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.

Why There’s No Such Thing As A Wasted Opportunity

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Many years ago, I trained to be a primary school teacher*. I was fresh out of high school, the world was big and uncertain and I chose to go to Teacher’s College. On the first day in our first class, our lecturer got us to introduce ourselves to one another. There were so many bright, bubbly people who were excited to be undertaking the journey. Some had waited their entire lives to become a teacher.

And…then there was me.

I couldn’t tell you why I wanted to be a teacher. I think partly it was parental pressure, partly trying to suppress my real desire to work in the film industry. So I persisted with this path for 3 years. I did well with the academic work, my teaching placements also went well. I was one teaching placement and a university paper away from graduating when I decided that this really wasn’t for me.

I felt like a complete and utter failure. My parents were supportive of my decision to leave, but I knew they were disappointed as well. In hindsight, it was the right thing to do- schools need teachers who are 100% passionate about what they do and can instill that into their teaching. The classmates I had whose eyes lit up on the first day and had wanted to teach from a very young age were exactly what the education system desperately needed (and subsequently they have gone on to have very successful teaching careers).

But what at first seemed like a complete loss was actually a gift. I may not have gained my teaching degree, but along the way I gained valuable skills which transferred over into everything I did subsequently. Even now, the skills I gained all those years ago are appropriate for the work I do in publicity. There’s not a lot of difference between the research, planning, implementation and review of a lesson plan and the research, planning, implementation and review of a publicity campaign. Teaching taught me how to be adaptable, to manage my time effectively and work with a wide range of people. Better yet, when I did a Bachelor of Arts a few years later I was able to cross-credit some of my teaching courses over into my BA and ended up completing my degree in 2.5 years instead of 3.

I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a wasted opportunity. Even in your bitterest disappointments, you’ll find a diamond in the ashes. You might have to wait a while to find that diamond (because let’s face it- disappointments are awful and you might ruminate for a while), but it’s there. If you’re in the indie film industry, you’ll know that sometimes productions fall through, you might not get the role, or locations that were initially viable at the start of production are taken off the table suddenly. None of this is a waste of time. A production that stalls or doesn’t go through to post is valuable experience. The role you didn’t get gave you the opportunity to audition and put yourself in front of an agent and director and put yourself on their radar for future projects. The location you had your heart set on that was made unavailable may open the way for a better location.

A few years ago I spoke to a filmmaker whose short was crowdfunding on Kickstarter. With Kickstarter, it’s a case of “all or nothing” for funding, and the campaign didn’t look like it was going to reach 100%. The filmmaker was incredibly positive about things. “OK, we’re not going to get the funding. That’s fine,” he said to me, “but having our crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter meant we were able to gain positive awareness around our campaign, so we’ve got a solid grounding for the next steps”.  He subsequently used the data from the campaign to look at what worked, what didn’t and what they could do in the future to ensure they had a successful campaign.

Currently, I am transitioning from working for myself to potentially joining a new PR team and that has meant sending out a lot of applications and getting in touch with agencies. I’m not worried about rejections, because connecting with agencies is another opportunity to network, and at the very least they are aware of me and what I have been doing as a freelancer. I chose to look at this undertaking as being a positive one, no matter what. Eventually, there will be the right position and it may come from somewhere completely unexpected. You can never underestimate the power of networking- there are times when someone will know of another person who is looking for exactly the skillset you possess and can put you in touch.

So if you receive a rejection e-mail, you don’t get a callback or things go kaput on a production- find the gift in it. There’s always some experience or skill you have gained during the process that can be of use later on, you just have to find it.

*= for those of you who are American, primary school is the equivalent of elementary school.

Beyond Screenings: The Other Advantages of Short Films

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At Film Sprites PR over the years we have had the great pleasure of working with a lot of filmmakers who wanted publicity and digital marketing for their short films. As a result, it’s safe to say we’ve developed a huge affinity for short films. There’s something very special about the short film format, and the filmmakers who are able to weave their vision into a shorter time space than a regular film. While it’s tempting to file away a juicy script and wait for the opportunity to turn it into a feature, there are some definite advantages to short films when it comes to cementing your place as a filmmaker. And if you’ve made (or are thinking about making) a short film, it has advantages beyond screenings. Here’s some of the advantages of making short films:

Some very well-known directors gained attention through short films: there’s a great list of well-known directors who gained attention thanks to the short film format, some of whom went on to turn their shorts into feature length films. Whether catching the eye of a well-known producer, or winning awards at a festival like Cannes, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that your short can really make its mark.

