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Getting Press for Your DVD

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Created on: Aug 28, 2009 4:38 PM by CreateSpaceResources - Last Modified:  Oct 26, 2010 5:15 AM by CreateSpaceBlogger

Getting Press For Your DVD

Top Tips to Film Distribution

 

This article was written by Mark Steven Bosko, an industry expert with over fifteen years of experience in producing, promoting, and distributing independent feature films. In addition to performing virtually every job on a film production, he has successfully produced and distributed several independent films. Mark is the author of The Complete Independent Movie Marketing Handbook, a comprehensive guide on how to promote, distribute, and sell your film or video.

 


Secrets of Gaining Media Coverage

Whether it's paid or free, utilizing the media in as many appropriate forms as possible is not just an option. It is a necessity.

 

You must look to all types of media--newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, and the web--as "partners" of sorts in promoting your film. The resulting attention paid to your film ultimately gets you the "ink" that is so helpful in attracting a traditional distributor and direct self-distribution sales.

 

Depending on your route to market, media coverage can serve different, though equally valuable, purposes to the filmmaker/producer. While media coverage is obviously valuable in the traditional distribution arrangement, it can be even more vital for those forging the self-distribution path, when a studio, independent distributor, or sales agent is not beating down doors for you.

 

 

"If a filmmaker can secure some positive media, it will definitely help us in the finished packaging of the product," says Treston. His company judges a film on a variety of merits when making the acquisition decision, and good press makes their marketing efforts that much easier. "Though not as influential in our initial consideration for distribution, good reviews are great for independent films," continues Treston, "as they are always used in the promotional materials used to sell the film."

-- Arik Ben Treston, Vice President, Home Entertainment, Cinema Libre Studios

 

 

"Free publicity through media coverage is one of the easiest routes to letting your audience--both co-marketing partners and viewers--know about your product," says John Geyer, co-founder of CustomFlix (now CreateSpace). "This is especially true if you are self-distributing a film, because other than time, publicity is essentially free, which works great for a guerilla marketing budget. Good media coverage online or in print can drive a ton of direct sales."

 

Regardless of your situation, getting media is an important task that you should be tackling as quickly as possible. To help you get going, we're going to talk about the tools and techniques you'll need, as well as how to find the right media to get the word out about your film. Wide ranges of publicity tools are available for you to influence the media and gain coverage. In this guide, we'll cover the press release, interview, review, publicity stunt, and paid ads. Without further ado... let's go!

 

The Press Release

Without a doubt, the press release is the cheapest and easiest way to get the promotional campaign started. The most used (and overused) device in the industry, a press release is a one-page synopsis of the news you want to communicate to your public (described earlier as your audience profile).

 

Newspapers, magazines and broadcasters receive hundreds of these daily. If you want the media to take action on your release, you must create it correctly, send it to the proper person, and at the same time, make it stand apart from all the others. To do so:

 

  • Type the release, double-spaced with ample margin areas.
  • Keep it short--a release should be one page long, two maximum.
  • Put a title on it and indicate who the release is from.
  • Target your press releases to media that have some relation to your film (subject matter, filmmaking, personal interest, local celebrity, etc.)
  • Make sure your press release is news. Your local weekly paper may be interested that you are staging a shoot involving 100 extras from the high school marching band, but the editor of MovieMaker magazine doesn't care.
  • State the most important information first. Editors only read the first line to see if it's important and appropriate.
  • Personally address the release to a specific person at the media outlet.
  • Need help? Find some press releases that are close to the one you'd like to write and use them as a starting template.

 

The Interview

Another very popular format of media coverage, the interview, presents you as an expert or interesting figure. For filmmakers, the interview is a given. Rehash a long night of shooting, tell a rags-to-riches story, or even spill the beans on how you funded your film by selling beer cans to attract the media.

 

Do your homework before any interview. Regardless if it's broadcast, print or web-based, find out the following:

 

  • What is the background of the reporter? Is he familiar with filmmaking, the subject of your project, cast and crew, locations, or with your personal life?
  • What is the editorial or "political" direction of the media?
  • What is the story angle? Is it to inform or entertain?
  • What is the length of the interview? Will it last for five or twenty-five minutes?
  • Where will the interview be conducted?
  • Is anyone else being interviewed in conjunction with the story?
  • When will the interview be made available?
  • Who is the audience? What do they want to hear?

 

In addition to learning all you can about the media conducting the interview, be sure you really come off as an expert about the subject on which you'll be speaking. Know why your story was chosen--what the news hook was that caught their attention. You can also ask for a list or types of questions that the interviewer will be likely to ask.

 

The Review

Probably the most recognizable form of "free" media available is the review. Used by Hollywood studios and big-budget producers to both generate interest in a project and attest to its entertainment, instructional, or informational value, reviews can be used by independent filmmakers in much the same way.

 

With the ever-increasing number of media outlets operating on the planet, the good news is that finding a source for reviews isn't too tough. A quick glance through any print, broadcast, or web media will uncover any number of review-oriented articles, programming, and content. And, almost every single film and video advertisement--print or broadcast--features review quotes as part of its marketing message.

 

Using reviews in this manner offers promoters a simple, cheap, and effective way to influence an audience. An objective third party endorsement of your project is always more convincing than saying the same things yourself, thus the popular habit of placing review quotes on film and video packaging.

