and is hilarious too :-)

Stupidly I left the notebook in which I’ve made notes at every event in my bag (…I was a bit distracted) and didn’t write anything down, so while Brendan’s comments made perfect sense I might unwittingly mangle the order of things a bit here.

He mentioned that around the time of casting discussions for Gods and Monsters he met with Terence Malick who was working on the Thin Red Line – everyone in Hollywood was in it or wanted to be in it, so there was a fair bit of competition. Brendan had a copy of the ‘script’ though he said it was less of a script and more a thick book full of thoughts and ideas, but apparently that’s how Malick works. Brendan seemed quite chuffed that Malick had really liked Encino Man (known as California Man in Europe). I can’t remember the exact phrase Brendan used in describing what Malick had said about his performance as someone who’d just ‘landed’ on the planet but I thought it was perceptively complimentary, not just ‘oh well done, that was good’.

In any case nothing came of that meeting but by then Brendan heard about Gods and Monsters which was to star Sir Ian McKellen as James Whale (the film director) and Lynn Redgrave as his housekeeper Hanna.

He talked a little about the source material (a book, written by Christopher Bram, called the Father of Frankenstein) but the film’s name comes from the line – “to a new world, of gods and monsters”. The book and film are about a particular point in the later life of James Whale who directed Bride of Frankenstein (he mentioned that this was his favourite) among others.
"I knew that this film had no money, very little time and its working title was 'The Untitled Piece with Ian McKellen' and that's all I needed to know." 
Brendan Fraser at the March 1999 premiere of the film (source).
He’d been really excited about the project as Ian’s one of his heroes. As a student (BFA in acting I think he said, but it may have been theatre; it was a four year course) he’d worn out the library tapes of Ian doing a series on Shakespeare [he asked us if we’d seen it and quite a few had, though not me] and said that he’d learned from this, more than from his course, that Shakespeare’s words should be spoken as naturally as when anyone speaks or writes to someone else.

After he was cast he went to see Ian McKellen in a play (can’t remember what it was or where it was being performed). At the end Ian did a Q and A and in answer to a question about what he was doing next, said he’d be working on a film with Lynn Redgrave and Brendan Fraser. At this point Brendan did that clutching your chest and ‘oh my god, did he just say my name’ thing haha, so it’s nice to know that he’s not immune to being a bit swoony too.

After the performance the two of them met and the photographers were doing that “pretend like you’re talking to each other” thing while trying to get a shot and Brendan (brilliant mimic by the way) did a great impression of Ian saying, mildly exasperatedly, “but we are talking to each other”.

When filming began they had just a few weeks and it was relatively low budget (about $2 million) and they were a bit stymied by aircraft flying over fairly regularly. At one point they were close to running out of film and Brendan joked that he was all for nipping down to the shops to get more film, or send someone out to get more – “hey, just bill me!”. Fortunately they got everything they needed.

He also mentioned something about the notes on his character’s name (Clayton ‘Clay’ Boone), on the character being a ‘boone of contention’ and the name ‘clay’ implies ‘moulding’ (in terms of whether James Whale is trying to mould Boone as one of his monsters, there’s a point in the film when Boone yells “I’m not your monster”).

At some point I realised that I should get my notebook out as I knew I’d want to write this up later – although it seems my memory without notes is quite a bit better than I’d imagined, although I don’t remember exact phrases. In doing this of course I missed a little bit of his story about a scene that takes place at Whale’s swimming pool – he referred to a bit when Whale is found dead in the pool and then said “oops, hope I haven’t spoiled the ending for you” and we all laughed.

Then he unfolded a bit of paper from his shirt pocket, explained that he’d been in touch with Ian (to let him know that he was introducing the film to us in Belfast) and that Ian had sent him a letter (I seem to remember the word ‘cable’) to read to us – isn’t that lovely? He said Ian’s quite the letter-writer and that also he’s really into email. (He’s also on Twitter too @IanMcKellen).

