Online Team Collaboration and Organization Tools Part 2

Whether it’s the mad rush of the Christmas season or the busy summer sales rearing their heads, it can be tough enough to manage staff, new inventory and customer inquiries, without the added task of hiring new staff.

With so many people trying to manage new inventory and internal CRM systems, keeping everyone on task and on the same page can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. If you’ve been following my blog, there’s no doubt you’ve probably read my previous post on Top 10 Social Media Apps to Improve Productivity and Organization, but I thought I’d add a few more affordable/free options that you may not have heard of before but go above and beyond to give teams easy to use collaboration & organization platforms.

On the Same Page

With a cloud-based collaboration platform like Same Page, business owners can sign up for free and log into their team account on their phones, laptops or tablets, increasing organizational efficiency.

‘Team owners’ can directly message staff, post in team chat windows and even use video calling to host remote conferences with staff members to assist businesses with stores situated in different locations.

Staff who are added as team members can easily upload diagrams and charts that show sales progress and even upload videos and photos of new products & services on the team page. Tasks can be given due dates and reminders can be assigned to relevant members, while the team task list can filter duties accordingly so they can be evenly distributed.

Staff members are able to keep track of their progress with the official task tracker and calendars – both team and individual – are available so everyone is aware of deadlines, meetings and special events.

Stress-Free Freedcamp

Freedcamp prides itself on being an all-in-one solution for team collaboration and organization. Business owners can have discussions with their staff in one place instead of dealing with scattered email threads and staff members can organize files in a state-of-the-art file system, backing up all information offline. Managers can also control staff rosters, tracking time on multiple staff members across multiple days.

Freedcamp gives staff members the option to assign tasks and set a goal by a certain date, notifying the team with progress updates as the goal moves closer as well. The software allows retailers to duplicate project templates, which increases productivity and eliminates the need to spend time and energy recreating homogeneous project types. This platform also has unlimited storage and allows for unlimited projects. Business owners and team members can take the tool on the go through the iOS app on Apple products.

Fleep

Known as the ultimate platform for project communication, Fleep gives you email compatibility just by adding someone to Fleep teams (and their conversations) with their email address. They’ll still be able to see the conversations as normal emails if they’ve not Fleep members as well. It’s an open platform, so anyone who’s a Fleep user can send messages to you, whether they’re a member of your organization or not, making it one of the easiest platforms to use for cross-team project collaboration.

You can create, assign, search and track tasks within the Fleep task management system and the native pinboard allows you to pin and edit notes on the side of each conversation. Every conversation’s photos and other files  can be found to the side in a conversation specific file drawer and you’ll be able to integrate video and audio calls. You’ll be able to have full message history, unlimited conversations & teams, unlimited integrations, 10 GB of file storage and  native apps for iPhone, Android, Mac & Windows with the free account. For 5 €/user/month to be billed annually, you’ll have everything free in Fleep, 100 GB of file storage, the ability for your company name & logo to be shown, managed accounts & messages. It’s also flexible with API and integrations from Dropbox, appear.in, to Slack and Google Drive.

Notion

This platform is known as the ‘unified, collaborative workspace’ for wikis, notes and tasks. Unified with Slack, you’ll be able to manage anything. On the document side, you can organize the pages by nesting the pages inside one another to keep things clean and organized at the same time. For wikis, you can drag and drop or embed 30+ different types content from anywhere and the wiki will update in real time. Content you can put in the wiki includes PDFs, iFrames, videos, Google Docs & Google Maps. For tasks, you can also build the perfect visual task board and integrate it with Slack.

If you sign up for the free account, you’ll get 600 blocks (blocks are drag & drop content such as photos, videos, text blocks etc.) for the desktop version, unlimited blocks for mobile use, unlimited members/guest & 5 MB/file upload. If you choose the $8/user/month option, you’ll have unlimited usage/control over your workspace, unlimited blocks for desktop and mobile use, unlimited members/guests, no file upload limit, admin tools and priority support.

Scoro

This last platform’s probably the most expensive out of this list but it’s also the most comprehensive. For 19€/user/month with a minimum of 5 users, you’ll be able to manage everything about a project on one page from invoices and expenses, planned tasks/meetings and manage your project portfolio by using configurable statuses (such as in progress) and tags.  You’ll also have access to the company news feed, file management and sharing, custom fields for multiple projects, CRM & quote management, financial & work reports, Calendar, Toogl, Dropbox & Mailchimp integrations.

