It’s no secret that a ton of work (and money!) goes into submitting your film into film festivals. So it stands to reason that when you finally receive one of those coveted congratulatory emails inviting you to screen your film at such-and-such festival, you’re going to want to do two things. First: give yourself, your cast and your crew a big congratulation—you’ve earned it. Second: roll up your sleeves and get to work figuring out how you’re going to publicize your film.
Last Tuesday, September 27 a room full of filmmakers and aspiring filmmakers gathered at the Film Independent offices in Los Angeles to gain some valuable advice on how exactly to go about publicizing your film at festivals. A panel of industry professionals sat down to share their experiences and offer tips on what it takes to fill your theater, get good press—and maybe even sell your film!
The panel consisted of Maria Raquel Bozzi, Film Independent Senior Director of Education and International Initiatives, publicist Alia Quart Khan, Rene Ridinger, VP of Entertainment at MPRM Communications (who’s overseen publicity campaigns for Focus Features, RADiUS-TWC, Magnolia Pictures, Roadside Attractions, and NBC Universal, among several others) and Jeremy Teicher, an award-winning writer and director whose latest feature film Tracktown, premiered at the LA Film Festival earlier this year.
So based on the panel’s advice, here are 10 things you can do to publicize your film and make the most of your festival experience:
Enjoy yourself! There are a lot of talented filmmakers just like you at the festivals, so network, make friends, and engage with each other on social media. Festivals are an excellent time to cultivate support within the filmmaking community, expand resource networks and possibly even connect with future collaborators.
Know Your Goals. Are you after a sale and distribution deal for your feature? If so, everything you do at the festival needs to service that goal. Or are you there with a short film as your calling card, in pursuit of press to build awareness of your work to help jumpstart your career? Clarifying your goals will help determine your priorities and action items.
A picture is priceless. Be sure to get some amazing production stills while you’re still in production, and then put some real effort into editing them. You’ll want at least of couple of outstanding images that tell a concise, visual story about your film to use on posters, postcards and other marketing materials.
Be a social media maniac. Make a website, but keep it simple: splash page, synopsis and one amazing still from your film. If a sale is your goal, don’t load up your website with a ton of extraneous detail. Distributors will want control of your project’s marketing. Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms are also great for engaging potential audience members without necessarily showing them your movie.
Hire a publicist, if you can. A good publicist typically ranges anywhere from $3000 to $15,000, so make a budget and do the math. If you’re not looking to sell your feature to an outside distributor, ask yourself if it makes sense. Maybe that money is better spent elsewhere.
Eenie-meenie-miney-mo. If you decide to hire a publicist, there are a few things to be on the lookout for. Are they passionate about your project? How many other films are they bringing to your festival? What do they see as the challenges to sell? What are their suggested solutions? If they don’t see any problems (or don’t have solutions), run the other way!
You need a press kit. You need a press kit consisting of the following: festival screening info, synopsis, logline, bios for cast and above-the-line crew and a brief description of any interesting or amusing production anecdotes related to the production of your film.
Meet the festival publicity team. Introduce yourself to the festival publicity team and ask them for a list of attending press. You’ll want to contact press with direct invitations to your screening (more on this in a sec).
Help the press help you. Make it easy for the press. Don’t send your press kit and screening invites out blindly. Research who each member of the media is and what they write about. Craft specifically targeted emails with smart subject lines that capture what makes your film—or the story behind it—so interesting. Consider writing something unique, like “15 cool facts” about your film.
Yoda was wrong! Yoda was wrong: there is Try. There’s no teacher grading you. There’s no one way to do things, so let your creativity reign. You might make mistakes, but you’ll probably get most of the important stuff right. You know your film better than anyone else, so explore all ideas. Identify groups and communities that will connect with your subject matter and reach out to them. Now is not the time to be shy.