Short films can be great proof of concept for a feature film: so you decide that you don’t want to wait to turn that fantastic script into a feature, and so you pour everything into a short version. As mentioned above, some well-known directors ended up turning their shorts into features. A short film can serve as an excellent proof of concept when looking for investors for a feature length version. Whether you’re looking for private investment or via crowdfunding, your short film can show people exactly what your vision is, and what you and your team can do. Your short film can tantalize the audience enough that they are eager for a feature.

It can serve as a great crowdfunding perk: speaking of crowdfunding, your short film can be a great perk for donating to your campaign. You may decide to have it available as a VOD download via streaming to save on posting and packaging, but if you want to provide it as a physical perk via Blu-ray/DVD, be sure to include P+P in the perk range to cover the cost of shipping. It’s also worthwhile signing the physical copies, or having one or all of your actors signing it (especially if you have a well-known actor). Better yet, grab some photographs of the cast signing so you can use these on social media during your crowdfunding campaign.

There are excellent film festival opportunities for short films: the good thing about the digital age is that it has opened up opportunities for indie filmmakers to more easily submit their films to international festivals. And now there are more film festivals than ever, both web-based and location-based. There are also film festivals which cater to different genres and interests, from extreme sports film festivals through to horror and sci-fi festivals. It’s a good chance to connect with the target audience for your film, and have your work (and your name!) etched in their memory. Chances are, if they love it enough they will seek you out on social media to connect with your work and keep up to date with future films.

And most importantly- short films are enjoyable! Alfred Hitchcock once said that: “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” I shudder to think what he would think of modern features that veer towards the 3 hour mark! Short filmmakers are consummate masters at being able to weave a great story into a shorter timeframe. Do you leave the story unresolved at the end? Do you resolve it? The choice is yours. And sometimes the unresolved stories are the most delicious. Does that mean features can’t (and don’t) do the same? Not at all. But somehow, short filmmakers seem to craft their stories satisfyingly with less duration.
So don’t sell yourself short (pun intended) when it comes to your filmmaking. If you haven’t considered doing a short film, it’s definitely worth it. Short films can be incredibly satisfying for both your audience and yourself as a filmmaker.

Publicity Prep in Pre-production and Filming

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I’m currently gearing up to serve as producer on an up-coming independent film. Wearing both a “producer” hat and a “publicist” hat has allowed me to think about filmmaking with a much wider focus (no pun intended).

Recently, I wrote about the optimal times for publicity and digital marketing of independent films (in that post I give filmmakers a handy timeline), but I wanted to discuss getting prepped in pre-production through to filming even further, because these are the key points when you can grow your audience in anticipation of your film’s release. It’s also a great period when you can gather materials that are going to be a huge asset when you submit your film to film festivals, look for a distributor and release your film.

Whether you hire a publicity and digital marketing consultancy for your film or not, it’s vital to have materials available that can be used for press kits, posters, promotional materials, DVD/VOD extras and further social media content. While it’s entirely possible to do publicity and digital marketing of your film solely in post-production and/or release, you have a better chance of succeeding in having people watching your film and your film securing media attention if you have a solid social media presence and materials available that media outlets can use. Investing additional time in pre-production and filming to ensure that you have these materials will save you a lot of time in post-production and release.

So what are the must-have assets for your film?

A stills photographer: the magic of filmmaking isn’t just in the finished film- it’s in the making of the film itself. Think about how many times you’ve seen well-known film websites publishing stills of directors guiding their actors between takes, fight rehearsals or scenes being filmed with known actors. People love to see films in production. It provides the audience with a look into how the film is progressing. I like to think of it as taking the audience on a journey. Great shots can have the audience salivating for the finished film.