Brendan read out the letter and I think it began ‘My dear Brendan’ which is a nice way to start letters, Ian also addressed all of us in the auditorium directly. He’d written about the enjoyment of making the film with a lovely bunch of people (and acknowledging that Lynn Redgrave has since died – “may she rest in peace”), and referred to a line which comes from the film (Ian says this, as Whale): 
“Making movies was the most wonderful thing in the world. Working with friends. Entertaining people.”
His letter also talked about the importance of the film in the gay community – I think Brendan said (from the letter) that at the time of the film (‘98) Ireland still had a different age of consent so it was pretty heartening that the film was so successful – it won an Academy Award / Oscar for Bill Condon (the director and writer) for best adapted screenplay, here's his acceptance speech, and you can get hold of a copy of the ‘shooting script’ from the links below. Lynn Redgrave also won a Golden Globe for best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a motion picture and she gives a very sweet acceptance speech here.

He (Ian) then said he wish he could be with Brendan and us but that "Middle Earth has ensnared me once more". And with that, he returned the letter to his shirt pocket (“this is for me”). It was only when watching the ending of the film that it struck me that it’s quite nice that Brendan’s kept up the tradition of keeping bits of paper in his shirt pocket from Ian McKellen ;)

There was also something he said about James Whale in terms of ageing (Whale’s in his late 60s when we meet him in the film, and retired and unwell) and of finding yourself not useful anymore when the next crop of people come along. He also said he’d not seen the film since its premiere at Leicester Square (I hadn’t known that Ian McKellen had taken Monica Lewinsky as his guest! - see the link to Ian's pictures below) and hoped we’d enjoy it. 

The film
I’ve seen the film a handful of times before. One of those times was years ago with my parents – I think it was one of those things we watched by accident and really enjoyed. At the time I probably noticed the relationship between the two men, which seemed slightly more predatory when I first watched it but seems a lot more vulnerable on later watchings. What I really picked up from this screening though was also the misery of losing your health and knowing it’s not going to get better. Ian, as James Whale, has just returned from a spell in hospital having had a stroke which has left him with normal motor function (movement is fine) but dreadful headaches, olfactory hallucinations (a sudden experience of smell) and what I guessed were absence seizures – and he conveys it all brilliantly.

I’m not going to go through the film (go and watch it!) but the ending is quite touching. Boone, now married with a kid, takes a drawing of the monster that Whale gave him from his shirt pocket to show his son. It’s an original drawing to illustrate what the monster in the Frankenstein films should look like and on the other side there’s a short but sweet note to Boone from Whale on it. Boone then takes out the rubbish and it starts to rain, quite theatrically, and he staggers about in the downpour doing Boris Karloff’s monster walk. It’s nicely done.

At the end credits I could hear the doors opening and I assumed that Brendan would quietly disappear without fuss so I was pretty surprised when I gathered my things together as the lights started to come up and turned to see him sitting the row but one directly behind me, so I took the opportunity to say how much I’d enjoyed that and thanked him for doing it. Couldn’t tell you what he said in reply - I may have had temporary star-struck induced amnesia :) Someone else asked him, given that he’d not seen it for a while, how he’d found watching it – but it seemed a bit cheeky for me to hang around listening to someone else’s conversation so off I went. He was still chatting to people and having his photo taken when I left the loo and went to have a look at the Botanical Gardens just up the road from the QFT.

Thanks to Brendan Fraser and the Queens Film Theatre for putting this event together, it was just lovely to have been there and the film is fantastic.

I slightly regret not having had my wits about me at the time to ask if we could record him reading out Ian's letter, that would have been cool... although he might not have wanted to do that of course. By the time I got to chat (very, very briefly) later in the pub it was far too loud for my iPhone to have picked anything up and I certainly didn't ask. 

Further watching
The theatrical trailer at IMDB and embedded from YouTube below.

