Great Reasons to Support Your Local Independent Cinema

Support Local Independent Cinema

We have such a wealth of choices when it comes to how, when and where we watch films now, but there’s still nothing that beats the cinema-going experience. In every large city there’s generally several options to indulge in that cinema-going experience (including cinema chains), but how often do you see a film at your local independent cinema?

There’s a scene (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) in Craig Brewer’s fantastic film Dolemite is My Name that I find truly inspiring: after the blood, sweat, and tears of making Dolemite, Rudy Ray Moore fails to secure a distributor. Things come to a head when a radio DJ wants to know when people can see the film. Off air, Moore confesses that they don’t have a distributor, which prompts the DJ to suggest a small cinema that might host the film. Moore would have to pay for a screening, but could keep the profits. And after some enthusiastic hustling to promote the film it not only sells out, but has a genuinely appreciative audience. Thank you, independent cinema owner!

I can honestly say that this year I saw only one film at a cinema chain. The rest of my viewings were at independent cinemas in Wellington (during NZIFF 2019) and Christchurch. This wasn’t a strategic decision…it just turned out that the independent cinemas were screening the films I wanted to see over the blockbuster fare that was available at the cinema chains. As a result, I fell back in love with independent cinemas, and I hope after reading this you will too. Below are some reasons to support your local independent cinemas; both as an audience member and a filmmaker:

They screen great independent, foreign language, and genre films: Parasite, High Life, Amazing Grace, Maiden…chances are, if you were a New Zealander and saw any of these films this year in cinema, it was probably at one of the independent cinemas dotted around the country. Sometimes you don’t want to wait for something to come out on VOD or a streaming platform, and independent cinemas are great at bringing those films to you. They can’t bring everything to the big screen, sadly, but they bring their audiences a very fine selection each year.

They’re a great destination for film festival fare and small festivals: in my home town, Christchurch, we are fortunate enough to have Lumière Cinemas as one of the screening destinations for the New Zealand International Film Festival (along with the Isaac Theatre Royal), but this year they have also hosted the inaugural Christchurch leg of the Terror-Fi Film Festival and are soon to host Madman Reel Anime 2019 as well!

The Hollywood Avondale in Auckland is known for their legendary 24 Hour Movie Marathon, which is in its 20th year in 2019. Check out your local independent cinema, as they can often host great festivals which bring you unique fare (and sometimes before general release).

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They host special and limited screenings: whether it’s a Rocky Horror Picture Show sing-a-long screening, a big screen showing of The Room or a movie marathon, independent cinemas bring you the good stuff. Scrolling through the event listings of an independent cinema on their website can feel like their offerings were tailored for you, and you alone. After seeing Midsommar at NZIFF 2019, I absolutely jumped at the chance to see the director’s cut on the big screen (and traumatise my partner, who didn’t see the theatrical cut beforehand).

There are independent cinemas that are opting to screen some of the Netflix films which were available for theatrical release as well (The Guardian has a great explanation of why some theatre chains are opting not to offer these screenings). I went to see The King on the big screen before it hit Netflix, partly because I wanted to be a sort of ‘guinea pig’ for the small theatrical release window, but mostly because I’m a massive fan of David Michôd’s filmmaking, as well as the Shakespeare Henriad that the film is based on. It was definitely well worth seeing on the big screen due to the battle scenes, but it’s also a bit of a treat to see it before it hits Netflix. It will be interesting to see how this format of screening windows develops in the future, but for now there’s independent cinemas that are embracing it wholeheartedly.

In 2016, Academy Cinemas very graciously hosted the advanced screening and Q&A session of Life Off Grid (a film Film Sprites PR was doing the NZ publicity and social media marketing for). Despite the fact that Quentin Tarantino was in town for the Hateful Eight premiere, ardent fans of independent documentaries and sustainability turned up to welcome the film wholeheartedly.

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They’re designed with cinephiles in mind: the one thing I’ve noticed about independent cinemas over cinema chains is that the independent cinemas are a haven for cinephiles. Plush seating, opulent surroundings, and quite often there’s wine and cheese platters on offer for those who really want to revel in their cinematic experience (also great for date night!).

Enjoy a signature cocktail at an indie cinema bar, or catch up with a friend post-screening for coffee. And trust me, I’ve never met a coffee at an independent cinema I didn’t like.

They often support local content: here’s a tip for independent filmmakers if you are self-distributing (or want to host an event or cast screening of your film): get in touch with your local independent cinema. Often they have reasonable rates for screening films or fundraising nights, so it’s worth checking out what they may be able to do for you. And, hey, you might end up doing a Dolemite….

 

Bewitching Ways to Connect With Your Audience Via Social Media

Bewitching Ways to Connect With Your Audience Via Social Media

Recently on Sprites’ social media we’ve been revisiting the most annoying things you can do when using social media for your film, but with a decidedly fun and spooky twist. After looking at some scary social media habits to avoid (and given that we’re heading towards Halloween), it’s a good time to look at some great ways to connect with your audience via social media. Here’s some ways to bewitch your fans instead of having them running for the hills- no potions or incantations needed!

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Let your fans in on the process: people absolutely love looking behind the scenes of film productions, so embrace that on social media. Whether you share stills on-set, quirky boomerang videos on your Instagram or Facebook stories, or do quick live videos on location, your fans will appreciate it. Plus, it serves as a poignant record of the process, which is something you can always revisit on social media at a later date for a Throwback Thursday (#TBT) post.

