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!

My Official Podcast Interview with Max Cole of Cinema After Dark in LA

Hello All!

I wanted to share with you the interview I did with the talented & incomparable film maker and podcast host Max Cole out of LA.  In this interview, we chat about my work as a unit publicist for indie film, what attracts me to indie film and what my process is when it comes to pitching for a film and how I build my network. Then we moved on to chat about music, sports and our mutual love for video games! Definitely a great interview and I’d love to stop by again and chat with Max. Check him out on Twitter @cinemaafterdark & @maxcolefilms, Instagram at @maxcolefilms and on Facebook at Cinema After Dark!

Introducing Amazing Canadian Short Films From the Storyhive Library

Although I’ve been working on and watching some amazing films lately, this year is the first year that I’ve actively paid attention and supported the Storyhive project. In a nutshell, the Storyhive project is a community powered funding program run by Telus in Western Canada that distributes production grants and distribution opportunities for creative people to develop live action and animated short films, web series and music videos.

Every year, Storyhive has submission periods for each category and once they’ve been accepted for the $10,000 production grants, voting periods open allowing the individual creators to get promoting for votes via social media as they vie for production grants in each category. Winners in each category receive customized career training and the opportunity to have their projects screened at the Banff World Media Festival.

I’d like to focus on the amazing library of female-directed live action short films from this year’s Digital Shorts competition as well as add in a couple of other projects that you may not have heard of. These films are all amazing in their own right with innovative and fun narratives and you definitely be watching them before it’s too late!

Never Better: A Closure Comedy directed by Lucie Guest

The first BC entry on this list, this one is a hilarious cringe-worthy comedy about the situation one woman, Rudi, finds herself in post-breakup. It’s about her journey to find closure.

Where to see it: It’s available on Storyhive online and for Telus subscribers on Optik Local on your Telus box at On Demand->TV On Demand->Optik Local->Storyhive Winners->Short Films by Female Directors for a very limited time so watch it before it’s too late!

 

I Phub You directed by Shannon Hunt

A cool concept for a short film rarely seen today, I Phub You tells the story of timid Kurtis struggling to connect with people in our technology obsessed world. After an incident leaves his world silent, he discovered what it means to truly connect with someone.

Where to see it: It’s available on Storyhive online and for Telus subscribers on Optik Local on your Telus box at On Demand->TV On Demand->Optik Local->Storyhive Winners->Short Films by Female Directors for a very limited time so watch it before it’s too late!

 

Nightwalk directed by Andrea Beça

A captivating mystery, Nightwalk focuses on Aatisha who makes an eerie discovery walking home one night: a memory card full of photos of her. The hunt is on to discover who’s been following her and the truth is more than she bargained for. You’ll love the twist at the end!

Where to see it: It’s available on Storyhive online and for Telus subscribers on Optik Local on your Telus box at On Demand->TV On Demand->Optik Local->Storyhive Winners->Short Films by Female Directors for a very limited time so watch it before it’s too late!

 

The Man in the Rabbit Mask directed by Ariel Hansen

Directed by seasoned horror actress Ariel Hansen, two girls recite a poem over candlelight during a sleepover that invites a mysterious stranger offering a gift-for a price. It’s 5 minutes of suspenseful horror that you’ll want to watch over and over again!

Where to see it: It’s available on Storyhive online and for Telus subscribers on Optik Local on your Telus box at On Demand->TV On Demand->Optik Local->Storyhive Winners->Short Films by Female Directors for a very limited time so watch it before it’s too late!

 

Static Alex directed by Alayna Silverberg

After mysteriously acquiring powers that allow her to control static electricity, Alex struggles to learn how to utilize them when faced with a crowd of bullies. Help from an unexpected source leads her to realize the full potential of her powers and how to move forward. For a 9 minute film, I loved the super power effects on this and I appreciated how it reminded me of Lincoln Campbell from Agents of Shield!

Where to see it: It’s available on Storyhive online and for Telus subscribers on Optik Local on your Telus box at On Demand->TV On Demand->Optik Local->Storyhive Winners->Short Films by Female Directors for a very limited time so watch it before it’s too late!

 

Chocolate Cake directed by Brittney Grabill

Jenny and Tim share a slice of chocolate cake during their first date and imagine through a series of flashforwards what it would mean for them to put themselves out there and take a chance on love. A sensitive look on how taking a chance with your heart can be a reward within itself, it’s definitely the most thought provoking film in the library.