A great stills photographer is a huge asset, as they can gauge what would look good as behind-the-scenes shots. They can also capture great candids that can be used on your website or via social media. Do you need a DSLR for these photos? If you have a smart phone you’ve lovingly owned since 2013, I’m going to say no. There are some excellent models of smart phone out there that have fantastic quality camera functions (like the Huawei P10), but it’s better to stick with a good-quality DSLR as you have better control over things like zoom quality, shutter speed, solar filter for sunny conditions, etc. If you have an experienced stills photographer who is dedicated to photography they will have their own go-to kit that is perfect for the job. You might also want to think about having your set photographer taking shots during table reads and rehearsals as well.

So once you’ve gathered a great collection of stills, what can you use them for? These can be included on your website, as part of your Electronic Press Kit (EPK), and via social media. Regardless of whether you are filming a micro-budget or a moderately-budgeted indie, I highly recommend you get likeness approval of these shots from your actors. You can read more about this in the book Success in Film. It’s something that not only protects you legally, but it also protects the image of your actors, regardless of whether they are a name actor or just starting out. You want what is best for your film and it’s also important to make sure your actors put their best foot forward image-wise as well.

Social media accounts: the best time to set up social media accounts for your film is in pre-production, especially if you are planning on crowdfunding for pre-production funds. If you’re not sure where to start with social media, check out the post about frequently asked social media questions from filmmakers. Getting your team on board with their social media separate from the film’s official accounts is good, too. Encourage your cast and crew to re-post content from the official account, as well as posting their own informal updates. When it comes to informal updates, it’s a good idea to discuss some guidelines with your team so that there are no overt spoilers posted, especially if there’s an element in your film you want to keep a complete surprise.

An official website: along with your social media accounts, it’s a good idea to set up your website early. Your website is like the hub of a wheel: it’s at the centre and connected to your social media accounts. Together, they move awareness of your film forward (I wanted to go with the metaphor of an onion with layers, but then you’d probably just think of Donkey in the first Shrek movie. You’re thinking about him now, aren’t you?).  The beauty of your website is that it serves as a place that is as useful for your audience as it is for media outlets looking to write features and/or reviews. Here, you can link to your social media accounts, keep a production blog, and have a page dedicated to posting features and reviews of your film. I strongly recommend having a press page that includes downloadable PDF versions of your press kit, as well as any official posters, one-sheets, and stills for media outlets to use. The advantage of this is that when you pitch to media for reviews of your film or features/interviews, you can send the link to your press page as opposed to attaching a PDF file. It means you are less likely to have your e-mail stuck in the spam filter, and having everything available on one convenient page makes things a lot easier for bloggers and journalists. I do suggest you shrink your PDFs and JPG images for your website to ensure faster loading of pages.

The following is something that falls into the “would be nice” category:

Video footage: it’s always good to get some behind-the-scenes video footage that can be used on your website, or via social media. You can also use it on your press page, especially if you are looking to generate publicity via your local and/or national TV news outlets. It can also be used as an embedded video for a feature on a news website, which may prove to be more enticing than stills. The advantage of having video footage is that you can also have this available as ‘extras’ for your DVD/VOD release.

Interviews with the cast are also a good idea. For a comedy you could have the cast members interviewing themselves and asking each other goofy questions. For a more serious film, getting the actors to talk about their character and the filmmaker talking about their motivation and inspiration behind the film can be great. If you want to do this, make sure you allocate dedicated time during filming to do this. One thing you don’t want to do is take time away from principal photography when you haven’t planned for it.

As a filmmaker, do you have to be on camera, talking about your film? No. Some filmmakers are keen to talk about their motivations, some prefer not because they find interviewing exhausting. It’s entirely up to you. Don’t force yourself to hop on camera if you don’t want to.

Having these assets available to you in pre-production and filming means that you have a wealth of content available to not only generate buzz around your film prior to release, but it also means you’re not scrambling around in post trying to find things you can use for publicity and digital marketing.

“Be A Duck”: Losing Your Mind and Following Your Heart

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As I prepare for the next exciting part of my journey, I have been thinking back about the past five years of this adventure. While Film Sprites PR is almost 3 years old, my journey in film actually began in 2012 after the Christchurch earthquakes when a flash of inspiration during a dark time basically sealed my fate (you can hear that story HERE). So there was 2 years of networking and training, working almost every day until midnight with very few weekend breaks just to get to the point where Film Sprites PR came into being. I had wanted to work for a studio or distributor in the UK (my maternal family is British and Australian), but wasn’t finding any opportunities….so I made my own. April 17, 2014 I took to Twitter and asked my filmmaking contacts if anyone needed PR and digital marketing assistance for their film and the rest is history. By the end of that weekend I had 3 clients, by the end of the week it was 6 and by the end of the month it was 12. Not bad, considering I had no brand at the time, no official website, no seed money OR a business plan (I don’t recommend doing that, by the way)!

