What are a few key things filmmakers need to keep in mind right now if they want to stand out above the crowd?
1. Now, more than ever, filmmaking is a conversation.
It’s imperative that you know who you’re conversing with. In other words, know your audience. This familiarity can be fostered by direct means, including social media and old-school targeted-publicity. Or, it can take the form of the most intimate of connections: personal contact. Guys in suits call this “networking”, but it is simply the act of arranging to be where like-minded professionals and cinephiles gather, and making an impression.
What is “new publicity” and how can you use it to your advantage?
2. New publicity is the digital pathway, utilising the many platforms of social media in every step of production.
It begins even before the film starts shooting, and can consist of flooding your target market with tweets, posts, casting announcements, messages, and thoughts. Once shooting starts, an on-set blog keeps interest and search-engine priority alive. Messages, announcements, anecdotes, on set pictures, actor and crew profiles – it-s all fodder for “followers” and “friends”. Short clips from the dailies can be incorporated in your feeds to help build a social media audience. By the time you’re ready for a traditional PR rollout, the interest will already be generated.
Must documentary filmmakers put into action a different strategy from their feature film peers?
3. PR approaches remain constant regardless of genre.
You need to have good bios on your subjects and key crew. You need lots of great high-rez pictures from the film and from the set (and video for media websites), and you need to create buzz. Those are key strategies for any kind of film. However, there can be different approaches to media targeting. By the sheer nature of so many different “real stories” told through documentaries, it can no doubt attract the interest of so many kinds of media, such as political pundits, world and issue columnists and producers, who wouldn’t normally be interested in movie releases.
If a filmmaker is cash-strapped, what’s the most essential thing they will need to do for their film to get traction, from your perspective?
4. Knowing your media and the fine folks who report, produce, talk, and write on film, is – as the charge card ad says – priceless.
The great thing about publicity for the “financially challenged” filmmaker is that it’s essentially free advertising. Yes, the services of a professional publicist aren’t free, but an article in a large, urban daily newspaper occupies space that might cost you five figures to purchase. An understanding of publicity and how it works, along with understanding social media and its means, will allow you to reach out in a number of areas, and do it for free. You can actually make noise for very little money.
How can filmmakers best leverage festivals?
5. Always get to know the PR handling the festival, and get to them early on.
By doing this, you’ve made yourself known, and in many cases could have your film included in their key package going out to media. Don’t ever shy away from offering up materials and anything they may need to best attract media to your film. A film festival is an occasion when media outlets will free up a bit more real estate – print space, airtime, online coverage – for what is considered “event” programming. A large festival like TIFF will attract several hundred members of the press from around the world, including industry press, genre press, and specialty press. A festival is not a festival without social events, and your physical presence can create an impact, so be prepared to be seen and heard in as many places as possible. Socialize with business on the brain. When meeting new people, hand out USB drives with your film, or a trailer with a variety of clips, and be sure to INCLUDE YOUR CONTACT INFO. The most compact and concise little offering with info and visuals can go a long way.
What are some things filmmakers do wrong when it comes to getting the word out? (ie. missed opportunities)
6. Pictures, pictures, pictures! And video!
Every publicist has horror stories about major coverage that was in the bag, and then cancelled because there was no graphic component to sell the story.
Our company recently planned a huge national launch, but the production company didn’t have any good pictures, just a few that were taken from the crew on set. We had a cover story planned and almost lost it (we saved the piece at the 11th hour with a costly, last-minute photo shoot). Pictures are always key. Sometimes you may not succeed in selling a story, but you’ll get a picture and a cutline, which, depending on the quality of the photo, can be more effective than a full article. In an age when people vividly photograph everything from restaurant meals to pets on their smart-phones, there is no excuse for having no visual record of your work.
Another “wrong” is that filmmakers will start the PR push much too late in the game. You can get lucky and get quick, “viral” attention, but it is a huge gamble with your career. In most cases you need to begin the buzz fairly early on.