Further reading
“Father of Frankenstein” by Christopher Bram
1996 edition | 1998 edition | 1999 edition (acknowledges film explicitly).

Gods and Monsters official website, and on IMDb and Wikipedia.

The shooting script is available in book form from Amazon with a foreword by Ian McKellen, however they’re currently out of stock. By googling for filetype:pdf gods monsters screenplay I found this shooting draft (pdf) or web version.

Clive Barker's (executive producer) website is full of quotes from people involved in the film.

Ian McKellen’s e-post in which he answers questions about Gods and Monsters on his website , he also has photographs of the film in production. See also his e-posts on Shakespeare. He's brilliant :)

Edit: Later in the year I went to see Ian McKellen speak at a London cinema - Gandalf at the Genesis cinema - The Hobbit, Ian McKellen and a Q&A in aid of Step Forward

Further listening

Nothing to do with Gods and Monsters but people* have kindly pointed out to me that if you visit the flash-enhanced version of Brendan's website (itself a Retronaut-y time-capsule delight seemingly untouched since 2004) you can listen to the full-length version of the BBC R3 version of Tennesee Williams' "Vieux CarrĂ©" featuring Brendan as 'the writer'. His voice is lovely. I wonder if anyone's asked him to do an audiobook of TH White's Once and Future King...

Go to then click on Vieux Carré and then click on it again and an embedded mp3 player pops up.

*Since I wrote this post a bunch of Brendan's fans have been in touch, which is rather lovely (hello!). Woefully some of them were actually in Belfast for the evening premiere and fairly miffed to have missed hearing about this lovely last-minute addition to the afternoon programme. Sigh.

Edit: 7 September 2012
While packing for another mammoth trip (Orkney Science Festival) I found my ticket in the pocket of my suitcase :)
Imagine that Blogger had a 'rotate image 90 degrees left' option, or turn your own head 90 degrees to the right.

Other posts in this series
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #1 - Epic journey to and from Belfast Film Festival
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #2 - Director & Screenwriter Terry George talks film (coming soon)
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #3 - Film editor Nick Emerson talks about editing (coming soon)
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #4 - Actor Brendan Fraser introduces Gods and Monsters (this post)
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #5 - Premiere of Whole Lotta Sole (coming soon)
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #6 - Some thoughts on advertising and marketing

WholeLottaSoleapalooza #3 - Film editor Nick Emerson talks about editing

These are placer pages and will be replaced by the blog posts when I've written them. I wanted to get them in some sort of (chrono)logical order so am just posting blanks for now, to be replaced with the later text. It also creates an address for each post which lets me link to them even though they're not really there yet.

WholeLottaSoleapalooza #2 - Director & screenwriter Terry George talks film

These are placer pages and will be replaced by the blog posts when I've written them. I wanted to get them in some sort of (chrono)logical order so am just posting blanks for now, to be replaced with the later text. It also creates an address for each post which lets me link to them even though they're not really there yet.

WholeLottaSoleapalooza #1 - Epic journey to and from Belfast Film Festival

This is the first in a series of highly self-indulgent diary posts about my trip to Belfast (7-11 June 2012) for the Belfast Film Festival. They exist mostly for me to rediscover a year or two from now and enjoy reminding myself of my weekend :)

Ever since I was fairly young (heavily influenced by the book "She, the Adventuress" by Dorothy Crayder) I have been keen to take some sort of 'sea voyage'. While I take the Thames Clippers ferries from Embankment to Greenwich as often as possible when I discovered that I could ferry my way to Belfast for the Film Festival I was pretty delighted.

The photos below are annoyingly out of time order but it proved too fiddly to rearrange.

Travelling by the 10.30pm ferry from Birkenhead was lovely - I stood on the deck outside for about two hours just watching Birkenhead recede and the Irish sea appear, although by that time it had become so dark that it was almost impossible to see where the sky and sea began and ended. Got chatting to a few people on the ferry - it's a fairly sociable place, and even managed to spot the International Space Station going overhead. I told the guy standing next to me what it was but I'm not sure he believed me.

