DIY PR – How To Get Your Film Reviewed and Written About.
Democratising The Filmmaking Process Volume.
Making a film is but merely one of the many battles involved in the great movie-making wars. If you have already reached this stage you are likely acutely aware that not everyone is currently sharing your unbridled enthusiasm for your efforts.
You (and I) know you’ve created a work of genius but sadly the rest of the world has not been given the opportunity to offer their opinion yet; your phone is not ringing, your email box is empty and the trailer you posted on Youtube has only reached 100 views. Nobody seems to want to watch or write about your film, which is frustrating.
Sadly this is the case for almost all micro budgeted films. The film industry is unfairly biased towards those with money, because money allows expensive marketing.
The reason you don’t have the money to spend on PR agencies, marketing companies or advertising is because you quite rightly spent every penny of your small budget on actually shooting your film. When money is super-tight, or almost non-existent you have to prioritise where it seems better spent, meaning most micro-budget filmmakers understandably sacrifice their marketing budgets and ‘hope for the best’ later. Without large festival or distributor support you can end up hitting a wall, but if this happens you can still help your film find a respectable audience by yourself, and for free.
What can be done then?
Without money there is still a lot of good promotion which you can carry out. You might not be able to afford a 100′ poster in Time Square but by using this short guide you will hopefully manage to let a small part of the world know of your film’s existence. And because you and the friends who made the film are smart and full of brilliant ideas you can also add your own into the mix.
At this stage we should be very clear that this is not a quick fix to becoming the next Robert Rodriguez or having the world’s media suddenly appear at your doorstep. This won’t get you Empire and Guardian reviews. With some hard work however, it is an opportunity to gain a little extra international interest in your film and help it be seen, reviewed and written about beyond your local newspaper and friends Facebook pages.
Ideas and Attitude
It’s important to stress that good ideas are often more important than money when marketing, which is handy. Most importantly though, to achieve successful results you will need to follow your ideas through to the end. Everyone has good ideas but not everyone has the determination needed to fulfil them. Tenacity is how successful results will start to appear, and this type of promotion takes time and patience.
My previous guide to uploading films to Amazon is an important companion to this current one. They both symbiotically rely on each other – because to sell something you need product, and if you have product you will want to sell it. Your film is your product and Amazon will be one of your key selling markets. You just need to let people know it’s there!
I’l start with the assumption that your movie has either already completed a festival run or you have decided to start selling it without one.
***Note: A later guide will uncover the crazy world of Film Festivals which will also play another important part in your films distribution journey. Festivals can help to sell and promote your film in their own right but they need to be handled carefully as they can equally do harm, which we will discuss later ***
For the purposes of this guide we’ll use one of my own films, Night Kaleidoscope, to help illustrate DIY distribution methods. It was sold as physical copies and also released it on Amazon (as an update it will shortly appear in shops).
This film was made on an incredibly small budget for a feature (around £3K), it did not contain any Hollywood stars and was described as an awkward art-house horror, or just not very good if being harsh! Without any marketing budget or distribution the movie did not really stand much of a chance. While it was never going to become anything close to a Paranormal Activity success, with some home DIY PR I did mange to get some review (both good and terrible), screened it worldwide and had over 100 articles written about it; which seems like a decent example for other DIY Feature promotions looking for similar results. It was small but managed to lift itself up a little. At the very least it managed more than 100 YouTube hits.
Below is our guide to how I and some friends marketed a film that was not an easy sell, and because your film is probably better you will be able gain better results than me.
At present you may be in a similar situation as to where I was: I’d completed a film and nobody seemed to show any interest in it.
After we had finished shooting Night Kaleidoscope I realised I didn’t really know how to market it. For various reasons of working on other productions the film had been sitting on a shelf for a couple of few years, and would still need to remain there for another year, albeit fully finished. Because it had such a distinct visual and aural style, which then appeared fresh (one of its redeeming features) it was felt to be in danger of loosing one of its selling points if it stayed there much longer; to start, we quickly decided to release a teaser trailer which in hindsight was a good move. This trailer made the film appear far more expensive and interesting than it was in reality. A good trailer is definitely a recommended move which helped us significantly with promotion! We’ll cover trailers later.
