Your “Creative Brains Trust”: People Who Are Invaluable in Your Career, and How to Find Them

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Remember the story of the Little Red Hen? TL;DR for you: this little lady sets out to make bread and asks the other members of the farmyard if they want to help her with the various tasks, including grinding the wheat for the flour and churning the butter to spread on the finished loaf. Every one of them declines…but when they smell the smell of the freshly baked loaf, they come running. Nobody wants to help make the bread, but they sure want to eat it.

Sometimes I feel like creative endeavors are just like the Little Red Hen story. You hear stories of people who are heralded as ‘overnight successes’, which doesn’t take into account the YEARS and sometimes decades of hard work that they have put in without praise or assistance to get to the point where people applaud their efforts. Sometimes the grind can be exhausting and a little deflating. There’s far too many people who don’t acknowledge the grind when someone is coming up in their career but will be the first to say they knew that person way back when!

That’s why it’s vitally important to surround yourself with people who are the polar opposite of those people. Every creative, entrepreneur and dreamer needs a ‘Brains Trust’: people who support you and your efforts and can assist you in various ways. I’ve found the majority of these people seem to pop up almost magically. Sometimes they will be friends, sometimes employers or ex-employers, sometimes people you least expect. I like to think of them as being like the people who give water to marathon runners; refreshing and replenishing them on their route so they can continue to success.

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Here’s the kinds of people you need in your own “Brains Trust”, regardless of whether you’re a filmmaker, entrepreneur, creative, or all three:

The Sounding Board

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The Sounding Board is the type of person who will stoically listen to you when you need to get something off your chest or test out a theory. The key to having a great person as your Sounding Board is to BE a great Sounding Board yourself. This is not a one-way relationship, nor should it be. It’s give-and-take. These are the people you can be 100% candid with, because a lot of the time you will find your Sounding Boards in your friendship circle.

The Professional Mentor

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A while back, I wrote a post about how to find mentors (and how to be a great mentoree) which outlined how to seek out a mentor, but I particularly wanted to make mention of having a professional mentor as part of your “Brains Trust”.

Footnote: When I set out to write this post, I stumbled across an interesting LinkedIn article about Little Red Hen Syndrome and dysfunctional team members. This post, thankfully, is not going to be about those types of people but it’s definitely worth a read nonetheless. These are people who are usually completely removed from your circle of friends (or who may be acquaintances) who are leaders in your field. While you can actively seek out a mentor yourself, I’ve found that along the way I have been very fortunate to have had mentors appear out of the blue. In my case, my mentors have all been incredible women in the film industry who not only believe in my work and my potential to go further, but who have also, at times, provided opportunities and connections which have been invaluable. Professional mentors are truly magical people, because they see the ability in you even when you (or other people) can’t. Chances are, they’ve had similar experiences. If you are fortunate enough to have a professional mentor or two, don’t forget to become a mentor on your journey and help others along the way.

The Connector

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Connectors are some of my favourite people. They’re the ones who have absolutely no qualms with introducing you to people they think you need to know, or suggesting that you reach out to a certain person. The Connectors in my circle have been the first to send me a link to a project or short-term gig they think I’d be a great fit for. If they don’t know something, you can be sure they know somebody who does, and they’ll very happily introduce you to that person. If they were magicians, they wouldn’t pull a rabbit out of the hat…they’d pull out a unicorn. They can also identify useful resources you should check out: books, podcasts, articles…you name it, they have a magical index of resources!

The Muses

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Every great artist had their muse. Creatives and entrepreneurs often cite people, books, speeches and other resources that have helped spur them to greatness. Tap into your muses and inspirations, both real and fictional. Chances are, you might not meet Michelle Obama, but you can read her autobiography. You can tap into the character strengths of a person you admire to help you summon courage in a moment. I’ve been known to draw on the words and music of Patti Smith and Amanda Palmer, the courage and creativity of Frida Kahlo, the genius and detail of Stanley Kubrick, and the joie de vivre of Rita Hayworth, just to name a few!

