Affordable Image Marketing Tools to Help Non-Profits Create Stunning Visuals

When you’re working on promoting your next fundraising event or a thank you initiative to long-time donors, you want to add a visual punch in your campaigns, to make it more exciting.

It’s been proven time and time again that people are more likely to engage with posts that contain photos and/or videos because the visual aspect makes the post more interesting to read. But if you’re on a budget, it can be tough to justify paying for platforms like Photoshop, especially if you don’t use it frequently and/or don’t have a graphic designer in house.

That’s why I’m sharing some of the most popular inexpensive and/or free marketing tools to help non-profits easily create stunning visuals to attract donors, engage fans and make events and campaigns more memorable.

 

Canva For Non-Profits

By far one of the most popular visual tools online today, Canva has a free premium version available for non-profits. You’ll be able to create any image, from infographics, e-books and Facebook ads to email headers and you don’t need to be a graphic designer to use it. It’s the intuitive visual platform even novices can use with an extensive selection of stock photos and other elements available for $1 each. You’ll also be able to upload your own logos and images to the site and incorporate them into your own designs. There are templates available if you’re looking for something more structured and several photo enhancing tools for any touch-ups you need.

Crello

Another popular option that’s free to sign up, Crello has over 65 million free stock images and over 10,000 free design templates. While there are some advanced design elements for $1/each, anyone can sign up and get started on the pre-loaded templates right away. They have designs for print, social media, animations, digital ads and just about anything you can think of that will work for non-profit events, e-newsletters and blogs. The inspiration community page with ideas from members will definitely get the creativity flowing.

Animoto

An affordable platform you can use to easily turn photos, graphics, and video clips into animated video slideshows, Animoto starts with a free two week trial with the paid version starting at $13/month. The basic package gives you over 700+ styles and 500 music tracks to choose from, for each video you create. It’s a platform that works to create great short form videos for Facebook and Instagram as it can easily convert the slideshow to the square format. You can add any images, clips and text you see fit, save it and share it to your respective platforms.

Boomerang from Instagram

You may have tried Boomerang by now, but in case you haven’t, you can use it to create mini-videos that will play a short burst of photos forwards and backwards. It’s a quick, free and quirky way to create a fun visual of a great fundraising event that will be undoubtedly catch the eye of fans and followers. You also have the flexibility to share it on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, not just directly inside Instagram.

Pablo by Buffer

Pablo by Buffer

Pablo by Buffer

Buffer, a well-known social media platform recently released Pablo, a graphic design tool specifically for social media. There is a selection of pre-uploaded photos and text overlays for your images to supplement any Facebook posts and Twitter status updates your organization may be posting. It’s also free to use so you don’t have to pay a fee to edit your photos or share them via social media to platforms such as Instagram as well as Facebook and Twitter.

PhotoPin

PhotoPin Stock Image Site

PhotoPin Image Site

This is a great search engine for images on Flickr that are marked under the Creative Commons license, which lets you use the photos for commercial and non-commercial use for free, as long as credit is given to the creator. Search results can be easily filtered and each image comes in a variety of downloadable sizes and contains the info how you can give the creator credit.

Infogr.am

This platform allows you to publish charts and infographics through a variety of templates. You’ll be able to add charts, maps, videos, images and anything else you and share it with the one-click share button or embed it into your blog. With the free plan, you’re given access to 37+ interactive charts, 13 map types and the ability to import data, run up to 10 projects with 3 pages/project. If you move up to the pro plan for $19/month, that expands to 500+ map types, 100 projects, 10 pages/project, privacy control and the ability to download HD images, gain access to 1 million images & icons, premium templates and live analytical data.

Lumen5

Lumen5 turns your blog posts, articles and any other long form content into a video. Upload the text into the platform, choose some photos and music to go with the text and then you can share it directly to Facebook or upload it to share wherever you like. The free version allows you to create unlimited videos and upload your own logo and photos for the videos you create. It also gives you access to 10,000,000+ free media files. For the pro account at $49/month, you’ll get all that plus the ability to upload your own watermark and outro with square videos, no credit scene and Lumen5 branding

Subscribe here for more marketing tips & fundraising ideas for non-profits, including cost-effective online fundraising ideas and creative & outside-the-box event ideas. Check back here often for more marketing strategies, social media tips and insights into PR.

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Announcing New Service: Ghostwriting

What is Ghostwriting

Ghostwriting 101

 

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m expanding my writing services (which include copywriting, freelance writing (such as articles, ebooks & white papers) & blogging) to include ghostwriting! So what is ghostwriting? It’s basically the practice of having a writer create custom content for you but without their byline. So you have them create a novel, an article or a blog post but the name on the front and/or byline is your business’s name.

If you’re looking to have an article, blog post, e-book or other piece of content ghostwritten, contact me for my packages and rates!