If you spring for the premium package at 29€/user/month with a minimum of 5 users, you’ll get access to all that plus the ability to schedule tasks & projects to individual team members, schedule team meetings into the calendar and have completed tasks go directly into the work reports, eliminating the need for timesheets. You can also schedule invoicing and send out late invoice reminders along with tracking billable hours and have integrations with both Quickbooks and Xero.

With the right team collaboration and organization tools, retailers can better manage staff tasks. The aim is to avoid drop-offs in productivity by allowing staff members to spend time on what matters: keeping their customers happy during the holiday rush and expanding business.

Investing a little time and energy in the short term to find the best team collaboration tools will pay dividends in the long term and ensure the holiday rush is smoother and far jollier.

 

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How to Find & Develop Relationships with Social Media Influencers

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

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

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

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

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

Developing a Plan for Influencer Campaigns

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding the Right Social Influencers 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

On LinkedIn

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

On Twitter

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

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

On Instagram

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

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

 

Using Other Tools to Help Discover Influencers

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Apps for Social Media Productivity and Organization

In working with clients across several industries such as tourism and hospitality and film and television, I’ve noticed a major trend.

With their priorities ranging from business development to film production and screenwriting, marketing is often an afterthought. They understand the importance of posting on social media, writing a blog post and marketing campaigns through online ads, websites, social and even print, but don’t often have time, energy and expertise to devote to marketing. And unfortunately, in the world of marketing, particularly social media, consistent content development is the key.

In order to keep your fan base relevant, you have to interact with them, get them into conversation about what interests them and let them know what’s going on with your brand. If you don’t, audiences will shrink and interest in your brand drops.

Here’s the good news: although content will always have to have your stamp of approval on it, whether you work with a publicist or social media marketer, there ARE apps and platforms that can make your life easier.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 social media apps to help you stay organized & keep your productivity up!

 

 

The 411: This platform is specifically built to help you manage Instagram.  You can arrange how your feed will look with the exclusive Drag & Drop feature, schedule content & captions days/weeks/months in advance (you’ll get reminders when it’s time to post) and it even gives you analytics that will show who has interacted with your most popular posts. The built-in scheduler allows you to schedule not just photos but videos and gifs too and you can use the just-announced hashtag manager allows you to create different groups of hashtags for each post. It also makes it that much easier for you to search for UGC (user-generated content) that use your custom hashtags.

The free version gives you the option of uploading and scheduling 30 photos/month, with a month’s worth of analytics stored but if you move to the duo option for $15/month USD, you’ll be able to manage 2 accounts with unlimited photo, video and gif uploads and analytics history saved for up to a year. You have the option of adding the ‘Shoppable’ package which embeds the gallery onto your website, tags products on every post and tracks performance based on how many people purchase the item.

 

 

The 411: Basically the easiest way to manage your Twitter timeline, in a nutshell. It keeps unread tweets in sync between apps on different devices, helps eliminate duplicate notifications and allows you to stop notifications on a sleep period. No matter whether you choose the iPhone, Android, iPad or Mac version, you’ll be able to view timeline photos and videos in full screen and see all the tweet details by tapping the tweet and open links without the app.

Site streams deliver tweets in real time with LiveLinks on your timeline and you’ll be able to tweet over 140 characters as well. The Android version also has dashboard widgets that allow you to access the most used Twitter features without leaving the home screen.

 

The 411: The free version gives you a ton of flexibility beyond simply scheduling tweets. You can set up alerts to track keywords in your public stream so you can follow what everyone is talking about. You can shorten your links, purge tweets and your inbox to start over and use up to 5 Twitter accounts with it.

The professional version ups the ante by letting you vet new followers, apply SPAM protection, filter spammy profiles and sort them into Twitter lists. You can also use the tool with unlimited Facebook profiles, schedule Facebook status updates, upload photos for Pinterest, schedule shares for LinkedIn and have unlimited LinkedIn and Pinterest as well. You can even use it to publish and schedule blog posts.

