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!

 

 

 

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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!

Top 4 Quasi-B Movies That I Love

After taking a bit of a break for Easter and then getting sidetracked by other work, I’ve come back with a film list I haven’t done before.

I started thinking about some of the films that I love, films that maybe many people don’t talk about anymore or even remember.  Films that may not have the best acting, cinematography or even the best story and yet I love because they are memorable and in some cases, really make me laugh.

Sometimes, you just really need a film that makes you laugh hard enough for it to stick in your mind. These top 4 films aren’t all quite “B Movies” but I think they mostly qualify.

1)Joe’s Apartment

This film is FAR from being Jerry O’Connell’s most memorable piece of work in his filmography. Heck, I’d bet $10 that most people don’t remember this movie even existed and if they did, they’d remark on how Jerry isn’t exactly leading man material. Well, I’d always had a soft spot for Jerry since his Slider days and this film was AWESOME!

What’s not to love about a film that doesn’t take itself seriously and features singing, dancing cockroaches? I just about keel over every time the cockroaches come on screen, every time I watch this movie. Yes, they’re disgusting, yes they trash everything and no one in their right mind would want them as roommates and yet-it’s hilarious.

It not only prepared me for the worms of the Men In Black franchise, I also found out much later that the lead cockroach is the one & only Billy West! Yes, fellow Futurama fans, Fry was a cockroach (I think Professor Farnsworth would agree with that)!

Hilarity Factor: 7/10

2)Amanda and The Alien

Years before I became a fan of Roswell and an ardent fan of the amazingly talented Shiri Appleby, Colin Hanks, Brendan Fehr, Jason Behr & the highly underrated Nick Wechsler, the premise of Roswell or maybe it was more like ET, showed up in a TV movie I’ve only managed to find a few times.

Similar to the premise of Jeff Bridges’ Starman, it starred Nicole Eggert as a lonely Bohemian artist who comes across an attractive alien who must change host bodies every few days. On the run from the government, Amanda agrees to help him hide and they fall in love.

Yes, it had the clinched love story of aliens falling in love with humans and clinched story in general of the aliens living among us.  Yes it was also cheesy as all hell and no, it’s not a movie that ages well to stand the test of time. But somehow, even after all these years, I have a soft spot for it. Maybe it’s because it was the first movie of that type that 8-year old me had ever seen. But regardless, it holds a nostalgic soft spot for me.

Nostalgic Factor: 6/10

3) Embrace of the Vampire

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been a HUGE fan of vampires and different facets of vampire lore ever since childhood, so long before the God awful Twilight craze started.

I’ve always loved Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles and the related Mayfair Witches, read a ton of other standalone vampire lore books (such as Thirst by Michael Cecilione, with BDSM elements) and been a fan of TV series such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel and Blood Ties (which suffered from being on the WRONG network!) The 1994 film Interview With The Vampire & 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula remain my ULTIMATE two favorite film adaptations of vampire books and the documentary Blood Sucking Cinema is on my top documentaries of all-time list.

Embrace of the Vampire, on the other hand, holds none of this legendary status and yet, still remains memorable to me. It was the first project I’d ever seen Alyssa Milano in for one, as part of her pre-Charmed days. But mostly, I think it was memorable because it was the first film that had a TON of vampire sex. Other films had sexual scenes such as From Dusk to Dawn & Bram Stoker’s Dracula (and later, the much-maligned Queen of the Damned, which I still love) and Interview With The Vampire contained subtle homosexual overtones, but Embrace had full-on heterosexual vampire sex.

This film was anything BUT subtle in that aspect and I think it played into early fantasies I’d had involving immortality, becoming a vampire and yes, even being seduced by one. Of course, the older I got, the more the downside of living such a life (or un-life) as it were, became more apparent through Stuart Townsend’s portrayal of Lestat de Lioncourt in the aforementioned Queen of the Damned and how Angel turned back into Angelus in the Buffy universe, but it’s still a fantasy I entertain from time to time.