But now, it’s time for me to move on. As much as I have loved what we do here at Film Sprites PR, I’m ready to start moving further towards my original dream and goal and I can’t do that alone. So it’s going to take more training, more networking and more heart than ever before. Here’s some of the lessons I’ve learned in the past 5 years:

“Be A Duck”: It’s a strange little mantra, I’ll admit. When I was first starting out even though I believed in my dream and in my abilities, there was still a little bit of doubt. I would be exhilarated by a new challenge, but inside I was shaking like a chihuahua. So I used a mantra to help me: be a duck. Think about the way a duck swims on a pond: they look so graceful, gliding across the surface with ease like a figure skater swirling around a rink. But under the surface, those little orange legs are paddling like hell. I’d heard the phrase “be a duck” and the accompanying explanation before, and it seemed to fit. It was also ridiculous enough to snap me out of whatever nervousness I was feeling at the time.

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Lose Your (Egoic) Mind: Yes, you have to lose your mind a little in order to accomplish things you’d never thought possible…but I mean your egoic mind. And not the Freudian definition of ‘ego’. The definition of ‘ego’ I work with is a bit less psychology and a bit more ‘woo woo’ and I’m not afraid to say that! There’s a great explanation of the differences between your ego and your soul over at the Notes on Bliss blog. If you want to achieve the things your heart truly yearns for, you have to silence that ego and start following your heart and listening to the still voice inside of you. If you have a huge goal to achieve, there’s lots of people who are willing to put their two cents in, especially if to them it seems unbelievable and unattainable. You have to lovingly nod and smile and discard other people’s opinions- you know what you’re capable of.

And yes, it does sound absolutely bonkers, but it works. I took a massive risk by resigning from a permanent position in order to take up temping so that I could fit in everything I needed to while building up Film Sprites PR. It was a risk that has paid off. I’m not suggesting you do the same, but I do suggest trying to silence the voices of your ego that tell you it’s impossible to create a life you love and achieve the things you want to achieve. Be your spirit’s BFF, because if you’re on a huge adventure you’re going to need all the self-support you can get.

Everything is An Exchange: in 2015, I took on my first assistant for Film Sprites PR. My friend Gabe had offered to help out because he believed in what I was doing and also wanted further digital marketing experience. Shortly after we were joined by Hannah, who is now my VA, and we started to receive requests from people looking to work for Sprites. I ended up taking them on on a freelance basis. Knowing how difficult it was to get my ‘foot in the door’ and the fact that I had to make my own opportunities, the first thing I would ask anyone who wanted to be a part of Sprites was: “what are your own career goals?” The reason for this was because I didn’t want them to just ‘do work’- I wanted them to have experiences that allowed them to showcase their abilities and help them to further their career goals. Just the other day a freelancer got in touch because he was applying for a full-time permanent PR and digital marketing position and I very proudly wrote a letter of recommendation for him. Everything is an exchange, whether it’s a client paying you in return for your services or someone wanting to work for you. The same is true of mentoring– if you reach out to someone, looking for mentoring and/or advice…what value can you bring to the table? How can you make their situation a bit easier?

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Get To Know Your Intuition: a lot of people don’t rate intuition as a business skill, but being able to trust your inherent intuition will save you a lot of grief and mourning of bad decisions later on. There have been times when my intuition has been prodding me, telling me that something was amiss or I should say ‘no’. When I hadn’t listened, I regretted it almost immediately. For instance, a year before I founded Film Sprites PR I missed out on one of the biggest opportunities ever because I ignored my intuition. My partner and I were due up in Wellington to visit family, but the day of our flight it started snowing…and snowing hard. I kept frantically checking weather reports and updates from the airport. At about 10:00am as I was monitoring one of the reports, I heard this quiet little voice inside saying: “reschedule your flight. Schedule it for 2 weeks from now”. But I was being stubborn and wanted to fly up that afternoon.