You will probably find that some people you know will have multiple attributes. I have a few friends who are Sounding Boards who are also amazing Connectors. If you find that you identify in one of these categories, why not think about helping your fellow creatives in your Brains Trust capacity? Believe me, it really is appreciated and it goes a long way.

I want to make mention of a fantastic article about dysfunctional teams and Little Red Hen Syndrome that I discovered while I was writing this post. It identifies some really toxic team members and behaviours that exist in a teamwork capacity, and is well worth a read to find out who you really DON’T want on your brains trust.

Wellington Film Folks: You Won’t Want to Miss This!

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Over the years at Film Sprites PR I’ve had many people wanting to ‘pick my brains’ when it comes to social media for filmmaking. If you’re in Wellington, New Zealand on May 25th, here is your chance to do so!

Thanks to the Emerging Women Filmmakers Network, I’m bringing you Social Media Success: How to Make the Most of Social Media for your Film or Webseries. In this 1 hour presentation, I’ll be filling you in on the current research into where audiences in Aotearoa are finding out about films, as well as a solid formula for social media success that will connect you to your audience and bring new fans to your work. There will also be a Q&A where you can ask all your burning social media marketing questions!

In addition, there will be drinks and nibbles and an opportunity to network with other members of the filmmaking community, so don’t miss out on what I hope will be a really exciting and fun afternoon.

For further details and to book tickets, visit the Eventbrite page. Know someone who might be interested in attending? I’d love it if you would share this post with them.

Some Big News About the Future

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This is a post I have meant to write for a few weeks, but it’s gained a bit more poignancy and urgency in the past week or so.

This month is Film Sprites PR‘s fifth birthday. If you know the background of Sprites, you know that it was created seemingly by accident thanks to a tweet asking filmmakers if they needed publicity and social media marketing assistance. It has grown into a beautiful, exciting (albeit small) consultancy that I am proud to have created. The icing on the fifth birthday cake for me has been recently appearing on Karyn Hay’s Lately show on Radio NZ to talk about whether artists who are reluctant self-promoters could successfully promote their work. This opportunity came about thanks to an article I wrote on the subject that was published on The Big Idea. It’s by far the biggest exposure I’ve received to date, and I’m so grateful for these experiences.

While this was happening, I was also offered (and accepted) the position of Wellington Communications Assistant at the 2019 New Zealand International Film Festival. You might recall that in 2014 I was a Publicity Assistant for the Christchurch leg of NZIFF 2014, which happened while I was also working full-time and building Sprites. Given that the Communications Assistant position is full time, you might be wondering what’s happening with Sprites (Or, hey, even if you aren’t wondering, I needed a nice little segue into talking about the future of Sprites, and that was it).

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It’s been a remarkable five years, but the time has come for me to move on. Sprites was only ever going to be a small part of my story; a way to assist independent filmmakers with publicity and digital marketing while I built up my skills and portfolio as a publicist. From now, I will no longer be taking on publicity or social media marketing work under the Film Sprites PR brand. The website will remain up, and I will continue to update our social media channels and write about topics that are relevant to filmmakers, however. I have a few speaking engagements organised in the near future, so I will be continuing to spread my knowledge of social media marketing and publicity for independent filmmakers, which is something I love to do. I am doing this so that I can begin to look for a full-time, permanent position in the film industry which is one of my big dreams in life. I also want to move into being a producer as well, and so something has to give, and that ‘something’ is Sprites.

I have no net.

I have no guarantee that I can achieve my dreams and goals.

However, I have faith in those dreams and goals, a lot of moxie and a huge heart that yearns to be of service to the wider film community and its audiences.

I think sometimes you have to clear the decks and make space for things to enter, and I feel this very strongly at this point in my life. I haven’t quite achieved what I set out to achieve, but in actual fact I’ve achieved much more than I dreamed possible (if that makes sense).

