Film Sprites PR At Big Screen Symposium 2017

Film Sprites PR at Big Screen Symposium 17

On the weekend of September 30 and October 1st, people from the entire spectrum of the film industry in New Zealand converged on Auckland to take part in Big Screen Symposium 2017. It was Film Sprites PR‘s first year at the Symposium, and due to the fact that we’ve worked mostly with international films thus far, it felt like a bit of a homecoming. For two wonderful days we were treated to a line-up which included speakers from various threads of the industry, including directors, producers, a casting agent, and writers. There was also plenty of time to network and catch up with old friends (as well as make some new ones).

The theme of Big Screen Symposium 17 was Authenticity and Pretence, a theme which is so pertinent in the digital age. As Big Screen Symposium Director Esther Cahill-Chiaroni notes in her introductory letter which accompanied the schedule: “[i]n an age of selfies and fake news, what is the role of the storyteller and how is it that sometimes ‘making shit up’ enables us to get closer to the truth?” Thanks to the wealth of information given via talks, masterclasses and the keynote address, I know we all came away with our own unique answer for that question.

Participants were spoiled for choice when it came to selecting which sessions to attend, because there were so many tempting choices and so many opportunities to learn even more! In particular, I thoroughly enjoyed the masterclass with writer/director David Michôd. I personally consider his first feature, Animal Kingdom, to be one of the finest Australian films of the 21st century, so to hear about the process behind this film (and his latest, War Machine, now on Netflix) was refreshing. I can definitely say his road to the completion of Animal Kingdom is the definition of “authenticity”, especially when it came to the remarkable performances of his cast, including Ben Mendelsohn and Jacki Weaver.

Equally engaging was the Casting Matters session with casting director Kerry Barden of Barden Schnee Casting. Kerry’s credits include American Psycho, Spotlight, August: Osage County and Winter’s Bone (and that’s a fraction of his credits!). It was interesting to discover the role of a casting director, the interaction between casting directors and the film’s director and listen to Kerry’s anecdotes about working in the film industry.

From the producing side of things, it was a delight to hear from Kylie du Fresne of Goalpost Pictures Australia (whose producing credits include the smash hit The Sapphires and popular TV series Cleverman), and Midge Sandford (whose first project as Sanford/Pillsbury Productions with her producing partner Sarah Pillsbury was Desperately Seeking Susan). One of the really interesting things that came out of both sessions from both speakers was the concept of having a producing partner, and how beneficial that can be from a producing point of view.

As well as publicity and digital marketing, distribution is one of my great areas of interest in the film industry, so it was a real treat to hear from Peter Broderick, distribution expert, leading the charge in the “New World of Distribution”. His knowledge of distribution is so pertinent, I encourage you to go to his website and make sure you sign up to his mailing list. Peter was knowledgeable, but also incredibly approachable and engaging (and let’s face it- I’m always going to like someone who has a giraffe on their business card and penguins on their website!).

I would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention NZFC CEO Dave Gibson’s final address in this current position, where he announced additions to NZFC’s gender policy, which you can read here. It’s a step in the right direction to not only encourage women to participate in the film industry, but to continue to support women currently working in the industry as well.

If you want to see the entire line-up of speakers who attended Big Screen 17, you can look on the website. A massive thank-you to everyone involved in the weekend, from the Big Screen Symposium team through to the speakers, sponsors and everyone working behind the scenes to make things run smoothly. I look forward to attending next year.

The One Thing We Need to STOP Doing on Social Media

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Earlier this week I logged into my e-mail to see a message from an acquaintance. We’d been connected via Facebook. Upon opening the message, all I see is a banner for his film. There’s no salutation, no explanation…just the banner. Curious, I emailed him back to ask why he had sent it to me.

“Well, I know you’re interested in social media so I e-mailed it to  you for your awareness”.

Awareness achieved…albeit negatively. Perhaps if he had told me more about the film and what he wanted to achieve by sending the picture, I might have been more receptive.

The one thing we need to STOP doing on social media is treating people like receptacles for links.

 

Regardless of whether it’s messaging your IMDb link to someone without context, or using a third-party provider to send an auto DM to your followers when they follow you, we need to get back to having the ‘social’ in ‘social media’. Recently on the blog I mentioned that we need to work smarter, not harder when it comes to social media- especially when you’re trying to gain awareness for your film. No matter what industry you are in, forging strong connections with people in your network is key. Think I’m wrong? Watch Joe Wilson’s video on Film Courage about actors spamming people on Twitter (note: contains swearing).