A less recommended move for those on small budgets was what we did next. We employed a very small PR firm to help market our trailer, purposely to dip our toes into what could potentially be achieved with the finished film. The small PR firm managed some reasonable results but moreover it made us realise that unless you are spending (and can afford) thousands of pounds on large scale promotion you can just do it yourself and save money! You can achieve the same results on your own and This will show you what I did so that you can too.
The time from our first teaser being released to our actual film release was a year. Teasers are usually the domain of large movies but they can prove useful in situations like ours. It allowed us an online presence which would later make the marketing of our final release simpler. It can be risky as often promotion is a ‘one chance’ opportunity but in our experience with small micro-budget films it can help. Especially if you know there will be a large gap before your final release.
Deconstruction Time Again
A large part of my filmmaking philosophy is based on a belief in the importance of deconstruction – for me, that means the process of showing the making of a film being an overall component of the final product. Deconstruction can help you promote your movies and is something I encourage everyone to explore. A veil of secrecy is often placed on the filmmaking or marketing process by people understandably wanting to protect their business model, which again does little to help emerging talent. Taking something apart can help you discover how something works (please don’t try this marketing theory on puppies) and you should carefully look at how movie marketing is done by the professionals to help you. Observe, analyse and deconstruct how somebody else markets a movie.
The Simple Steps to Marketing Your Movie . Step One
Learn by example. Pick a reasonably successful independent film from the last few years, not Marvel size but something you are familiar with which which did relatively well. Type that films name into Google (using quotes) followed by “Preview” or “Synopsis”.
Ignore any reviews, Wikipages or sales links which appear in the search results for the moment. A close look at these remaining search results will show they are mostly from large blogs or entertainment pages. When visiting these pages you will see they all soon start to appear very familiar: a trailer with strangely similar phrases in the article copy or headline. What you are seeing is the results of a successful and controlling press-release.
A great press release is the best friend to an indie filmmaker.
Write what you want to see. Press Releases are written with the intention that key parts – and in some cases the entire press release will be posted on a film site. You can very much use this to your advantage when marketing your movie. Think what you would like written in an ideal article and if you put this in a Press Release there’s a good chance it will end up being written word-for-word, rephrased or at least led carefully by your own words which you used in your Press Release.
It should be noted that these journalists are not being lazy. For small films, writers just don’t always have the time to dedicate their energy to unique articles and tend to base them around the press releases they receive, especially those for Micro Budget Features. Taking advantage of this knowledge can significantly help present a strong online presence and positive bias for later reviews of your film – providing you maintain the balance correctly!
Of course journalists know this too so you offer them a good balance – you help them by being realistic about your film, and providing suitable phrases and they help you by writing an article similar to your press release copy.
You will soon see that most film previews follow these fairly rigid rules based on what you send them; the press release, as discussed when sent along with a trailer, a poster and some stills is otherwise known as The Press Pack.
Let’s make a press pack which will start your movies online presence.
Creating Your Press Pack:
A – The Press Release.
There are various ways of formatting these and we often chop and change them but they should follow some set rules.
They should contain 3 (or 4) important sections for conveying information easily and quickly to a journalist and are usually formatted similarly.
1 – At the top (sometimes bottom) is your contact Information: Production Company, email address, website, Facebook. Twitter, Phone Number and a Contact Name are recommended, though you don’t need to include them all.
2 – Below this (if at top), an arresting headline containing the information you are trying to convey, or a concise statement. This can be the announcement of a trailer release, a full film release, a crowd funding campaign or whatever. Don’t just send a release with the intention of telling the world of every small detail. You only get a few chances at keeping somebody’s interest.
This only needs to be brief, a little like your films logline. Further information can be given. Just keep it snappy, to the point and sounding interesting.
Importantly, you will have to let the journalist know when this event will take place (physical copy press/newspapers/magazines takes weeks not days). Often big press releases will have embargos so they need to know when they can print.