I am eternally grateful to my friends, family, supporters, the filmmakers I’ve had the privilege of working with, Sprites’ media contacts, my film industry support network and colleagues, and YOU.

What to do When Social Media Outages Affect Your Film’s Marketing Plans

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If you use Facebook and connected social media like Instagram, you have probably been affected by the recent outage. Outages often mean that social media marketing plans are revised as a result. Any automated posts you had planned become redundant…or worse yet, you have to re-post and/or re-plan once the outage is over! It’s proof that while we can have social media marketing as part of an overall publicity plan, social media (like traditional media) is not infallible.

The recent outage provided a shared moment that was relatable to anyone who uses Facebook and Instagram. So here’s an idea you can use today: you might want to find some clever way to integrate it into your social media posts. The more something is relatable and resonates with an audience, the more engagement it will receive and the more likely your post will be shared. Remember when Kim Kardashian broke the Internet? Think about how YOU ‘broke the Internet’ today and run with it. In Sprites’ case, the outages happened after ALICE, the film we’ve been providing social media marketing for, won the Narrative Feature Award and CherryPicks First Female Feature Award at SXSW. ALICE broke the Internet!

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But what happens if you’re running a crowdfunding campaign when an outage happens on social? I’ve had this happen several times in the 7 years I’ve been assisting with crowdfunding campaigns, and while it’s not ideal you can work around it to make sure that you can still make the most of it. You may want to expand on the previous idea and use it as a call to action with your mailing list. If one platform is unavailable, channel your social media marketing efforts into the platforms you still have available to you at the time. Time really is money with a crowdfunding campaign!

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If you have a release that is affected by the outage, the above suggestions definitely apply- when you don’t have access to certain social media platforms during an outage, concentrate on the social media platforms where your film has a presence that are still available to you. You can always repurpose any content you had planned during an outage at a later date while still keeping the remainder of the social media marketing plan active and current.

Most importantly, if you have the time available to you…get away from the screen! This morning before I started my hours at Boosted, I could see how the outages were affecting my workflow when it came to social media marketing for Sprites clients…so I walked away. I went outside with a cup of coffee and watched the world go by so that when I returned to the computer I would be fresh as a daisy and raring to go.

Outages are awful, but unavoidable. It’s a reminder that no system is perfect!

Use These Film Publicity and Social Media Marketing Tips Now…And Still Have Time for a Netflix Binge!

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If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll be familiar with our ‘Top Tips” posts. These posts are bite-sized nuggets of wisdom that contain hints and tips on film publicity and social media marketing.

I came up with the idea for having hints and tips available via social media because I’ve had many people saying how much they love the blog posts, but I didn’t want to always re-direct people to the blog. I wanted you to be able to scroll your social media feeds and pick up a small piece of wisdom you could implement straight away. You could implement just one of the Top Tips and still have time for a Netflix binge (have you been watching The Umbrella Academy? Incredible stuff!).

I wanted the knowledge and experience I’ve gained running Film Sprites PR for the past 4 and a half years to be useful even if you don’t require the full complement of PR and/or social media marketing services. They’re little love letters to the film industry. I’ve had a few filmmakers say to me: “we’d hire you if we had the budget, but your blog and social media is so useful!”. Obviously I would love to work further with these filmmakers, but at least I know they are still able to benefit from what’s available to them via the blog and social media, so at least I’m being of service. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing to me.

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One of our Top Tips on Facebook and Instagram

So here are a few of our Top Tips from our IG and FB! Hopefully you will find them useful:

Tip 1: have a shared folder available for all cast and crew with videos, images and posters that can be shared on their social media. Everything helps to boost the signal! Having official materials available for cast and crew to share via social media means there’s no ambiguity about what they can and can’t share officially. It also helps to boost the signal, especially if you have cast members with large followings online.

Tip 2: receiving amazing fan art? Don’t forget to share it on social media! Fans are amazing at creating incredible fan art for the films, webseries and shows they love. If your fans have shown you some fan art love, be sure to share it!