Where to see it: It’s available on Storyhive online and for Telus subscribers on Optik Local on your Telus box at On Demand->TV On Demand->Optik Local->Storyhive Winners->Short Films by Female Directors for a very limited time so watch it before it’s too late!

 

Inconceivable directed by Joel McCarthy

This one isn’t a short film but rather the pilot episode of a hilarious web series where after 6 months of an experimental, open relationship 24 year old lesbian artist Rita discovers herself pregnant by 25 year old straight filmmaker Adam.  The pilot does a great job of establishing the awkwardness and the humor in the situation along with the fear that comes with the ‘what now’ scenario.

Where to see it: It’s available for Telus subscribers on Optik Local on your Telus box at On Demand->TV On Demand->Optik Local->Storyhive Winners->Web Series Pilots for a very limited time so watch it before it’s too late!

 

The Third Bandit directed by David I. Strasser

Runaway teens Charlie and Lara crisscross across BC in a drug fueled bank robbing spree after being taken in by a cult-like family. Indebted to the charismatic leader/crime lord Donovan, they must rob three banks in three days while deciding if they can trust disgraced cop Andrew Boone as the third member of their trio on this crime spree. The film establishes the suspense and tension right away while leaving you wondering what will happen next. It’s an older entry into the Storyhive library but it delivers just as much as the newer films.

Where to see it: It’s available for Telus subscribers on Optik Local on your Telus box at On Demand->TV On Demand->Optik Local->Storyhive Winners->Past Winners for a very limited time so watch it before it’s too late!

 

These great stories and amazing short films definitely deserve recognition and I thought I’d do my part in making sure they reach larger audiences!

Stay tuned for more on film and TV publicity campaigns, new projects, film festivals, travel/tourism projects and other news!

Freelance Writing: Spotlight on Cathay Pacific’s New A350 on Non-Stop Flights to Hong Kong from YVR

Hello All,

Some travel/tourism project updates for you! I’ve written an article on behalf of Cathay Pacific for Vancouver Magazine on their luxurious new A350 plane. Anyone who wants to go to Hong Kong will definitely want to book this flight after reading the link below! Chinese food and a luxurious non-stop flight to Hong Kong? I know I’m there!

Now You Can Travel to Hong Kong in the Ultimate Comfort

The Ultimate Guide to Short Film Distribution Platforms

If you’re following me on Twitter or happened to read any of my tweets, I’m sure you’ve noticed a theme: I love to show my support for the amazing stories behind indie feature and short films. You’ve probably also seen some evidence of that love through my Crazy8s case study (found here and here.)

And, as a unit publicist and social media strategist, I’ve spent a lot of years watching films, talking and collaborating with several indie film teams on PR campaigns and social media strategies to get their projects the recognition they deserve. In this conversations, I’ve discovered some general themes with how indie film makers work:

  • They understand that in order for their films to achieve recognition, they need publicity. But they need help navigating/obtaining press coverage.
  • As creators, they’d rather focus on putting together all the elements to get their stories to screen (line producing, screen writing, location scouting, casting etc.) than promoting the pre-, production and post-online via social media
  • They’re so focused on pre-production, filming then post-production that they completely ignore/forget the topic of distribution.

Now, I can definitely help clients with points #1 and #2, but the more film makers I talked to, the more I felt like I should also give them a nudge with distribution. It hardly seems fair that directors, producers and screenwriters (sometimes all 3 jobs rolled into one person) who spent an inordinate amount of time working on a project would just throw the film to be screened for free via YouTube or Vimeo. Now I know Vimeo and other VOD platforms have options to set up film rentals, but there should still be more of a revenue stream to it, you know?

Attention all indie filmmakers:  YOU DESERVE TO GENERATE REVENUE OFF YOUR FILM, DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR IT!!

To make sure you don’t forget about distribution or just put your project up for free as an afterthought, I’ve put together the ultimate guide for short film (though you CAN distribute feature-length films on these as well) distribution.

 1) VHX

 

Great for: Short & Feature Films, Web Series, TV Series

Some of the pros from the VHX platform: You can build an entire website using their website templates or you can use their customizable embed tools to integrate the widgets that will allow people to see the trailers and purchase/rent the films on your existing website.

You control all the pricing and content whether you decide to embed the widgets onto your site or build an entirely new one. You can decide to run your own subscription network (branded for your production company) to give your fans unlimited streaming of all your projects with monthly or annual plans or sell downloads and rentals of all your films. They have a handy dandy calculator that will show you how their fees stack up and how much video uploading, the subscription and buy/rent options cost.