 

What is Brand Journalism?

What is brand journalism?

What is Brand Journalism

 

Whether it’s a non-profit organization or a start-up, nearly everyone has a blog because they want to share important news on services/products and events with their audience.

Other companies, however, are starting to do more. On top of generating brand awareness and turning leads into paying customers through blogging, some companies believe they need to fill in the gaps left behind by traditional media.

Gaps due to the fact that traditional media is overwhelmed due to a lack of resources. As of 2010, there are officially 4.6 PR professionals for every journalist. Consequently, many companies are hiring journalists to build media operations in-house. Instead of waiting for media to cover stories, brands are generating their own stories and becoming their own journalists, hence brand journalism.

 

How to Encourage a Brand Journalism Program in Your Company

What makes a brand journalism program

How to create a compelling brand journalism program

Changing the culture as far as marketing goes can be daunting, but not impossible. PR & marketing teams play pivotal roles in educating the company’s senior management about the concept and best practices in order to get the approval from the top down.

Pick a team member to compile examples of brand journalism success such as case studies, white papers, social media and websites. Start slowly with one story and once the initial project has seen positive results, it’ll be much easier to sell senior executives on creating a brand journalism program.

Effective Brand Journalism=Strong Storytelling

Building a successful brand journalism program comes down to the strong stories that you develop. One of the most effective ways to help create strong stories is to adopt a ‘newsroom mentality’ among your media team. Your team of marketing, PR and traditional journalists sit down and have pitch meetings, develop editorial calendars and regular ‘beats’ or areas of coverage are assigned. Even if you have a small team or work for a non-profit organization, you can still manage a brand journalism program.

 

Not all Stories Make Great Brand Journalism

Elements that make a really good story

What makes a strong story?

 

Just like in traditional journalism, your team needs an ongoing selection of compelling stories to drive buzz for your brand, but not every story will fit the brand journalism guidelines. Criteria is as follows:

-Focus on the audience (Always consider what they care about and how they’ll benefit).

-Find a voice by featuring a real person who tells the story. Having someone that the audience can relate to makes the story more compelling. Some great examples would be having community leaders share their perspectives, business leaders share their experiences and notable influencers to give their expertise. Remember that the person audiences connect to will rarely be your company’s top executives or media spokesperson.

-Tying your content to larger big picture issues and/or statistics from well-respected organizations can help to give your content some creditability and make it more newsworthy

-Keep your message simple. Do away with any corporate jargon and use plain language where possible to make sure you audience understands what you’re talking about

-Add visuals. As audiences naturally gravitate to visuals, make sure to include photos, videos, slideshows, infographics and any other visuals you can think of to raise engagement levels with your content

-Un-brand your content. This means removing all branding that doesn’t fit seamlessly into the content. In other words, your company name may not appear in the headline as it does in a typical news release. It’s much more likely to be mentioned in affiliation with your expert who features in the story. Keep any and all branding subtle

Create content with your audience in mind, with a simple message that‘s visually stunning and allow the real people in your organization to tell their stories, without putting the company brand front and center.

 

Getting Your Brand Journalism Program Out There

 

How to Pitch a Strong Story

Story Pitching

Distributing brand journalism content starts much the same way it would with traditional media relations: you find the right journalists, build those relationships and share the stories. The difference between brand journalism and traditional media relations is all about attitude; it’s less about ‘story pitching’ as it is ‘content sharing’. Building strong relationships with journalists who trust you means that they will view your brand journalism program as a source of valuable content, rather than just another PR campaign.

When you distribute brand journalism content, make sure that it’s easily accessible to the journalists you’re sending it to. Make the content easily downloadable, the photos & videos easy to save and brand elements (if relevant) such as high resolution logos easily available. You want to make it as easy as possible for journalists to share your content through social media, websites and alike, increasing the chance of you growing your own audience.

When it comes to getting your brand journalism content out there through your company channels, it’s important to keep each platform’s audience in mind. Best practices include re-purposing said content for several different social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter by shortening it or making it into infographic. Doing this helps to amplify your message across platforms and increases ROI.

Sometimes, companies choose to create separate website hubs to act as news media sites to host their brand journalism content as well.

However you choose to distribute your brand journalism content, developing such a program will allow you to deliver buzz for your brand, amplify messages you create and increase ROI-without relying on the constraints of traditional media.

Stay tuned for more informative posts and infographics on brand journalism, thought leadership, content marketing, social media and everything having to do with PR and marketing.

Unit Publicity for Indie Film & Television Portfolio

I’m pleased to announce my brand new 2017-2018 Unit Publicity Portfolio that showcases my experience in running PR campaigns and media relations strategies for indie film & television projects all over the world. If you’re interested in my PR strategies, please contact me for more info. Take a look at my case studies for more in-depth looks into my project as well.

