Getting More Bang for your Publicity Buck

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Sometimes I think independent low-budget (or no budget) filmmaking is a bit like college: you learn a lot, there’s deadlines, stress (and maybe a few tears) and spare money is tight to non-existent. With that being said, publicity for your film or webseries can seem like a bit of a luxury or a ‘nice to have’ optional extra.

Here’s what I think about that. It’s a belief I’ve held since Film Sprites PR first came into being 5 years ago, and I believe in it passionately to this day: no matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ your film or webseries, you deserve publicity, and you can achieve it. When I began my career as a publicist in 2013 (prior to Sprites launching a year later), streaming and self-distribution was in its infancy. Going viral was still very much a viable outcome for a film or webseries. Crowdfunding was red-hot for filmmakers, and filmmakers were seeing it as an option for funding their films.

Things have changed so much since then. With so many streaming services and many filmmakers choosing to self-distribute, there’s plenty of opportunities for your film to be seen and loved, but you can also benefit from additional publicity to help reviews and features to roll in. But as you know, every cent needs to be accounted for when you’re making a film, and if you have a small or non-existent publicity budget, what do you do? Most PR firms charge in the thousands (at Film Sprites PR we work in with your budget, however)…so how can you maximise publicity while not breaking the bank?

I’m going to give you some handy options, including options that are absolutely free. Yes, really! Plus, I’ll give you some other low-cost options to help you get more bang for your publicity buck. At a later date, I’m going to cover the best way for you to work out a potential publicity budget for your indie film, but for now let’s look at some smart options:

FREE OPTIONS:

Cultivating your social media presence

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As mentioned in the last blog post, having a social media presence means you can grow your audience, connect with fans and prep fans and followers for up-coming and future releases. Growing your audience takes time (don’t buy followers!), but it’s something that is extremely worthwhile. Plus, signing up for most social media sites is free…the only thing that’s not free is your internet connection and/or data usage on your smart phone. If you do have a bit of cash to spare, you can think about doing some promoted posts via Instagram or Facebook, but it’s not completely necessary.

Getting indie-loving blogs and websites to publish your press release

There are a few excellent indie-loving blogs and websites that will very happily publish your press release, which means you have added visibility via their sites and social media. For instance, FilmDebate provides a FREE promotion service that is well worth checking out. You can also find genre-specific sites who offer similar.

Connecting with your audience via e-mail marketing

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As I’ve mentioned previously, e-mail marketing via a service like Mailchimp is a great way to connect to your audience. You can provide updates, share news and previews, and can also provide things like digital assets or copy-and-paste Twitter and Facebook post suggestions your subscribers can use on their social media in the run-up to a film’s launch.

Screening your film for interested local groups

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Having public screenings can be expensive when you have to hire a venue, etcetera…but how about having a free screening at meetings of interested local groups? Many interest groups and societies feature guest speakers at meetings, so getting in touch with relevant groups and societies could also be a great option to help amplify the signal. Does your film have an astronomy theme? Get in touch with the local astronomical society. Would it appeal to the local multisport community? Have a chat to a local multisport group to arrange a screening and Q&A if they’re keen. Take your film right to your audience locally and who knows what could happen on a wider scale?

Uploading video content to Facebook

The shifting sands of the Facebook algorithm means content creators have to keep on their toes constantly. At the moment, the algorithm on the Book of Face (which dictates what content is shown to users over other content) favours video content that is uploaded, not just a shared link. So instead of just sharing the link to your trailer, take the time to upload it to your Facebook page. Better yet, uploading means you have options for tags that are relevant to your video, giving your content a better chance of being seen.

INEXPENSIVE OPTIONS:

Promoting a post on social media

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If you have a little bit of money available for publicity and social media marketing purposes and your audience are a demographic who use Facebook and/or Instagram frequently, it’s worth promoting some of your posts. I find promoting posts more effective than paying for advertising from an algorithm and engagement point of view. In one previous instance of promoting a post during a crowdfunding campaign we saw an upswing in donations during the promotional period, and at one point during the promotional period we raised $2,000 in thirty minutes.

If you’re strategic about where and who you want to reach with your promotion, as well as the tags you use and the right image, you can see tangible benefits.

Screenings at art co-ops and local venues

Hiring a cinema for a screening can be expensive…but what about smaller local venues like art co-ops, galleries and other multi-use spaces? Many have inexpensive renting fees, or if you can twist a friendly arm you might be able to wrangle a venue for free.

It’s also worth talking to local campuses about renting spaces for screenings, for instance lecture theatres. Look at all of your options and see which is the most cost-effective.