Sexy Factor: 7/10

4) Kangaroo Jack

OK, so this film isn’t a B-movie by any stretch, more of a bigger budget Australian buddy cop comedy, but that’s why I said quasi at the beginning of this list. Even though it’s not a B-movie per se, it IS the second entry on this list that has Jerry O’Connell, this time alongside Anthony Anderson.

For those who don’t know, this movie takes some of its cues from this news story, where a couple of guys accidentally hit a kangaroo in Australia, decide for some reason, to dress the kangaroo in their clothes and take a photo. Once the photo was taken, the kangaroo regained consciousness and basically bounced away with all their possessions.

That’s basically the premise of the movie in a nutshell, except Jerry & Anthony are best buddies who have to deliver a bag full of money to a contact on behalf of Jerry’s mobster stepfather, played perfectly by Christopher Walken. And as it so happens, the money is inside the sweatshirt Anthony puts on Jack, the kangaroo who runs away. Oh and did I mention that Jack talks?

It’s a crack film to end all crack films and there’s just something about talking animals that always makes me keel over with laughter. No, it’s a not a great movie and yes, you have to suspend disbelief and stop yourself from yelling at the screen at how boneheaded the characters are, but somehow, a talking, rapping kangaroo in a hoodie makes up for that.

Hilarity Factor: 8/10

For more on the films that I find awesome, check out my post on the amazing Storyhive library and the top 10 most badass publicity campaigns in film & TV!

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!

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!

 

 

 

 

Case Study: Managing Unit Publicity and PR Campaign for the 2017 Crazy8s Film Event

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THE CHALLENGE

As unit publicist for the Crazy8s Film Event, developing the PR campaign for the film event as well as managing the publicity for all 6 winning teams during production, on set and during post production meant that I had educate the media that this was a film event, not a film festival. Being a film event meant that the top 6 winning teams won THE RIGHT to have their films produced and edited in 8 days with in-kind sponsorship donations in the form of cash and equipment, rather than submitting finished films to win awards.

The teams were:

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CypherA coming of age hip hop story about a Korean American teenager who finds a platform to confront the pain of his past in LA’s underground hip hop scene following the 1992 riots.

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Anh Hung-a story of how sibling bonds are forever changed when a young girl discovers the truth of her family’s (and her older brother’s) activities outside the law.

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The Prince-a young dancer and her uncle, an actor, struggle with their identity as Middle Eastern Canadians following a violent confrontation on public transit.

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No Reservations-a satirical take on pipelines where the roles of the homeowners and the oil/gas company executives are reversed.

Undertaker’s Son– A young man in an 1880s Western town is forced to confront some long buried feelings about family when he joins his father for his first day of work as a undertaker for the family business.

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WoodMan-A man made of wood befriends a woman online and comes to realize how some of the lies he’s been telling himself has kept him trapped for years.

Additionally, I was also responsible for working with the teams to develop the official press kits that properly reflected their experiences and positioned the proper ‘story hooks’ for each of the 6 films to mainstream and online local and international media. With this year’s group of films focused on subjects outside popular genres such as horror, LGBT, romance and straight up comedy, developing the PR campaign was less about pitching to genre-specific media and more about doing research into each media outlet and what the types of films the journalists/bloggers/podcasters usually reviewed and scheduled interviews for.

THE SOLUTION

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After conducting extensive research into key media outlets and influencers and the topics they covered, I focused on pitching all 6 teams based on 3 parameters:

  • The hooks/subject matter/genre of each film
  • The background/experience of the director/producer teams (ie. whether they’d won awards, notable projects they’d worked on)
  • The ages of the director/producer teams (as some media outlets skewed more towards audiences between the ages of 20-35)

Following these parameters, I pitched all 6 teams to select podcasts and blogs in Vancouver, New York, Toronto and Seattle along with local radio stations and newspapers. Over the course of the six weeks, I followed up with key media outlets through both email and conversations via social media and continue to pitch each film based on topics of interest. I also worked with the Vancouver Sun to set up an official production blog for all teams to blog about their experiences with Crazy8s and share their journeys from writing the scripts to location scouting and casting.