Blue view from the ferryStena corridorStena ferry's lifeboatStena ferry logoInside the Stena ferryView from the ferry - matching circles
Belfast journey - outward bound, a set on Flickr.

After half midnight I realised I'd better get myself to bed as we were off the ferry the next day at 6.30, although as it turned out they woke us all up with a tannoy announcement at 5.30 in the morning with threats of rapid breakfasts and swift exits. Even despite this I managed to be the last person off the ferry (oops).

The four or five hours I spent in my cabin were amazingly relaxing - it was a very calm crossing although we were warned that there might be some high winds ahead but we totally missed them. It turned out that England experienced some pretty grim weather just after we left (I heard something about hurricanes) but it was calm all the way for us. Some squeaks and groans from the ship but they didn't keep me awake.

2012-06-11 15.08.082012-06-11 15.00.022012-06-11 14.58.35Gleaming white Stena ferry through slatted window panes2012-06-11 14.55.432012-06-11 14.54.15
2012-06-11 14.54.122012-06-11 18.34.05Ailsa Craig in the distance, Ayrshire2012-06-11 17.38.03SeaLink by Marlink - communication radar in radome2012-06-11 16.49.42
2012-06-11 16.49.312012-06-11 16.43.142012-06-11 16.42.542012-06-11 15.11.442012-06-11 15.11.052012-06-11 15.09.14
2012-06-11 15.08.222012-06-11 15.08.17

Belfast return journey, a set on Flickr.

On the way back I took the fast ferry which does the crossing from Belfast to Cairnryan in about two hours. I found a great place to sit outside on the upper deck (still couldn't see the horizon though) and wondered why we were 15 minutes late for departure. It was only when I stood up that I realised we were moving - it was almost imperceptible.

I was really surprised on arrival at Cairnryan to spot a couple - one of them was obviously very travel sick. I'd always expected that travel sickness would need to involve a bit of movement but I'd really not been aware of much.

Once off the ferry it was onto a coach from Cairnryan to Ayr (a really nice drive along the coast) and a train to Glasgow, then the overnight sleeper train to London. Perfect.

This was my itinerary.

18:07 Depart London Euston
20:19 Arrive Liverpool Lime Street (then go to Lower Level Wirral platform)
20:33 Depart Liverpool Lime Street
20:40 Arrive Birkenhead Hamilton Square
21:00 Arrive at ferry port
22.30 Depart England by ferry

06:30 Arrive Belfast port

15:30 Depart Belfast by Ferry
17:45 Arrive Cairnryan
18:15 Depart Cairnryan by coach
19:25 Arrive Ayr
19:43 Depart Ayr by train
20:36 Arrive Glasgow Central
23:40 Depart Glasgow Central by Caledonian Sleeper


07:02 Arrive London Euston

Other posts in this series
WholeLottaSoleapalooza #1 - Epic journey to and from Belfast Film Festival (this post)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

What happens if you block someone on Twitter? What happens if they block you?

by @JoBrodie,

Blocking someone does not and cannot stop them from seeing your tweets. Ever.
They can always log out to view if your account is public.

Updated 15 June 2016
Twitter's released another update that makes it much harder to see tweets of people that have blocked you and for people you've blocked to see your tweets. For the first time it seems that third party apps are also partly affected, but not to the same extent and your tweets will likely still show up in search.

I've not updated the post below but please be aware that it may now be slightly out of date. Here's a brief guide to what the changes are, with examples and comparison of what can be seen when using desktop Twitter, Twitter for iPhone and Echofon for iPhone.