3 – The main body of your press release is for further and fuller information. This is a little like your film synopsis compared to logline. This is where you will sell your product/announcement to a journalist and whether they think there is enough of a story to make an article from it. Make it easy for them! Don’t overcomplicate. Keep the entire release to a page.
Don’t write ‘it’s not very good’ – because that is what they will write. Don’t write ‘this is the greatest film ever made’ – it’s not and they won’t believe you. This is their daily job and they receive many press releases daily so respect their intelligence while still keeping it interesting.
Write what you’d like to see and cover up any negatives regarding your film by turning them into positives. Help them and they will help you.
For example, our film didn’t really have much of a story and we knew that would be picked up by reviewers so we put “story and logic come secondary to atmosphere and terror, a dreamy nightmare captured on film.” to give the impression this was always intentional (which genuinely was true).
For the announcement of our films availability, and because we had already put out our trailer, we had some previous online presence, and this allowed us to add some quotes from previewers/articles about the trailer release. Tread carefully if using quotes as there can be rivalries between reviewers. Not every website is equal, they all operate at different levels of experience and reach. We decided to use quotes from two of the bigger sites as a way to hopefully subtly influence other reviewers (which does not always work).
4 – A link to what you are announcing – which in this case was it becoming available on Amazon – we gave that link and also a screener for review/advertising purposes. Don’t expect reviewers to pay to see your film. A trailer and online stills links should also be added. If you forget this they won’t bother contacting you to ask for them. Don’t worry about passwords as they will not print them. Links to stills rather than clogging up someones inbox.
Most importantly….make sure you have ‘….ends’ at the end so they know that your Press Release, well ends.
Here is our own Night Kaleidoscope Press Release (apologies for formatting here):
Year Zero Filmmaking: Tartan Features
For Further Information Please Contact Simon:
For Immediate Release:
PUNK ROCK CINEMA!
Vampire Indie Horror ‘Night Kaleidoscope’ Finally Available:- On Amazon Prime, Region 2 DVD…. and VHS!
R2 DVD and VHS PAL
“Breathes New Life into the Vampire Genre’ – Dread Central
‘Strange, Beautiful and Sexy’ – Modern Horrors
Just two of the quotes from the intense flurry of interest after the release of the Night Kaleidoscope trailer last year.
Fresh from its preview screening at the Atlanta Days of the Dead Horror Convention, you can finally watch Night Kaleidoscope on Amazon Prime, buy on Region 2 DVD and even purchase a very limited VHS edition. Region 1 and NTSC VHS and Very Limited Betamax to follow….
Night Kaleidoscope is the third feature from director Grant McPhee, following on from the success of his Post-Punk Documentary – Big Gold Dream, listed as one of Sight and Sounds best films of 2015, an Edinburgh International Film Festival Audience Award Winner and a recent screening on BBC TV.
Night Kaleidoscope is a very different film but maintains a similar punk rock attitude throughout.
Bridging a fine line between the trashy 70s Euro Horror of Jess Franco, the British Art-House miasma of Nicholas Roeg and the underground experiments of Kenneth Anger Night Kaleidoscope manages to become a unique film of its own.
The film is a treat for the eyes and ears – trippy, psychedelic imagery flashing against a pumping 80s synth rock score – story and logic come secondary to atmosphere and terror, a dreamy nightmare captured on film.
It is the story of Fion, a hardened psychic detective (Patrick O’Brien) who is happy to work for the highest bidder. His latest case proves to be his toughest challenge yet when faced with depleting powers – which he tops up by smoking a mysterious psychedelic powder – Fion encounters a mysterious wave of murders across the city’s poor and deprived. With the aid of Isobel (Mariel McAllan) their investigations lead them to enter a world of ancient evil in the form of a beautiful but deadly couple – Carrie and Lewis. Set against the backdrop of a decaying city viewed through a Night Kaleidoscope.
Night Kaleidoscope is a brash, bold, surreal, stylish and hip entry to the aging Vampire Genre. One where all rules are broken and is part dream, part nightmare.
