Six resources to know as an artist/entrepreneur

May 23, 2013
posted by sheric

Now that we have established independent filmmaking as an entrepreneurial venture where the creator will be in control of the end to end process of creation through to marketing and distribution of the work, we also must acknowledge that new skills and new tools will need to be learned. While digital tools are helpful to the entrepreneur, if one doesn’t know they exist or how to use them, they won’t do much good. Here are six resources you may not know about that can help you become a better informed artist who is finding their audience and building a sustainable career rather than a one off project.

1. Crowdfunding resource-Kickstarter school

Many artists are now coming around to seeing the benefits of raising donations for their work; artistic freedom, no pressure for recoupment, testing the marketability of the project, audience development/cultivation. But with this realization comes the panic of setting up and running a campaign so Kickstarter has set up a section of their site to walk you through the process. It will still take a small team working tirelessly to help reach a funding goal, but these tips will help in strategizing and executing the campaign.

2. Pitching resource-Good in a Room

If you plan on taking your project to a studio or even outside investors, you will probably need some practice honing your live pitching skills. Stephanie Palmer was the Director of Creative Affairs for MGM where she supervised the acquisition, development and production of feature films. She now devotes her time to teaching creatives how to clearly present their ideas in a compelling way. I receive her weekly newsletter and regularly post her blog pieces on my Facebook page.

3. PR resource-InkyBee

I’ve only recently started using this site and so far, it is very helpful. Chances are you will be doing a bit of blogger outreach for media coverage on your work, but how to build up a good database of contacts? You could hire a PR firm to send out press releases for you…or you could maintain your own relationships with writers. Inkybee allows you to identify blogs you probably didn’t even know existed, assess them according to relevance and influence, and monitor your coverage.  A 30 day trial is free and doesn’t require a credit card.

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4. Rights management resource-Movie Chainer

This tool has only recently beta launched, but will be available for subscriptions starting June 3, 2013. If sales agents, distributors and individual producers will actually keep the records accurate, this is going to be a very useful service. Movie Chainer will keep track of all rights that have been licensed or are available on your project, monies that have been spent in support of your project and monies that are due and to whom. While you could set up your own spreadsheets and do the manual data entry (or just wait for the statements, hahaha), this tool promises to take care of it for you and gives you the ability to view it any time.

5. Advertising resource-Buy Ads

While we would all like to think that word about projects will just spread on its own, it is much more realistic to acknowledge that it will need some help. You will need owned, earned and paid media to help reach audiences and drive sales. Buy Ads lets you choose which highly trafficked, but relevant websites you want to run your advertising on and see how much you’ll have to spend for placement. No bidding, no guessing, no buying into advertising networks where you have no idea where your ad will end up. Just clear instructions on the size and audience of the publication, the size of ad you’ll need, the placement of the ad and how much it will cost to run it based on the number of impressions you want or a weekly fee (depends on the publication).

6. Youtube channel resource-Youtube Creator Academy

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You are working in a visual medium and the internet is becoming an increasingly visually compelling place. Great news! But Youtube just announced new stats that show over 100 hours of video is being uploaded to its site every MINUTE! What’s a visual artist to do to reach her audience? Youtube wants to help you master its site (which reaches 53 countries in the world and has over 1 billion users every month) so they are now taking sign ups for their first ever Creator Academy course that starts June 3, 2013.  If you have aspirations of creating a web series or building up subscribers on your channel, check into registration.

Are there resources I have missed that will help artists become better entrepreneurs? Leave them in the comments.

PR tips for indie filmmakers and PMDs

June 1, 2011
posted by sheric

I was listening to a podcast on the Pixability site last week that was supposed to be about using video in your publicity efforts. I am not really sure I took much away about that subject. Their angle was using video press releases instead of text ones. I get why Pixability sees things that way, but I am not sure about that approach both as a journalist and someone who courts publicity. I did take away some great, succinct advice from the speaker, Cameron Herold,  on the most effective uses of PR and understanding exactly what PR is. I will share these with you over the next few posts.

The Right Mindset for PR

It is best to look at PR as a service you are offering to journalists. You aren’t selling a product to them, you are providing them with story ideas. Story ideas are something they need on a regular basis. If you keep up a blog, you know what I am talking about.