 

The 411: This platform is a social media organization tool that focuses more on audience monitoring, analytics and statistics in real time. They replace arbitrary scheduling with actionable data on what your target audiences are engaging with at any given moment. You enter the content into the queue and the software uses real time data along with business rules that you can customize, to determine when is the best time to publish content to your social media platforms. They support organic publishing for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & LinkedIn and monitor aspects such as geo-tracking clicks, number of clicks, likes and comments.

On the social media advertising end, the tech makes recommendations on keywords, audiences and even ad spend so that you have the right insights to optimize campaigns.

 

The 411: In a nutshell, this platform makes it easy to pull together and sift through content from different sources such as YouTube, Instagram, Flickr & RSS feeds to publish it across all the social media platforms. You’re also able to customize the content to suit the style and audience of each social media platforms and modify them, depending on the platform to add/remove hashtags and @mentions.

The free option gives you the ability to connect one account on each platform such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & LinkedIn and allows you to integrate content from 3 feeds such as Instagram, YouTube and RSS feeds. As you move up to the other options, you’ll be able to connect multiple accounts on the platforms and integrate content from up to 15 feeds.

 

The 411: A tool that makes team collaboration easy. You can use the customizable boards to plan out your social media content calendar, plan a campaign or organize ideas you’ve brainstormed. It’s completely up to you on how you want to customize it, as you can organize posts by a given week on a specific platform on a particular topic.

You can also add checklists to the boards which allows you to cross off items as they’re completed, making it easier to track campaign progress. Different team members can be assigned different tasks with customized labels and different publication statuses so team members can see what social media status update is on which platform and when they’re due.

 

The 411: This platform has multiple functions that make content development easy such as the ability to schedule and repost your content as you see fit and content recommendations based on a list of keywords you’ve previously selected, straight to your dashboard. There are also feeds that you can add to select content from and the app allows you to add a certain number of hashtags and re-post your content over a period of time so the queue is never empty.

You can manage multiple social media accounts and link your blog updates to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and with the iPhone and Android apps, you can keep your productivity up even on the go. The new Chrome extension allows you to share the stories you’re reading without leaving the browser.  The starter package is $15/month allows you to have 3 social media accounts, 10 posts/day/account, 3 content streams and custom scheduling.

 

The 411: It places the emphasis on who you should be following and who you shouldn’t follow by listing users in 3 different groups: Influencers, Supporters and Engaged Members, which allows you to target your audience more efficiently. It also provides free Twitter analytics, allowing team members to manage your accounts and recommends people you should respond to.

Influencers, Supporters and Engaged Members are determined by followers/following ratios, engagement history, retweets and brand mentions, identifying these valuable people for you to follow.  You’ll also be able to manage multiple Twitter accounts and focus on your top influencers and supporters.

 

The 411: A visual tool that lets you easily turn ideas to visuals. You’ll be able to create images with quotes, conversation bubbles, custom icons and stickers. You have a wide variety of filters and effects to choose from and the ability to re-size images any way you see fit. It also has a ton of customizable layouts that can be changed.

No matter which package and version (Web, iPhone or iPad) you choose, you’ll have access to over 8,000 templates and access millions of photos for $1 each. The Canva website also has a ton of informative tutorials and ideas on how to use the app, along with actual design courses that you can take.

 

The 411: This platform takes things one step further by extending the report monitoring to PPC, SEO and social media marketing campaigns. You can automate all the reporting for all the digital campaigns and include performance metrics from Adwords, Analytics, Facebook, Twitter ads and more.

You also have the option to use the site auditor to automatically crawl your website and gather data about key pages and fix any SEO problems your website may have.

Interested in more social media related tools to make running your business or promoting your film a little easier? Check out my posts on the top tools to create infographics and the top 10 unique ways to promote your film, TV or web project!

 

 

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.

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!

 

BONUS: Day 8-The Best Apps & Websites for Planning Your Dream Honeymoon

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Planning a vacation should be about enjoying the journey of discovering all the options of destinations, attractions and activities available to you-and avoiding the stress of last-minute cramming and rushing.

Even after you decide on a destination, you have to make a decision on transportation (flight, road trip, cruise etc.) and decide on what kind of accommodations you’d like to stay in during your vacation and the types of attractions & landmarks you want to experience.