How to Find & Develop Relationships with Social Media Influencers

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably read my posts on how unit publicity helps indie film, great advertising campaigns and tips on great tools to use to help manage social media and save time.

But with the rise of influencer marketing and platforms to help you manage said campaigns recent years, I’ve been asked about the best ways to develop influencer campaigns affordably.

If done correctly, influencer campaigns can drive word-of-mouth marketing and consumer growth, leading to influencers becoming brand ambassadors for companies. Brand ambassadors can help to generate fun and engaging organic content for your brand on a consistent basis, lead campaigns through email, social and advertising and help to elevate events you participate in.

In order to avoid missteps and choosing someone just based on their number of followers, make sure you outline goals you want the influencer campaign to accomplish and do your research on influencers.

With this post, I’ll be focusing on how to develop a plan for influencer marketing campaigns and how to find the best social media influencers for your brand.

Developing a Plan for Influencer Campaigns

As mentioned earlier, working with influencers can help to put a face to your brand and humanize the company. But how do you go about creating a plan to find influencers and run marketing campaigns with tangible goals?

You want to thoroughly plan out what you’re looking to do. Are you launching a new product or service? Is it an event you’re attending and/or organizing? Is it a promotion/contest you’re looking to gain more entries?  Who are you looking to influence to pay attention to this news, attend these events or enter a contest?

If you’re looking for an influencer to share a video helping to promote your indie film fundraiser, are you prepared to offer them exclusive tickets to the world premiere or a media screener with a small gift? What about offering them a chance to tour the set of your next film or perhaps a cameo on screen?

If you want an influencer to write a blog post, review your product or hype up an event, you have to think about what you’re willing to give influencers in-kind. Are you going to be sending them different products to review 3 times/year? Will you have exclusive VIP events that they’ll be invited to? Are you expecting them to post 4X/promotion via Twitter, Facebook and perhaps do an Instagram takeover for an event?

Once you have the general framework for influencer campaigns in place, you can tailor it to suit specific campaigns for certain influencers.

Next, I’ll be focusing on how to find the best social media influencers for your brand and the tools you can use to make it easier.

Finding the Right Social Influencers 

The right influencers can help you reach more of your core demographic by allowing you to piggyback on their follower base and they can also increase your SEO value by developing more backlinks to content you’ve posted.

As you search for influencers, you need to consider the criteria you’re looking for:

Relevance: Is the influencer is sharing content and do they have an audience that’s relevant to my brand? Would my own audience trust this person and be engaged with the content?

Reach:  Does the influencer have enough of an audience that the content we create/promote together will bring my brand value?

Make sure you also do your outreach slowly. Don’t approach influencers right off the bat with an offer of a brand partnership. Start by following them (if you’re not already), comment on conversations they’ve having and share their content.

 

How to Find Influencers Using Tools You (Probably) Already Have

On LinkedIn

As LinkedIn is already a great platform to discover secondary connections through groups and your own connections, you can use the search function to also find influencers. You can search for keywords such as “indie film” and “food bloggers” and pull up secondary connections that are relevant to your industry. Send them a message about their content (make sure you do your research about what they do) and ask them if they wouldn’t mind having a chat about it. Be honest about how you found them and start the conversation.

On Twitter

As you probably know, Twitter’s advanced search function is useful to look for the latest news items and notable Twitter handles. Pulling up any search using hashtags will allow you to see who’s talking about a certain subject such as #indiefilm or who identifies as a #techblogger. From there, you’ll have an idea of who is sharing content relevant to your brand and you can start following them, sharing their updates and making an effort to engage them in conversation.

Twitter’s also a great platform to find micro influencers among your own fans as well. Your own fans are already interested in your brand, so it’ll take less effort to convince them to work with you. Fans are already promoting your content and your brand without prompting, so why not make it a mutually beneficial partnership by formally giving them perks to help hype an event or write a review of some of your products that you’ll gift to them? Of course, fans being interested in and supporting your brand is only half the story, their audiences also have to be relevant to your company.

On Instagram

Looking through your Instagram followers is also great way to find micro influencers (you’d want the reach to be significant-between 1,000-10,000 followers). Take a look at what your followers are posting about, including the reach of their posts and if they’ve been sharing your updates. If they’re consistently posting about food & wine, indie film, sports/fitness and your brand is in those industries, they might be interested in partnering with your company.

Just like on Twitter, you can also search for influential hashtags such as #organicfood, #organicbeauty or #MMAfitness. You’ll get a list of top photos using any of those hashtags that have the most likes. Take a look at the accounts that posted these photos and see if they’d work as a micro influencer for your brand. If you’re a fitness brand or gym facility, you could consider giving them free passes to your facility to try out training and a few classes. If you make organic sauces, marinades and spices, consider giving the influencer a gift basket to try out your products and ask them to make a few of your tried and tested recipes.