We managed to fly up, and I was standing in a certain place on the Sunday of that weekend, wistfully contemplating the future and my dreams and aimlessly hoping something would happen, that I would be granted a great opportunity. Imagine my shock when that opportunity popped up…in the same place I had been standing 2 weeks previous to the day. I still bemoan that.

That being said: stop wishing and start doing!: I do believe in the Law of Attraction to an extent, but you can just wish for something to happen. You have to meet your goal halfway. Dreams are great, but they’re just dreams if you don’t act on them. In my case, I made my own opportunities with Film Sprites PR and that is serving as a living, breathing resume for the next part of my journey. When there wasn’t funding to outsource things like web design and CEO, I learned how to do it. Dreams are not fluffy little marshmallows, they’re more like cogs in a machine that get stuck on occasion, needing you to roll up your sleeves and get to work. The better the work you do, the less they get stuck and the well-oiled machine of your dreams begins to really pay off.

 

 

How Filmmakers Can Use Social Media As A Storytelling Vehicle

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Our world is built on stories. Everyone has one! And as a filmmaker you know the power of stories because you weave powerful stories into visual magic with your films. This gives you something very special to work with when it comes to social media marketing of your film. Too often I see people relying on the kinds of annoying social media tactics I wrote about earlier, when they could be utilizing the potential of social media to tell a story. Yes, even Twitter with its character limit!

As natural creatives and storytellers filmmakers are well-placed to use the power of storytelling to connect with the audience. Here’s a few ideas of how to use the power of storytelling via social media:

The story behind the story: people love behind-the-scenes information. By sharing things like on-set photographs, storyboard drawings, images of the script (yes, really!) etcetera you are allowing people their own ‘all access pass’ to your filmmaking. Film fans genuinely want to know about the filmmaking process as much as they want to know about your completed film. Doing crowdfunding for your film? If you have a perk where the actors/director etc are going to sign merchandise of any kind, be sure to capture them on camera signing the merchandise. You can use these images on the crowdfunding campaign page, in updates and/or on social media when you’re highlight that particular perk level. Photographs and/or video footage of table reads are also invaluable- look at how popular table read and first day of filming photographs tend to be on social media for large blockbusters or cult TV series.

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Cast and crew profiles: You might want to take some time to create posts highlighting particular cast and crew and talking about their achievements. This is especially useful if you have name actors. The great thing about this is that if you have name actors with large fan bases it can help amplify the signal even further with re-sharing of content via fans. You can be as creative as you like with this element. Perhaps your DOP has a really funny anecdote about shooting that you can use in a short video, or perhaps one of your actors has a really unusual skill on their resume you can talk about, or showcase in stills or a video.

Everyone’s got an “origin story”: if you’ve followed Film Sprites PR for a while you’ll know that I’m bonkers about superheroes, especially from the Marvelverse. And just like the likes of Captain America or Iron Man, you’ve got an “origin story” when it comes to your filmmaking. Your “origin story” is unique because it’s yours alone. Over the years I’ve heard wonderful stories from filmmakers about how they got into film. Take, for instance, British filmmaker Simon Cox, the brains behind sci-fi film Kaleidoscope Man: his love of Star Wars led to a lifelong love of sci-fi and a desire to craft his own unique sci-fi film that was exciting enough to take on blockbuster films.  People want to know what led you to filmmaking, so share away!

There’s so many avenues you can go down when it comes to using storytelling to promote your film, and it can be a lot of fun as well and serve as a great way to document your filmmaking journey and share it with others.

Want to know how we can assist your film with publicity and digital marketing? Click HERE to find out more.

Cinematic Life Lessons: Rocky

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If you’re passionate about film, you’ll know the power it has to inspire. Film Sprites PR was founded thanks to a flash of cinematic inspiration in the wake of a tragedy, so we know how powerful it is too! We wouldn’t exist without filmmakers and their films.

In addition to bringing you PR and digital marketing hints and tips, we’re going to be sharing a semi-regular feature that examines classic films and the life lessons you can glean from them. Whether you’re a filmmaker, an entrepreneur or a film fan, we’re sure there’s something to inspire you.

We’ll say this in advance to save frustration: SPOILER ALERT! Yes, there will be spoilers. You have been warned. Today we’re examining the Oscar-winning underdog film Rocky.