2)Distrify

 

Great for: Short & Feature Films, Web Series, TV Series

Distrify allows you to sell your films even as you’re releasing your first official trailer. You’ll never have to pay to have your film featured on a VOD platform again. You can use Distrify for free to get your film featured on every website your audiences visit simply by sharing the video player. Then they’ll be able to watch your film from any platform. The video player is ultra-fast, HTML5 and allows you to set up rental/download options as well.

It’s available worldwide in multiple languages and currencies and the video player is always optimized for maximum performance on mobile platforms. You also get 85% back with 60p fixed cost and you’ll have the option to set your own pricing for rentals too!

3)Shorts TV

 

Great for: Short Films

This is a company that gives you more than one distribution platform option. All you have to do is complete the short films submission form and email it along with a password protected online link of your film to either the US or World contact for a chance to be featured on the world’s first and only 24/7 HD TV channel dedicated to short films or for download from online distributors such as iTunes, Google Play, Vimeo On Demand, Verizon, Amazon Video US, Amazon Video Germany or Amazon Video UK. Once you submit your film and it gets accepted, the company will upload it onto the platforms for you, so you don’t have to worry. Fans will be to see it on all these VODs as well as several different TV providers in the US and Europe.

4)It’s a Short

 

Great for: Short Films, Other Videos & Web Series

Once you sign up, you can upload and store your films and video content for free with no setup or storage charges. You can share your films via customized links on the different short film channels on the website and enter the associated film festivals on the circuit such as the Seattle International Film Festival and Miami Short Film Festival. You’ll get paid every time someone watches your films as the website allows people to subscribe to their entire library of short films & web series for $2/month or $20/year or rent a film for $1.49/month.

5)Short of the Week

Great for: Short Films

On this platform, you’ll have to pay $29 to submit your film and it’ll increase your chance of getting selected if your film hasn’t premiered online and is free for audiences. Once it’s accepted, you’ll have to send along a press kit and some film stills but in return, it’ll be featured on the website’s exclusive selection of short film channels. They’ll also send you an official launch guide to help position the best online launch for your film possible. They’ll also post official reviews of the short films they accept as well, so along with distribution, you’ll receive some press coverage!

6)Short of the Month

 

Great for: Short Films & Music Videos

This website allows you to submit your film through Film Freeway and they promote all kinds of short films, including the posters and trailers. They feature the films that are accepted onto their website and each accepted short film also enters for a chance to win awards such as Short of the Month (Best Film Award), Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Poster Design, Best Music Video or Viewer’s Choice Award (Most Viewed/Liked/Shared film on the website). All winning films will be listed on the website for life and receive a signed certificate by the website’s jury members.

Any film that wins Short of the Month will have exclusive advertising with the video & image ads placed across the web platform and an online interview with the director will be published, which means you’ll receive press coverage as well. Fees for submission will depend on which category you choose. For example, if your film is shortlisted under the premium ultra-submission, you’ll receive a dedicated page for your short, 24×7 email support, written review by SOTM team, video and image ads on the website and ad revenue share (with 100% share to filmmaker).

7)Seed and Spark

Great for: Short Films, Feature Films and TV Series

While this LA-based company is primarily a crowdfunding platform for indie films, they also offer a distribution platform. In order to submit your film, you must make sure that it’s not streaming for free elsewhere, own the content outright and fits into the categories of narrative, documentary, animated or experimental feature, short or episodic/transmedia project. You must also have a fanbase of at least 500 followers through social media or crowdfunding. If your film gets selected for distribution, you’ll receive 60% of the revenue split, customized marketing support, deep audience data and total financial transparency. You’ll also have to let the company know how you’ve been gathering your audience and how your project increases representation and inclusion in front of and/or behind the camera.

8)Gumroad

Great for: Short Films, Feature Films, Web Series, TV Series

Unlike some of the other platforms, Gumroad isn’t film or video specific. It’s a marketplace platform that allows you to also sell music, comics, software and books, basically a storefront for any creative industry.

You can personalize the landing page to feature your films and/or embed the Gumroad follow form on your existing website. You can import and export your followers/customers via email list at any time and if you need help, they have a 30-day audience building challenge and a 10-day product launch program. You can give your customers easy offers, sell your films in a wide variety of currencies, add a + sign to the price of a film to allow your audience to pay what they want and highlight your film/TV series/Web series library with dynamic image covers.

When they buy a rental from you, customers will have 30 days to stream (not download) the video files. Once they click “play” on a video file, their access to this file will expire in 72 hours. You can also set up the film to be purchased. How much does it cost to use Gumroad? It starts at $10/month with unlimited bandwidth and payments are just 3.5% + 30 cents per charge.