 

Using Other Tools to Help Discover Influencers

FollowerWonk is a tool that can help you find Twitter influencers and you can add the first profile for free. Once you sign up, you can click on the ‘Search Bios’ tab and look into the advanced search options. You can tailor the search results based on location, number of followers and whether you’re searching for bloggers.

The social authority column is the best indicator of how influential someone is as it combines the number of followers with how much influence they wield over the followers. If you see low authority numbers that means they don’t engage their own audiences and aren’t worth your time.

Lastly, BuzzSumo is a great tool to help with influencer marketing. Though the pro option will set you back about $79/month, you’ll be able to search for Twitter influencers using specific keywords.

The number of followers will give you an idea of an influencer’s reach and the retweet/reply ratios will keep you informed of the influencer’s engagement rates. You’ll also be able to find influencers, bloggers, companies, journalists and regular people. You can also organize results by followers if you’re interested in reach or retweet/reply ratios. Sorting the results by authority will give you a good mix of reach & engagement. Those who have high page authority are seen as experts in their niche.

Let me know if you have recommendations for more affordable ways to find influencers & manage influencer campaigns! Keep it posted here for more content on marketing, PR and social media tools.

A Glimpse at the Best of the Underrated Indie Film Scene Part 1

 

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know how much I love and support indie film.  I’ve written about some of the goofy B-movies that I love, covered some awesome marketing campaigns for truly great films and given insight into how unit publicity can help films-and their primary storytellers-get the exposure and promotion they deserve. Promotion that will also help them achieve financing and distribution, which I’ve shared some ideas on and some truly awesome platforms that can help.

But what I haven’t done, is share some of the great short films & web series, done by deadly awesome directors who have some of the best creative minds I’ve ever seen. These films & web series span all genres from horror to comedy and film noir and even overlap on a few of them. They’re also from all over the world, from Canada and the US to internationally across the pond in the UK. I regularly chat with many of the production companies and directors on Twitter, sharing their latest projects, tagging them on some cool news and just generally talking about film.

If you know of any other awesome, thought provoking indie films I should check out, please let me know!

But without further ado, here’s the list, in no particular geographical, genre specific or likeability order.

Holding Back-Crossroad Pictures

In this short from the UK production company, directed by the talented Scott Lyus, a seemingly innocuous conversation between a young woman and her mother takes an interesting twist. You get the feeling during the conversation that there’s a lot in the young woman’s past that led to her estrangement from her family and that she’s trying to make amends. The twist comes out of nowhere but yet, is intriguing enough to make you sit down and go over everything you’ve just seen in your mind. Definitely a worthwhile 7 minutes.

 

The Missing Hand-23 ½ Films

The second short from the very first UK based production company I’d ever come across on Twitter, is a hilarious horror comedy. Without spoiling anything, it’s about two people who come across a missing hand and the unintended consequences of finding it. It’s the perfect mix of comedic timing and horrific circumstances. Definitely one of my top two faves from Daniel Harding and 23 ½ Films-top notch and worth the re-watch over and over again.

 

Play Violet For Me-Sunshine Boy Productions

 

For the third entry, we go back across the pond to the US, this time to an award winning film noir short from a LA based production company that I’ll be working with really soon. It’s the story of how smoke and mirrors can not only obscure the truth that’s right in front of your face but make you think of love that’s not really there. Foley Merrick’s obsession with the love of his life, Violet Dupree takes a tragic turn when he finds her dead on her kitchen floor. However, when he calls her twin sister Lila for help, things definitely take a darker turn and slowly, Merrick starts to realize that maybe what he believed to be true, was never true.

 

The Lobster-Guerrilla Motion Pictures

This absolutely gut-busting hilarious 5-part web series is from an Edmonton, Alberta based production company. There’s a chance you’ve probably seen my previous admiration of their short silent film, I Phub You on my Storyhive post.

But this series is definitely something different and it speaks to anyone who’s ever gone through a break up and you’re looking for some wisdom and advice. Here’s the difference, though, the advice guru in this series is a lobster! He bought the lobster from a grocery store and somehow, the thing doesn’t die and continues to dispense relationship advice through his break up! It’s the perfect series for anyone who might be feeling a little down and looking for an unconventional comedy to cheer them up.

 

Going for Broke-Red Castle Films

This comedic short film comes from slightly west of the previous web series, this time on the West Coast, in Vancouver. This production company, led by Jon Silverberg, was responsible for the awesome production values & effects on Static Alex, also featured on my Storyhive post and I’m super excited to see what their upcoming feature, Crypto, will bring to the table.

Basically, the premise of this short film is that a struggling semi-pro golfer struggles to keep things afloat financially for his teenage daughter following his divorce. He struggles on the circuit, losing his last few tournaments, before a hilarious suggestion from a friend results in a good performance. It definitely re-defines ‘going for broke.’

