In the past two years, Julia has worked with Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan, Anna Friel, Tamsin Egerton and Imogen Poots on “The Look of Love”; with Paul Haggis, Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, James Franco and Adrien Brody on “Third Person” and with Roland Joffe and Josh Hartnett on “Singularity”. She has talent handled Schwarzenegger, Guy Pearce, Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey and toured with Denzel Washington, Anne Hathaway and Josh Trank.
Here, Julia shares her PR tips for you to apply to your filmmaking career, whether you’re making a short or a feature.
ABOUT THE FILM PR
The film PR is the fixer, the go-between, the conduit. I’m normally waiting in the wings after ushering an actor, director or producer into the limelight. The PR’s role is to bring attention to and raise the profile of the project or client. The film PR introduces filmmakers into networks of contacts: press, distributors, sales agents, festivals, film executives, other filmmakers and we also protect the acting and key filmmaking talent in a role we call “talent handling”. I’ve worked on big budget studio pictures to micro budget indies, with Hollywood legends to first-timers and rising stars, across the world from Thailand to India, from Cannes to Deptford. The wisest piece of advice I can give you as filmmakers is be nice to people, practice good PR and treat people with honey rather than vinegar.
PR IN THE FILM INDUSTRY
Wendy Mitchell, an amazingly talented and astute film journalist who some of you may know as editor of Screen International and Screendaily wrote a fantastic piece last month just before the start of Cannes giving new producers tips on dealing with the press. The essence of what Wendy said sums up a major part of my role in this business and how I work with filmmakers and advise and position them and their projects. Some of the key points Wendy makes are:
- Know how the press work: meet them, network, build relation-ships, invest time and energy, find out how different press can help you and your project, whether they’re film trade press, a local blogger or an international film journalist.
- Be clear with the press, don’t be vague, give clear, correct, concise, factual information and don’t bullshit them - it will backfire!
- Nurture relationships but don’t stalk them - it will backfire!
- Read Wendy’s article: What producers need to know about the press - and make it your bible:
- One of the key pieces of advice I would offer is:
- Listen to the seasoned professionals. When you’re the creative filmmaker, you are often too close to your project. You can’t see the wood for the trees. Get someone else to sum your project up and pitch it succinctly to the press or write your publicity and marketing materials. Writing creatively doesn’t mean you’ll be able to “sell” your project - it’s a different discipline.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA.
Our whole industry is changing. Use it to get attention for your project but make sure you’re all on the same page and sending out the same messages about your project, company or vision. Spend time and as much as you can afford on getting your film’s publicity support and delivery materials right. Good publicity materials will make you stand out with festivals, financiers, sales agents, talent reps, distributors other producers, studio execs etc. Good stills, EPK and behind the scenes materials and production notes (press packs) will enhance your film’s image and your image.
Capture iconic images, but keep it simple, capture the key characters and scenes, the emotion and relationships, the production values and look and feel of the film. Make sure you get good behind the scenes/production stills too with the director at work with the cast.
Keep the interviews brief, snappy, informative and anecdotal. No-one wants to watch long, rambling EPK interviews. Include interesting research information, details on challenges and highlights of the shoot and keep it fun! Complete interviews with cast, director, producer, writer, production designer and other HODs relevant to the project. Make sure they are broadcast quality. Make sure you can hear the sound bites and that you’re not distracted by sparks working in the back of the interview shot!
PRESS PACK/PRODUCTION NOTES
Make sure you have an engaging short synopsis (one short paragraph). You need to keep it brief but sum up the essence of the story and make people want to see it. Keep your long synopsis detailed but succinct and engaging - around a page and a half maximum.
- You need to include concise information and up to date credits for biographies on your key cast and filmmakers.
- You need to tell the story of the production: history, inspiration, how you got it off the ground, anecdotal stories - nightmares, challenges, highlights, funny stories, factual information, locations, look, feel design and vision.
- Press releases: Just as short films have to pack as much into a limited time, a good press release should pack as much into a limited space. You need to grab your audience in the headline and first paragraph and make them want to read and publish your story.
- In the days of the fax machine, us PRs used to spend hours faxing press releases out and the key was to imagine you were the editor or journalist receiving that press release. If you saw it was a rambling 6 page press release and you wanted to turn your fax machine off after page one you were unlikely to want to run that story.
THE GOLDEN RULE
WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE WHY, HOW, RESULTS.
Whatever you want to get across about your project - put it in the headline and first paragraph of a press release. Don’t waffle on. These people are bombarded with press releases every day. They want real news. Get to the point!
To conclude, with film PR the clue is right there: “public relations” - it’s all about nurturing relationships. Whether you’re building a house or a relationship, laying strong lasting foundations is paramount to success. Network, nurture relationships with press, talent agents, film execs, distributors, sales agents, festivals, producers, directors, casting directors, exhibitors and publicists! Invest in these relationships, be nice - it will pay off in the long run as relationships are what this whole business is about.