 

Know any other short film/film distribution platforms? Let me know! And keep it posted here for more posts on indie film, social media and marketing!

 

 

 

 

The Top 6 Most Badass Publicity Campaigns in TV & Movies

If you read our previous blog post about the Top 10 Best Ways to Promote Films & TV Shows, it’s a safe bet that you now have some cool & fun ideas for your next marketing campaign for a new TV series or film.

But when it comes to publicity campaigns, there’s a major difference between piquing your audience’s interest & really making the fans you want, stand up and take notice. We might have already covered a few of them (see: Publicity Stunt from Top 10 Ways to Promote Films), but there are a few other awesome publicity campaigns that deserve recognition for how they push the envelope and generally for how badass they are.

So without further ado, here are top 6 of the most badass publicity campaigns in the history of TV & movies!

  1. Friends Don’t Drink Friends for True Blood

The legendary HBO vampire TV show based on the bestselling novel series The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris really hit the ground running with their initial publicity campaign.

The series first made influential horror bloggers all across the country sit up and take notice when they mailed them cryptic letters containing vials of the synthetic Tru Blood. It also gave them access to an exclusive vampires-only website announcing the ‘coming out’ of vampires into the real world.

Next came the billboards and bus shelter ads advertising Tru Blood products with the familiar slogans like “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Friends”. Audiences were hooked and the rest, as they say, was vampire history.

 

  1. Breaking News for Independence Day

By now, we’ve all heard the infamous 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast (and if you haven’t, The Simpsons parodies it pretty well) where the people were convinced we were actually being invaded by aliens. Well fast forward 58 years later, where Independence Day took it one step further.

The marketing Powers That Be behind the film created a 30 minute news broadcast, complete with a breaking news report of aliens invading. The report was intercut with footage from the film, making it look so realistic that some viewers actually called 911 in a panic.

 

  1. Chart-Topping Hit for The Monkees

As we now know, The Monkees never were a real band. But in 1966, there was a confusing conundrum: the band’s first single “Last Train to Clarksville” was on the radio and moving up the charts; so how could the band be fake?

It was a brilliant move by the show’s producers to blur the line between reality & fiction. By the time the show made it to air 2 months later in Sept. 1966, the single-and the band-was a number #1 hit. By November, the band had a #1 single, the #1 album and one of the hottest TV shows on the air.

 

  1. A Final Send Off Worthy of the Ages for Breaking Bad

What’s the best way to promote the final 8 episodes of a ground-breaking hit show like Breaking Bad? How about creating an ad that doesn’t feature any of the main characters?

The teaser promo features a voiceover by series star Bryan Cranston reading ‘Ozymandias’, by Percy Shelley, set to images of New Mexico that include Breaking Bad‘s familiar RV. It ends with the image of Cranston’s famous Heisenberg hat lying in the desert.

Did it work? Well, the show received its highest ratings ever for the final 8 episodes. So, yes, I’d say it worked.

 

  1. Missing Persons Reports Filed for The Blair Witch Project

Arguably the one film that grandfathered the ‘found footage’ concept in movies, The Blair Witch Project came up with an ingenious way to promote the project. The marketing team claimed that the entire situation was REAL. They created missing persons posters for the three actors (who never made public appearances) who were presumed missing and dead and even hung them up around the Sundance Film Festival.

The end result? It was the most successful movie hoax in history-The Blair Witch Project grossed $250 million on a $22,000 budget and popularized the horror mockumentary/found footage genre.

 

  1. Talking Heads About Zombies for The Walking Dead

– Talking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 16 – Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC

A show after the show you just watched where people sit around and talk about the characters you just saw on screen? The ‘after show’ is one of the most brilliant publicity concepts ever. It’s an advertisement but one that allows people to chat (and tweet) about their favorite show.

Talking Dead, hosted by legendary geek Chris Harwick, the after show for AMC’s hit zombie apocalypse The Walking Dead is a great example of this. It’s a fun discussion of all the current and past storylines & characters and even has a ton of cool features like the In Memoriam montage segment that pays tribute to characters lost that week. It’s both disgusting and hilarious all at the same time.

Love my features on film & TV publicity? Keep your eyes peeled here for more awesome posts on everything from unit publicity to tips on marketing and social media!

