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.

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.

Film PR and Social Media Resolutions to Make (and Habits to Break) in 2019

2019 resolutions film publicity and social media

It’s that time of year again…we’re in that weird period between Christmas and New Years, we’re reflecting on the year that was and looking towards the horizon of 12 fresh, new months. And, if you’re anything like our household the remnants of the Christmas choccy boxes contain those horrible hard caramels nobody seems to like!

While you’re thinking about all the personal and professional goals you have for 2019, it’s a good time to also think about what you want to achieve with regards to your film or webseries’ publicity and social media. Film publicity and social media marketing is, sadly, something that takes a back seat when it comes to production. There’s a misconception that PR and social media for your film is something that needs to be thought about solely on release when in reality it’s something that can be utilised throughout production to help grow your audience and awareness of your film.

With that in mind, I’m going to give you some resolutions to make (and habits to break) in 2019 that will help you feel confident about publicity and social media marketing of your film or webseries and assist you in supporting your other filmmaking and production goals.

Create a Publicity Budget

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Money’s always tight when it comes to indie filmmaking, but successful publicity and social media marketing is always a mix of earned media (shares, mentions, posts, reviews, interviews), owned media (website, social media channels) and paid media (social media ads, promotional content, advertising). Can you do without paid media? Certainly, but if you want to have a more strategic reach (i.e. reaching your audience in areas where your film will be shown, or connecting with fan bases aligned with yours or that of your actors), paid media is also a big help.

In the coming weeks we’ll talk more about creating a publicity budget that doesn’t break the bank.

Get Sorted on the Socials

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If you don’t have a social media presence yet, now’s the time to get it sorted. Having a social media presence means you can grow your audience, connect with fans and prep fans and followers for up-coming and future releases. Check out our post answering frequently asked questions about social media for filmmakers to find out more about making the most of social media for your filmmaking.

Learn a New Publicity or Social Media Marketing Skill

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As you will know, indie filmmaking is like a small village: there’s a community on board that rolls up their sleeves and takes on various roles. Chances are, you’re wearing more than one hat in your filmmaking right now, be it editing, producing, or design. With that in mind, if you don’t have the ability to hire a publicist or social media marketing person, it’s a good idea to level up by learning something new about publicity or social marketing. Whether you hit the blogs to find out about trends in social media for 2019 or take a quick course, you will definitely benefit from the time you spend learning something new. Our blog is packed with juicy info to help you out if you don’t have the budget to hire an outside publicist and is based on information that’s of most use to indie filmmakers, based on 5 years of running Film Sprites PR.

What about habits to break in 2019? Here’s a few things to think about ditching!

Hoping to Go Viral

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The social media landscape has changed significantly since the start of the 2010s. In 5 years of operating Film Sprites PR I’ve seen massive changes in the way people consume their media (including a jump to streaming services and a push towards greater self-distribution), including the way people consume their social media. Whereas going viral used to be a golden goose for creatives, it’s now less effective and harder to achieve. If you’re waiting to go viral it’s effectively like a fairytale character waiting to be saved by a white knight or a prince. Instead, work towards creating a sustainable presence and building your audience and community. That lasts longer and is more meaningful than going viral.

Having Social Media Accounts For Every Short Film

It’s tempting to create new social media pages and accounts every time you have a new short film out, but this is something that is time consuming and less effective than if you have social media accounts which provide a platform for all of your work. The issue with creating multiple accounts for different projects (especially with regards to short film) is that once you’ve completed and screened or streamed your film (and done the awards circuit), chances are you may not use those accounts again. They will be sitting on the Internet like a dead end. Plus, people who loved that particular film may not realise that you have other films in production.

A more efficient thing to do is to have social media accounts that can encompass all of your work. Whether you set up social media accounts in your name as a filmmaker or under your production company’s umbrella, you can continue to invest in those social media accounts for years to come and mobilise your fans to support you, share your content and see your films.

Making These Social Media Snafus

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Social media is such a powerful tool when used effectively, but when it goes wrong it goes badly wrong. You want to connect with your audience, not annoy them! Check out our list of the most annoying things you can do on social media when promoting your film, as well as the alternatives we’ve suggested.

Wishing you a very productive, inspiring 2019. As a thank you, I’m giving you Getting Prepped for 2019, a handy guide on when to generate publicity and digital marketing for your indie film or webseries. It also includes a timeline you can either print out or modify to help you to plan everything out and have it at your fingertips! You can download this guide HERE.

Our Year in Review…and a Freebie for You!