Overall, planning a fun, exciting and possibly romantic trip is all about making decisions. But, the key element to creating the best itinerary for any vacation is a stress-free, seamless decision making process. How do you go about having a seamless vacation planning process? By choosing the right websites and apps, of course. Although large vacation sites such as Expedia and Travelocity have their place, don’t be fooled into thinking that these are the best-or the only-websites for your travel planning.

So which apps and websites should you turn to? Well, I’m glad you asked! As an extra bonus for brides and grooms mired in wedding planning, I’m going to expand my usual top 5 list for this blog series to include NINE of the best apps & websites that I’ve discovered that will help you plan the perfect honeymoon with the itinerary of your dreams!

After all, with all the work you’ve been doing to plan your wedding, you deserve a well-earned, fun, adventurous and romantic honeymoon. Without further ado, here’s the list of top 9 (in no particular order) of the best apps and websites for planning your honeymoon.

1) TripIt Travel Organizer


Why It’s Awesome: TripIt magically organizes all of your travel plans in one place so you can access them anytime, anywhere—in the airport or on the road (even when you don’t have an Internet connection.) Just hit forward to send the team all of your hotel, airline, car rental, and restaurant reservations and they’ll take care of it. Want to add a few notes, links, or recommendations? Just click Add Plans and enter away. The TripIt master itinerary has all the details you need, plus maps, directions and weather, so you can keep calm and carry on. It keeps all of your travel plans in one spot and stay organized with separate itineraries for every destination—ideal for frequent travelers. You can access trip details whenever and wherever you need them—on your smartphone, tablet or online at tripit.com. You can also easily add or edit plans manually right from the app or on tripit.com and receive daily weather forecasts, directions and maps for each destination as well as use map-based search to find restaurants, businesses and attractions, then add them to your trip itinerary in one click.

2) Jetsetter for iPad Hotels & Exclusive Travel Deals

jetsetter
Why It’s Awesome: Jetsetter provides insider access to the world’s greatest hotels, vacation homes and tour packages. With the app you can enjoy panoramic photography, first-hand reviews, and access Jetsetter’s exclusive flash sales — up to 50% off daily. Browse panoramic pictures and 360-degree room tours, read first-hand reviews and grab insider tips and search and discover hundreds of the world’s greatest vacations, from boutique hotels in New York City to charming villas in Tuscany. You can also access Jetsetter’s members-only deals at up to 50% off and iPad exclusive offers without having to join.

3) Dwellable Vacation Rentals

Dwellable_Vacation_Rentals
Why It’s Awesome: Find the perfect vacation rental with this app! Compare thousands of dream rentals right on your iPhone/iPad. It covers all US destinations, including hot spots like Hawaii, Cape Cod, Gatlinburg, Orlando, Outer Banks, San Diego and many others. There are over 80,000 vacation rentals and 1,000,000 photos that you can browse through the regional map and your search results will be automatically filtered by date, beds, price or amenity.

4) Utrip

UTrip
Why It’s Awesome: It’s a European vacation, complete with an interactive map! You decide on your travel dates and it takes you to an interactive map of Europe where you can choose the county and/or city you want to travel to. Then an interactive menu pops up where you can choose your lodging for the trip. Each menu not only has photos of the hotel, descriptions of the amenities and ratings, but once you click to book a room, an interactive map will pop up. The map shows you the locations of all the restaurants, attractions, landmarks and amenities in the area with icons, descriptions, photos, ratings and reviews of each place. It’ll even give you general price ranges that you can expect to spend at each place.

5) YourTour

yourtour
Why It’s Awesome: Not only does YourTour allow you to generate city trips on the spot, but it goes beyond the city setting to offer you visits to whole regions: after all, wouldn’t it be a shame to visit Paris and then find that your adviser never mentioned Versailles to you? YourTour is currently the only travel generator which covers all of a city, one or more regions or even a whole country. What’s more, YourTour will automatically plan hotels to suit your trip and you can make all your reservations in just one click. It’s the only tool that will generate you a real trip complete with reservations based on the preferences and budget you’ve indicated. The YourTour.com website is based on a unique calculation engine that combines mainly hotels and activities in order to generate several million tours in a few seconds. YourTour’s calculation engine matches the attractions and hotels to your tastes and preferences (modifiable in the “Personalize” tab), along with price, distance to be travelled, opening hours, availability, etc.