Imagine you’re at a conference and there’s a networking cocktail hour. People are milling about, catching up and talking about the day’s events. And then there’s you- you have a billion sheets of paper that only have the link to your film’s crowdfunding campaign on them. Instead of organically networking and getting to know people, you throw the paper up in the air and hope that as it falls, people take notice. That’s what social media can feel like at times, instead of being a conversation. One of the advantages that independent and micro-budget filmmakers have is that they have the ability to make the most of social media. Big blockbusters have PR departments, directors may have their own social media accounts but their engagement can be few and far between, depending on scheduling and whether or not they have someone else managing their personal social media feeds or not. With indies and micro-budgets, most of the time it’s you on the other end of the conversation. So instead of thrusting links upon people…engage with your followers. After all, one of the most important parameters of digital marketing is engagement. You can have all the followers you could possibly want, but if engagement levels are low, it’s not good. That’s how you can tell if someone has bought social media followers: the engagement levels don’t correlate with follower numbers.

Additionally, if you are approaching someone to assist you in any way, be it via e-mail or a social media message, approach them as if you were to approach anyone you’d like assistance from outside of social media. Sending a picture with the hopes it gets shared (and sans message) doesn’t cut it. It just doesn’t. Does that mean I’m not guilty of these social media sins? Not at all! I put my hand on my heart and say that as I was learning and growing, I committed some pretty gnarly social media and publicity sins. Everything is a learning process.

Another way of gaining awareness around your project is to help other people out. Take competition out of the equation, especially if you are an indie filmmaker. You’re not scrambling for those box office dollars (not yet, anyway!). If someone is looking for equipment to hire for a weekend shoot, share their info or point them in the right direction. If you know two people who could benefit from meeting one another and networking, introduce them. Being a connector is a great way of not only assisting others with their goals, it’s great karma. Plus, there will come a time when someone thinks of you when it comes to an opportunity, and will gladly connect you to the right person.

And yes, I’m counting myself as a recipient of this blog post, and as needing this message too. At times, I have been guilty of treating people like link receptacles as well. It’s all part of the human experience. So, from now on, let’s make even more of a concerted effort to really connect with the people who have chosen to follow/like us online. Deal? Deal.

 

Publicity Prep From Post-Production to Release

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Recently, we took you through a handy timeline for publicity and social media of your film at the various stages of production. We then broke it down even further to talk about the pivotal preparation needed from pre-production through to filming in order to put your best foot forward further down the track. Now, it’s time to give you some ideas about how to make the most of publicity and social media from post-production through to release.

In the post-production period, many films opt to crowdfund for post-production funds to finish the film, and this in itself can prove to be another opportunity to grow your social media audience and media exposure whilst securing your funds. If you’ve prepped thoroughly during pre-production through filming, chances are you have a wealth of materials available that you can use to let people know about the film, both on your crowdfunding page and via social media and regular media. People don’t like being bombarded with constant links to crowdfunding campaigns on social media, so if you can keep the consistent tone you have developed on your social media platforms from day one, you don’t run the risk of having people ‘switch off’ or unfollow. Yes, you can direct people to your crowdfunding campaign, but it doesn’t have to be done in a ‘salesy’ way.

When it comes to blogs, thankfully there are independent film blogs out there that often have sections dedicated to crowdfunding projects, and it’s a good idea to seek them out during the campaign. We’ve mentioned before that IndieWire has a special section called Project of the Day which is great exposure for your film.

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If you’re not crowdfunding for post-production funds in post-production, it’s a good time to keep your social media audience updated, especially if you have chosen to submit to festivals prior to releasing your film to a general audience. Make sure you schedule in any film festivals your film has been accepted to, and keep people up to date on social media and via your website. You can have a page on your website which links to your festival appearances to make it even easier for people to know when and where they can see your film and book tickets. If you have the budget and ability to travel to festivals, it’s worth asking the festival co-ordinators if you can distribute a one-sheet of the film to people who are seeing your film. That way they have something tangible they can take with them and hopefully talk about on social media.

During the pre-release phase, it’s a good time to reach out to reviewers. That way if they love your film it can provide you with quotes that can be put on future marketing materials and your website. I suggest asking permission to use quotes from the review prior to doing so- this is usually not a problem, but it’s better to be safe than sorry and shows that you value their writing. Let’s face it- there are some absolutely incredible reviewers out there and they do an incredible job so you want to make sure they’re happy.

