Emerson College graduate Jillian Preger DeFrehn, 31, is co-producer of the new paranormal teen film “Vampire Academy,” but fans of the book series, who are anxiously awaiting Friday’s release of the film, know her as their nameless and faceless Internet mom.
After DeFrehn’s family’s company, Preger Entertainment, optioned Richelle Mead’s best-selling book about two best friends at a school for vampires, they created a Facebook page for the film, just to get a sense of the fan base.
“Within 10 days we had 10,000 fans. It became a daily focus for me,” DeFrehn said.
Since then, DeFrehn has been on that page (which has more than 327,000 likes) and the Twitter account she made for the movie, @OfficialVAMovie (which has about 40,000 followers) to communicate with “Vampire Academy” supporters to help them get excited about the film, which is directed by Mark Waters (“Mean Girls”) and stars Zoey Deutch. It’s a full-time job, apart from the producing gig. “I get up, I grab my cellphone, and I immediately log on before I get out of bed to make sure nothing’s happened that I immediately have to acknowledge,” she said.
DeFrehn added that when she was up late with her now-2-year-old daughter, she started some international hype, talking to fans in other countries.
“I’d be up in the middle of the night and I’d be having to keep myself awake and I’d hop on the page and Australia would be up and Europe would be up. I found it very rewarding. We have an amazing US fan base, but we have a huge international following. “
DeFrehn says that the grass-roots social media buzz made Hollywood realize that this wasn’t “just another vampire movie,” and that a diverse range of fans was ready to show up for the film — which not even critics have been allowed to see before opening day. The Weinstein Co., which acquired the film for US distribution, has its own interactive Twitter handle, @VAOfficialFilm.
This week, DeFrehn scored a big win. “Vampire Academy” beat the much-anticipated film “Divergent,” also adapted from a best-selling young adult book, in MTV’s Movie Brawl, an online tournament that had people voting for the most anticipated movie of 2014. Contenders included the next installment of “The Hunger Games,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” and “Twilight” star Taylor Lautner’s “Tracers.”
“Vampire Academy” made it to the finals and was only bested by "Veronica Mars,” a movie with a fanbase so active that the film was funded by a Kickstarter campaign. DeFrehn was already soothing the fans, even before the outcome was announced.
“. . .We’ve already won because you have proven to be even more awesome than we could ever imagine. And that’s something, because I didn’t think it was possible for you all to surprise us anymore! But three and half years later, you still make us beam with pride! Now buckle up . . . that was JUST the beginning. Now we have to make sure #VAMovie is widely successful, but that should be a walk in a park for you all.”
DeFrehn said she could see Emerson starting up a class about this kind of grass-roots marketing.
“They could have me teach it,” DeFrehn said, quickly adding, “No — I’m kidding.”Meredith Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.