Shot on a budget smaller, and a time-frame less than most films have for their trailer, Night Kaleidoscope manages to elevate itself above its limitations by use of imagination and a desire to challenge the perception of Micro Budget Feature Filmmaking.
Night Kaleidoscope is not like anything you’ve seen or heard before.
Screener for Review:
The purpose of your Press Release is two-fold. No journalist is going to jump in and review your film because you have bestowed upon them the honour of your screener link. It has to be written to interest them and make them want to watch but also, as we discussed, to also appeal to a reader – and buyer.
Sell them a story, cover over any flaws which could potentially cause a negative reaction and absolutely make it stand out from the hundreds of other press releases they receive every day.
Below are a few articles which have used the Press Release we made in various forms. Some have just copied from it directly, others have taken phrases while others have reworded it significantly, but all have used it. Take advantage of what you want to see.
All of these articles are perfectly welcome and all equally useful to you. The journalists are busy and what they can afford to spend on your film depends on how much time they have on a particular day, and understandably bigger films will be their priority. Anyone who prints ANYTHING about your small film is helping you and you should thank them for that. They are doing you a very big favour – they are essentially advertising your film for free.
Building a relationship is critical to your marketing and maintaining that relationship is crucial to the success of your later films – and career. You will make friends and you will meet people who love your film, you will also meet people who hate your film. Don’t be defensive and attack them. What they write actually may sound ideal to another reader/potential viewer. While it is nice to have good reviews bad reviews are better than no reviews!
All of the journalists who created the articles above (and this was a random selection from many) are now friends or associates whom we contact directly regarding other films. Be loyal to those who help you.
Our final tip on Press Releases – save them with an appropriate and identifiable filename – not just ‘Pressrelease.doc’. And use multiple formats for different software they may be using. A reviewer will have many press releases in their download folder – make sure they can recognise yours at a later date.
The Press Release is the first impression of what you are offering, the second will be a trailer and then poster or stills. Once you have their attention from your press release, to really stand out you need to make a good trailer.
B – The Trailer
There is a fine balance between cheating your audience and building audience support. To further make a point – for small films and a sustainable career you need to build friendships so think carefully about your trailer and how it relates to the full film. Don’t cheat reviewers by presenting a different story in the trailer to that in the final film – and most importantly don’t cheat your audience. Nobody likes to be cheated and it will reflect badly on you. As mentioned, you need support because as soon as somebody offers you the courtesy of watching your trailer and deciding to review it; if the full film is a completely different genre they will react negatively. This is different from an unexpected plot twist.
When a journalist becomes interested after reading your Press Release you are still on shaky ground as to whether it will still be picked up. Don’t loose out on a review or article by messing up with your trailer.
Market your film within a recognisable genre!
Of course not all films fall directly or easily within a set genre so it is completely acceptable to nudge it a little if it lies on the border. Our film had enough horror elements to easily fulfil that criteria but it also had a style which could be classed as experimental, or art-house. Theses sub-genres allowed us to later market to a wider and slightly different audience. Take advantage if your film falls into other categories. Just be cautious.
Trying to market a film as something which it clearly isn’t may have short term gains but you will eventually set yourself up for a fall. If your film is a light-hearted comedy but has a trailer which suggests it may be a slasher you are heading for a negative review, or worse – no review or article at all. Think of your audience and remember that journalists are part of that. And respect them.
As with your press release, show what you would like to be talked about. Use your best material and leave the audience wanting more. If you don’t have a lot of great material then keep it short. Two minutes or under is a good time length.
Don’t use material which may lead to negative reviews. Be creative with your flaws. Our film was not very strong on dialogue so we left most of it out of the trailer. This is not cheating an audience, just being a little creative in how you polish it. Big up what you have. There’s a world of difference between a great trailer for a poor film that’s honest and a trailer that tries to market an entirely different film. Reviewers and audiences expect the best material to appear in a trailer and they accept films don’t always live up to them but they don’t want to be sold a different film. Gone are the days of Roger Corman where it’s too late to ask for your money back.