Website promotions

Some websites (particularly in the horror film genre) offer promoted posts or advertising space on their sites. These can vary in price-range but can also come with additional added extras, like having your posts shared with their (usually extensive) social media following. This is definitely more effective than print advertising, a lot cheaper and you have the added bonus of having your film or webseries connect with the very audience you want.

As you can see, there’s plenty of options available to help you achieve your publicity and digital marketing goals when you’re stretched for cash. Our blog also provides a wealth of hints and tips on publicity and digital marketing for indie filmmakers, so make sure you check it out. Don’t want to do the publicity heavy lifting for your film? Have a chat with us about how we can assist your film. We work in with your budget to ensure you get maximum results and don’t break the bank.

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

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I turn 37 on Friday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And again.

And again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

We’re Having a Spook-tacular Month!

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It’s been a spook-tacular month at Film Sprites PR in more ways than one! There’s lots going on in the office, so I thought I’d share some of the things we’re working on, as well as some client updates!

It’s been a pleasure to work with horror writer/director Oliver Park for the past few years, and his first horror short, Vicious, has received over 1.1M views on YouTube! He’s currently in LA, talking with studios about the possibility of making Vicious a feature film, as well as talking about other projects. His latest horror short, Still, is being released later this year. You can check out the teaser HERE.

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Just some of the press Oliver Park has received- including being in a Buzzfeed article!

And in a similarly spooky vein, Film Sprites PR is assisting H2Ow Productions with PR and digital marketing of Ao-Terror-Oa. The brainchild of producer Hweiling Ow, Ao-Terror-Oa is a horror anthology linked by one unique element- New Zealand culture. Ao-Terror-Oa was funded by NZ On Air and Google, with the shorts being shown on YouTube. In addition to the 6 shorts, there are 2 mini-series being shown on the H2Ow Productions YouTube channel: Hweiling Watches, where producer Hweiling Ow (who doesn’t like watching horror movies) watches horror while being hooked up to a heart monitor, and Body FX Basement of Horror, where the team from Body FX share their techniques. All of these combine to create 6 Weeks of Horror, starting October 27 (Oct 26 Northern Hemisphere time)! For more information, click HERE. Ao-Terror-Oa has already started to receive press attention from outlets like Stuff, Horror Society, Screenz and FilmDebate.

Another Film Sprites PR client, Apple Park Films, recently made their critically acclaimed feature film Little Pieces available to rent/buy via Amazon Video, where it achieved over 800 minutes of viewing time in the first week of release!

Little Pieces Film Poster

Apple Park Films’ latest short film, Emotional Motor Unit, is also coming to Amazon Video very soon. Emotional Motor Unit is a tale set in a dystopian world where emotions are secondary to output. In order to achieve a writing task, Writer (played by Little Pieces‘ Graham Cawte) will find out what it means to be human by interacting with an Emotional Motor Unit robot (played magnificently by Francesca Burgoyne).

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And as we head closer towards the end of 2017, if you’re releasing your film in 2018 it’s a good time to chat with us about publicity and digital marketing. Our services include:

  • Copywriting (IMDb biographies, website copy)
  • Social media marketing (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook)
  • Press kit and press release creation
  • Pitching to media (both traditional and new media)
  • Crowdfunding campaign publicity, promotion and support

Spots fill fast, so get in touch! Don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

And if you’re planning to celebrate Halloween this year- make sure you have a safe and happy time! It’s a good time to enjoy some of those classic horror films, as well as some of the newest releases!

 

Identifying Newsworthy Elements of Your Indie Film

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So, you have an amazing film and you want everyone to see it- of course! And while social media is the most immediate way of connecting with your audience, chances are you’re going to want to secure some reviews, features and interviews as well.

Recently we talked about how to pitch to media to secure coverage for your film via traditional (newspapers, print magazines, television and radio news) and new media (websites, blogs, podcasts). In it, we talked about the fact that in order to secure coverage, your pitch for your film needs to be newsworthy (you can see the criteria we used here). If you do your research with regards to your audience and their demographic, you can very easily use these newsworthiness criteria to assist your chances of gaining exposure for your film. The best way to highlight the newsworthy aspects of your film is via your press release. So how can you find the newsworthy aspects of your film in order to secure media coverage? We’re going to give you examples using the newsworthy criteria mentioned above.

Timing: new, now, fresh: timing is everything. You don’t want to secure coverage for your film’s big advanced screening and Q&A after the fact. If your film was released to VOD six months ago, your chances of securing coverage lessens, especially with regards to gaining reviews in large media outlets. Film critics and reviewers are inundated with screenings every day, so you want to get your request to review in as soon as possible (we give you a good timeline here).

Significance: significance can be a useful newsworthy criteria, particularly if your film has a topic that would affect many audience members. For instance, you have a documentary about an illness that affects a large percentage of the worldwide population, it’s worth citing statistics in your press release.