RESULTS

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Through story pitching and social media campaign management, I secured national and international press coverage for all 6 film teams and the film event including but not limited to: radio stations such as Roundhouse Radio and Co-op Radio in Vancouver, broadcast media outlets such as CBC Vancouver, Novus TV and Vancouver TV, podcast media such as Endeavours Radio and print media outlets such as The Georgia Straight.

National and international outlets include Under the Noise Podcast (New York), About to Review (Seattle), Never Sleeps Network (Toronto) and Short Film Fan (Toronto)

 

 

Great Film Noir Genre Short Films from YVR

Being that 2017 is a new year and I’ve been slowly getting involved with doing PR for more indie film projects (more updates on that coming soon!), I decided to do some digging into my archives and I re-discovered some amazing film noir short films shot here in Vancouver.

Last year, I was involved in developing and executing the social media strategy as well as the corporate/media sponsorship for a local film noir festival in Vancouver known as the Rain City 72 Hour Film Noir Challenge. Competitive teams of 6 were tasked with submitting a script idea under the film noir sub genres of futuristic noir, femme fatale noir or detective noir and then they’d have 72 hours to shoot, cut and edit the film. There were additional challenges that had to met, such as using certain props from a special group that the Rain City executive team had specially curated for the event.

Each one of these films have great storylines that were amazingly acted and the local Vancouver scenery and environments were all utilized to their full potential. I’ve always been interested in different facets of the film noir genre, having religiously watched Jessica Jones from the edge of my seat (indeed, I can’t see David Tennant as anyone but Kilgrave now, after that performance) and from solving cases in the awesome video game LA Noire. So if anyone knows of any amazing film noir projects I should watch/play, let me know!

Without further ado, here are some of my absolute favorites from Rain City 72 Hour Film Noir Challenge 2015 and a couple film noir award winners from years past!

Stranger to Integrity by Polka Dot Rocket

The story of hidden corruption and embezzled money

Sharkey’s by Silent Alley

How a missing person’s case becomes a tangled web about family ties and organized crime

 

Off the Clock by New Theory Pictures

An off-duty cop goes looking for a missing young woman. But does he want her help? (Password:72)

The Disillusionment of Anglesea Briggs

The award winner from Raincity 72 Hour Film Noir Challenge 2007. Private dick Anglesea is on the trail when a woman he met named Dixie is murdered and the only witness to the crime is also killed.

Under the Bridge of Fear

The Leo Award winner featuring a producer credit for my dear friend & Rain City 72 Hour Film Noir Challenge Executive Director, Ryan Catherwood. Hard-boiled private-eye Hamilton Drake gets mixed up with the notorious Georgia Thurlow.

 

Remember, send me your film noir recommendations and stay tuned for my PR campaign for the indie sci-fi flick Psychonaut, coming soon!

 

Why Publicity Matters & How to Step Up Your Film Publicity Part 1

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When you have a new film project, web or TV series or a short and you want to share it with people, what do you do? You talk about it with friends and family and you create a presence on social media via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and possibly a few others like Periscope, complete with photos and/or video, making sure, of course, to tag the right people. Right? Of course you do.

But here’s what you might not realize: there’s more to sharing your story and receiving some promotional publicity than putting photos and video up on social media. It’s the quality of what you choose to share.

Of course, I’m not talking about blurry or dark photos-it’d be common sense not to post those. To cover key pivotal moments, you need really good photography. When you think about how great images shape film posters, billboards & websites-it doesn’t seem so far-fetched to have some professional publicity as a long term investment towards a film’s future.

But there’s more that professional publicity can help with than amazing photos & videos. Here’s 3 major reasons why professional publicity matters & how it can help you step up your game in promoting a film or TV show.