6) Hipmunk Flight & Hotel Search

hipmunk
Why It’s Awesome: This app is the fastest, easiest way to search for flights and hotels, by comparing all the top travel sites so you don’t have to. Unlike every other travel app out there, Hipmunk doesn’t just show you the cheapest flight first–the app sorts by “flight agony” instead, incorporating important factors like flight duration, number of layovers and price. Hotel results are shown on a map so you can see exactly where you’ll be staying in a destination. You can also read TripAdvisor reviews in the app and turn on heatmaps to see the best areas to stay in based on unique interests like food, landmarks, nightlife and more.

7) Room 77 – Hotel Deal Finder for 200K+ Hotels

room77
Why It’s Awesome: Room 77 is a hotel booking app that helps travelers find the most rates and book the best prices on 200,000+ hotels worldwide. In one search, travelers can compare rates across hundreds of leading travel sites, including Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, Booking.com, Hotels.com and hotels directly, so they can be sure they are seeing the widest selection of rates and availability to get the best deal. You can easily search and find your perfect hotel from 200,000+ hotels worldwide, see more rates and room categories than anywhere else, so you always get the best deals and save up to 50% with AAA Member and Senior rates. You can also get the inside scoop on the best rooms in each hotel and after you book with Room 77, the team goes behind-the-scenes to get you a room matching your preferences. Want a quiet room or one with a view? They’ll hook you up.

8) Turquoise Holidays Honeymoon Guide

Turquoise_Holidays
Why It’s Awesome: You can discover dream destinations, read top tips of where to go when, what to pack and golden rules from the experts on all things honeymoon. You can learn about Turquoise’s unique gift list service, where your guests can purchase gift cards that will go towards your honeymoon and enter a world of stunning landscapes, turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and once in a lifetime journeys. Features of this app include: honeymoon tips & ideas, interactive guides for 32 countries across the globe, packing tips, budget tips, destination guides including currency, visas and flight information, interactive maps, special offers, beautiful photos and accommodation photos & descriptions.

9) Cruise Ship Mate

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Why It’s Awesome: Now you can find all cruise ships itinerary in one app! Including the following cruise lines: Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America, MSC, Oceania, P&O, Cunard, Oceania and Azamara. No matter which cruise line you’re traveling with, you can access all of these features: Cruise countdown clock, roll call, deck plans & cruise ship info, cruise port info (history, maps, locations, weather), excursion info, postcards, cruise itineraries, deck cams, cruising packing list, cruise ship tracker, vacation picture gallery and cruising tips. You will NOT need internet service to use the app on the ship. You can put your phone on “airplane mode” and still use the majority of Ship Mate’s features.

Yours in Wedding & Honeymoon Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 7-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Creating Your Wedding Soundtrack

wedding music

When you’re planning a soundtrack for your wedding, there are three aspects you have to keep in mind: what kind of music do you and your future spouse like, what kind of music do you know that your guests love to dance to and MOST IMPORTANTLY, how do you incorporate both types of music to create a playlist that you AND your guests can have fun dancing to all night long?

If your tastes in music are anything like mine, you’d know in advance that NOT ALL the music that you enjoy listening to is music that you can dance to and there’s a chance that your guests may not agree with your music choices. Not only that, you may not agree with your guests’ musical choices either. How do you avoid a sticky situation where no one enjoys the music and they don’t want to dance?

Do your research into the songs that you enjoy, surely there must be a few rock, rap, pop or alternative songs that people could at least slow dance to. Then create a playlist with some of your favorites as well as some dance-worthy music that you don’t find cringe worthy. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Usher (mostly early 2000’s), old-school Boyz II Men and some Kanye West that could be considered dance-worthy.

So, what’s the easiest way to create your own playlist and have a guest or family member manage your wedding soundtrack for you? I’ve got top 5 of the best apps and websites for creating and managing your wedding soundtrack and getting you the kind of music you want for your reception.