Twitter's new update - blocked people can still see your tweets, but it is harder 

Table of Contents
  1. The short version
    1. What happens if you block someone on Twitter?
    2. What happens if they block you?
  2. The longer version
    1. Historical problems with blocking
    2. How to stop someone from contacting you
    3. How to stop someone from reading your tweets
    4. How do you know if someone has blocked you?
    5. How to read the tweets of someone who's blocked you
  3. Private accounts - what to watch out for
  4. FAQs
  5. Further reading
  6. Previous updates to this post / change log
This post relates to the (web-based) interface. I don't have enough information about the range of smartphone apps to be able to offer much advice about these, other than Echofon for iPhone. 

1. The short version
  • Blocking someone does not stop them from seeing your tweets. Period.
  • Blocking someone does stop their tweets from appearing in your timeline / mentions (though you can still go looking for those tweets).
  • If you want to make sure that someone cannot see your tweets then you need to make your account private, be cautious about who you allow to follow you (are you sure they've not just created another account to follow you with) and hope that their accounts aren't compromised by someone who'd cracked or phished their password.
Note that a private / locked account can never be perfectly secure. (see Section 3 below)

1.1 What happens if you block someone on Twitter?
Not much. Their tweets won't arrive in your timeline or mentions tab - you won't hear from them. They can't follow you but they can visit your profile (as of 12 December 2014 they can't view your profile on Twitter dot com [desktop] or Twitter for iPhone but they can on Echofon for iPhone) and search and still see everything you tweet though (true at 7 March 2016 on any third-party platform such as Echofon, but not official apps following a recent change however you can always log out if you're blocked but see range of methods above). If you are following a hashtag that they are tweeting on then their tweets will show up when you search for that hashtag (unless you search #hashtag -TheirTwitterName) (except on official apps / platforms as of 4-7 March 2016 as it was gradually rolled out).

1.2 What happens if they block you?
Not much. Your tweets won't show up in their timeline or mentions, they won't hear from you unless they go looking (they can click 'view tweets' on desktop Twitter or log out to view your tweets etc). You can still see their profile but you can't follow them.

2. The longer version

Here's some nice music to listen to as you read on - I heard of it via Radiolab's Colors episode. This works on an iPhone and even plays in-page :)

Update: 8 March 2016 - as of 4 March 2016 (and it seems to be rolling out, began affecting me on 7 March) official Twitter platforms will no longer show the tweets in search results of someone who has blocked you. This does not currently affect third party apps.

The purpose of blocking, as Twitter sees it, is to prevent someone from contacting you via Twitter.

Any tweets that a blocked person sends to @YourTwitterName won't show up in your mentions or interactions. However if you search for all mentions sent to you (by literally typing @YourTwitterName into the search function) you can see any tweets they've sent you. = these are all public tweets sent to me (excluding those from private accounts, you won't be able to see those unless you're logged in as me). Replace the bit in bold with your user name to see tweets sent to you.

Anyone can see your tweets, unless your account is locked and all your followers are trustworthy and haven't had their passwords pinched.

2.1 Historical problems with blocking
Twitter previously set things up with blocking so that if you tried to view the account of someone who'd blocked you you couldn't. Instead you'd be shown a page saying "this user hasn't tweeted yet" or similar. (As of 12 December 2014 Twitter has returned this 'functionality').

This is no longer the case. People quickly worked out that all you had to do was search for tweets from (or to) them or use a different browser (or account) to view their profile, so it was clear that blocking didn't mean very much.

Given the somewhat "fatal" flaw (that Twitter can't tell you're you if you're logged out) I think Twitter made the right decision to make it clear, as they've since done, that everyone can still see everyone else's account. I don't know when this happened but I noticed it in October 2012 when an alternative therapist blocked me (and provided a useful test-case for me finding out about blocks). Initially I couldn't see their tweets (without logging out), then suddenly I could.

Twitter has made it much less obvious if someone has blocked you (this is deliberate).

2.2 How to stop someone from contacting you
Block them. But note that it only stops that account from contacting you via Twitter, it doesn't stop that account (or a new one they've just created) from reading your tweets.