 

Two Pound Forty Pence-23 ½ Films

The second entry on this list from this uber-talented British filmmaker, it’s actually the first film I’ve ever watched from this production company. A man only has enough change on him to catch the last bus home and he’s pursued through the streets by a persistent homeless man. It’s 6 and a half minutes of great nightmarish tension and thrills-and the fear of being caught by someone is something I think all of us who have had to walk home late can relate to.

 

Coffee-Dark Tower Pictures

We’re going back to the US for this entry, this time to a production company that was created by two Elon University students in North Carolina.

Their short film, Coffee, is a film noir about a blind date-with an interesting twist. While I’m sure many of us have gone on blind dates, both good and bad, and might have even set our friends up on a few-I can guarantee that no blind date you’ve been on has a twist quite like this. The film may be just over three minutes long, but the noir atmosphere and the twist make you want to see what happens next.

 

The Face of Vengeance-Kessel Run Productions

We’re in the Land Down Under, in Adelaide, to be more specific, for the next film noir. A hard-boiled detective is driven to the brink to apprehend a suspected serial killer, who murdered his brother. The fact that the suspected serial killer is the mayor’s son makes him virtually untouchable to the law and the detective takes the law into his own hands to get revenge.

 

The Clown Attacks-Crossroad Pictures

Moving back to the UK with the second entry from the amazingly talented Scott Lyus, this film illustrates exactly why so many people hate clowns. On the one hand, you do feel slightly sympathetic towards the clown for being rejected but on the other hand, his reaction is why people fear clowns. So, if you’re not too afraid of clowns or you want something to ease you into watching IT, I’d recommend this gem from Crossroad Pictures.

 

Zombie With a Shotgun-Hilton Ariel Ruiz

 

We’re in NYC for this 5-part zombie web series, which also has a companion comic book series. This web series, which is also being turned into a feature, is about how a young couple sees their love tested when Aaron ends up infected with a mysterious virus. How he becomes infected is a bit of a mystery, although there is references to a doctor’s appointment and blood tests. But what’s more important, is how long he can fight the infection for, whether or not it can be reversed-and what it means for his relationship if he does turn into a zombie. It’s definitely a more sympathetic look at zombies, certainly a vibe closer to that of Warm Bodies, where zombies are not just mindless, hungry creatures. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how this series will progress.

 

The Killer Bird-23 ½ Films

The longest short film and the third entry from the UK based production company, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this one is another horror film or a thriller, similar to the ones from Daniel Harding that I listed earlier. However, the title is simply a metaphor. Wrapped in guise of a young man hunting for and attempting to capture a killer bird, it’s actually an interesting social commentary on some of anti-immigration sentiments that Daniel himself has overhead from people, based on what they hear in the news. The dialogue and the characters are heavily influenced by social groups, key political figures and people with far-right agendas. It’s not a conventional horror film but it’s horror more on a social level. And that, in some ways, is much more frightening. Give a watch if you’re looking for something more though provoking.

Honorable mentions go to the humorous Cupid and the intriguing Ring, Ring.

 

Dead of Night-Kessel Run Productions

For the last film on this list, we go back to Adelaide. This short film is has a more abstract story than the others. Basically, you see a man crouched in an empty room with a shotgun by his arm and a note that reads “The man with the key is the one.” Whoever opens the door in the house will get shot. It seems straight forward, but there is a twist and it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

 

Let me know if you think there are other awesome indie films I should be watching! Stay tuned for more posts on great films, publicity and the business of film!

 

 

 

How Publicity Can Elevate Your Project at Film Festivals

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cracking Open the National Film Board Vault of Canadian Films

For those of you avid readers who have been following my blog, you’d recall that a few months back, I posted about the amazing Storyhive library of animated & live action short films from the past couple years, showcasing film making talent out of BC & Alberta.

With this blog post, I’ve decided to expand beyond just BC & Alberta and touch on some amazingly awesome Canadian short films that have some historical (and childhood, to me) significance that are archived within the National Film Board’s library.

If you’re in Canada or abroad and want to watch these for yourselves, you can find them via YouTube. They’re also on NFB Telus app (for all you Telus subscribers). Without further ado, here’s some of the best short documentary films, animated films and other skits that I love from the NFB archives.

 

The Cat Came Back

I’m sure that by now, every kid of the 80s and 90s has heard the iconic song, but now we get the story behind it. In Oscar nominated, nearly 8 minute long animated short, we see a guy living alone who is fanatical about his house, his tuba, the rattle he owned when he was a baby and not much else. A cat appears mysteriously on his doorstep and he takes it in, only for thing to quickly turn sour. Then he spends the entirety of the short trying to get rid of the cat. The hilarity only increases the more he tries and while it’s responsible for one of the most prolific (and annoying) ear worms of my childhood, I can’t deny that it’s catchy.