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The story of the filming of Rocky is an underdog story in and of itself (check out the trivia tidbits on IMDb and you’ll see what I mean). Given the success of the finished film, that’s enough to inspire anyone in their endeavours! Here’s a few lessons you can glean from Rocky, no matter what your ambitions may be:

We all start somewhere: Everyone remembers the iconic scene where Rocky Balboa sprints through Philly and up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum before raising his fists in triumph. But remember the first scene of him attempting to do the same thing? By the time he gets to the top step he’s winded and crouched over. At this point in his training, Rocky’s got the strength (he’s KOed a few guys in his career)…but he doesn’t have the stamina. And that’s exactly what he needs to take on Apollo Creed. Like Rocky himself says to Adrian the night before the fight: “It really don’t matter if this guy opens my head, either. ‘Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.”

So during that first morning of training, Rocky could’ve got to those steps, been hunched over, winded and exhausted and gone: “this is not worth it. I can’t be bothered.” But he didn’t. He kept training. Every single one of us, regardless of who we are and what we’re attempting to do, has to start somewhere. We don’t just pop out of holes in the ground, fully formed as a successful filmmaker/entrepreneur/sportsperson, etc. Here at Film Sprites PR what looked like an overnight success when we first opened in 2014 was just the half of it. Before that time there had been 2 years of training, networking and other things happening behind the scenes before anything could move forward.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re ‘at’ on your path- just start.

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People may underestimate you: people have a tendency to underestimate others, especially if you’re not hefting around a massive amount of awards and/or accolades. But you know your inherent worth, your talent and your value to others. Look at Rocky- he loses his locker at the gym to a younger guy, and even when he’s on the news, brutally pounding on beef carcasses in the frozen meat locker Apollo Creed can’t be bothered watching because he doesn’t consider him a threat. If he had considered him a threat and had watched, he might have been able to avoid the broken ribs he would sustain in the fight; not to mention the wound to his rep because he didn’t KO Rocky like he had with so many other opponents. Rocky was able to take the stones that people threw at him and build a fortress. He trained as if he wasn’t an underdog and he surprised the heck out of people.

It doesn’t matter what people think of you- it’s all about your own belief in your capabilities. If you’re on board with your belief, your talent and worth shines through and that’s when you get people to realise that you’re a champion. Like Mark Twain said: “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

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Value the people who were there for you from day one: remember when it was announced that Rocky would be taking on Apollo Creed, meaning massive exposure and a huge payday for him? All of a sudden, people came out of the woodwork to help him when they wouldn’t before. Adrian’s sleazy brother Paulie is immediately looking for ways to capitalize on Rocky’s “fame”. And then there’s Mickey, who unceremoniously threw Rocky’s things out on “skid row” after 6 years, but then comes to Rocky’s apartment, simpering and showing him faded photographs and newspaper cut-outs of his own glory days. Even though Rocky would take on Mickey as his trainer and cut Paulie some slack with sponsorship on his robe, it shows that there are people who will turn up when they sniff out an opportunity. In fact, they’re probably among the people who underestimated you!

That’s why regardless of your dreams, goals and ambitions you need a rock-solid support team from day one. Fill it with people who know your ability, see your future potential and love you for who you are (and not who you know or what you can get them). Have people in your life who remain separate from your career ambitions, like family. Let’s face it- family doesn’t always understand what you’re doing, but if they’re supportive of you as a whole they’re there whether you are up or down. Seek mentors in your field. Find like-minded friends. Stay true to who you are and don’t be taken in by the false flattery of people who only show support when they see you “winning”.

Have visual reminders of your goals: now, you don’t need to have a vision board of sorts (although you could if you like that process- it’s entirely up to you!), but having some visual reminders of your goals around you serves as a touchstone for when your energy and determination may be flagging. Rocky’s got his wall of reminders too: a poster of Rocky Marciano, a magazine cover with himself on it, etc. Here’s a true story: an acquaintance of mine is married to a successful author who has penned many books (and has now had his book adapted into a film). A long time ago to cheer her husband up, my acquaintance got a special keyring made up for her husband that had the name of his now successful book etched onto it with the words: “New York Times #1 Bestseller” underneath. And yes, he achieved that goal.

Now go forth and be the champion you are.