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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Top 10 Unique Ways to Promote Films & TV Shows

deadpool-billboard-ep

Deadpool Billboard Campaign

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

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

 

  1. Create Something Memorable With A Publicity Event

shaun-the-sheep-charity-art-trail

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

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

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

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

 

  1. Pre-Roll Video Advertising

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

 

  1. Open Up Your Press Events

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

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

 

  1. Allow Your Audience to Experience The Story

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

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

 

  1. Make Viewers A Part of the Film

gotham-newspaper

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

  1. Use Social Contests & Quizzes

social-quiz

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

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

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

 

  1. Persona Marketing

sheldon_cooper_twitter

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

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

 

  1. IMDB Listings & Advertising

imdb_page

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

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

 

  1. Utilizing Memes & Other UGC Content

game-of-thrones-meme

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

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

 

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

 

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

media-press-graphic

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

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

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

  1. A Producer ≠ Publicist

film-production

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

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

  1. A Unit Publicist Manages Your Assets

film-assets

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

  1. A Unit Publicist Crafts Your Image From the Beginning

the-dark-knight-rises-fan-poster

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

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

film-tv-production-stills-9-1500x1000

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

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

Viral Film campaign for The Dark Knight

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

  1. Unit Publicists Keep the Production Secure

secure

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

  1. Unit Publicists Are Invaluable In a Crisis

crisis-team

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

  1. Unit Publicists Have Valuable Intel

production-notes-final

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

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

money

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

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

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

mr-nobody

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

the-wolverine-concept-poster

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

press

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

film-buzz

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.