Tip 3: completed a variety of short films? Think about having a local night of screenings with a Q&A. While we now have the ability in the digital age to share films via small screens, sometimes it can be great to share them on the big screen too. Think about having a screening night of your short films with a Q&A at a local venue. This can also serve as a great launch function for a crowdfunding campaign.

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Tip 4: keep an eye on dates of big film festivals and film awards ceremonies- these events may make coverage of your film more difficult. Major film festivals and awards ceremonies tend to be an entertainment news priority when they’re happening. To maximise your ability to secure coverage, avoid doing press release distribution during these periods. That being said, you can also encourage people towards your social media accounts during events like the Oscars by using appropriate hashtags. A word of warning: make your content 100% relevant to the hashtag AND the event. Don’t go using a hashtag to go fishing for likes. Think about posting a poll, talking about past winning films that have inspired your filmmaking, etcetera.

Tip 5: keep a comprehensive record of your media contacts, including links to reviews, interviews and articles. Having a comprehensive database for your publicity efforts makes a huge difference. It means that every time you release a new film or webseries you don’t have to start from scratch hunting for media contacts, and you can easily see who has previously published content about your film or webseries. It also means that if you’re outsourcing your publicity tasks the person involved will have access to that database, saving a whole lot of time.

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Tip 6: build great relationships with journalists, podcasters and bloggers who are passionate about film. This is definitely something I would prioritize as being of the upmost importance. Building great relationships with journalists, podcasters, bloggers and influencers is key. It means not only building and nurturing these relationships, but sharing their content as well. Make things easier for your contacts by providing access to digital press kits with clearly labelled high-resolution images, your press release and director’s statement, and access to screeners when available.

Tip 7: keep your fans in the loop with an email opt-in on your website. Having an email opt-in on your film’s website is a great way to keep your fans in the loop with all of your happenings. Mailchimp is a great way to provide news and updates, and is particularly useful if you’re gearing up for a period of crowdfunding or want to mobilize your fans to boost the signal of a film’s release via social media.

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Tip 8: you don’t need to use every social media channel to make sure you connect with your audience. Don’t spread yourself thin by being on every social media platform. Choose 1-3 platforms you feel comfortable using on a regular basis and you will be able to reach your audience in an effective way.

Hopefully one (or more!) of these tips has been helpful. Now, go watch Umbrella Academy. No, seriously. What are you waiting for?!?!?

 

How to Put a Publicity Budget Into Action (and Get the Best Value For Money!)

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Recently I’ve been letting you in on how to get more bang for your publicity buck, along with some more no-cost and low-cost publicity and social media ideas. This post is a continuation of that series. In this post, we’re going to look at how best to put together a publicity budget and then get the best value for money out of that budget (even if you have very little to spare).

If you receive distribution for your film, chances are the distribution company will do the PR and social media heavy lifting for you…but what happens if you have to self-distribute but still want to utilize publicity and social media marketing to connect with media and audiences? How do you plan a publicity budget and make the most of it?

I’m no expert, but I’ve worked with indie filmmakers just like you over the past 4 and a half years and regardless of the budget available, we’ve made it work very effectively. I think it helps that I grew up in an impoverished household. I saw how my mother was able to make do in miraculous ways. Needless to say, I’ve adopted that mindset when it comes to budgets of any kind. This is the way I approach publicity budgets and it’s a way that I’ve found works. You may have a better way, or adapt this to suit your purposes. There’s really no wrong way to do this.