Pre-release is also a good time to start pitching to media outlets for interviews and/or features. Why pre-release as opposed to release with an indie film? Editorial calendars are very tightly packed and booked far in advance, with things like blockbuster films taking prominence. Be aware of when large film festivals are taking place during the year as well, as this will also dictate the media calendar. I suggest approaching large media outlets three months from your film’s release, that way if a journalist’s interest is piqued by your film there is plenty of wiggle room to organise an interview/feature. When it comes to TV and newspaper newsrooms, it’s worth noting times when staffing is affected by holidays, as they may be working on a skeleton staffing schedule (especially over the Christmas period, more so if it’s in the Southern Hemisphere where it’s summer in December) . It’s definitely worth getting involved with regional news outlets and community newspapers, especially if you’ve filmed in a particular region. Quite often here in NZ it hits the news when foreign film crews are in the country (for instance, the latest instalment in the Mission: Impossible franchise were on location in NZ recently), but even if you’re from the same country/state/region, having a film crew filming in the area can be of great interest.

When it comes to your film’s release, it’s all systems go! By this stage you hopefully have reviews that you can share with your social media followers, interviews or features, and hopefully some festival laurels as well. You can still continue pitching for reviews and features at this stage, but this is best reserved for film blogs and podcasts as they can be more flexible than large media outlets when it comes to being able to fit a review or feature into their editorial schedule.

Don’t forget local groups and organisations, especially if you have a film that is suitable for a particular group, interest or demographic. Got a film with an astronomy theme? See if you can have information about the film posted in the newsletters of local and national astronomical societies. If you haven’t secured a distributor and you are self-distributing, think about having small exclusive screenings in places that are relevant to your film. Let’s go with the astronomy theme again for a moment: you arrange with the local astronomical society to have an exclusive screening and Q&A with the director at the local planetarium or society headquarters (make sure you have someone on standby to post on social media, e.g. live tweet the Q&A, post pictures on Instagram etc!). Have one-sheets on hand for the viewers to take with them, and if you have physical DVD/Blu-ray copies of the film you could get your director and/or cast to sign the covers and then have a giveaway during the event. Or perhaps your film is a documentary about an aspect of the fair trade coffee industry. Contact a local fair trade coffee company and ask if they will sponsor a screening and Q&A with free samples of their coffee, or a coffee tasting event. With these sorts of events it’s definitely worthwhile sending out a number of invitations to local media, reviewers and social media influencers so they can not only talk about the film but talk about the event as well.

And don’t forget- people love freebies! It’s worth making up special PR packages for social media influencers or to be given away as prizes via film websites and blogs. A copy of the film, a unique postcard, a t-shirt with a catchy phrase that displays the release date of your film- the options are as endless as your imagination.

Publicity and social media for your film doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be creative, energizing and a lot of fun, but you do need to put in the groundwork to maximise your success. Good luck!

“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.

 

 

When To Generate Publicity and Social Media Coverage For Your Indie Film

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Recently on the blog I wrote about whether or not independent films really needed publicity. There’s still a perception that publicity for independent films is nice to have, but isn’t essential. That as may be, if you’re looking to gain significant coverage of your film and build your audience then it’s completely doable- especially as I’m about to give you a good timeline of when and how to generate publicity and social media coverage for your film even if you don’t have your own publicist on board.

Pre-production and production: This is a great time to build your audience prior to release. Now, it’s not so much a Field of Dreams scenario where “if you build it, they will come.” It means forging a genuine connection with your audience. The best way to do that is via social media. The advantage of building your audience in pre-production and production is that the audience gets to take the journey with you. They feel included and will champion what you are doing because you have taken the time to say: “this is what we’re doing right now, wait until you see the finished product!”

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And while you’re in this particular phase of production, it’s an ideal time to gather up visual and other media for use later on: on-set stills, behind-the-scenes informal snaps, interviews with cast and crew, etc. All of these can be exceptionally useful for your social media, for press kits and so on. If you’re thinking about crowdfunding for post-production funds, think about getting cast members to sign items and while you’re at it, photograph them signing the items so you can (again!) use that on social media and during the crowdfunding campaign.

Make sure you have a press release created at the very least, or better yet create a press kit. Be sure to have this in PDF form, and compress the PDF in order to make it smaller in size so it is easier to download and quicker to open. Have this available on your website under a ‘media information’ tab, along with details on who to contact for further press inquiries.

Post-production: here’s where things can ramp up with publicity and social media marketing, and there are many different avenues to look at. If you’re doing post-production crowdfunding for finishing funds, there are many independent filmmaking blogs and podcasts that have entire sections dedicated to films that are in the crowdfunding phase. IndieWire’s Project of the Day is a great way to secure exposure for your film and connect with indie film lovers across the globe.

If you’re submitting to film festivals, you’re going to want to keep your audience updated with all the happenings (including any festival wins- go you!) and that’s best done via social media. Make sure you share any press coverage you receive on all of your social media channels and have a link to coverage on your official website.