Follow the steps and lessons from your Press Release. Offer enough information, make is seem interesting and present the important details – Title, Cast, Whatever. Imagine yourself writing how you would like your trailer described and work backwards from that.
After you are happy with your snappy trailer be aware where you upload it to. If it is on YouTube make sure your channel is tidy and the appropriate film details are clear. Don’t have titles like ‘201123axbs.mp4’. A solid description with metatags is also recommended.
If you send a Dropbox link consider this may be a deciding factor to whether a journalist will pick up on it. They likely don’t want to have to download it and then upload it to their own site for sharing. Make it easy for them.
C- Set Stills, Behind-the-Scenes Stills and Poster
I’ve made the mistake of not getting enough set stills. I’ve made many poor decisions before, and will do so again but not generating enough stills is much more harmful than you may expect, and certainly one of our bigger filmmaking regrets.
As touched upon earlier, online previews often all follow a similar set of rules – they use a press release to form a large part of their copy. As you can imagine this leads to many similar articles being created, which is not a bad thing but can cause you small problems. As a rule of thumb, the more coverage your film has, then the better, but unfortunately Google has an annoying habit of hiding some of these results if they appear similar to others. On the last page of Google results you will find a small hyperlink called ‘Repeat Search With Omitted Results Included’ which will reveal any hidden articles which make use of your Press Release. Obviously, by being tucked away after the very last result means not everybody sees this option which results in a lot of pages about your film being overlooked.
Many journalists are aware of this and try and tweak the copy so they don’t risk having their page fall into this abyss, but not all do. One way to help yourself is by having a large variety of photos to help distinguish articles.
Regardless of Google’s tendency to hide some pages a wide selection of photos is great for journalists anyway.
A Dropbox link is great for sending photos (unlike your trailer) as journalists prefer to upload directly. A good tip is to name your photos well. Rather than img1002.jpg or whatever, name them after your film title and the actors seen. Other than making it simple for the journalist and lessening chances of misidentifying your cast, it works well for Google searches. Google will identify and log the information. Flickr is also a good option for sharing but you lose the metadata when a journalist downloads.
Good quality photos are essential. Screenshots from your actual film are OK to use as a last resort but often problematic. Even at 4K they often lack sharpness due to motion camera shutter angles. It is always a struggle to generate enough publicity stills due to time and crew restraints. Your social media interactions are going to require that you have a very large selection – for your own Twitter/Facebook/webpage promotion and also for sending to journalists. The wider a selection you have, the more opportunity for diversity for journalists – and more articles. In a perfect world, after each set-up when filming you should allow a professional stills photographer the opportunity to capture high resolution, high quality set stills. Behind-the-scenes photography and video is also going to be incredibly helpful. Please, please, please do not ignore this. I’ve made this mistake and know how much it will hinder your later promotion. There is always the argument that it is better to complete your filming at the expense of onset photography, but I’d always say that you will regret not having sufficient promotional material. If you are struggling then have your crew take snaps throughout the production on iPhones. It is not ideal but better than nothing. Properly set up, high quality promotional stills will be worth the time spent, even at the expense of dropping a shot. Reviewers love these and a potential article will rely on having them. If you’re crew are taking stills for you gently remind them to not post onto social media.
Your poster will be another of your key marketing tools. Other than being used to send to journalists it is the first impression – after the title – that potential buyers will see. I try to make a unified ‘house look’, inspired by independent record labels and use a Swedish record cover designer to use garish and bold colour palettes to stand out. They don’t always follow the film poster rules but people can spot them easily. A distinct poster will help you – with reviews and buyers.
Now that you’ve created your Press Pack you need to get it out to reviewers.
Step 2– Next. Where to send your press pack.
This is the million dollar question. Where to send it, and how to send it.
It’s very important to stress that you have to be realistic with expectations. Your film will not be reviewed in the next edition of Empire, Total Film, Sight and Sound, The Guardian, The Times or anywhere on the high street for that matter. There are always exceptions to the rule (like winning the lottery) so there’s no harm in trying but your efforts will be better focussed on other options. Use your time and energy in these other ways and you may find they benefit you more.