Top Eight Inspirational Ad Campaigns

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As a marketing communications professional, my first exposure to the world of advertising, public relations and social media was actually through a Nike campaign some 20 years ago. This particular campaign inspired me, pushed me to be better and forced me, even at a young age, to keep going even in the face of failure. Maybe it’s also partially responsible for my brand loyalty to Nike all these years.

Years later, the message behind this campaign continues to inspire me and it’s a message that I reach for when times are tough, when I get low and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. It inspires me so much that I even analyzed it in an academic paper.  As a professional storyteller for clients in film, food and tourism, helping them translate their stories for an array of mediums (whether it’s in PR, social media or a blog/print piece); I’ve always felt that a narrative doesn’t have to be long in order to be inspirational. Ad campaigns can go beyond selling something to actually make you feel something and messages also doesn’t have to come from a book, a film or a TV series in order be real, raw and realistic.

Without further ado, I’m going to share some of the most inspirational ad campaigns that have pushed me to be better and continue to fight through adversity and move forward in the face of failure.

1.Nike-“Failure” (1997)

Though far from the first Michael Jordan led Nike campaign I’d seen growing up, it was definitely the first of many Nike campaigns that struck a chord with me. As he’s walking into the Chicago Bulls locker room, one of the greatest basketball players of all time ruminates on all the times he’d messed up, missed a shot or the games he’s lost-and how it forces him to continue to push himself to be better. If there was one message that I continue to carry with me from this campaign, is that failure isn’t the end and that you can-and should-use it to as motivation to learn from your mistakes and move forward. Still a campaign I return 20-some odd years later whenever things are tough and I need inspiration.

2. Nike-“Maybe It’s My Fault” (2008)

Another Michael Jordan campaign that forces you to stand up and pay attention; this was the campaign formed the basis of the academic paper I mentioned earlier. With Michael providing the voiceover, the ad cycles through several significant locations and areas from his life, from his old gym and the locker room at UNC, to the trophies and accolades in the Chicago Bulls locker room. In the voiceover, the man himself talks about how peoples’ misconceptions about his career and his skill set allowed them to make excuses for themselves. At the end of the ad, he forces them to stand up and listen and to stop using him as an excuse for why they can’t play the game of basketball. The message here is simple: just because he was able to do what he was able to do doesn’t mean you can’t do the same. Stop putting him up on a pedestal that you can never reach and start working hard to get to where you want to go.

3. Converse-“Love Letter to Basketball” (2007)

Less of a campaign and more of a personal reflection that inspired a campaign for Converse, this was the video I remember showing a co-worker (herself a basketball player who had to stop playing due to chronic injuries) 7 years ago; which reduced her into a flood of tears. Written by the amazingly talented Dwyane Wade (one of the best currently active players in the NBA today) while he was still endorsed by Converse, it’s an inspirational piece about the struggles any athlete faces in the sport they love. When you struggle with something you love, it can be disheartening, it can beat you down, wear you out and cause you to want to give up. It’s a powerful letter filled with hope that things can get better if you persevere in what you love and don’t allow the cycle of negativity to suck you under.

4. Nike-“Together” (2014)

Are you perhaps sensing a theme in the types of campaigns I find inspirational? Even as a non-Cleveland Cavaliers fan and a casual fan of LeBron James, this campaign continues to cause me to choke up every time I see it. Why? It’s like the tagline says “This time it’s bigger than basketball,” and it was. This campaign was rallying battle cry for the city of Cleveland and it showed. This shared community, this shared love for sport brought out the loyalty, the love and the best out of the citizens of Cleveland. Say what you want about LeBron’s career, his attitude regarding some aspects of celebrity and the controversial move he made to leave Cleveland in the first place, but the man is a leader-and one who is great at rallying people around him.  And the payoff of this? Cleveland won their first-ever NBA championship two seasons later. I’d say the tears LeBron shed were well warranted.

5.Smarties-“Duets” (2008)

An interesting campaign that doesn’t show its hand on what product they’re promoting until the very end, this older Smarties campaign features several Canadian singers in a duet with one another in several different locations from a church and skate park to a city bus. Each pair features a singer with another musician playing an instrument, whether it’s a beatboxer, guitarist or saxophonist. Each one sings a variation of lyrics off of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People”, substituting the colors for occupations before ending with a flourish on the line “I am everyday people.” While this wasn’t a well-known Smarties campaign around the world or even in Canada at the time, there’s something about seeing people from all different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, singing the lyrics of a song that promotes inclusiveness and acceptance of diversity, especially in the face of today’s many issues surrounding racism and prejudice.

