At Rotterdam’s CineMart, industry experts advised filmmakers to start early and make marketing and PR an integral part of any production.
Moderated by Screen International editor Wendy Mitchell, a panel of experts shared tips and strategies on how to cut through the noise for festival and cinema releases and grow new audiences as well.
They started off by entreating filmmakers to secure the most basic of things – stills and other press kit materials.
Laurin Dietrich of Wolf Consultants, which will be handling press for films including Snowpiecer at Berlin this year, said: “It’s shocking how bad the stuff is sometimes.
“You need to think before you start shooting - what are the iconic scenes and key moments from my film that I need. You don’t need an incredibly expensive photographer nor do you need one for the whole shoot - just maybe ten days when the cast is all together that you can’t get later, to create stills, appealing marketing materials.
“There’s a need for a professional approach before the beginning shoot. Think about what’s going to happen to the story and the film.”
Mitchell noted that as an editor she is constantly trying to find info on films and filmmakers as well as stills and director photos to use for publication.
She said: ”In Cannes, for instance, when Screen does a cover image, we’re going to use whatever looks best – that’s PR you can’t buy, that gives you great coverage.”
Kathleen McInnis of See-Through Films, who has been dealing with emerging filmmakers, world cinema, documentaries and shorts for several years, said: “If the press have to wait two days into the festival to get an approved credit list, it just causes a logjam in getting their press reviews out there.
“You need to be thinking about your person on the crew who’s going to be creating your deliverables as important as everybody else. That person is now integral. There are items you might think you will have time to create later on, but you won’t.
“Sometimes journalists are working at 2 o’clock in the morning. “Why don’t I have a Word doc? Why do I only have a PDF that I have to type over, which will just lead to mistakes?” And there’s no one to call at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
When financing an average independent film, panelists advised putting aside €10,000 to €25,000 for the express purposes of marketing and PR, and to make sure to protect that money for its use and have some left after the shoot.
Thessa Mooij of New York-based Silversalt PR, which specializes in international festival publicity and North American theatrical releases, said: “Think of it as a down payment to a publicist to make the most of your film. If you don’t have PR budget at all, by all means do create a mailing.
“Go to press screenings and make business cards and a short sheet - just do be aware press might not like dealing with the director directly, so have a producer or someone else there. And just use Facebook, Twitter and other social media.”
McInnis added: “If you have no budget, engage with the festival team. Use their materials and resources. Go to the parties, talk to people. Actively being there, present, charming, and who you are will help.”
As for identifying and reaching audiences Dietrich said: “You should start thinking about this before you start shooting - social media, crowd-funding, audiences and people to go see my film. What are they reading, what are they interested in - the outlets and media they are reading?”
Liz Rosenthal of Power to the Pixel, which specializes in cross-media storytelling and engaging audiences across multiple platforms said: “I kind of don’t divorce marketing from storytelling.
“I think filmmakers denigrate it, but whether it’s a feature film, TV series or games, we get people to get right back to the core themes they want to talk about and help them engage audiences to create a bigger storytelling world.
“Because when someone’s interested in the story you are telling they are interested in everything around it, not just the 90 minutes or two hours. There’s such competition for your work to be seen. Strategy is your best friend.”
She used the example of the Finnish sci-fi film Iron Sky. “The director from the very beginning brought the audiences in and had a crowd-funding campaign that not only brought in money but engaged them in storytelling.
“If you already have an audience there, then press and buyers are going to be interested. When Iron Sky got to Berlin, he had already gotten 70,000 requests from territories around the world to see the film.
“He had already pre-sold it simply because he could prove audiences were there.”
The experts also advised filmmakers to be strategic in the exposure of the film, not to sell it short of festival screenings by going online too soon, and also to take the time – “at least a year or nine months minimum” to help your film into the world before moving onto the next project.