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

Publicity budget

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

social media for indie film

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

learn something new

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

hoping to go viral

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

annoying on social media

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

UTF Circle of Hell Promo Poster

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

Final Blade Poster Resize

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.

the-final-blade-press

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!

Audience Preparation Before Release-min

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.

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!

 

Why Hoping to Go Viral is Like Waiting For a Fairytale Prince

Why hoping to go viral is like waiting for a fairytale prince

A note: while I’ve used the concept of a fairytale prince, you can substitute it for ‘princess’, ‘Iron Man’, or a gender-neutral savior…whatever suits you- the point is, you’re waiting to be saved! Now, carry on…

Gangnam Style. The Harlem Shake. Rebecca Black’s Friday. Chocolate Rain. They shared, we shared, they went viral, we moved onto the next viral hit. One of the things I’m asked most is “can you make me go viral?”, which ultimately gets a hard “no” from me. Why?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to go viral. The prospect of having your work go viral is exciting, right? But keep in mind the fact that just like having the ‘flu (which is a virus), the infectiousness of your viral content will pass, too. Add to the fact that, according to Socialbakers’ Jan Rezab the lifespan of virality is on the decline thanks to social media going mainstream and hoping to go viral is basically like waiting for a fairytale prince. Not convinced? Read Jan’s post Stop Trying to Go Viral on Recode- he gives evidence but also gives some fantastic alternatives that really work.

Add to that the fact that since the advent of social media in the mainstream there has been a consistent and steady stream of content available to the public, and it’s harder to make a dent virally. Even Tay Zonday of Chocolate Rain fame thinks that it’s more difficult to go viral now than back in 2007.

If you use virality as a sole benchmark for the success of your work, you’re going to end up feeling pretty bad about things- not because your work isn’t great, but because virality is so unpredictable and on the decline. There’s also this myth that going viral means you become an overnight success and everything is peachy keen. That can happen for some, but the experience is different in every case.

I always say to people when it comes to building an audience for their content: “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Even though virality is juicy and attractive and seems like the goose that laid the golden egg, it’s less valuable in the long-term. As with any relationship-building, it takes time and care. You can’t just throw any content out there willy-nilly and hope it sticks. Experiment. See what your audience resonates with, and what they’re not so keen on. Keep tabs on engagement levels and what your audience is saying about your work. And most importantly, let them know that you appreciate their shares, comments and support. Build a solid foundation for your work and your brand and you will reap more consistent benefits than a moment of overnight success with a viral video.

Making Your Filmmaking Journey Matter to Your Audience

 

making your filmmaking journey matter to your audience

Recently, I was pleased to see that The Power of Myth was added to Netflix NZ/Aus. This PBS series featuring Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers is truly powerful stuff. You may be familiar with Campbell’s Hero’s Journey template. You may have even found yourself utilizing it if you are a filmmaker. It’s a reminder of the commonality of themes and stages in myth and storytelling, as well as in life.

Don’t worry- we’re not going to get deep into Hero’s Journey territory here, but we are going to look at how your own filmmaking journey can inspire your film’s audience, and how to utilize that to great effect.

Our world is a tapestry of complex stories, of narratives and viewpoints. The advent of social media has provided more people with the means to bringing their own personal story to the world. I was in college when the Arab Spring happened. In decades past, uprisings would be told to the world through traditional media, with these events then being relegated to history. But with the Arab Spring people were taking to social media to let the world know what was happening.

At the time I was learning about the political economy of the mass media and the media conglomerates who had shares in media outlets. That landscape was beginning to change in real-time even as I was learning about it. Back then I got the sense that something very important was happening in the way we receive information about the world. People could tell their story in real-time and receive real-time feedback. Obviously, that’s a really broad statement because it doesn’t take into account some of the inequalities faced by people in different areas of the world (financially or due to censorship), but that’s how I saw it at the time.

Making Your Filmmaking Journey Matter Book and Photograph.jpg

As a filmmaker, you know the importance of stories- after all, you’ve had one (or more) play out in front of the camera! Telling the story of your film (behind-the-scenes details, work in progress, etc) is something that can be used with good effect to connect with media and audiences…but sharing your own personal filmmaking journey can also be incredibly powerful and compelling.

Now, I’m not suggesting you share all of your dirty laundry. You don’t have to get that personal. But the hardships, obstacles and sweat equity that goes into any endeavour can be truly inspiring. Pick one successful person in history and look at their story. I can guarantee you it wasn’t smooth sailing the whole way. Just like with the Hero’s Journey, there were tests and stages. I once heard a successful nanotechnologist say that success isn’t a straight line, it’s more a wiggly one. People are inspired by hard work and struggle. After all, Steve Jobs ended up with two biopics for a good reason- his path wasn’t always smooth sailing. He got fired from his own company. He had an incredible phoenix moment with Apple in the late 90s- early 2000s.