6. Chrysler-“Imported From Detroit (Super Bowl 2011)

While not a huge car fan by any means, this campaign during the Super Bowl in 2011 caught my eye because of the underlying implications. At the time, Detroit was still reeling from the 2008 recession, hit incredibly hard economically with houses foreclosing left, right and center and several auto makers had to be bailed out by the US government. Eminem, Detroit’s prodigal son, was also experiencing a major comeback in his career, having released the great album Recovery, a few months previously. What this campaign symbolizes to me is the revitalization of Detroit, the auto industry and indeed, Eminem’s career. It’s that blue-collar work ethic and the refusal to ever give up that really stands out in this campaign. The use of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ was the perfect soundtrack to illustrate what Detroit and what Eminem is made of.

7. Nike-“Fate- Leave Nothing” (2008)

Directed by the legendary David Fincher, this is by far my favorite NFL football campaign. He focuses on the life-long journeys of pro football players, LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers and future Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers as they collide in an NFL season game. In the campaign, you see how both players grew up, got involved with basketball and then football and how they trained for both sports. As the two collide on the field, the message is clear: give it your all, no matter what you choose to do and leave nothing on the table. If you leave it all out there, you’ll have no regrets, no matter what the result of everything you’ve worked towards.

8.Nike-“Let Your Game Speak” (2006)

I thought I’d close off the list with one last Michael Jordan campaign. Unlike the other ad campaigns featured on this list, this one contains no dialogue whatsoever. Instead, this campaign shows several basketball players making slick slam dunks and gorgeous shots on courts all over the world. College kids in tournaments, high school students in the gym, even students halfway across the world in China execute great plays on the basketball court. The ad ends with a basket being sunk due to a great shot from a young Chicago native during the Chi Classic while Michael Jordan stands, proudly watching the next generation-with the words ‘Let Your Game Speak’ going across the screen. Simple, but poignant, it tells you that sometimes, words are necessary to have make an impact. Sometimes, all you need is to let your skills speak for themselves.

That’s my list of ad campaigns that inspire me and push me to do better, move forward and continue fighting. Know any more that I should watch? Let me know!

In the meantime, here’s my list of go-to songs, books & movies that help me beat writer’s block.

Top 10 Unique Ways to Promote Films & TV Shows

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Deadpool Billboard Campaign

Starting a marketing campaign for a new movie or TV show isn’t an exact science but there are a couple of crucial elements that shouldn’t be forgotten. 1. Timing is EVERYTHING when it comes to any promotional campaign for movies & TV. You have to build up an incredible amount of hype in a tight time frame leading up to and during the launch of the film/TV show.  2. TV shows & movies are content goldmines-filled with awesome images, storylines & characters that will give you a huge edge when building an upcoming TV or film launch.

So how do you get started on marketing for a film and/or a TV show? Here are top 10 unique strategies, tips & creative ideas for an exceptional marketing campaign for your next movie or TV show.

 

  1. Create Something Memorable With A Publicity Event

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In his popular best-selling book Purple Cow, renowned marketing guru Seth Godin (& one of my biggest inspirations of all time) makes a comment about how in order to be remarkable, you must include something worth noticing into your product, service or campaign. In other words, to get people talking about your campaign-and have it go viral-you have to DO something worth talking about.

Word of mouth is by far the most powerful form of marketing and in some ways, it can be the most memorable. The more people talk about your campaign, the more viral marketing works for you.

To help launch the film in the UK and celebrate the Year of the Sheep for Chinese New Year, Shaun the Sheep starred in two charity art trails in London and Bristol with larger than life sculptures of the famous sheep raising funds for children’s hospitals in the UK.

When Matt Groening & Co decided to finally bring The Simpsons to the big screen, they converted several 7-Elevens across the US and even in Canada into Kwik-E-Marts selling items like Squishees and donuts & propelled their publicity campaign into legendary status almost overnight. Do something remarkable.

 

  1. Pre-Roll Video Advertising

What’s pre-roll advertising? In a nutshell, it’s a short teaser trailer that will appear before related YouTube videos or IMDB videos that has a call-to-action at the end of the clip. Entice viewers to click through to the website to watch the full trailer, enter their email to win tickets or play a social game about the movie. It’s a great way to make your teaser trailer memorable.