Publicity Isn’t Just About Knowing What to Share

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Having a publicist to help promote your project isn’t just about knowing what to share and how to share it. It’s also about knowing when to share a piece of news. Maybe you have an awesome teaser trailer or some behind-the-scenes B roll that hasn’t quite cleared the editing stage or a concept for a film poster but not the final image. Sometimes holding things back can benefit your project in the long run and save you time and energy when it comes to the editing stage -and that’s where having an expert publicist in your corner to schedule things can help.

Publicists Have Valuable Relationships With Journalists

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Any publicist who knows what they’re doing is bound to have existing positive and influential relationships with journalists. Through these connections, publicists are able to pitch your film/TV show in a way that you wouldn’t be able to (at least, not without spending a lot of time, energy & your own money) and based on that prior experience and knowledge, they know HOW to present your project to a journalist.

These relationships are invaluable and having a professional publicist who knows journalists and talks to them daily-is vital.

Publicity Generates Buzz BEFORE a Film’s Finished

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Remember what I said earlier regarding the fact that publicity is sometimes about holding things back? Well, that doesn’t mean that you hold everything back until the film’s finished.

To create an extensive and successful publicity campaign, you need to start early during pre-production and get the jump on having a presence on IMDB as well as creating a plan/schedule for possible publicity events. You should also start early when it comes to getting together teasers of the publicity materials (ie. footage, posters etc.) when you get them.

Want more info on how to step up your game in promoting your film or TV show? Stay tuned for Why Publicity Matters Part 2: Why You Need a Unit Publicist and my upcoming post on Top 10 Best Ways to Promote Films & TV Shows.

How Music, Literature and Film Helps Me Overcome Writer’s Block

After seeing some great lists, chock full of ideas to help boost creativity, I thought I’d share my own list of great tracks, books and movies that help me get over writer’s block to close out 2016.

Whether I’m writing copy for a new website, crafting a PR release or working on one of 30 different fan fic stories in different fandoms I’ve got going on, I can sometimes get stuck on writing the next sentence or get boggled down on trying to edit as I go along.

These are the artists, the films and the books that have helped me get out of that rut for years. So, without further ado, here’s the list to close out 2016.

1) Simon-Lifehouse

One of the best-if not, the most underrated tracks off Lifehouse’s debut album, 2000’s No Name Face, this is a song that’s been a positive influence for over half my life. Every time Jason sings, ‘fulfillment to their lack of strength, at your expense. Left you with no defense, they tore it down. And I have felt the same as you, I have felt the same as you,’ I’m reminded that I’m not alone, that he understands, that he’s always understood and that no matter how stuck you think you are, no matter how hopeless things seem, there’s always a way out and for you to be strong.

2) The Pursuit of Happyness

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I’d say this film is probably the most poignant and inspirational film of Will Smith’s career. As a lifelong fan of his from his Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Jeff days, the one sequence that really spoke volumes to me is where he’s sitting inside the subway station bathroom with his son, tears pouring down his face as strangers pound on the door, not realizing that he’s in fact living with his son in the bathroom. It’s an amazing movie, a reminder that we all have the strength to keep us going, no matter how exhausted we are, no matter how hopeless things seem. It shows us who we really are and what we’re truly capable of.

3) Always Looking Up, The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist-Michael J. Fox

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As a long time fan of Michael J. Fox and his sense of humor, this is the ONE biography that I’ve read in recent memory that can make me laugh and make me cry all in 200 pages. As I was reading, I could honestly hear him actually saying the words inside my head, like we were having a conversation. It follows the days after his departure from the amazingly awesome Spin City in 2000 after he made his Parkinson’s diagnosis public and how he founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation. It’s a great read-inspirational, hilarious and heart breaking all at once.

4) A Density of Souls-Christopher Rice

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As a major fan of his mother Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, I picked up Christopher Rice’s debut novel on a whim and I was automatically sucked in. Every time I crack it open, I find myself getting sucked in again into the tragedy, the love, the coming of age and the darkness that can come from growing up, growing apart and realizing things about yourself that you never knew were there. The four central characters of Stephen, Meredith, Greg and Brandon and the one outside observer who comes home in Jordan really craft a recognizable and relatable journey. The fact that it’s set in New Orleans, a city that’s historically been divided by money and class and yet finds itself floating on water that could wash it all away is both poignant and fitting. I can’t recommend this book enough.