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Pre-release: keep that social media presence up! By now you’ll be in the swing of things, so congratulations. Pre-release is a good time to seek out reviewers for your film. Bear in mind there are reviewers who will only review when the film has been publicly released, and that’s fine- you can get in contact with those reviewers when the film is available to the public. Pre-release reviews are useful for building up anticipation of the film and also serve to provide some reviewer quotes that are handy for branding.

Pre-release is also a great time to reach out for features and/or interviews. Media editorial calendars (whether it’s mainstream outlets or indie media) tend to fill in advance extremely fast and make scheduled events a priority. So, for instance, trying to get last-minute press during an international film festival season is not the best move. Again, this is where having a publicist on board can be extremely helpful- they know editorial time frames and events that may impact on the ability to secure coverage.

Release: congratulations! Is that a hefty number of film festival laurels I see on the cover of your blu-ray? The reviewer quotes are a deft touch, too. Hopefully your calendar is booked with interviews and the reviews are glowing. This is another optimal time to promote your film via social media. Got fan art coming in? Share it via your social media networks (yes- it does happen!). Re-share glowing fan reviews and comments. Continue keeping up that connection and keeping the fans up to date with all the news. Make sure you don’t let your social media channels go “dead”, especially if you are planning a new film or working on a new collaboration with someone.

Stand back and admire your awesomeness.

The Future of Film Sprites PR

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In Christchurch today we’ve had the first particularly cold day this year, signalling a head towards autumn. Autumn weather always makes me think about when I founded Film Sprites PR in 2014.

This year Sprites is turning 3 years old on April 17 but it feels like we’ve been operating for much longer, possibly because of the fact that prior to starting Sprites I had been networking and studying for my PR certification since 2012. It was in 2012 that my dream of working in the film industry suddenly sparked into life after the devastating effects of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. So this has been a long journey!

Unfortunately, my beloved grandfather passed away in February. As so often happens with the passing of loved ones, I began to re-evaluate all of the facets of my life. One of the things I had to question was where I was going with Film Sprites PR.

Some of you will know that Film Sprites PR started as a living, breathing learning experience and resume for me. As a result, we’ve been able to assist many independent filmmakers with their films, from providing digital marketing through to obtaining media placements and assisting with crowdfunding campaigns. In the space of just under 3 years I went from working solo to having an assistant and a team of freelancers to call on.

I’ve learned and grown so much from everything- I have even learned things I never thought possible, like SEO, website design and graphic design. But now it’s time to spread my wings and pursue new adventures.

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So what does this mean for Film Sprites PR? We’ll still be operating, but taking on fewer clients. This is in order for me to continue my own personal development, as well as doing more networking, etcetera. Eventually I would like to pass the Film Sprites PR business and brand on to someone who is just as passionate about being of service to the film community as I am so that the business and community I have built up can live on and grow.

Fear not- we’re still here….but there are new things to discover and new horizons to explore as well.

Facebook Live: Nab These Ideas For Promoting Your Indie Film

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Social media has come a long way in such a short space of time, and Facebook is constantly changing to keep up with the times. One of its newer features is the ability for anyone to live stream content via Facebook Live. Last year Facebook began to roll this new feature out to public figures, before extending this to verified accounts, and now it’s available to anyone.

So what does this mean when it comes to promoting your film, and how can you capitalize on this feature?

This live option gives you another exciting, real-time way of bringing your audience into your world. It’s a great option if you want to bring more people to your Facebook page and it can also be exceptionally useful for crowdfunding campaigns. It means you can connect with your audience in a really intimate and authentic way.

I’m going to give you some ideas for using Facebook Live when promoting your film. If you use them, let me know what your experience was like!

During a crowdfunding campaign:

  • Go live 30 minutes before the campaign starts so you can answer questions about the campaign and the film and count down the time to the start of the campaign.
  • Add an incentive during the campaign- when your campaign reaches milestones (first 1K etc) have a Q&A with the actors and/or directors.

During production:

  • A tour of a set or shooting location, introducing various members of the production.
  • A sit-down Q&A with director, producer and/or actors.

Post-production:

  • Live-stream from your film’s premiere, with cast, crew and attendees walking the red carpet. Nab some of the cast and crew for short interviews.
  • Streaming of an in-house Q&A live prior to a screening.

So there you have it- a few quick ideas to get your creative juices flowing when it comes to using Facebook Live as another way to promote your film and build your audience.

At Film Sprites PR we provide publicity and digital marketing to films globally. Check out what we have to offer HERE.