So….what’s your story- and how can you utilize it in publicity and social media?

As you know, filmmakers don’t just pop up out of holes in the ground (if they did, that would be weird). They’re not packaged up like dolls that can be unwrapped and liberated from their boxes to create pitch-perfect films every time. It takes work, it takes skill, and it takes dedication to their craft. The same goes with you. You have a story of your filmmaking journey, and now it’s time to share it. Last year, I heard David Michôd (Animal Kingdom, The Rover, War Machine) talk about his films. Animal Kingdom‘s final incarnation was different to the script of 10 years prior. Perhaps you pursued filmmaking because you heard the call after 30 years of doing the same mind-numbing desk job. Perhaps your film was in distribution limbo but you managed to secure a deal thanks to a serendipitous meeting. It’s things like this that can be shared with media and audiences to good effect.

Here’s ways in which you can share your filmmaking journey:

  • If you love to blog, then blog about it! Film fans love unique insights into the filmmaking process and the filmmaker’s journey because it feels intimate and special.
  • Share on social media. Perhaps you have some old photographs from your early filmmaking days, or a snapshot of the first day’s filming of your first film. Nostalgia is fun and accessible.
  • Think about vignettes and insights you can share when you are being interviewed. In my case, when I do interviews or podcasts about the creation of Film Sprites PR I am more than happy to discuss the fact that my career started as a result of being an earthquake survivor and re-building my life to reflect my passion for film and the desire to work in the film industry. You can think about sharing similar (if you’re comfortable with it). Have you struggled with mental illness and are now dedicated to reflecting these struggles in the narratives of your films? Did a beloved childhood film spark your path towards filmmaking?

Your story is just as much a part of your film as the script and the actors in it. Don’t be afraid to share your journey…you never know who you will inspire.

 

Making E-mail Marketing Part of Your Film’s Publicity Strategy

making-email-marketing-part-of-your-films-publicity-strategy

Back in the late 90’s I created my first e-mail newsletter. It was a film news and reviews newsletter, very basic and in plain text. I gained subscribers through friends and acquaintances. Before long, I had around 300 subscribers- not many in today’s terms, but not bad! I would scour the Internet for film news, do reviews of favourite films, and so on. When I look back, it was sort of a foreshadowing of what I do now!

E-mail marketing has thankfully come a long way from my rudimentary attempt in the 1990s, and it’s something that can be extremely useful for connecting with your audience as an independent filmmaker. It can also be integrated into your film’s publicity strategy in some very fun ways.

If you’ve had the experience of crowdfunding before, you’ll know that many of the various crowdfunding platforms provide a space for updates. When you post an update on your crowdfunding page, it’s also e-mailed to donors who contributed to your campaign. E-mail marketing is not all that different to providing those updates on your crowdfunding page. If you haven’t had the experience of providing updates to crowdfunding donors- no worries! E-mail marketing is easy, it can be incredibly fun and is a great asset to have as part of your film’s publicity strategy.

Where do I start?

It’s a good idea to pick an email marketing platform, like Sendlane or Mailchimp. I don’t recommend just sending out e-mails from your e-mail account as people won’t have the option to opt out of receiving your e-mails unless they e-mail you back. Email marketing platforms generally have the option of a free account provided you have under a certain amount of subscribers which is perfect for when you’re just starting out.

In order to grow your subscribers you can create a landing page for your film’s website or share the link to a sign-up form via your social media accounts.

email marketing for filmmakers

What about content?

When it comes to the content of your newsletter, the choices are endless! Here’s a few ideas:

  • Provide subscriber-only exclusives, like behind-the-scenes videos or giveaways (signed film posters, a prop from the film, etc)
  • Update subscribers with the film’s progress via short vlogs that can then be re-purposed via social media at a later date
  • Mobilise your subscribers to spread the word about the film (especially in the lead-up to release) by providing them with digital assets they can use on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These can be housed in a dropbox and subscribers can download them via a link in your newsletter. You can also provide sample tweets they can copy and paste
  • Let people into your filmmaking world: is music particularly important to your process? Share a list of songs or albums that have influenced you. Found resources that you know fellow filmmakers and filmmaking fans would love? Share them!

Experiment. Have fun. See where the mood takes you and what your audience responds to. It’s another way to connect with your audience from production onwards in an intimate and rewarding way.

And speaking of mailing lists….yes, we have one now. Sign up to our mailing list to receive film publicity, social media marketing and crowdfunding hints and tips, exclusive content, and occasional FREE resources. You’ll also be the first to be notified of discounted service rates. You can sign up HERE.