 

Family Band

Turning to some of the icons of Canadian music, this nearly 8 minute short documentary focuses on the bonds of brotherhood between the long running members of the legendary band, The Tragically Hip. While I’m not a HUGE Hip fan, seeing their iconic performance on CBC last summer following the news of Gord Downie’s brain cancer diagnosis made tears come to my eyes. Not only was the performance legendary, it carried the emotional weight of possibly being one of the last times we’d ever seen the band on tour. And let’s be honest, in Canadian music, there are very few songwriters that can match Gord’s thought provoking songwriting ability. And who hasn’t sung Bobcaygeon on a camping trip? I know I have.

 

Inner Rush

Now onto arguably the OTHER most iconic Canadian band in history. This short 6 and half minute documentary pays tribute to Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson of Rush, featuring the band members talking about what inspires them and why they love music. It also featured a band of young men barely out of their teens who, inspired by Rush, perform their music live as well. It’s extremely uplifting to see Rush’s music still inspiring later generations and as a long-time piano player myself, I give anyone credit who can drum ‘Spirit of The Radio.’ Try it out for yourself if you don’t believe me on how hard it is, Neil Peart is one of the most iconic drummers of all time for a reason.

 

Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater

Nearly every Canadian kid in my generation (and perhaps even 10 years younger) has to have read the book and seen this iconic award-winning short by now. This story literally exemplifies what it means to be Canadian as Roch Carrier recounts what being a Montreal Canadians fan meant to him as a child and how receiving a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater from Eatons instead was about much more than being a hockey fan. It’s about the essence of Canadian cultural identity and how hockey and language plays into that. It’s a must-read and a must watch for any hockey fan and certainly one of the major cornerstones of my childhood.

 

The Big Snit

This Oscar nominated animated short is hilarious and yet, somehow makes you think. In a nutshell, it juxtaposes a global nuclear war crisis with an argument a husband has with his wife over a Scrabble game as he sneaks a peek at her letters when he can’t seem to create a word. The hilarity ensues in the couples’ obliviousness to the chaos outside as well as the seemingly random TV show “Sawing for Teens” that the husband is a huge fan of. I mentioned that it makes you think to an extent, well, I can that I’ve never treated an argument with my husband as a nuclear war, so there is that. If you like twisted hilarity, this one is for you.

 

Neighbours

 For my last film on this list, I turn to a stop motion short film featuring live actors. It also happens to be the oldest film on this list (shot in 1952) an Academy Award winner and features an anti-war message of loving one’s neighbour. It was revolutionary at the time for the stop motion technique, though it did court some controversy with the violent actions of the neighbours that resulted in their deaths. Still, I recommend this film for anyone who’s interested in a slice of Canadian cinematic history.

So that’s my list (though I suspect I may have to create a second one, with how large the NFB library is). Any Canadian cinematic gems you’d recommend out of the National Film Board library? Sound off here!

Film Financing 101: What You Need & How To Do It

 

If you’ve been reading this blog, then chances are that you’ve come across my earlier posts on film distribution (for short films, feature films & web series), why it’s important to budget for unit publicity and cool & creative marketing campaigns for films.

But then I started thinking, what are some of the other struggles that indie film makers I chat with and work with have? It became apparent that film financing was a big concern. Typically, film makers would try and apply for competitions to receive grants, or they run campaigns on platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, getting burnt out on using some of the fundraising to create fan perks and try their hand at getting angel investors.

Bear in mind, I’m not slandering Indiegogo & Kickstarter, considering the awesome projects they’ve helped fund, I just think you should proceed with caution (*More on that, later.)

So, what can film makers do to make financing their projects a little easier? That’s what this blog post aims to do-I’ll cover some great resources that will help with film financing AND some tips on how to better position yourself and your projects to make it easier.

 

Setting Yourself Up to Maximize Financing Potential

If you’re a first time or even a novice film maker, it can be like fighting an uphill battle to get the funding that you need-when no one knows your name/brand and you don’t have notable projects under your belt.

So, first step is establish your credibility by attaching industry veterans to your projects in key roles. Start going networking mixers & workshops in your indie film community and I bet you can connect with veteran directors, editors, cinematographers, producers and screenwriters who’d be happy to act as a mentor/advisor for your project.  Enlisting a seasoned veteran to lend their name & reputation to your project is a great way to get more experience on your crew, which will raise your chances of fundraising success.

