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What producers need to know about the press

Some advice for new producers.

As part of our Future Leaders: Producers feature running in Screen’s May issue, we sought expert advice for new producers entering the industry and learning how to navigate this insular and complicated business. Maybe some of these would-be producers are at Cannes for the first time, wondering whether it’s better to schedule a meeting at the Majestic or the Petit Majestic (and the answer to that is, it depends on your drinks budget).

For one of these features, Screen surveyed film festival experts from around the globe and found their advice to be obvious but essential — such as listening to your sales agent and submitting only to targeted festivals that are right for your film, to offering very specific tips such as having translators available for interviews at foreign festivals or recording Q&As for DVD extras. Experts from the worlds of sales and finance also offer their advice.

I’d like to add my own advice for new producers: get to know the press and how we work, and how each publication could help your film — that’s from local bloggers to international professional publications such as Screen. I dare say at least 99% of film journalists do care about films and want to support them. To do that, we need clear, correct, factual information at the right time. Reaching out to the press in a professional way is good; stalking is bad.

As far as press strategy is concerned, make sure you’re on the same page as your publicist(s), your sales company, your festival contacts, your corporate partners, distributors, not to mention your director and cast and their agents. Too many cooks in the kitchen can ruin a story. If you have a publicist, you should usually let them take the lead.

All the trades want exclusives, but playing the trades against each other will only hurt you in the long run.

Remember that reviews and news coverage aren’t the same thing; yes, sometimes we deliver a review that is highly critical. If all our reviews were full of glowing praise, they wouldn’t be worth reading. But we’re still committed to writing news about a film, no matter what the review is like.

It’s better for long-term relationships not to announce anything before it’s ‘real’. If you posted your script to Brad Pitt, that doesn’t mean he’s “close to joining your project”. Don’t lie to us and we won’t lie to you — mutual respect is important across all areas of the film business.

And my best bit of advice? Simple. Spend the time and money to get great film stills. Really, it makes a huge difference.

Even for those producers on the circuit for a decade, some of this issue’s tips from experts might serve as a good reminder. And the golden rule still applies to anyone at any stage of his or her career: please be nice.

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