You can use the following links to restrict your view of mentions / interactions so you only see the tweets of people that you're following.
• Mentions:
• Interactions: (this one includes 'X favorited your tweet')

You can see all the accounts that you have blocked at  

Possibly a better way of preventing contact is to mute them instead of block. If you're not following them then you won't see their tweets (or their RTs or favouriting of your tweets) and they won't know that you've blocked them. It's a bit like stealth blocking.

2.3 How to stop someone from reading your tweets
Lock your account. This will stop everyone from reading your tweets, unless they're already following you. Although many people don't want to make their account public there is no way to stop only one or two people from reading your tweets. See (3) on Private accounts for more on the potential weaknesses of locked accounts.

2.4 How do you know if someone has blocked you? [Updated 12 December 2014]
View their profile on Twitter dot com or Twitter for iPhone (I assume it's the same for Twitter for Android and things like that). Twitter will now show you no tweets from them and there's a message saying that you're blocked. If you use Echofon on iPhone or iPad at time of writing (12 Dec) you'll still be able to see their profile anyway so you need to use the Twitter service to find this out.

You can still see their tweets appearing in searches when you're logged in but you won't be able to favourite or retweet them.

It may depend on whether or not you'd previously followed them. I've tried this out myself with a test account and posted what I saw here (Blocking someone on Twitter - what can they see? (14 January 2014)) but it may not be the same for everyone.

If they've blocked you then you'll see a 'Follow' button on their profile. If you try and follow them a popup will appear telling you that you can't, because the person has requested that you can't. However if they haven't blocked you they will now get a notification that you're following them - so I don't know of any way to find out if they've blocked you that doesn't risk alerting them if they actually haven't!

Similarly if you try and favourite or RT one of their tweets you'll get a message saying your account can't do that (with favouriting you don't get a message as such, just that it's impossible to make the favourite 'stick'). They aren't notified of this if they have blocked you, but of course if they haven't and you've just faved or RTed their tweet, then they'll know.

2.5 How to read the tweets of someone who's blocked you
Just go to their profile - or log out.

If their tweets are public then you can view those tweets by using any of the following methods
(a) search for their tweets either by their name or a hashtag that they're using (use desktop Twitter dot com or Hootsuite or Tweetdeck)
(b) using a different browser
(c) logging out of the blocked account and using the same browser while logged out
(d) logging into a different account
(e) using a different smartphone app - at the moment Echofon for iPhone lets me see the profiles of a couple of homeopathy quacks who've blocked me

3. Private accounts - what to watch out for
A locked account means that only people you've granted access to can follow you. New followers must request permission to follow which you can grant, or not. Since people don't have to use their real names to create an account you cannot be certain if they're someone you want to have following you or not.

For the slightly more worried...
If you know the email address of someone you may be able to find out what their Twitter name is - you can use the 'find friends' feature of Twitter in the settings to let Twitter access the email addresses in your contacts list.

You can also stop people from finding out, from your email address, what your Twitter name is by making sure that the " " option is unticked (I think unticked is the default setting) in the Security and Privacy section of your settings.

Remember that the security of a locked account is only as strong as the security of your followers - if one of them has their account compromised then anyone viewing their account can see your tweets.

Also, even people who are legitimately following you can still take a screenshot of your tweets and share that, or manually retweet your tweets by copying and pasting the text.

More about locked Twitter accounts:

4. FAQs aka FSQ (frequently searched-for questions)
At the risk of lengthening this blog post to the point of ridiculousness I thought I'd try and answer directly some of the questions that people type into Google that bring them here. I've no idea who it is that's searching (I just get a list of search terms in Google Analytics) and I've turned the keywords into more readable questions. You can also ask questions in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them (note that some of my replies are now out of date because Twitter keeps changing things!)