The internet is a great place. It’s democratised publishing and opened up a whole new outlet for film reviews and advertising. Luckily for us it is still mostly free and we are going to take full advantage and focus our own efforts there.
One of the internet’s greatest achievements is simplifying bringing like-minded people together and we’re going to try and find people who will like our film.
Almost everybody loves watching movies. Because of advances in technology some like-minded folk are able to switch that love of watching films into making our own, but others will use that love to write about movies. And these are the people we want to connect with and get to write about our film.
Because we have already defined our film within a set genre this makes finding people who will like our genre easy. In many ways a niche film, counter intuitively may actually be more beneficial to you.
Twitter is probably going to become your new best friend. It is effectively a giant database, one which can be used to open up a very large marketing opportunity.
Having a horror movie to promote is probably the the easiest genre of all to market. Horror Film fans are incredibly loyal – and helpfully – incredibly forgiving. Actually they seem to be far more open minded than mainstream film reviewers and much more accepting of the rough edges often seen in independent filmmaking. There is an incredibly large community of horror fans very willing to write about your film.
Finding Your Reviewers – This is VERY time consuming!
You probably already have a Twitter account but I’d advise to either setting up a specific one for your film, or one for your production company. There are pro’s and con’s for either which you can work out for yourself later.
Like with your Press Release and trailer you need to make your Twitter page appear interesting. Have a nice clearly displayed poster, title and an exciting sounding bio.
Post a few stills on your page. If the purpose is to promote your film being released on Amazon then you can post your trailer too – just do something which makes your page stand out from the hundreds of others. If your initial purpose is to promote a release of your trailer, or a crowdfunding campaign perhaps leave your trailer until a little later when you have built up more followers.
Use the search options which Twitter kindly provide and start following targeted accounts. Start with a more focussed and select group first. The search criteria ‘Horror reviews’, under the ‘people’ tab will bring up thousands of Horror Film Review accounts. Follow them all. With luck some should start following you back.
Once an account follows you back you have then reached ‘stage one’ in your new friendship. More often than not these Twitter accounts will form part of a separate blog or webpage. If there is a link on Twitter then follow it, if not then use Google to search. When visiting a linked website navigate to find their contact email and note it down using a spreadsheet, along with the websites name and address. Ideally you should find an actual persons name to go with that email address. Names offer a greater chance of successful reviews or articles later as they offer a personal and friendly touch. And it’s just good manners anyway. If the contact page does not offer any names then check the ‘about’ section, or even look for names under reviews.
Looking again at Twitter, after being followed back, if you have not directly communicated with your new contact, at some point send them a direct Twitter message asking if they would mind you sending them a Press Release for your new film. Often people don’t tend to like receiving direct messages from unknown people but if you make your message personal and sound like you have done a little research it is often a great introduction. You may often get a more direct email address using this route rather than merely looking at their website, especially useful when the website just has a contact form. Kevin@xxx.com is better than firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s a fine line between just spamming people and building up a normal and human interaction. Don’t just send people an unannounced press release as a message the second they follow you back. It’s not polite. A lot of these accounts are just like you. Look at peoples work, they put a lot of time and effort into it, just like you did with your film so appreciate it and like/interact with it. Everyone is ‘hustling’ to an extent but take a deep breath.
When building up contacts, detail as much of your notes onto your spreadsheet as possible. They will be invaluable later. Names and just knowing who people are is nice.
This is not a quick process. Results are slow and this is where your tenacity will determine whether your film will receive some kind of recognition. But enjoy it, enjoy interacting with people and regardless of whether someone reviews a film you might find some people you like.
At some point you will have built a very large spreadsheet of review contacts to hopefully try sending your press release to. Some will be direct email addresses for your new Twitter friends – make a special note of these. Some will not have replied to your direct Twitter message at all– also note down. And some may not have even followed you back on Twitter – if this is the case you can still try and obtain their email address from their linked webpage/blog route. Create a system of ranking these. You will be using your notes to determine how likely someone is to help you, or if you have to do some extra work.
