Each year, the Sundance Film Festival plays host to some of the most innovative minds and ideas. This year's event was no different. There were dozens of different panels, events, and presentations - each of which touched on pressing issues and new horizons in the film industry.

Personally, this year's Sundance Film Festival meant a lot, as I was asked to speak on the Indie Filmmaking: Talent, Tools, and Trends panel alongside some incredibly creative and talented individuals from all walks of life. Not only was the panel a hit - but the larger festival lived up to the hype, as it usually does.

The Talent

The Talent, Tools, and Trends panel featured a number of incredible panelists and moderators, and each brought to light different emerging trends and ideas. They included:

Randall Emmett.
Andrew Laurich.
Luke Taylor.
Barbara Stepansky.
Samuel Edwards.

The panel was moderated by the always engaging Tony Smith, who is a renaissance man if the industry ever saw one. Smith is a performer, director, and producer with more than three decades of experience in the entertainment industry. He's also a successful entrepreneur, founding Round Rock - which, alongside Gotham La Chandna and Cloud21, was one of the panel's sponsors.

The Tools and Trends

If the panel agreed on one underlying theme, it's that the film industry has undergone tremendous growth over the past few years. While this growth is certainly a good thing, it means that it's tougher and tougher for independent filmmakers and young talent to get noticed.

As a result of this congestion, marketing now plays a prominent role in getting heard and being seen. Whether you're an actor, producer, writer, director, or anyone else in the industry, marketing and networking aren't optional. Thankfully, there are a number of tools and resources available that can help people find relevancy in this noisy market. Here are some of the tools and trends we talked about:

The Growing Role of Social Media

One thing is quite clear: social media is an extremely important tool for staying relevant. In the entertainment industry, it's not enough to simply participate in social media. You have to leverage the appropriate platforms and actively engage users in order to stay on top of their minds at all times.

Some of the best platforms right now are Facebook and Instagram, but it'll be interesting to see how newer ones--such as Periscope--will be used in the coming months. There's a lot of potential for live streaming social in film making and early adopters could benefit from carving out unique niches.

Highly Targeted Facebook Advertising

When you look at social media from a business perspective, there are two sides. First, you have the organic half. This includes all of the natural posts, comments, and engagement that users participate in. Then, you have the paid side of social. And while all established social media platforms have some sort of integrated PPC advertising system, there is none more effective than Facebook's advertising platform.

Facebook advertising is largely underutilized by the film industry, but is delivering high returns to those who are disciplined enough to pursue it. The value of Facebook's ad platform lies in its access to data. Facebook has successfully collected hundreds of data points on all of its users and then uses this information to give advertisers powerful features.

For example, let's say you're a producer who's releasing an action film in select box offices around the country. You could develop a Facebook ad that targets men between the ages of 16-35 who have previously expressed interest in action films, enjoy going to the movies, and live in the zip codes where the movie is being shown.

This high-level of targeting means advertisers can pursue a very specific niche and yield positive results. It's a game-changer in all industries--but the entertainment industry in particular can find great value in it.

Importance of Online Networking

The final trend our panel focused on was the importance of networking--and online networking in particular. As the industry has grown, it's become more fragmented than it once was. As a result, new networking tools and capabilities have been produced to meet this demand.

One of the cooler tools is Audition Magic, which also happened to be one of the panel's sponsors. Audition Magic is described as an "elegant online capture, scheduling, and collaboration software," which essentially means it helps connect people in the movie industry by allowing for easy-to-upload auditions and resumes.

Outside of formal tools like Audition Magic, one of the biggest keys to networking in the film industry involves building relationships with bloggers, writers, journalists, and other members of the media. Established relationships with these folks can greatly enhance visibility and connectivity in what has become a noisy marketplace.

Resourcefulness is Key

While it's great to have tools and solutions like these, you ultimately have to remember that the key to being successful doesn't lie in the resources you have. Instead, success is about your resourcefulness as an individual.

Keeping this in mind, it will be interesting to watch how marketing--and the tools being produced to fuel this surge in marketing--will continue to grow in this specific niche. If the discussions we had in our Sundance Film Festival panel are any indication, the future of marketing in the independent film niche is bright.