If you block someone on twitter can they see your tweets?
Yes, they can do this by viewing your profile, searching for tweets sent to or from you, finding tweets in a hashtag stream or logging out. (edit 12 Dec, they can still view your profile on Echofon)

Can non-followers read your tweets?
Yes, unless your profile is private anyone can view any of your tweets (other than DMs which only go between two people). You can pre-emptively block someone who isn't following you, but they can still read your tweets.

If you block someone on twitter can they mention you in their tweets?
Yes, although it won't show up in your mentions / interactions tab - you'll have to search for your mentions (eg type @yourname into Twitter's search), search for their tweets, or visit their profile page. But they can still talk about you and converse with others mentioned in your tweets.

Can they retweet me if I've blocked them?
Yes, but only by copying and pasting the text and retweeting manually. You won't know that they've done this unless you look at their profile or search for their tweets.

How do you know if someone has blocked you on Twitter?
See section 2.4 above please.

At time of writing (4 January 2014) I don't know of a foolproof way, without alerting them at least.

Probably you won't be able to use the Retweet button on their tweets, but if you try and retweet it (and can) they'll also get a notification that it's been retweeted. Similarly you won't be able to follow them (and Twitter might tell you that 'you have been blocked from following this account at the request of the user') however if they haven't blocked you, they get a notification that you've followed them.

Will someone know if you've blocked them on Twitter? 
Probably. If they can't see your profile on Twitter dot com or other official Twitter app then they'll know (and your profile page will now tell them that you've blocked them). If they're using Echofon for iPhone then they won't know as it (at time of writing, 12 Dec) still shows the profile and doesn't say anything about a block.

Other clues include not being able to favourite or automatically retweet (pressing the RT button on a tweet they come across elsewhere, not on your profile). They can still manually RT your tweets.

Can a blocked twitter user still see your direct messages?
I don't know for certain (not having been in that situation). I suspect that because blocking them effectively stops them from following you then they will certainly be unable to send any new DMs but I don't know if any previously sent DMs will simply disappear. If you have sent them any DMs the safest option is to delete them - this will also delete them from their inbox (as only one copy is available).

Can people tell you've been looking for them or their tweets on Twitter?
Not as far as I'm aware. To the best of my knowledge Twitter does not make information available to users about what people have been searching for (and remember you can also search Twitter from outside of Twitter itself using Google, by searching for keyword, and among other tools). So in that sense probably not.

But if you come across a tweet and respond to it then you've kind of given yourself away there ;)

Can you still view tweets when not logged in?
Yes, as long as those tweets don't belong to protected accounts, you can still see everything you just can't interact with them. Twitter's homepage ( is a bit unwelcoming if you're not logged in so it helps to know the address of the profile you want to look at (eg and the basic search address which is

Other than going private, is there a way to stop someone from seeing your tweets?
No. Blocking doesn't even do this (if they log out they can certainly see your tweets and even if logged in they can search for them and they'll probably show up in the results too). Protecting your account is the only way to stop someone seeing them - but you have to trust that everyone whom you've allowed to follow you isn't going to retweet your tweets without permission and give the game away.

On Twitter what does 'we block eggs' mean?
When someone is new to Twitter they have the symbol of an egg as their picture (avatar) which they can then change to something else. Spam accounts are often created just to send the same link to a lot of people, they don't bother to change the picture so people associate these eggs with spammers and are wary. Not all spammers have the egg picture and not all people with egg avatars are spammers, but it is a 'risk factor' for an account to be treated more cautiously.

I'd never heard the phrase used before (people usually say "I block..." and they usually talk about blocking spam accounts, to me 'we' is an unusual word to write on a Twitter account unless it's an organisational one) but it seems that this is a phrase that has been used on a few accounts shared by married couples looking for *ahem* other people for fun and games. Well that was a bit of an eye-opener ;) This will take you to the search page for that phrase, there's nothing particularly saucy there, just info about accounts who use that phrase in their Twitter bio

Presumably people who are using Twitter to talk about these interests are more likely to be targeted for spam and so have a lower tolerance for such accounts. You learn something new every day...