 

  1. Open Up Your Press Events

BERLIN, GERMANY - APRIL 29: (L-R) Actors Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto, director J.J. Abrams, actors Chris Pine and Alice Eve attend the 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Press Conference at Hotel Adlon on April 29, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures) *** Local Caption *** Simon Pegg; Zoe Saldana; Zachary Quinto; J.J. Abrams; Chris Pine; Alice Eve

This one might seem like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people still continue to rely on mainstream media outlets & critics for their coverage. But by opening up your press event to influential bloggers and fans, or better yet, having several smaller press events in different regions, there is HUGE potential to have your film/TV show gain viral coverage & you could also run a contest in conjunction with the event to have fans enter to meet the cast.

 

  1. Allow Your Audience to Experience The Story

To help promote Christopher Nolan’s 2009 mind-bending action thriller Inception, Warner Brothers created a virtual game ‘Mind Crime’ playing on the movie’s tagline “your mind is the scene of the crime” and allowing users to develop their own dream worlds/mazes & move within them.

The virtual game allowed users to not only build and move within their own dream landscapes and even introduced the repercussions of having a mind’s defences attack you-just like the characters in the film experience. The game also integrated the ability for you to share your progress via Facebook, play mazes created by other fans & compete with each other on the leader board, helping to spread the word about the movie virally.

 

  1. Make Viewers A Part of the Film

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In the 15 months leading up to the launch of second film in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy; Warner Brothers created a 360° immersive experience recruiting over 11 million people in 75 countries to become citizens of Gotham. These fans fueled the rise of the Joker as henchmen, campaigned for Harvey Dent to get elected as District Attorney, and even took the law into their own hands by becoming copycat Batman vigilantes. From calling phone numbers written in the sky to hunting down GPS coordinates to find mobile phones baked inside of birthday cakes, “Why So Serious?” generated an enormous amount of buzz for the film.

 

  1. Use More Niche Social Media Platforms Such as Periscope, Pinterest & Instagram

Even though Facebook & Twitter is most certainly at the heart of most social media strategy, that doesn’t mean you should avoid smaller platforms like Periscope, Instagram & Pinterest. You can still create some really innovative marketing campaigns, but the trick is knowing how to use them.

The annual Toronto Silent Film Festival (TSFF) has used Instagram in some ingenious ways in its annual campaign to help promote the festival. They’ve used the platform to previously create flip book trailers of all the films and a time machine timeline celebrating the career of the great Charlie Chaplin.

For 2015, they turned their entire Instagram account into a portal that allows viewers to ‘choose their own’ silent film adventure. Each 15-second video offers viewers a choice on the journey they want to take.

 

  1. Use Social Contests & Quizzes

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While this idea isn’t exactly new, it never fails to drum up buzz and it’s a good balance of low risk and high reward. As long as you get the reward right, people will definitely want to share the quiz with their friends.

It also never hurts to offer a large incentive for people to invite their friends to join, such as giving them 5 more contest entries for each friend they invite and 5 more if that friend actually takes the quiz.

BONUS: If you use tools like WooBox or Wildfire to build your quiz or contest, they have this function built it.

 

  1. Persona Marketing

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Every movie and TV show undoubtedly has a character that fans love (or love to hate) and many a campaign has very intelligently played on the audience’s love/hate for the character by creating a persona for the character via social media.

The character of Dr. Sheldon Cooper from The Big Band Theory is a great example. With just over 525,000 fans on Twitter, every single of Sheldon’s quips has the potential to reach thousands of fans, generating hundreds of re-tweets, favorites & comments. It’s great free marketing for the show.

 

  1. IMDB Listings & Advertising

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With millions of people daily looking for information on new TV shows & movies to watch, it’s vital to get your TV show or movie listed on IMDB ASAP.

Be as comprehensive as possible when you fill out the listing for your project. IMDB is a search engine driven by relevance & popularity so the more info you have on your listing; the increase in likelihood that people will find your TV show or film.

 

  1. Utilizing Memes & Other UGC Content

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Memes are a great way to leverage your audience’s creativity to build content that’s highly shareable that subtly promotes your movie or TV show. The benefits of memes are that they are incredibly customizable, easy to share and take literally no time to produce.

A Google search of “Game of Thrones” memes returned over 2.5 million results.  You can also put together caption contests and fan art as user generated content to leverage your audience’s creativity and collective sharing power.

 

Want more publicity ideas for your next TV show or movie? Stay tuned for our upcoming post on the Top 6 Most Badass Publicity Campaigns of all time!

 

Why Publicity Matters Part 2: What a Unit Publicist Can Do For You

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If you read Part 1 of our Why Publicity Matters series, you would’ve received some tips on why publicity is a vital part of any marketing plan for your film or TV show and how you can step up your game.