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So, let’s look at how to work with what you have available (even if you’re low to no budget) to get maximum results:

  • Define your project: is it a short film, feature, webseries?
  • Define your publicity and social media marketing goals: what are you hoping to achieve with publicity and social media marketing of your film/webseries? List everything. Examples could include: growing your social media presence for your film, encouraging people to purchase tickets to local screenings, gaining reviews of your film, securing interviews and features in the run-up to your film’s release, etcetera.
  • Look at your publicity and social media marketing budget: absolutely NO money available? NO problem! It just means you’ll be looking for no-cost options, like creating and maintaining your film/webseries social media presence, reaching out to reviewers and journalists, or staging a local screening in conjunction with a club or organization (or a very kind venue that will stage it for free!). Check out our previous posts for some no-cost options. If you have funds available, look at your goals and research your options. If you have screenings coming up locally or on limited release, you might want to put a percentage into running paid Facebook or Instagram promotions, or paid promotions on film genre-specific websites. You may even choose to outsource your publicity and social media marketing to someone else who can do the heavy lifting for you (that’s when people come to us!).
  • Work out a publicity plan going forward and allocate funds based on the above: share this plan with your producers and anyone assisting with publicity and social media marketing. It’s good to have the numbers down so everyone is clear on the financials and you have a record of everything. Even if you have no funds available, I still suggest doing a publicity plan so you’re not flying by the seat of your pants with your publicity and social media marketing efforts!

There’s countless options available that don’t mean taking out a second mortgage- you can achieve great things with little to no funds available and make your film or webseries a huge hit.

More No-Cost and Low-Cost Film Publicity and Social Media Ideas

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There was an overwhelmingly positive response to our post about getting more bang for your publicity buck with no-cost and low-cost ideas for film publicity and social media that we’re sharing even MORE ideas to help you stretch your publicity budget further (even if it’s non-existent!):

Sanity-saving apps

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We now live in a world where almost everything is right at our fingertips (literally!). Thankfully, apps can make social media marketing of your film so much easier. It means you’re not having to be tied to a desk in order to reach your audience immediately- how cool is that?

Whether using a smart phone or tablet, there’s a few apps that can make social media posts painless, fun and engaging. One of my favourite apps is Canva, a graphic design app that is also available via the website. Canva gives you a multitude of free options for designing anything you can think of: from a flier to social media graphics for various social platforms, there’s even free templates, photos and text available if you’re completely unsure of where to start. There are also paid plans, which give you more options for templates and far more photos as well as other features, but the free option is pretty comprehensive.

Another great design app I love is Promo Republic. Create, share and schedule your social media posts all in one place, PLUS they have a handy calendar which shows you a comprehensive list of public holidays, awards ceremonies and popular events, celebrity birthdays and more; all of which can be handy to use on social media to get your audience engaged and sharing your content.

Event Listings

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Got screenings but no budget for advertising? Listing your screenings on platforms like Eventbrite is a great option. In New Zealand? Arts website The Big Idea has an event listing page, and as well as the free event listing you have paid promotional options that won’t break the bank.

Competitions

Got leftover perk merch from your film’s crowdfunding campaign, like signed posters, t-shirts, etc? Or perhaps you have additional Blu-ray or DVD copies of your film from a pressing run? Think about using them for social media competitions. There’s various ways to run a competition via your social media, and the options are endless. Whether it’s entering fan art to be in the draw, or simply liking and sharing the post, it’s a great way to get your fans engaged.

Pick our brains!

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Don’t have the budget to hire Film Sprites PR to handle your publicity and social media for you? We’ve got you covered! Our blog gives you hints and tips for all aspects of publicity and social media marketing of films. My belief has always been that independent filmmakers deserve just as much publicity and social media marketing assistance as mainstream films, and the hints and ideas you’ll find on the blog are tried and tested and come from being “in the trenches” with indie film as opposed to someone who comes from a purely marketing or commerce background. I know the pressures, constraints, and frustrations of indie filmmaking, so you’ll find that the blog posts are no-bull and speak directly to indie filmmakers. And I try to make them as cheeky and enjoyable as possible.

Achieving your goals for your film and connecting with your audience doesn’t have to involve a gargantuan publicity budget. With some creativity and clever solutions you can build a community of fans around your film and most importantly have it being seen and loved.