1) Spotify

music-for-every-moment-spotify
Why It’s Awesome: After you download the app (for an iPod), make a playlist using your Spotify premium account OR make one from any account and subscribe to it later using a mobile device that’s logged into the premium account. Set the playlist so that it’s available offline on the mobile device of your choosing. If you’re using a iPod Touch, you need wi-fi long enough to “download” the playlist. Spotify lets you download temporary files to your iPod which last 30 days, at which point you’ll lose access and have to log back in and re-download. Test your setup wherever you plan to have the ceremony, preferably with some of the same songs you’ll be using to see how they sound and how loud they should be.

2) MyWeddingDJ

MyWeddingDJ
Why It’s Awesome: Great for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, you can play songs and playlists that are already on your iTunes! It helps you create a Music Plan using your songs and playlists, suggests parts of your wedding you need music for, there are no awkward silences as it fades gracefully for all pauses and stops and crossfades between songs and when you skip a track. It prevents accidental skipping or pausing, takes requests, waits between each song or playlist.

3) Gig Masters

Gig_Masters
Why It’s Awesome: You can literally find any form of entertainment that will play any kind of music you like. From jazz and bluegrass bands to violin soloists, singers and DJs, you can find entertainment to fit your wedding music needs. You can even hire world bands who play Caribbean music, a Beatles tribute band and other entertainers as well such as impersonators, magicians and clowns. It’s definitely the go-to website to hire all kinds of musical and other entertainment.

4) Last.FM

Last.FM
Why It’s Awesome: You can search for all kinds of artists and play their albums for a fee through the Android and iPhone apps, listen to the radio, create playlists and it even has personalized radio stations based on music and playlists you’ve previously created. They have full albums available for all kinds of artists from Incubus to Imagine Dragons, Daft Punk to Kanye West.

5) Djay for iPad

Djay_for_iPad
Why It’s Awesome: For the budding DJ, djay gives you instant access to all your existing songs and playlists on your iPad. Browse your entire music library and easily play, mix, and scratch your favorite songs as an iPad DJ. In Automix mode, djay mixes your favorite iPod playlists with seamless DJ-style transitions. You can customize Automix to your liking by adjusting various transition options such as style, duration, shuffle, and auto-sync. djay’s sophisticated on-the-fly song analysis calculates the beats per minute (BPM) and exact location of each beat, laying the groundwork for a host of other features including Auto-Sync and beat-synchronized scratching. djay’s advanced audio wave form display gives you an overview of a song’s structure and allows you to visually cue to specific points to prepare the prefect transition. Auto-Cut Scratching automatically applies the rhythmic pattern of the currently playing song to your scratches in real-time. Simply touch and move the record with two fingers to create stunning effects and go beyond the possibilities of the analog world.

What makes these websites the best for creating an awesome soundtrack for your wedding? Well, it goes beyond just having a playlist and it incorporates everything from DJs to live bands and all genres of music that fits absolutely every wedding.

With the right tools and websites to help you expand and incorporate your wedding soundtrack, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about planning the perfect honeymoon?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for your BONUS post on ‘How Social Media Can Help You Plan the Perfect Honeymoon.’

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 6-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Wedding Décor & Wedding Favors

White-Wine-Wedding-Favors

Whether you’re searching for materials to create the perfect centerpieces for your wedding reception or personalizing bottles of wine or photo frames for your guests to take home after the wedding; it’s vital that you do your research.

When I talk about research, I don’t just mean researching what kind of décor and wedding favors are out there that will fit your overall theme. If you’re thinking about personalizing wedding favors or creating your own centerpieces and table runners, you need to do some extensive research to see whether or not it’s worth your time and energy to DIY some décor and wedding favors.

Depending on your creative skill, you might discover that a DIY wedding décor project that you take on may take too much time and energy. Planning all the elements of your wedding is supposed to be as stress-free as possible.

Keeping it in mind that shopping for and creating your wedding décor and favors should be as seamless, relaxing and fun as the rest of your wedding planning; here are the top 5 awesome websites (in no particular order) that I found that will help you find the perfect wedding décor and favors that will fit your theme and your culture, no matter what your culture is.

1) Beau-Coup

BeauCoup
Why It’s Awesome: You can order all kinds of personalized wedding décor and favors, from napkins to fans, wine glasses to photo frames. They also have an extensive section for Disney-themed wedding favors and you can also order edible wedding favors such as tea, wedding cookies and chocolates. In terms of décor, you can purchase lanterns, place card holders, bubbles and everything in between.