Do not send a one sheet, which is a piece of sales material typically designed to attract buyers like at a film market. There is no story hook in a one sheet, nor is there a story angle in some typical press releases. Journalists are not in the business of simply promoting your film (the ones whose sites are not owned by studios/distributors anyway), they are in the business of developing and writing a good story for their audience. How does your film or your work help them do that? Hint: it should be unique. It is NOT that you have made a film. The easier you can make a journalist’s work, the more likely they are to write and publish a story.

You should be researching what these journalists write about and what their audience typically reads on the site or in their publications and find a way to tie your work into their interests. This doesn’t mean send mass press releases to a big list of journalists (believe me, I am still getting these from PR people who should know better because I was on the Sundance press list), it means crafting a custom pitch to select journalists who can help you achieve your objectives. Those objectives could be audience attention, but they could also be industry attention for your career.

Finding Journalists

A few resources were offered and most were geared more toward the needs of a corporate entity, like PR Newswire and Vocus which caters to the masses. Masses are not what you want. Tightly focused, interest driven publications are your goal. First start with Google and look for journalists in a particular region (if you want to promote a screening or if you are shooting in that location or if you are from that location), or journalists who cover a very specific topic (something related to the interests of the audience of your film). Again these could be industry publications (covering Jewish filmmakers, or women filmmakers, or LGBT filmmakers) too. My recommendations for finding journalists is not to look for lists because those only encourage you to send one email en masse which is the lazy approach and unlikely to result in much coverage. This is going to take some time and effort, research and reading to figure out the best fit for your story. If you take that little extra time, your email is less likely to end up in the mass delete column in a journalist’s inbox.

You may also want to target journalists who have syndicated columns which can result in your story spreading through many different publications, even worldwide. Once it starts to spread, other publications that aren’t even part of the syndication are likely to pick it up.

Next up…finding an angle and crafting a pitch

Pitching Journalists

March 2, 2011
posted by sheric

I am going to take off my publicist’s hat today and put on my writer’s hat instead. You probably know that I write for Microfilmmaker Magazine on a regular basis. Almost every month, I write an article for that publication specific to the microbudget filmmaking world. Microbudget being under $50K in the case of that publication. The type of story pitch to interest me would involved productions that fall under that budget restriction. You know what I dislike? Being sent a press release for a film that doesn’t meet that criteria. It is a total waste of my inbox space, my time to read and it annoys me that the person who sent it did not take an ounce of time to check what types of stories I cover.

You know who is the WORST about spamming me with press releases? Big name publicity firms representing films at festivals. In fact, most of their pitch is “look at all the films we are representing at ___ festival. If you want to talk to any of these people or see their films let us know” and a synopsis of each film. For some publications, the draw of a celebrity name mentioned will lead to coverage. Otherwise, no explanation is given to why a publication should cover the film. THAT is a pitch and obviously more work is involved.

There is a good article on the IndieGoGo blog about pitching media. Mostly it addresses pitching publications to get coverage for your crowdfunding initiative, but the tips they give could be applied to any type of story. If you aren’t hiring a PR firm to arrange publicity for your film, you would do well to check out the IndieGoGo post. Key to attracting coverage? WIIFM (what’s in it for me). The writer will always consider what advantage their publication will receive from covering your story. You should consider it too when you write a pitch letter. If you can’t think of anything, don’t send a generic release. Generic releases are ok to put on wire services. No doubt, article farm sites just pick up releases and publish them verbatim and you get Google rankings on them, but don’t send these to your targeted publications. If you want a feature story written (and you should aim for that), really craft a unique letter that tells the writer or publication why you think your story merits coverage and how it fits into their audience interests.

We could all do with a little less noise and spam in the world. When you send generic eblast press releases, it might look like you are accomplishing something, but really you are just adding to overcrowded world of spam. Practice providing value in all the work that you do and for all the people you encounter. The results will be far better.

PS: I want to add that festivals always ask journalists during the press credential application to list what kinds of stories they will be covering. It would be super awesome if festivals included that information on the press list circulated to the publicists so that spammy mass mailings don’t happen.