It’s hard to believe that we’re nearly at the end of another year; the fourth year of operation for Film Sprites PR. It’s been a fun and inspiring year, and we’ve had the great pleasure of working with some truly fabulous filmmakers to provide publicity and digital marketing. Here’s a look back at some of the projects we’ve assisted this year!

Under the Flowers: Circle of Hell

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Film Sprites PR had the great pleasure of teaming up with Mad Shelley Films again to promote Under the Flowers: Circle of Hell, the second thrilling installment of this chilling female-driven horror webseries. The season received glowing reviews, as well as award nominations and wins at several film festivals. Season 3, Waking the Witch, is now in development.

The Final Blade

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In August  we assisted NZ-based Chinese director Willie Ying with the Auckland release of his feature film, The Final Blade. The film was scheduled for an initial 3 days of screenings at Event Cinemas St Lukes, Albany and Queen Street and by the first day of screenings this was extended to an additional 5 days. And despite being screened during NZIFF 2018 (always a difficult time to secure press outside of NZIFF-screened films) we were able to secure media placements (including interviews) in outlets like Radio NZ, Western Leader/Stuff, Showtools, and the NZ Herald’s Time Out magazine supplement.

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Us Among the Stones

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Film Sprites PR assisted with the pre-production crowdfunding campaign for director D.R. Hood’s second feature film, Us Among the Stones a few years ago, and this year we had the great pleasure of assisting with the crowdfunding campaign for post-production funds on Social Screen. Not only did they meet their crowdfunding target, they exceeded it, achieving 113%!

Us Among the Stones stars Laurence Fox (The Frankenstein Chronicles, Inspector Lewis), Raia Haidar, Sinead Matthews (Chewing Gum, Mr Turner, Wreckers) and Anna Calder-Marshall. It is the second feature from D.R. Hood, the writer/director of acclaimed independent film Wreckers, starring Claire Foy (Netflix’s The Crown, Unsane), Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock, Doctor Strange) and Shaun Evans (Endeavour, Silk).

AFK

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And rounding out the year, we’re currently assisting NZ fantasy/gaming webseries AFK with publicity and digital marketing of their second thrilling season. Filmed in NZ with an entirely Kiwi-based cast, it features actors that have appeared in The Hobbit trilogy, 6 Days, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Power Rangers, Legend of the Seeker, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar, The King’s Speech and Mortal Engines. AFK is available to watch at TVNZ On Demand (NZ only), Stareable and YouTube.

Time for that gift!

And yes, as promised…it’s gift time! We’re giving you Getting Prepped for 2019, a handy guide on when to generate publicity and digital marketing for your indie film or webseries. It also includes a timeline you can either print out or modify to help you to plan everything out and have it at your fingertips! You can download this guide HERE.

Many thanks to our clients, supporters, indie film fans, media partners and friends who have made 2018 a really special year indeed. We’re having our summer break from December 22nd- 27th, but you can always contact us to schedule a meeting to discuss your publicity and digital marketing needs in 2019.

 

When’s The Best Time to Grow Your Film’s Audience?

when to grow your film's audience

A few weeks ago I was up in Auckland to catch up with clients and film industry acquaintances. One afternoon, I was chatting with an acquaintance who has been in the film industry here in NZ for many years. We were discussing the best time to grow your audience for your film via publicity and social media. The consensus? Pre-production.

Yes, really! Pre-production is the best time to start to grow your audience. Mainstream releases and tentpole films generally have the benefit of being able to secure coverage and have a built-in audience due to things like the cast, a known director, being part of a franchise, and more. It can be a lot harder for indie films and filmmakers to receive that sort of coverage…but it’s not impossible. It just takes a bit of strategic planning early on in production.

So why start building your audience in pre-production?:

  • You will cultivate a following that wants to support you every step of the way: this can be particularly beneficial if you’re looking to crowdfund during production or in post.
  • Your intended audience will have more awareness of your film on release: imagine having a dedicated following and fan base ready and waiting to see your film and media outlets who are more likely to provide coverage and/or review your film because they’re aware of your film prior to release. That’s powerful stuff!

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So, how do you go about building your audience in pre-production?

Make sure you have your social media accounts and website established: if you have a production company website and social media accounts already set up and with a large following, you may want to retain that instead of setting up separate accounts, especially if you are building your audience for a short film or have a slate of films in the works. Check out our post on the most frequently asked questions about social media for filmmakers for more hints and tips.

