Monday, March 24, 2014

Film Publicity Basics and Myths

The Basics

A film publicist's first consideration is the cast.  An A-List cast will virtually assure media coverage in the film industry trades, where most movie media coverage begins.

If the cast is available for personal appearances, the publicist will consider the largest geographic markets where the film will be appearing, then focus on regional media in those markets, setting interview / appearance appointments, with enough advance time for the local tv news shows and other journalists to complete their interviews, and publish or broadcast a week or two before the opening.

The next considerations are the audience demographics, and the film's plot.  Media outlets that reach the audience demographics have a high probability for publishing stories on the film, and conversely, coverage in those media outlets will result in an expanded audience. For example a political thriller will tend to be covered by media outlets who cover political news, and so on.  A film on a social issue will receive coverage in media outlets concerned with that social issue.

In reality, there is little or no magic involved in obtaining media coverage.  It's more a matter of "doing your homework" and considering which media outlets tend to cover which subjects.  Then tailoring your promotional message to the needs of those media outlets, then getting your message out to them in the form in which they are accustomed to receiving news submissions.

I personally believe in press releases.  In entertainment media coverage, the press release is intended to provide the journalist or broadcast show producer with a basic understanding of the film, so they can formulate their own list of interview questions.

When stars are interviewed, there are generally three questions that are almost always asked:  

"How did you get into the business?"  

"What is your favorite film / who did you most like working with / who did you dislike working with?" 

"What advice would you give to people who want to get into the business?"

The key to doing a great media appearance is preparation:

Be prepared to answer the obvious questions.  Be prepared to answer the three questions I just mentioned.

But also be prepared to answer the unexpected questions.  It's perfectly OK to to answer an unexpected question with "Well I'm not here to talk about that today.  What I am here to talk about is . . . . "  If you watch any political news coverage, you'll see that skilled interviewees frequently steer the conversation away from controversy, towards their own agendas, which is perfectly acceptable, and will result in a good interview in the end.

The Myths

In my opinion the biggest myth is having existing media contacts assures coverage.  Having existing media contacts assures that your message will be considered, but it does not assure that it will be covered, nor does it assure that if it is covered, it will be covered in the way it is presented.

Leslee Dart is a respected film industry publicist, this article shows how hard she had to work to get some positive coverage for her client Woody Allen.  Click the quote below to read the original article in The Wrap.

In other words, if you really need to control the media message, the best idea is to place paid advertising.

The second biggest myth is that there's only one way of handling the message distribution.  Some people like to be approached by e-mail, some like to be telephoned, some don't like to be telephoned, and sometimes good old printed / mailed press release distribution still works.  Some interviewers like to be prepped, others like to enter the interview "naturally." 

The Realities

For every producer expecting a financial return from a film, good publicity is absolutely essential to expanding the audience, which of course is the source of the expected financial returns.

Stars get more media attention.

There are techniques that cost money that can dramatically expand your reach, and very likely will result in media coverage somewhere at some level.

But what always works is persistence, doing your homework, respecting those media people who you are contacting, understanding their objectives, and helping them do their jobs.

There are many more considerations that vary according to the individual film, and unfortunately more than likely no two publicists will give you the exact same advice.  As in other aspects of filmmaking, you need to seek out qualified opinions, evaluate each, then decide for yourself which proposal feels best to you.

Contact me and I'll be glad to give you an opinion on how I think you should proceed with the publicity of your own movie.

Steve Thompson

Thompson Communications

Skype: stephen.thompson580

I've promoted over thirty films, and worked with an Academy Award Winner for ten years.

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