If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably seen the in-depth previous posts on the different ways to achieve a better film financing strategy, extensive options on where and how to distribute your film online and why unit publicity matters when it comes to film production.
I’ve also tried to shed light on great Canadian short films, which you can see here (both the Storyhive & National Film Board libraries, respectively.) But with this post, I wanted to hone in on the specifics of how unit publicity can help promote projects smoothly on the festival specifically.
So, if you’re in the midst of submitting your web series, short or feature film to festivals, take a look at some of the tips below and consider working with a passionate publicist to create a PR strategy to maximize exposure for your project on the festival circuit.
Take Care of Pre-Festival Publicity
When you’ve completed the post-production editing and before you start submitting to film festivals, you have to make sure you have all your publicity materials in order. That means making sure you’ve re-cut the trailer, the teaser and have film stills, bios of the cast & crew and a synopsis of the film’s plot ready to go. Keep in mind that not all film festivals will ask for every single one of your promotional materials, but it’s good practice to keep everything on hand just in case. Also, try your best to keep a regular social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, engaging with your prospective audiences about the film (without giving too much away!) and on what you’re passionate about.
There are also shorts, feature films and web projects that will go the extra mile to make sure that they have a completely built website, posters and even print flyers made in order to build a complete brand around their film. Although a fully built website, print ads/posters and online posters aren’t an absolute necessity, it’s really important that you get the mandatory materials like the film synopsis, bios of cast/crew, trailer and film stills to your publicist. Once she or he gets their hands on the promo materials, they can start thinking about a strategy on how best to position your film and who to reach out to gain some press coverage.
Is your film/short/web project genre specific? Does it have an underlying theme(s) focusing on issues such as racial tolerance/diversity, environmental concerns, social commentary on crime etc.? Making sure that your promo materials emphasize these themes is a great way to help your publicist figure out how to maximize your film’s visibility with genre specific press both before and during a festival.
NOTE: Although your publicist will be working diligently to secure press as you hit the festival submission circuit, the resulting press coverage for the film/web project will help to raise its visibility but doesn’t GUARANTEE the project’s entry into any festival.
Festival Publicity After Acceptance
Once your film/web project gets accepted into a festival, then it’s time to get into the logistics. Will you and other members of your team be attending the festival? What section is your project being screened in (gala presentation, shorts, docs etc.)? These questions will determine how the PR strategy will work for your project at that particular festival.
It goes without saying that if you and your team (whether it’s a producer, screenwriter, fellow directors etc.) are able to attend the festival screening that it would be easier to secure in-person interviews with various web, podcast, blog and traditional print/broadcast/radio outlets. If you’re attending the festival, your publicist will carefully pitch the film to suitable regional writers/journalists/podcasters that are attending the festival themselves to arrange media passes to the screening, red carpet photos during the press junket and other on-location interviews. Your publicist will also manage your team’s schedule and coordinate attendance at networking mixers, where you’ll be able to pitch your project to media and possibly distributors as well.
If you’re unable to attend the festival, don’t worry, your film can still obtain some great press coverage! Regardless of whether you walk the red carpet, a passionate publicist with some connections and a few ideas will still pitch your film to regional media, arrange phone/Skype/podcast interviews and give the media either passes or screeners out as an opportunity to review your film. Your publicist will also be on hand to work with the festival’s publicity team to make sure that all festival material advertising your project has the correct information and the scheduling for your film is on track.
How NOT to do Festival Publicity
If your film/web project does get accepted to a festival and you’re working with a publicist, please DO NOT schedule your own interviews and other press opportunities. Your publicist is working with a long term strategy during the festival and beyond and has a direction that he/she believes is the best way to maximize press coverage for your film. It can often be more advantageous to have a film/web project covered in several smaller, genre specific publications rather than a mention in a larger outlet. Arranging your own media opportunities can contradict your existing schedule and be a detriment to further press coverage. Should a journalist approach you for a media screener or interview, please make sure to liaise with your publicist on the best course of action.
Also, as stated earlier, make sure you have your press kit in hand and ready to go. Keeping everything from the trailer to the film stills and the exclusive media screener in a to-go package (like a USB stick branded with your film’s logo) will go a long way to making it easier for the press to review your film. It’s the attention to detail that the media will appreciate and lead the way to forming positive relationships for further press coverage down the road with other festivals.
How to Find a Publicist
You may be tempted to do some DIY publicity due to costs and the fact that social media is not only prevalent but also free to use in many cases. There’s been many examples of great social media campaigns promoting some amazing indie films and web series.
But a good publicist can have ideas and connections that you may have never thought of. When you’re looking for a publicist, it’s important to find someone who is passionate about your project, has some experience with pitching films/web projects to media and who is full of ideas on where the PR strategy can lead your film and how problems need to be ironed out.
Moreover, a publicist not only has good connections to key press and media outlets that would be the best fit for your film (which includes reviews, interviews, blog posts, podcasts & social media outreach) but they also have TIME. They have time to source these connections, pitch them and schedule your interviews. Wouldn’t you rather just enjoy the festival atmosphere and leave the pitching to someone who knows the ropes?
Now you’re set to get on the film festival circuit, armed with ideas on publicity and how a publicist can help! Want more help on other stages of your project? Check out my posts on film financing & distribution!