Next, follow as closely as possible the same process for Facebook. Create a page (you should ideally create these social media pages before you reach this stage, especially for including them on your press release). Look for Facebook pages for horror film reviews you can’t find elsewhere initially but also follow/like those you already follow on Twitter. Don’t do this with anyone’s personal pages.
Perform Google searches for other review sites. Build up as extensive a contacts spreadsheet as possible, with as many detailed notes on your personal interactions.
This will have taken you a very long time but you have now created an incredibly useful, highly focussed list of people to send your Press Release to. All you need to do is send it.
Sending Your Press Release
Larger scale publications mostly deal with a small amount of PR companies. Reviewers and journalists usually recognise these PR company names as they pop up in their inbox, or have good relationships and recognise the individual publicists. Unfortunately more attention will be paid to them than you, this is where the personal touch comes in. Providing a personal touch is why it is important to have notes on your interactions. Knowing somebody’s name is helpful and knowing a little about what they do also helps. All of these companies once started out in the same position as you and you will soon start to form relationships.
Bulk emails are quicker to send compared to time-consuming individual emails. The individual, time-consuming approach has by far the greater positive response rate. Emailing potentially thousands of people individually is a long process so a good compromise is to do a little of both. For the reviewers with whom you have had little contact with, try sending your press release in bulk but for those you have started forming relationships with, use the personal approach. A very important tip for mass emailing is to use the BCC – Blind Carbon Copy ‘send email’. Everyone loves to feel special and there’s little more off-putting than receiving a cold email asking for help and seeing 500 other email address also copied in.
You should also think carefully about the email address which you send your Press Release from. A Hotmail/Gmail address looks far less professional than a private one. There will be a cost implication attached so decide whether you think you can afford this, likewise having a matching website may help look more professional. Ask yourself this questions ‘Will a potential great review gain you more sales?’
Press releases are often sent without a covering message. This is very common for large companies but my experience has always been that a short personal, not too informal but concise message helps. Certainly if you are looking for reviews then mention that.
Don’t overload your recipients inbox with large files. Copy the press release into the email body, attach a .doc and pdf version along with a poster. A nice eye-catching poster helps when receiving an email. Think about adding a few stills in a compressed folder. Add a Dropbox or similar link to the entire press pack and stills as a good backup. Most of this is personal preference and what feels natural to you so there are no hard and fast rules here. Do what works for you.
It’s also important to know when to send. Think about which country your recipients are in. Do they have a different day job? Would it be better for them to receive at night or first thing in the morning? Will other filmmakers or PRs send a Press Release at 9am on Monday morning meaning yours may get put aside? There’s a lot to think about and not everyone will be the same. There’s a lot written about this and available online.
And send, send, send….
I think that reviews are more beneficial to you because they can be shared as a third party resources such as IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. However, any promotion is better than nothing. And it’s also reciprocal. A Twitter page benefits from you sharing their article/review.
Here are a few of the many we received for Night Kaleidoscope:
What Can You Do To Help Your Film After You Send a Press Release?
There’s a lot you can still do to help promote your film.
Previous reviews (as seen above) will be invaluable for quotes.
It’s a always good idea to thank anybody who gets back to you from your mail-out. And again, note these interactions on your spreadsheet, especially if they agree to post a review, trailer or article. They will become invaluable and reliable contacts for your future films and Press Releases.
You likely will not hear or see too much online for the first few days.
After 24 hours start checking Twitter and Facebook to see if anybody has picked up on your Press Release. A search for your film title, in brackets is a good start. Use Google’s Time-Period search function. Once you start seeing articles appearing you should start sharing and liking, and thanking. This will take you onto another important step of your promotion.
If you are promoting a full film release, such as availability on Amazon, this is an exciting moment for you. Once you start seeing articles and especially reviews you should start re-tweeting/re-posting. This will now offer you the opportunity to target the public towards your film.