5) Be Somebody-Fort Minor

Track #14 off of the debut solo album of Linkin Park’s rapping maestro, the incredible Mike Shinoda; this track forces you to sit up and listen, to fight for what you believe in and to not let ANYONE and ANYTHING hold you back from doing what you want to do. As someone who has been beat down, belittled, discouraged and actively disrespected when it comes to what I love, this song absolutely gives me the strength to power through all of that and everything ahead of me. I do what I do because I believe in what I love and that’s all there is to it. Special shout out also to the first single “Remember the Name” and “High Road”-a great collaboration with the multi-talented John Legend.

6) Decisions-Jim Treliving

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As a freelancer and a long time customer of Boston Pizza, I’d heard great things about Jim Treliving’s biography and ended up getting a copy as a birthday gift. It chronicles the story of how Jim went from being an RCMP officer to owning the first Boston Pizza and the decisions that he’s made every step of the way as a business owner. What I learned from Jim is that every decision is neither good nor bad, it’s simply a decision. What influences whether it’s a good or bad decision depends on the situation that happens next. Definitely pick this book up if you’re struggling and stuck on where you want to go next for your projects or your business. I love the case study of the risk Jim took during Expo ’86, makes me wish I could’ve been there myself to support him.

7) Saw 2

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It might seem odd to put a horror film on this list-and even more odd that I saw this one (on New Year’s Eve, no less) without ever seeing the first Saw film, but this one definitely struck me. For one thing, it’s pretty rare to have a horror film with a moral to it and yet it’s a simple one: either you appreciate your life or someone will take it from you. Doesn’t that relate to all of us in some way? We’re all guilty of taking something for granted, whether it’s a new platform, new tool, our loved ones-or just that fact that we’re seemingly coasting through life. Not only that, but the scene with the pit of needles continues to haunt me to this day *shudders*

8) Snow Garden-Christopher Rice

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Continuing some of the themes from his debut novel, the characters in his sophomore effort, this time in college, definitely discover some really harsh truths about themselves and the people around them. Certainly the desire to feel valued, to be accepted, to find those like you definitely plays a part in the story but the climax was totally delicious. I’d say every time I pick up this novel, t forces me to dig deeper and get down to the bedrock of what I’m really looking for and what I’m willing to do. Yet another one on my list that I can’t recommend enough.

9) I Will Get There-Boyz II Men

As a huge part of the musical fabric of my childhood, Boyz II Men’s soulful R &B harmonies permeated my earliest memories, thanks in large part to my brother’s influence. Today, I still listen to them when I’m looking for a particular musical feel while working on a story, trying to let go of a less-than-ideal relationship or looking for inspiration. This track, found on the Prince of Egypt soundtrack (still one of my favorite animated films, by the way), really exemplifies the journey that we all take to get to that destination. Maybe that destination is a new home, a new job, embarking on higher education or trying to build a healthier life, free of substance abuse and negativity. Whatever it is, the boys always tell me that I’ll get there, no matter what. You have to have faith and believe, no matter the twists, the turns and the obstacles-there will always be a way.

10) Undone-Lifehouse

To close off the list, I’ve got a track off of the band’s 2005 self-titled album. This track is like the one close friend that we all have, the one that we love more than family. When your world is falling apart, when you’re at rock bottom and you’re in the worst pain imaginable, that friend will be there. They may have some hard truths and tough love and choose to force you to see the light rather than just paying lip service, but they love you nonetheless and they’ll never leave you. Once again, Lifehouse is one of the biggest musical influences in my life and I carry every one of their albums with me, no matter where I am.

Here’s to a great 2017 to everyone and a Happy New Year! I’ll be returning with some great posts on how PR works in film and insights on new marketing tools!