Second thing, don’t forget to engage your community!  Attend the mixers & workshops, spread the news of your film/TV/web project at these events with people you’ve built relationships with & take the news online as well! Grow your core audience via social media & invite them into the process of making your project by keeping them informed, whether in person or online. Make people feel like a part of your community and they’ll be your team-and do the promotion work for you. (*KEY NOTE: ENGAGE them about your project but don’t make ALL your content about your project, people want to have conversations with you about film & share cool things, NOT always being asked to help fundraise or share news*)

Lastly, don’t feel like you have to confine yourself to ONE film financing platform or method. Each method has its pros and cons (which I’ll cover in a bit) and by signing up for and using a variety of platforms & methods (especially to fund different elements of a project such as props, locations, set design etc.), you’ll maximize your opportunities to meet & exceed funding goals.

Too often, I see great projects that I support and that I’m providing unit publicity/social media for, concentrate on ONE financing platform and end up losing out receiving more funding due to a strict unmoveable campaign deadline or having to use revenue of their own to pay out for fan perks. It’s TOTALLY OK, I’m even ENCOURAGING you to use more of a varied film financing strategy on more than ONE platform. You’ll increase your chances that way AND not have to freak out about a fundraising campaign deadline looming.

So now that we’ve established some of what you need to do to start fundraising for film financing, let’s talk about film financing methods.

 

Method 1: Government Funding

Governments all over the world have grants/funding incentives to help indie film makers. In the UK, the government distributes funding for British film through the BFI for various film making initiatives and Europe has the MEDIA program which helps to bring projects to production. British Columbia has several project funds such as helping production companies support the development of two or more eligible film/TV/web series projects through a slate development fund   and funding to help film makers with travel costs when they are looking to open to different domestic & international markets.

Here’s the caveat: whichever fund you try and apply for through your respective government, keep in mind that there are strict deadlines and criteria (down to the amount of experience your team has), competition is extremely fierce and you may have restrictions on what/who/when/how/where you can complete your project, which can compromise creative integrity.

 

Method 2: Tax Credits

Government related, though not strictly a fund, tax credits can be great at helping you reduce overall labor costs on production services and act as an incentive for refundable tax opportunities to production companies. Just like government funding however, there are parameters that must be met in order for your project to qualify for tax credits (ie. The project being Canadian controlled for a labor based tax credit or running a Canadian or international film/TV Production Corporation to qualify for a labor based tax incentive).

Check out some info on tax credits here & here.

 

Method 3: Product Placement

This one is a little tougher for indie film makers as it’s essentially teaming up with brand managers of a certain brand to do an in-kind sponsorship whereby they give your project some cash funding and their products are included on camera/in the production of your film, web series or TV series. In theory, in sounds awesome because it’s cheaper for said product company to place their products in the film rather than do straight advertising but few indie projects have the pulling power of a huge block buster. However, if you have a hook up for a couple different product sponsors who are part of small/medium brands who could use the exposure, it could work.

Check out some examples of great indie films who made product placement work.

 

Method 4: Incorporating Music

Similar to the product placement, this one can also be a little tough for indie film makers, but doable if you have the connections in your network. As film & music are closely associated with one another, having a great soundtrack can enhance your story & entice audiences. Moreover, if a musician that you know who has their own following signs on to do the original score, you can leverage their name in promoting your project, find new followers in their audiences AND the musicians themselves can earn additional revenue from your film. Of course, this method, just like the product placement, is entirely dependent on who you’re connected to and if their audience following is large enough to be an effective marketing tactic,

The musical romance Once is a great example of how incorporating music into your indie film can work.

 

Method 5: Production Grants

This is where the fun happens  :). There’s literally hundreds of production grants you can apply for through all different organizations, contests that will award production funding and film initiatives in every city. Not only that, but there are production grants available for literally everything having to do with film making (from specific genres like documentaries and fiction narratives to areas such as screenwriting and even to support emerging teen film makers).

There’s also competitions you can enter that will help winners get professional development, mentorship and also production funding. The First Look Project from Script Pipeline is a great example of a competition as is the Pilot Launch TV Scripts Contest by Screencraft. The First Look Project accepts screenplays, teleplays and short films that are judges on originality, writing ability and commercial potential. Each winner in each category can receive a cut of the $14,000 in prizes, industry circulation and long-term personalized professional development assistance from Script Pipeline’s executive team. For the Pilot Launch TV Scripts Contest, they accept drama & comedy TV pilots for network, cable & online with 3 winners getting cash rewards and VIP invites to the ITVFest in October.

For production grants in different categories, The Bertha BRITDOC Documentary Journalism Fund offers between £ 10,000 to 50,000 to documentary film makers from any country from a mixture of grants & investments. Screen Australia also has a documentary development fund that allows applications to apply for any amount up to $30,000 and have at least 3 eligible credits in the role of either producer or director.

Screencraft’s Short Film Production Fund supports short film and online series projects with grants up to $20,000 twice/year. The amounts vary from $10,000 to $20,000 depending on the scale, originality and potential of the project. Each winner receives production guidance from Screencraft and resources from BondIt & Buffalo 8 Productions.