5. Further reading
    See Twitter's support page for Blocking users on Twitter.

    From my blog:
    Twitter's updated its block function but nothing has really changed (12 December 2014)
    What does a blocked person see when they look at your account? (14 January 2014) - of course this is now out of date ;) (12 Dec 2014)
    Don't assume your private Twitter account doesn't give your information away (7 December 2013)

    6. Previous updates to this post / change log

    Although this post has been around for a few years now it's regularly updated because Twitter keeps changing what the block function does. 

    Updated Tuesday 8 March 2016 10am
    If you see "You are blocked from following @Name and viewing @Name's Tweets. Learn more" you can (a) log out to view, (b)** search for from:theirname to see their tweets, (c) use a non-official Twitter app or platform (eg Echofon, Tweetdeck) which will show you their profile and their tweets or (d) use a second account. And of course, obviously, this is how someone that you've blocked would look at your tweets.

    The only way to block someone from seeing your tweets is to make your account private (which means only people you've permitted to follow you can see them). They can still see public tweets sent to you though.

    **Update: this no longer works in official Twitter apps.

    Twitter appears to be gradually rolling out a new thing for search that affects only (at the moment) official Twitter platforms such as desktop browsers (ie where you log in to or official phone apps. I first noticed it on 7 March and on searching found that others had experienced it since 4 March.

    Currently it appears that on official Twitter it is NOT possible to search for the tweets of someone who has blocked you, and these tweets will also not show up in searches for hashtags.

    People who have blocked you are hidden from official Twitter search results.
    People whom you have blocked cannot see your tweets by searching on official Twitter

    This does not appear to affect third party apps (where profiles of someone that's blocked you are visible too) and even if it did people can always see a blocker's tweets by logging out.

    Updated Friday 12 December 2014
    Twitter seems to have rolled out a new format for its block function. The desktop and 'Twitter for smartphone' will now show you a page saying "You are blocked from following @Name and viewing @Name's Tweets. Learn more" - this does not mean that you can't view their tweets. Or that if you've blocked someone they can't view yours.

    All anyone has to do to view tweets of someone who's blocked them (or see your tweets if you've blocked them) is any of the following (a) use another account (b) log out (c) use a different browser (d) use a different third party app, eg Echofon on iPhone shows profiles of homeopaths who've blocked me even if desktop Twitter doesn't (e) search for their tweets on Twitter desktop or with Hootsuite / Tweetdeck.

    So people celebrating that Twitter's finally made the block function work are a little mistaken I think. Here's a freshly written blog post with a bit more detail Twitter's updated its block function but nothing has really changed (12 December 2014).
    For those with an interest in the history of the the changes that Twitter brought in and then reversed again in December 2014 see Forbes' Blocking people on Twitter now just mutes them and Twitter reversed some / most / all of the changes in response to the complaints.

    updated Sunday 25 May 2014, 10:48am
    Twitter's rolled out a Mute function on desktop and has slightly tweaked the block function (nothing significant to how it works, just that a block now reports the user for one of four options), I've written a post about it here:
    Twitter (desktop version) has a new Mute option for users, what does it do? (25 May 2014)

    14 January 2014
    See in pictures what someone you've blocked can see of your tweets "Blocking someone on Twitter - what can they see? (14 January 2014)"

    re-written from scratch Saturday 4 January 2014, 17:07pm
    Welcome to the updated version of this post. The original, written 18 months ago, is now out of date because Twitter made a number of changes, first gradual and then more dramatic (before reversing them again) to what happened when person A blocks person B. If you want to read the original post it's available as a Word document (5 pages!).  

    If you want to see, in pictures, what someone you've blocked can see of your tweets have a look at "Blocking someone on Twitter - what can they see? (14 January 2014)"