Also, if there’s something of huge significance about the film or the filmmaking process, that’s definitely worth mentioning: for instance, your film raised the most money of any crowdfunding campaign to date on a crowdfunding platform, your principal photography had something of significance, like the longest recorded principal photography shoot in a certain location (or the shortest), etcetera. If, like me, you’ve just seen Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, it’s worth thinking about his film and filmmaking and then thinking about what sort of significance it had that would make it newsworthy (outside of the fact that it’s a WWII epic, directed by Christopher Nolan and with many prominent actors).

Proximity: Citing proximity is always great if you’re pitching to producers at local and national radio and TV news stations, or editors of local and national newspapers. No matter how big or small a film is, regardless of budget, people love the sparkle of movie-making. If the area your film was shot in has particular significance (again tying into the significance criteria) historically that can be a newsworthy element. Perhaps you’ve made an epic Western in an area that has a rich tradition of goldmining, or a psychological horror in a town where a particularly famous horror auteur was born. It’s definitely worth noting if your film has employed predominantly local crew, as it shows your commitment to that particular area and the skills the people of that area have brought to your film.

Prominence: Does your film have a name actor, or crew members that have been attached to Hollywood blockbusters (like SFX people, producers, scriptwriters etc)? This is what you can highlight to make your film more newsworthy, especially if your name actor has had recent successes, won awards or has a huge fanbase.

Human Interest: As the post about newsworthiness criteria states above, this is the sort of thing you see at the end of broadcasts: the cute, the quirky, the inspirational. So what’s cute, quirky or inspirational about your film? This is also where you can highlight anything funny or unusual that happened on set, especially if you have a name actor who is happy to be quoted about something that happened. For instance, a few years ago we mentioned in our press release of a short film (and also via social media) that the film only had two consecutive days allocated to shooting…during the British summertime. Of course, anyone who knows the particulars of British weather knows that this was asking for a miracle. Thankfully, the weather gods smiled on the crew and they had two consecutively fine days to film. This was the approach we used when pitching to British media, knowing they would appreciate the drama of waiting on two rainless days!

Finding newsworthy elements to pitch your film to media doesn’t have to be hard. Every film has a range of the various elements that can be mixed and matched in your press release in order to maximise exposure. Happy filmmaking!

 

 

How Bloggers and Podcasters Can Assist With Your Film

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Here at Film Sprites PR we are huge advocates of bloggers and podcasters. In the digital age one thing is certain: if you have an interest, there’s a blog or podcast for you. No matter whether you’re an avid hockey fan, a Whovian or love Himalayan cats, there’s content on the Internet that’s sure to be of interest.

If you’re a filmmaker you can probably tell me straight away which mainstream publications you’d want to see coverage about your film to appear in. But it’s worth remembering that film blogs and podcasts are just as valuable in terms of gaining exposure and reaching your audience. Here’s a few reasons why bloggers and podcasters can assist with your film’s exposure:

You’re connecting directly to your audience: not only are there many film blogs/podcasts out there, there are genre-specific ones. What better way to reach your target audience? Whether you’ve got a spine-tingling horror, a heartfelt indie drama or an epic sci-fi feature you can find an audience and cut through the static.

Blogs and podcasts can have more flexible editorial time frames: whereas mainstream outlets can have their editorial calendars booked well in advance, bloggers and podcasters can be more flexible when it comes to posting content. It’s always best to have an interview or feature lined up in advance of a release or crowdfunding campaign regardless of which media outlet you are approaching but blogs and podcasts do have a tendency to accommodate inquiries about features/interviews/reviews at shorter notice.

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There are indie film-loving bloggers and podcasters: there are some incredible blogs/podcasts dedicated solely to the world of independent film and they always welcome new content. Whether you’re promoting your first independent film or your fifty-first, the world of blogs and podcasts has an entire community that will help to champion your film. If they’re passionate enough about your work it can also mean receiving ongoing support from them as well, both on the podcast/blog and via social media. It also means you’re likely to receive cross-promotion on their social media channels when they post about your interview/feature/review.

…because most importantly….

It’s all about relationship building: no matter what, teaming up with podcasts/blogs to promote your film via features/interviews/reviews is helping to build a relationship with your audience. You should never underestimate the power of blogs and podcasts to reach your audience and help it to grow.

Want to know how we can assist you with publicity and digital marketing of your film? Download our services pamphlet HERE.

We’re Getting A Blog Makeover!

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The Film Sprites PR blog is getting a makeover! Nothing drastic, just a few content nips and tucks, as well as brand new updated information to keep you abreast of changes in the social media marketing and PR world.

Many of our most widely read posts will be coming back, so fear not! Check back soon to see what we’ve added.