2) Wedzu

wedzu
Why It’s Awesome: This website is totally awesome because you can purchase handmade and indie wedding décor and favors from confetti to personalized coasters. You can also order monogrammed vases, place card numbers, wildflower seed wedding favors and spice kit wedding favors. You can also purchase handmade centerpieces.

3) Tree Beginnings

Tree_Beginnings
Why It’s Awesome: For nature and garden inspired weddings, you can come to this website to purchase seeds for wedding favors! You can give your guests thoughtful wedding favors of tree seedlings, sunflower, daises or forget-me-not seeds and even flower bulb favors. If you have gardening fans in your wedding, you can also give them herb wedding favors.

4) InspirAsian Creations

InspirAsian_Creations
Why It’s Awesome: For anyone like me who is looking to plan an Asian cultural wedding, this website is absolutely amazing! It’s got literally everything you could want for Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian weddings. You can purchase a double happiness stamp to stamp your invites, a bamboo gift box, takeout cartons for wedding favors and even Asian themed cake toppers. I was blown away to discover that you could even purchase chopsticks as a wedding favor! If you’re having an intercultural Asian wedding, I definitely recommend this website for wedding décor and favors!
5) Vintage Origami

Vintage_Origami
Why It’s Awesome: For the vintage inspired wedding, this website is definitely for you. You can rent everything from vintage glassware to decorate the tables at your reception to vintage luggage and typewriters to give your ceremony site some old-fashioned ambience. They also provide décor accents such as postcards, old-fashioned skeleton keys and candy bowls. Personally, I love any company that allows me to get my hands on vintage typewriter keys and even quill pens.

What makes these websites the best for adding cool and unique wedding décor and favors to your wedding? Well, it goes beyond just having décor and favors for your guests that fit your theme and it incorporates everything from ethnic cultures to garden items that fit absolutely every wedding.

With the right tools and websites to help you expand and incorporate fun wedding décor and favor ideas into your wedding, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding cool ways to create your own wedding soundtrack?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 7 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Creating Your Wedding Soundtrack.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 5-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding the Best Photography

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You’ve booked your ceremony and reception venue, purchased your dream dress, ordered your favorite flowers and are en route to completing your custom, creatively unique invites-now what about photography?

Now, when I talk about photography, I’m not just talking about having the elegance, sophistication and the professional edge of hiring a photographer. I’m talking about incorporating the fun crowd-sourcing element of having your guests take photos.

You know your guests are going to have dozens of their own photos of your ceremony and reception that they’ll probably share with you via Facebook or Twitter, so why not incorporate this tendency of your guests into your wedding and give your guests and the bridal party new experiences that they’ve never had at any other wedding?

So what can you do to incorporate your guests’ love of taking photos? Well, I’m glad you asked! Below is a list of the Top 5 apps & websites (in no particular order) that will help you-and your guests-make the most of your wedding photography experience.

1) Lensley Automatic Photo Booth Rentals

Lensley_Automatic
Why It’s Awesome: You can choose between the standard, branded or custom options for a photo booth. Depending on which option you choose, you can receive between 5-8 hours of service, an onsite attendant to help you and your guests with whatever you need, unlimited photo sessions, black and white photos, hosted web gallery and even Facebook and Twitter integration.

2) Sandbox Love

sandbox_love
Why It’s Awesome: Ok, yes, this company is a little different because it focuses on video rather than photography, but I chose it because it goes beyond just videography during the day of the wedding. You have the option of selecting packages that will chronicle your love story through an interview for your guests to view, have the team cover wedding highlights or select a cool package where your guests get to view your reasons for getting married in a unique save-the-date video.

3) Wedit

WedIt
Why It’s Awesome: Looking more into this, I love it because it’s more than just an app. When you sign up, you can receive 5 HD cameras that your guests can use to capture all sorts of photos from your ceremony and reception. You send the cameras back and the staff uploads the footage. Video and photo editing can range from $250-$400, depending on your needs. All shipping fees are included in the price for the cameras.