The Film Fund has a unique & challenging production grant opp: you get up to $10,000 to make your short film simply by crafting and submitting ONE sentence with a compelling premise that conveys why you need funding to achieve your vision.

So morale of the story: check often, apply often and don’t let rejection of one grant stop you. The more you have, the more varied your financing strategy, the better off you’ll be.

Check out this MASSIVE list of production grants every year to see which ones you qualify for.

 

Method 6: Crowdfunding

As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be elaborating on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Both platforms have their merits in that their overall popularity means that you already have an audience base to engage with on your film. Fans understand how Kickstarter & Indiegogo work when it comes to their donations and both platforms make it really easy for them to share the campaign with their own networks. Given the amount of other films, TV series and creative projects like board games that get funded every day, it’s no wonder many indie film makers flock to both these platforms.

Here’s the problem though: Kickstarter & Indiegogo both have firm 30 day & 60 day deadlines to their crowdfunding campaigns, so once that’s over, you have to start again. There’s also the added stress of having to use some of the funds you’ve worked so hard to raise on creating/distributing the perks as thank yous to all the fans who donated which can be time consuming & overwhelming (time you can & should be spending on your film project, by the way). There’s nothing wrong with thanking fans, but not being in control of the way you want to do it can be a negative.

And the last negative, because of the hard & fast deadline, many indie film makers I support & work with end up literally spamming social media day in and day out to try and make their funding goals, rather than spending time engaging with their fan base. That’s the best way to piss off your audience, not make them part of the team.

So, am I telling you NOT to use Kickstarter & Indiegogo? OF COURSE NOT! These platforms can be great at reaching large audiences & projects do get funded on them every day, but just be careful with HOW you use them. Instead of using the one platform to fund your entire film, consider using either platform to fund a certain element (ie. Revenue to secure a location or to purchase gear) so it takes the pressure off.

There are other crowdfunding platforms, don’t forget. GoFundMe may not strictly be a creative industries or entertainment crowdfunding platform but it does have the benefit of not having a deadline, so you can keep the fundraising through production and post. You can even take some of the funds raised to enter the film into the festival circuit once editing’s completed.

I’ve previously mentioned Seed & Spark in my previous post on film distribution, but their main objective is helping great films raise capital. They even have classes and workshops on how to crowdfund properly along with a film maker’s gift box that has over $9,000 in products, services & festival waivers for projects with 500 followers. They even have a monthly Seed Fund where additional cash from their subscribers goes to the crowdfunding projects.

Slated is an online marketplace that connects investors with film makers and industry professionals to help find film financing. There are hundreds of film finance and distribution opportunities listed monthly and the Analytics Package score will allow potential investors to see each project’s true value based on the strength of the team, the quality of the script and the potential for financial returns.

Last crowd funding platform in this section is known as Seedrs based in the UK. Similar to GoFundMe, it’s not a fundraising platform that’s particularly geared towards entertainment and films, more so towards start-up companies but through their story-building pitch, you’ll be able to highlight what you want to do with your investment and submit it to Seedrs executive team for review.

I’m sure I may be missing a few more crowdfunding platforms, but I think this section is long enough, don’t you?

 

Last Method: Angel Investors

Just as you’d do research to see which production grants you qualify for, finding the right investors requires some prep work. To convince potential investors that your film is worth investing in, you must first believe that it’s worthy. Sound simple, right? You’d be surprised how many people have a crisis of confidence when it comes to finding investment opportunities.

You have to build your case with a fantastic script & a great pitch towards investors that needs a strong business plan.

In a nutshell, your business plan should contain an executive summary of the major points, a synopsis of you film, hypothetical investment return, timeline/production plan, bios/resumes of your team members, risk management details and contact info.

You must believe – and in your business plan, show – that to offer an investment opportunity is to give back more value than you’re requesting. Don’t go hunting for investors until you have a kick-ass script, pitch & business plan in place!

As far as where to find potential investors, this is where all your networking comes in. Going to different events, mixers, workshops, even events that have nothing to do with film such as large scale celebrations and chatting with vendors can be a great way to find referrals. If you have a particular great referral network, consider offering an Associate Producer credit & a possible finder’s fee to sweeten the deal.

 

Want more great tips for indie film makers? Check out my previous posts on film distribution and how unit publicity can help your film/TV/web projects!

 

Freelance Writing: Social Media Monitoring Made Easy for Jeweller Magazine

Hello All,

My latest freelance contribution to Jeweller Magazine across the pond in Melbourne, Australia focuses on the best social media monitoring tools out on the market for jewellers to use that are A) free, B) easy to use and C) provide metrics for all kinds of social media platforms.

Check it out here or at the direct link, if you’d like and let me know what you think and if you’ve come across other tools that are just as awesome!

Remember, keep it locked here for more in marketing, PR & indie film!