Dealing with the Media

January 11, 2010
posted by sheric

yellowbrickroad_keyart

  

This is crunch time for team YELLOWBRICKROAD on the way to Slamdance. It is T-minus 12 days to world premiere. We just released key art last night and have had an overwhelming response from all our friends at the major horror blog sites and I am totally not complaining. But feeling the need to do an update here, I wanted to share some advice from my recent experiences with the press on this film.

I wrote this entry on another new film community site called www.filmees.com, check it out and I am reposting it here, because 1) I am too tired to think up something totally original (see my 2 previous posts :) ) and 2) because it is relevant if you are about to release your film and need some advice on reaching the media.

Here’s how I do it. (I can’t believe I am giving out my secrets like this!)

Forget trying to get your low budget, no star film reviewed or covered by any big traditional publication. Variety, THR, Entertainment Weekly even indieWire. They don’t really care about your film unless you have those elements or you have very strong connections into their organization. Go after online publications and bloggers within the niche of your film. This takes either working with someone who does this work professionally (like me ;) ) or through lots of homework.

Study these sites, look at what they talk about. Even within a niche like horror, not all are interested in just any type of horror. They have a preference. If your film isn’t tailored to their audience interests, they aren’t your publication and no amount of badgering is going to help. There are literally thousands of sites covering EVERYTHING. You will find some right for your news.

Next, you want coverage by someone with good traffic to their site. I use Compete.com to see what I can find out about a site’s general traffic numbers. Those are your first sites to hit, they may be your only ones to hit because I find that if  big pubs like Fangoria (using horror sites here because I am currently in touch with them for YBR), Fearnet, Shocktilyoudrop, Bloody Disgusting, Dread Central etc. take up your story, the other smaller ones cannibalize their news so you don’t even have to contact them. But you should, I’ll get to that in a minute. Next, you go to those sites and look for the About Us tab. Research who covers your type of film. Not all journalists are going to cover all types of film. Look at their past articles or what they say interests them if they have a bio. Get their email address and write them a little note explaining who you are, why your film is good for them to cover (this is a hook, an angle) for their audience. None of this is about YOU and your needs.

Give them a trailer to look at (so you’d better have one) or some production stills. Something visually interesting to judge. If you are in preprod or production, then stills will do, but try to have at least a short (short!) clip of the most compelling part of your story. This means it had better be 1)kick ass 2)tailored to the taste of their publication and audience. That goes for the stills too. And give them a short synposis. If they like what they see, they will either get in touch with more questions or to set up an interview or ask for a screener. Here’s where it is tricky.

A word about stills (bold because this is important, write this down!)

Please, please have a professional person take your stills. Take stills of mostly the SCENES and not the crew, the set ups, the behind the scenes. As a publicist, I only need about 10 pictures of the crew and set ups. That is it. The rest I want of action in the scene without extraneous crew in the shot. Those crew pictures are only good for publications covering filmmaking not for pubs covering the film itself. Use a scene rehearsal before shooting or after shooting so the camera sound doesn’t show up in the shoot and the photographer isn’t in the way, but get those scene shots. Please! Make sure they are well lit, well compositioned, and in focus. Please! Please! ok rant over.

If you are looking for distribution and the film gets widely reviewed ahead of time through sending out massive amounts of screeners, this can turn off distributors. They want to be able to launch the film later and build the buzz from reviews at that time. So if it the film has already had many reviews, those publications will not re-review it at the launch. This is bad for a publicity campaign. The buzz was already built and its hard to get that back. Same at a festival, if you launch at a big festival and get lots of coverage from publications and then a distributor wants to go back at film launch time, they won’t get those pubs to cover it again. So be mindful if you are going to do traditional distribution. If you aren’t, then getting as many of the RIGHT publications to review it is your goal. By right, I mean pubs that truly reach your audience and understand your type of film. This will lead to a greater chance (not guaranteed!) of having a good, usable review.

So back to those smaller publications and bloggers, I set up Google Alerts (Twitter alerts are good too) to watch for references to my films. These do a good job of letting me know who is talking about us. I visit every site that gives us a mention and connect with them in comments. I try not to make it purely advertising. If I can personally thank them for helping us and give them more insight or pictures, they think that is too cool; that you acknowledged them and took the time. This is how you build an audience my friend! Even one at a time if you have to. Don’t underestimate how a little bit of encouragement can go a long way with the blogger community.

You want to put all of these writers in a database. Likely you will want to call on them again in the future for other projects. You also want to keep up with them a little because people move around among pubs. It is easier to recontact later if you can remind them of how they know you (“you wrote a piece on my suchandsuch film in suchandsuch publication” etc).

This same advice can be used for online podcasters and radio sites. It is all in the homework and how you approach them. Understand the audience they reach and what would interest them in your film. Oh and listen to the show, make sure they are professional. You want someone professional and knowledgable doing your interview. Online stays there forever, unlike terrestrial broadcast, so you want a good one.

Now a word about press kits. Forget all this paper nonsense. Get yourself a drop.io or some other file sharing account (there are a few, just can’t recall them all at the moment Badango is one too) and load up your releases, your production stills, your online press clipping URL’s, your trailer and clips, synopsis, cast bio, crew bio and pictures of each. As more things come up, you can easily add them to the file for update. Make it password protected so you can give it to journalists and it tracks who looked at it and no one else can change the content.

We have done this for Slamdance and I do not plan on putting anything on paper in the press office. Journalists are really all digital these days, or the relevant ones are, so no need for a paper press kit that you have to keep reprinting. Just make sure if you are at a fest, the press office knows about your file online. Probably they won’t help you anyway, you’ll just have to send the links to journalists directly. Then bring business cards with your contact deets and the link to the online press kit to give out.

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