Crowdfunded in pre-production? Capitalize on campaign updates: the great thing about crowdfunding platforms is that they provide you with the opportunity to raise funds for your project, but also help you to build an audience at the same time. The campaign updates function on your campaign page should not be forgotten after your campaign! You can find out about maintaining contributor connection after a crowdfunding campaign here.

Establish a mailing list: invite people to subscribe to your mailing list via your website or a call to action on social media. Provide content like production updates, competitions, and cut-and-paste sample tweets or Facebook posts that can be used by fans when you’re getting ready to launch!

Reward your fans: some of the most passionate, dedicated fans are the ones who follow your entire journey, so why not reward them? Think about having a ‘Fan of the Week’ post on social media, share fan art, have competitions for signed merch, and more. Your imagination is the limit here!

Start building relationships with journalists and media outlets: get to know the journalists and media outlets that you would like to secure coverage from when you’re ready to release your film. Follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook, interact with them and share content from them that is relevant to your audience. Never underestimate the power of a great connection with media and journalists.

Building your audience in pre-production may sound daunting. After all, you’ve got so much else to juggle! But think of it as an investment in your film that will return to you right when you want it.

Things I Wish I’d Done Differently When I Began My Film PR Career

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I turn 37 on Friday.

I’m completely fine with ageing- in fact, I relish it. I think my life has opened up in exciting new ways from the time I turned 30 and I can’t wait to see what my life will look and feel like by the time I reach 40.

Of course, with the dawning of a new natal year comes a time of reflection, and recently I’ve been thinking about when I started my film PR career in 2013 (with Film Sprites PR being born in 2014). There’s definitely a few things I wish I’d done differently. I don’t regret pursuing my career in a different manner, but there are some ‘tweaks’ I would have made earlier on that I believe might have made a difference.

So, why am I talking about this, and what are the implications for you, dear reader?

Perhaps you’ll gain some insight into your own goal-setting and career path. If you want a little bit more information about pathways to a job in publicity and digital marketing that are a bit more pain-free than the way I started, you can read about them in a recent guest post I did for We Make Movies on Weekends.

I’m also talking about this because so often on the Internet and on social media we see a very sanitized, edited version of people’s lives. We’ve seen an influx of beauty products touted to help you achieve a perfect selfie (including colour correcting concealer and tooth whitening pens)! I always talk about authenticity in social media, and here I am, pondering the past and bringing to light the messier, muckier aspects. It’s a crash course in not doing what I did! So what do I wish I’d done differently?

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I regret not having a business plan: when I started in publicity, I was working as a freelancer under my own name. I didn’t have a goal to start a PR consultancy…I just wanted to be head-hunted. But fate had different ideas, and when I popped on Twitter on April 17th of 2014 to ask if filmmakers were looking for publicity and digital marketing assistance, the influx of requests took me aback. I literally had to work backwards! I didn’t have any seed money, my branding was very quickly knocked out on Canva in about 5 minutes, and I definitely did not have a business plan.

By the time I met with a business mentor in 2016 to ask about drawing up a business plan, however, he looked at my website and branding (which by now were up to standard) and went; “you need a business plan…why?”

I still wish I’d had it. Back in 2014 I was flying by the seat of my pants which only worked for a small amount of time before I had to go back to the drawing board again.

And again.

And again.

Even if you’re not going to be setting up your own business, I thoroughly recommend sketching out your long, medium and short-term goals. I knew what I wanted, I also knew what I wanted to provide in my role as a publicist, but I couldn’t articulate it- never a good thing when you work in an industry which requires clear communication!

I regret not attending networking events sooner: the beauty of working at home is that, well, you work from home. If you’re an introvert, you have the ease of not having to stick your neck out. But that can also be detrimental. Although I had spent from July of 2013 right up to the day I asked if people wanted my services constantly networking online, doing online networking still can’t fully replace networking with your colleagues and peers face-to-face. Thankfully now I enjoy networking events and the chance to meet people in various industry roles. If, like me, you’re an introvert you might want to check out a recent post I did about self-promotion and networking. These are strategies I’ve found that work very well.

I would have learned how to set up my website earlier than I did: initially, I started with a WordPress blog. Although it was rudimentary,  it did the job…at least for the first few months. Eventually the blog morphed into this website, with a blog attached. But that would happen a year and a half into working at Sprites. That’s a long time when you consider that a website is one of the places people come to to ascertain whether you’re a suitable fit for their services or not.

There are times when I didn’t listen to my gut…and I definitely learned the hard way: your intuition is an incredible tool. It’s that voice and feeling inside that tells you when things are going well…and when they’re not. My intuition tends to be very highly tuned now. If something is amiss, I have an internal GPS that feels like a guitar string snapping. When things are going well or I get an intuitive nudge in the right direction, it’s all tickety boo. But there have been times when I haven’t listened to my intuition to my detriment.