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Start a conversation: there’s so many ways to engage with your social media audience, and starting a genuine conversation about a topic is one of them. It can be as simple as discussing a director and asking your fans to chime in on their favourite film from that director, having a poll via your Instagram or Facebook story, or, if you have a webseries, getting people to guess what they think might happen in the next episode.

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Go live: this ties in with letting your fans in on the filmmaking process. Think about live streaming a Q&A session, getting someone on your team to live stream your red carpet premiere (and interview some of your cast and crew), or provide quick production updates.

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Share fan content, rave reviews and great posts: how many times do you hear from people “oh my gosh, [famous person] re-tweeted me/shared my post”? Make sure you share fan art that’s been shared with you, glowing reviews and great feedback. Even just sharing a heartfelt YouTube comment from a fan can not only make their day, but shows your audience that you genuinely care about their love of your work.

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Let your creativity lead the way: social media isn’t just about posting content. It’s about creating a story and starting a dialogue. And doing that doesn’t have to be dry and boring. In fact, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the ways you can engage with your fans via social media. In pre-production but want to give people an idea of the mood and vibe of your film? Think about creating a mood board on Pinterest, or sharing a collaged mood board via Facebook and Instagram. Listen to certain music while you’re working? Share a Spotify playlist of those songs. People genuinely appreciate creative touches that help with the anticipation of your film or webseries.

So don’t just use social media…make magic happen with it!

Want someone to help you with your social media magic? Check out our services HERE.

 

Contacting People About Your Film Via E-Mail? Avoid These Mistakes!

Email Mistakes

When it comes to connecting your audience to your film or webseries, social media is fantastic. But combine that with pitching to media and doing outreach to interest groups and influencers via e-mail, and you’ve got a winning combination. There are, however, some things to avoid when pitching; common mistakes I see happening every day, especially when they land in my inbox!

Have I made these mistakes before? Oh yes, absolutely. When I first started out I made many of these mistakes. I’ve always vowed to be honest on the blog!

Here are some mistakes to avoid so your e-mail isn’t instantly relegated to the trash folder, as well as some handy tips to get the most out of your e-mail exchanges:

Not Doing Your Research

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I cannot tell you how many times my inbox is full of people who haven’t done their research about Sprites, and what we do. Their emails contain references to the possibility of me writing a review and ‘sharing with [my] readers’. I’ve seen frustrated journalists on Twitter talking about people who e-mail them with an inappropriate request, like asking them to write about a beauty product when they’re a tech journalist, and so on. I cannot stress how important it is to do your research before contacting someone.

Whether it’s pitching your film for a potential story in a newspaper or contacting a reviewer, check out whether your film is a good ‘fit’ for that particular avenue. For instance, if you’re looking to receive coverage in a regional newspaper, what connections does your film have to that area? What’s ‘newsworthy’ for that particular newspaper that would encourage them to do a feature or interview?

Research also avoids embarrassing faux pas, like contacting someone who is a vegan and animal rights advocate when your film has hunting in it, or reaching out to an organisation without vetting them first and then finding out that they have ideals that don’t align with the message of your film. The advantage of doing thorough research instead of just firing out e-mails haphazardly is that you get to know who is interested in covering what, and who you may potentially be able to contact again for a future project if it aligns with their interests and the interests of their audiences.

Copy and Pasting Messages

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I can always tell when someone has copied and pasted their information, because it will contain things that raise red flags. Sometimes, they’ll mention that they love something I’ve done…but I haven’t done it. Or it’s so generic that there’s not even a greeting at the start!

Personalising your emails takes time- and that doesn’t mean just changing the name of the person you’re sending it to, and the name of their blog/publication/website, etcetera- but it’s worth doing. Make sure you tailor your e-mails to each person, including the tone of your message. If you’re corresponding with a hip influencer, you can afford to be a bit more informal. If you’re reaching out to a journalist, your tone might be a bit more formal. The personal touch really means a lot, but also people can definitely tell if you’re sending out generic copy and paste e-mails. That often says to people that you actually don’t care about their specific publication or organisation, you’re just flinging e-mails out there and hoping something sticks. And speaking of copy and paste, this next no-no is the one that is the most infuriating of all…

Sending Unsolicited Links Without Explanation

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I’ve previously written about the one thing we have to stop doing on social media, and it ties in with this. There are countless times I have opened an email to see a copy and pasted synopsis of a film, with a link. No salutation, not even an ‘ask’ to share or for any other assistance. This habit ties in with the two above to make for an infuriating e-mail experience! People can’t tell from this interaction what you’re looking for. Are you wanting them to share the information via social media? If so, that’s not the right way to go about it. Again, it’s better to personalise your e-mail, and ask for what you want to happen with regards to that link. It doesn’t guarantee that person will comply, but it makes for a much nicer experience (and your e-mail won’t end up in the trash folder).

E-mail is a tool that has been a part of our existence for so long now that I think people have forgotten the art of conversation. E-mail is a conversation, so make sure it’s a good one. And I’m going to play Devil’s advocate here: you might be thinking; “I don’t have time to do that.” It may mean that you spend a bit longer with your e-mail communications, or, if you can’t hire a publicist, allocate the task to someone on your team. The benefits of being mindful about your e-mail communications are numerous, including forging positive ongoing relationships with journalists, having the support of influencers and organisations you can potentially call on again in future, and having your creative endeavours viewed in a tremendously positive light.

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.

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!)

how to put a publicity budget into action

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

low cost no cost film publicity ideas

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.