Best publicity investment for your film? Clips and trailers.

With so many of today’s indie filmmakers going the DIY route, tackling publicity and marketing responsibilities has become an additional part of the indie filmmaker job description.

Here is a brief outline of what you should know, courtesy of Film Independent’s “Publicizing Your Film at a Film Festival” class, hosted by Elise Freimuth, Director of Publicity & Communications, Film Independent; Erikka Yancy, Manager, Social Marketing, Participant Media; and Publicist Chris Libby, Partner, Ginsberg Libby.

Budgeting PR from Pre-Production to Premiere

Many indie filmmakers make the mistake of thinking about publicity when they get accepted into a film festival, but you need to start strategizing PR when you’re putting your budget together. Costs that should be factored in early on include: possible publicity hires, such as a unit photographer or a publicist once you do get accepted into a festival, as well as the costs of room and board for talent to attend a festival and creating press materials.

Speaking of planning ahead … create your press materials early! Putting this off will leave you scrambling to pull assets together when you get accepted into a festival. A publicist is usually hired about 1-2 months before a festival, so they don’t have much time to work on your film. Make the most of their time by giving them a package of nice materials so that they can focus on pitching your work. That way, they don’t have to start from scratch.

Tell Your Story Through Stills

High-quality still images from your film will go a long way in helping you promote your work. If you have name talent, you should schedule a photographer on the days you will be shooting key scenes with them. Additionally, your photos should properly convey the film’s tone and reveal something about the character or story. A generic close-up of a character reveals nothing. It could be from any film. Journalists want photos that will help tell your film’s story and grab their readers/viewers. You only need two or three great still images. When audiences start to see the same photo running online and in magazines and newspapers, it’s easier for them to recognize your film.

Take Note: Production Notes Count

Production notes are helpful to festival staff when they are putting together materials, as well as to journalists when preparing for interviews or fact checking when writing reviews or articles on your film. Keep them sweet, short and simple. Include a log-line (1 line), short synopsis (2-3 lines), long synopsis (2-3 paragraphs), a director’s statement (1-3 paragraphs, optional) and short bios (1-2 paragraphs) on yourself, key crew and cast. Don’t include reviews and interviews from other publications in your production notes because journalists don’t need to see other people’s work in your notes. A full list of credits is also essential, as film critics need to include this information when they file their review. If they don’t have the full credits, this sometimes prevents them from actually filing a review of your film!

Best Investment? Clips, Trailers, Posters and Postcards

You only need to prepare a couple of clips and they should be about 30-45 seconds long. If you decide to create a trailer, which isn’t always necessary, it should be no longer than 90 seconds, well edited and tell your story without giving everything away. Posters are expensive to make, so if you’re on a budget, this is the thing to cut. If you’re on a budget and keen on printed material, then small postcards for networking or some creative handout material with your screening schedule on it is the way to go. Some filmmakers get even more creative and hand out matchbooks, coasters, buttons, etc. to correspond with the theme of their film. But again, these are just fun add-ons if you’ve got the money for them.

Selecting Your Publicist

Selecting a publicist is like a first date. You need to find out if you like each other, can work together and they can execute the proper strategy for your film. They should obviously like your movie, but they should also be able to openly talk with you about potential negative reactions that could result from the press and industry, including weaknesses in your film and how to navigate those. Having a cheerleader isn’t enough. Your publicist should have a plan that is aligned with your sales agent’s and be able to strategically execute that plan.

Connect With Festival PR Staff

If you are doing DIY, then you should reach out to the festival PR staff personally. They are there to help you. If you have a publicist, make sure they get in touch with the staff so they can be notified of press opportunities that might fit your film, or get some leads. Festival PR staffers have tons of films they need to publicize and are mostly focusing on publicizing the festival as a whole, not on individual films. They can’t play favorites because all the filmmakers are their children. However, they can give you advice on putting together a PR strategy and point you towards journalists they think might be interested in your film. They’ll appreciate that you’re thinking about PR in a smart way.


May 23rd, 2012 • 6 Comments


  1. May 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Remember that if you really want to target your audience, get recognition and the right people/companies looking at your project…talk to a publicist… you would be amazed what the right publicity can get you and at what prices…. if you are serious about your project contact me Publicist

  2. May 24, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Good food for thought. Thank you for the post.

  3. June 5, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Great point about having press materials ready when the publicist comes on board.

  4. Albert McIntosh
    June 5, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Helpful tips! I was hoping though that there would be some rough range of what publicists charge.

  5. June 5, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    This article should really mention social media. We got significant return on our social media contacts and connecting with an organization that might like your film can get their membership talking about the movie. Social media takes time and creativity but not much money. Our internet contacts that we made prior to the premier really boosted attendance and resulted in 3 sold out theaters. We could never have done this with very little money using standard outlets. But we also made posters, handed out postcards, begged for interviews and hustled people we met to attend the screening. If we could have afforded a publicist we would have tried that too. – Journey on the Wild Coast – Greg Chaney

  6. November 23, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Nice guide… Everything depends on a good publicist.

Leave a Reply

Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>