The Twitter pages who are creating articles and reviews for your film will also be posting these themselves. They will usually tag you into a tweet/post which will allow interested parties to hopefully be led by an amazing write-up to watch your film themselves. If the article is based on your own press release then it reminds you of the importance to make it interesting to the public. A more in-depth article or review is preferred, especially if they are good reviews. Once you start getting good reviews you can tweet extracts or interesting sentences such as “This is a fantastic film you should watch”.
Your Twitter, Facebook and if you have one – website will now start to be filled with articles, tweets and reviews of your film. And you should start gaining more followers. If your film is available on Amazon then copy the links into your Bio. It is a slow process which relies on traction and repeating your steps again and again. The more you post these on your website then the more Google will rank it.
Start performing more Google searches for your film. As discussed earlier, often many results will be hidden due to Google algorithms. Always perform another search with hidden results shown.
If you are lucky a large site will pick up on your film. Often reviews are cascaded. If somewhere such as Fangoria does something with your film then smaller sites may use that as a reference for their own reviews without any contact at all with you. If this happens you will be in a fantastic position. That credibility for your previously unknown film will potentially sway other reviewers who received your Press Release to revisit your film and write an article.
For smaller sites, they are in a very similar position to you and your relationship can be mutually beneficial. You need exposure and so do they. Always retweet, like and thank them to increase their online presence, which in turn will increase yours.
You are now starting to build up a really good online presence of your movie which is very useful for somebody hopefully creating a Wikipedia page or later searchable coverage.
Because your Twitter page now has reviews, articles and links to your film you need to direct the public to them instead of just reviewers. The purpose of your online presence it to sell your film.
You are almost going to be going back to square one again and it will feel like it. Remember tenacity! Search Twitter for Horror Fans this time as opposed to Horror Reviewers. You will have a greater chance of people interested now in your film because you have content for them to see.
I have never been especially good with online interaction but it is a fantastic way to build up more followers and direct more people to your film. Search for like-minded filmmakers, retweet their progress, reviews and Amazon links and they will hopefully do the same. Interact with fans. Look at followers of films you like and follow them.
My other film, Big Gold Dream almost solely had its Twitter following based on audience interaction which helped it to receive reviews in high-street magazine, high street DVD sales and a television screening. I didn’t really have to follow any of the steps from this article, and a friend was more than happy to run its social media pages. I dip in occasionally and it’s always a great experience to interact with those who have helped us. Every film is marketed slightly differently.
If you can Tweet directly to celebrity filmmakers or actors you may be able to get them to retweet a link to your film, or even a quote you can use. Many Tweets us multiple @’s or tags and it can pay off very well.
If you have some great quotes from celebrities or respected film review sites then take advantage. Tweak your press release as you go on, use your detailed spreadsheet to resend to reviewers who did not initially pick up on your film when you first sent. Having some extra marketing point may just be enough for them to now review or feature your film. Again, this will not be simple or quick, it may take months.
I suggested near the start of this guide (which seems a long time ago) that you and your filmmaking friends have the best ideas. Use those ideas now. There is so much scope for you to promote your film on Social Media that this is only touching the tip of the iceberg:
Release your film for free for a week, hopefully somebody will review or promote it. Use Reddit, use Instagram, post set-photos, have competitions. There is so much you can do for free, you just need to use your good ideas and follow them through.
For a small amount of hard work you can create an effective online presence for your film completely for free. If you have had a festival run (which we did for Night Kaleidoscope) you will be able to add any awards or screenings to your reviews and quotes. These are so incredibly helpful for drawing potential viewers and buyers towards your movie. If your overall film budget was small you should be able to easily generate enough press for your film to lead customers to be able to pay for it.
I’m not suggesting I’m and expert at this by any means. I’ve made many mistakes along this journey, and certainly could have done far more work in promoting my films. By adding your own ideas to these thoughts I’d love for it to work for you and for you to take your films further. And if you have success please share your own ideas with everyone in the community.
There are so many exciting possibilities for using the internet – with your great ideas – to further your filmmaking and allow you to create a completely self-sufficient and sustainable DIY film industry. Barriers between traditional distribution and independent are now being broken.
Just remember it takes time….