4) Capsule

Capsule
Why It’s Awesome: Once you sign up on the website, your capsule becomes your very own mini-website and you have several different options to add photos to it and even order your own prints. You and your guests can use their free Android or IPhone app to take photos and have them automatically uploaded to your Capsule and you can add photos to your Capsules with Instagram! Simply hashtag the Capsule join code to see your best instagram shots post instantly to your Capsule. If you have a wedding website on the Knot, it connects automatically with your Capsule and photos are uploaded as soon as they’re taken. You can share photos from your Capsule on social media, your guests can comment and like the photos you’ve posted in your Capsule and, you can use your own digital cameras to take photos and upload them into your Capsule as well.

5) The Laugh Box

Laugh_Box
Why It’s Awesome: It’s a booth-less photobooth! Guest take photos with their phone or IPad, tag them on Instagram or Twitter with a specific hashtag and then the photos are printed at the photo station. That way, your guests can take as many photos as they would like, without having to line up for a turn in a photo booth! You can also create flipbooks by creating a short video clip print, and create a 60-page flipbook in under 90 seconds. Simply amazing! Every rental includes: A custom designed cover, complimentary DVD of videos from your event, set-up and breakdown and 2 full-time attendants and a box of laughs.

What makes these apps and websites the best for adding cool and unique photography options to your wedding? Well, it goes beyond just having an app for your guests to take photos with and it incorporates unique guest interactivity with social media, websites and more-and gives you access to more wedding photos quicker than traditional methods.

With the right tools and websites to help you expand and incorporate fun photography ideas into your wedding, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding cool ideas for wedding décor and wedding favors?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 6 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-DIY Wedding Décor & Favors.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 4-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Getting the Right Flowers

Revelry-Event-Design-Dina-Douglas-Sonia-Sharma

Now that you’ve booked a venue and you’re making headway with finding your dream dress and creating your uniquely customized wedding invitations; it’s time to turn your attention to your décor and flowers for your bouquet.

Why are flowers great for your décor and your wedding? Well, they provide fresh ambience and color that other decorations can’t, as well as some creative elegance and sophistication. They also show your guests different quirks of your and your significant others’ personalities.

Before you jump the gun and start buying flowers, let me remind you about the questions that I posed previously that you need to ask your florist:

-What kind of flowers will be or are in season around the time of my wedding?

-Will the available flowers fit the color scheme I have for the wedding?

-How many flowers will I need for boutonnieres for guests?

-Is my favorite flower (rose, calla lily etc.) grown naturally in a color that will fit into my color scheme and if does, will it also fit into my budget?

-Is there a difference between fresh and dyed flowers and if the flowers I want aren’t available in my colors, is buying dyed flowers an option?

These top 3 apps & websites (in no particular order) will help you answer these questions and pick the best flowers for your wedding.

1) GrowersBox.com

growers box
Why It’s Awesome: You can order your own DIY wedding flowers, arranged wedding flower packages and even petals of different flowers including roses and peonies. You can also order flower gifts and different types of wholesale flowers that I rarely seen elsewhere, from Asiatic Lilies and mini Gerbera Daisies. You also search for flower by color and purchase dyed flower at your convenience.

2) Wedding Bouquet Ideas

Wedding_Bouquet_Ideas
Why It’s Awesome: This application shows you the galleries of hundreds of beautiful wedding bouquet ideas, designs and decorating. If you have an idea about wedding flower decorations, this application can help you. This app contains the various types and colors of flowers such as : bridal bouquet ideas, bridesmaid bouquets, tulips, roses, gardenia, daisy, hydrangea floral, paper, silk, fabric, jewelry, buttons bouquet, red, orange, blue, cream, pink, white, purple, green, spring, fall, summer, tropical and more.

3) Flowerbud.com

FlowerBud
Why It’s Awesome: You can purchase boxes of different flowers such as irises and lilies in different boxes and colors for your wedding as well as bonsai plants and sunflowers. If you get stuck on creating your own DIY wedding flowers, you can talk to their Wedding Coordinator for advice.

What makes these apps and websites the best for creating and compiling the best wedding flowers? Well, not only can you search for, create and customize all styles and forms of flower arrangements quicker and in the palm of your hand with easy-to-use and fun apps that are affordable, but you can also keep track of your flower orders much easier.

With the right tools and websites to help you find the right flowers that provide your ceremony and reception with some fresh ambience and reflects your personalities, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding the best photography for your wedding?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 5 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding the Best in Photography’.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

 

Lilian Sue