Now that you’ve gotten an overview of how publicity can help, it’s time to focus on how a unit publicist can help you manage publicity. Producers may do marketing for their films but they often avoid paying for unit publicity. But that’s a critical mistake because it’s a vital component to effectively deliver a movie when it’s sold to a distributor.

When it comes to publicity, you can’t take it all on yourself. Here’s the top 9 reasons on how a unit publicist can help you maximize press coverage for your project.

  1. A Producer ≠ Publicist

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Out of a desire to keep to a budget, a producer may often take on the role of the unit publicist by taking on the social media strategy or scrambling around like mad to gather assets together in preparation for a film festival.

Don’t put your producers through that; let them focus on the production. A unit publicist can help you coordinate the photographer, organize set events and interviews, grab quotes, develop the press kit & monitor social media. Without a dedicated unit publicist, productions simply don’t have the time, resources or knowledge to manage it the way it should be done.

  1. A Unit Publicist Manages Your Assets

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Coordinating a film festival is about more than managing the red carpet. It’s also about making sure all the ‘deliverables’ make it to the studio after wrap. These deliverable assets include approved red carpet photos, behind-the-scenes videos and interviews and full press packages that includes production notes and cast/crew biographies. So who’s qualified to do this for you? It should be someone who knows every frame of your film because they’ve lived through it with you. On larger projects, you’ll need a unit publicist to organize behind-the-scenes footage for marketing, entertain VIPs and conduct set tours to get them excited about the project

  1. A Unit Publicist Crafts Your Image From the Beginning

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Having a unit publicist work on crafting the image of the film from the beginning means that anything you hand to a distributor, a festival or the press, reflects the film in the way you want it to be reflected. From the posters and videos to websites and social media, you can have your material positioned & ready EXACTLY the way you want, ready to hand over to key people.

  1. A Unit Publicist Works Hand in Hand with the Production Stills Photographer

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When you’re working with a stills photographer, his or her focus should be on photography: capturing, editing and uploading the best images. You shouldn’t have to worry about whether a photographer also has the expertise and experience in dealing with producers, talent agents, or studios in order to get the perfect shot. This is where the photographer and unit publicist working together as a close team can open doors. The UP will know which shots are priorities because he or she knows what will be important in later marketing efforts and will make sure the photographer gets the perfect shots.

  1. A Unit Publicist Can Help You Jumpstart Your Social Media Presence
Viral Film campaign for The Dark Knight

Viral Film campaign for The Dark Knight

Even if you’ve already set up the social media profiles yourself, a publicist can help you prep profile photos, develop an outreach schedule and manage social media assets on set. Behind-the-scenes teasers are becoming more and more popular and being able to offer them to your social media fan base is a huge plus. This means you have an audience in place and ready to go when you go to your first festival or get picked up for distribution.

  1. Unit Publicists Keep the Production Secure

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Unit publicists field any and all inquiries from the press, fans, local community organizations, film commissions etc. Due to his/her relationships with the studio, crew & cast, there is little chance any misinformation could be leaked. Whether you’ve got 15 international journalists making their way to the set to interview eight actors or if the studio is requesting a special photo shoot on the first day of filming, these are the kind of things that a unit publicist has the expertise to gracefully juggle, ensuring that all visitors walk away with exactly the impression you want to convey. Plus with daily access to the production, the unit publicist is able to share interesting stories with any press or VIPs during or following production.

  1. Unit Publicists Are Invaluable In a Crisis

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If a crisis incident arises during filming, you’ll need a unit publicist you can count on to field the phone calls and issue statements. When a studio is involved, the unit publicist is the liaison between the studio and the set, informing them of crisis incidents and press requests particularly when shooting is on a distant location.

  1. Unit Publicists Have Valuable Intel

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Production notes written by a unit publicist that’s been on set the entire time serves quite a few purposes. The information is often picked up by the media, whether it’s for a story about the production or a profile on the director. It’s also the unit publicist’s job to make sure the information is being offered to the right media outlets—the ones that speak directly to the specific audience the filmmakers want to reach. A unit publicist will work to foster those positive relationships during the production.

  1. A Unit Publicist Can Save You $$ in the Long Run

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Unit publicists attach assets such as a cover story, magazine spread, or a segment on national broadcast that can mean millions of dollars in media impressions and increase the value and profile of a film. Ultimately this can help save you money in the long run because a unit publicist can work with a photographer to get that special shot on set easily where it would cost a marketing department thousands of dollars to try and recreate it.

Need more info on how unit publicists can help you market your films and TV shows? Keep it glued here for our post on how a Publicist Can Help You Find an Agent!