I definitely find that meditation and mindfulness practices really help to fine-tune your intuition.

What advice would I give to my younger self, and to anyone chasing their dreams? Believe in yourself. First and foremost, you have to have the grit and determination to see things through. Sometimes a goal can be a very lonely thing- people may not understand what you’re doing, you may have to go it alone for a very long time. So it’s imperative that when all the doors seem closed and you feel like you’re in an echo chamber you truly believe in yourself and your capabilities. The more you believe in yourself, the more willing you are to prove yourself to the world. The more willing you are to prove yourself to the world, the more people will see what you can do. It’s a snowball effect. Never give up, never give in.

 

The Art of the Pitch (and Why It’s Not Just For Publicists)

The Art of the Pitch

 

What’s your inbox like? How about your DM inboxes on social media? If they’re anything like mine, you’re inundated with unsolicited requests. If you’re a director, a producer (or a film publicist like me), you see them coming a mile off: links to videos, unsolicited requests from crowdfunding campaigns, showreels and more…things that clog up your inbox, take up your time and also distract you from the messages that matter.

Sadly, I cannot tell you the best way to avoid this (other than the nuclear option of blocking), but I can tell you how not to be THAT person, especially when you want to connect with someone for something and want to not only make an impression, but make things happen. Whether you want to collaborate with someone, network or pitch an idea, you can learn a lot from the way publicists pitch their clients to media.

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The art of the pitch is something that can be used successfully in many different arenas in your life, and I’m going to let you in on some of the techniques I use every single day that have assisted me in securing results for my clients. So, whether you’re making contact with someone for networking purposes to help further your filmmaking career or pitching your story idea to potential producers, these techniques are tried and tested:

Introductions are vital: remember the restaurant scene in The Disaster Artist where Tommy unsuccessfully ‘pitches’ his script? Don’t be Tommy! When I was building relationships with bloggers, websites and journalists at the beginning of my career, I would send an e-mail introducing myself and my business. The reason? I didn’t want to send an unsolicited pitch and have it be ignored. In fact, if I was particularly keen on having a film client interviewed by the media outlet I was getting in contact with, I would ask if they would like to be added to our media list for when we had films and filmmakers that their audience would be interested in. It worked so well that with some media outlets would prioritize my clients in terms of reviews/interviews/features. Whether you’re getting in touch with someone for networking purposes or discuss an up-coming project or script, a great introduction is vital.

Do your research: one of the things I hear frequently from journalists is the amount of times publicists get in contact with them wanting to secure a story for their client without actually doing their research. This means they get pitches for beauty products when they are a site that has nothing to do with beauty and/or doesn’t have an audience that would care about beauty products (let alone purchase them). It happens more than you’d like to think.

The same goes for pitching ideas, networking and getting in touch with people you really want to work with. Don’t just do a cursory skim of their website. I had a rambling, incoherent pitch arrive in my inbox the other day from a writer who was looking for a female filmmaker to shoot his script. When I told him that I wasn’t a filmmaker, I was a film publicist, he was extremely red-faced and horrified. The problem? He’d been given a list of female filmmakers to contact…but whoever compiled that list hadn’t done their homework…and he hadn’t either.

Craft your communications: here is the absolute best piece of advice I can give you when it comes to contacting anyone for any reason. Keep this phrase in your head as you write: what’s in it for them? Don’t think about what you want to get out of this communication- hone your writing so you highlight any benefits or advantages for them.

Here’s an example from my world: when I have a client and I’m pitching to journalists, I’ll highlight what’s newsworthy in bullet points, bearing in mind what’s newsworthy about my client and/or their film. For instance if I’m pitching to a film-related website that has a strong commitment to championing women in film, perhaps I’ll mention that the film passes the Bechdel Test, or something similar if it is applicable.

the art of the pitch women in workroom

Take the virtual into the real: communications over e-mail and Skype are great, but if you have the possibility of meeting up, it’s worth suggesting having a coffee meet…and yes, you will be buying. Including a suggestion of a coffee meet is a great way to take the working relationship a step beyond an email. I quite often schedule time in the year where I will go to Auckland or Wellington to meet up with film industry contacts and acquaintances over coffee in order to talk about potential new collaborations, opportunities, and to see what’s happening up north in the industry.

Hopefully these tips will help you hone your communications to connect with the people you want to work with…and make a positive impact. Happy filmmaking!