 

Don't just approach typical reviewers; look to media influential to your target audiences and solicit them as well. For example, if you have a film that centers on skateboard culture, a review from Thrasher magazine is going to be a heck of a lot more valuable and meaningful to your audience than a "thumbs up" from Ebert and Roeper (though that would bring a lot of attention, too). If you are working with a small distributor, a review in the industry trade magazines is valuable because it targets their buying audience of video rental and retail stores.

 

The Publicity Stunt

Varying from somewhat amusing to completely outrageous, a little imagination and hard work will go a long way when utilizing the publicity stunt. The purpose is to arouse interest in both the public and the media in a unique way. Some ideas (and cautions) for utilizing this promotional technique:

 

  • Create a human billboard for your film. Place actors in costume, displaying a sign advertising the project, near a busy pedestrian or traffic intersection.
  • Stage appearances or costume contests at local video shops to draw a lot of customers and please storeowners with high tape rental/sales activity.
  • Make a float for any local parades.
  • Sponsor some kind of contest that creates both consumer interaction and visual interest. Writing, songs, costumes, physical endurance, memory, strength, dancing, and athletic ability are just some of the many topics on which a contest can be based, and each allows for a very public display.
  • Keep it legal. Just as you need permits to shoot in certain public areas, you may also need permits to gather in these same areas. And make sure anyone involved has signed a release holding you and your company harmless for any damages suffered as a result of participating in the stunt. You should consult with an entertainment lawyer, who can advise you on what permits and releases are required.

 

Paid Coverage

Widely known as advertising (though paid media does not always involve "ads"), buying coverage for your project has its advantages. There is no guessing as to what will be expressed in the coverage. You write and design the ad. There is also no guessing as to which media will cover your story. You buy the media of your choice. The only guessing is how many people will actually see your ad and/or remember it. The other big downside, of course, is cost.

 

My general advice is that if you get traditional distribution, your distributor will handle the advertising. You just need to ask for and get a plan as part of your negotiations. If you're self-distributing your film, traditional advertising is generally something you shouldn't worry about. To work, advertising generally requires a sustained campaign over several months, necessitating a big budget. Unless you have the bankroll or can barter for ad space, focus your attention on publicity and partnerships.

 

Remember--a comprehensive, yet low-cost PR campaign is certainly more beneficial to your film or video than a one-shot advertisement in a magazine. If a paid ad means sacrificing all of your other approaches to promotion and publicity because of cost or time spent setting it up, skip it.

 

Finding the Right Media

Now that you're armed with some of the techniques and tools of the media game, you need to find the right media to tell your story. The process of finding the right media can be broken down into four basic steps:

 

Get the Information

In this step you want to find the best possible sources of media that may cover your project. Here are some hot tips to help you get it done fast:

 

  • Local and regional media. Approach all print, broadcast, and cable media in a 50-mile radius. You are a star. Play it up!
  • Entertainment trade publications. When your film or video enters the production stage, you'll want to announce this fact to the industry trades, and can do so for free, right alongside the biggest Hollywood movies.
  • Home entertainment-specific trade publications. Announce the availability of finished product to your buying audience of retailers, distributors, and other home entertainment industry buyers.
  • General entertainment publications and their associated websites. While some of the big ones are a long shot, many targeted publications love indie projects.
  • Online. Post your news and get links back to your website from:   
    • IMdB.com and other websites
    • Discussion forums
    • Blogs
  • Industry-specific media:       
    • Try checking Cision or other media-listing publications to gather details on all media that cover your subject matter or target your audience in some way. Cision is the bible of the PR world and can help you find the right magazine and contact person quickly. Look for it at a library in a major metropolitan area or take a PR person out to dinner and have them e-mail you the goods.
    • There is at least one magazine for everything--did you know that there are three magazines that cover the tire making industry (Tire Review, Tire Business, and Modern Tire Dealer)? If a scene from your film was shot in a tire making plant or tire warehouse (or even a tire store), you could probably score some coverage since it would be so unique compared to the news these magazines typically receive. The same goes for industry-aimed cable programming, radio shows, and websites.

 

Make Your List

Once you know which media you want to contact, make a spreadsheet with the name of the publication/website, etc., contact name (the managing editor or editor-in-chief are good choices), their e-mail addresses, and how best to contact them.

 

Sort Your List

Sort your list according to medium (print, broadcast, and the web). Use the 80/20 rule and for the top twenty percent of folks that you'd like to have talk you up, consider making an initial contact to get additional information. You'll want to ask about:

 

  • Preferred method of news/materials submission (e-mail, fax, snail mail)
  • Callback policy (do they want you to call after sending info)
  • Lead-time (how long do they need information before use)
  • Type of materials preferred (news release, in-person, video press kit, b-roll footage, photos, audio tape)
  • Correct spelling and pronunciation of writers/broadcasters' names
  • Pertinent e-mail addresses, fax numbers, and phone numbers

 

Make Contact

Create a timeline or calendar indicating lead times and deadlines for submission of materials and scheduling of interviews and other publicity-themed projects. Send out your press release and screener copy. For the top media, you can also set up phone or in-person visits if practical.

 

When following up, never call or e-mail to ask if the person has received your materials. Instead, call to ask if they have any questions. It is also important to let the media know if you're the producer or director. Media people get bombarded all the time by junior level PR agency folks, so having an opportunity to speak directly with someone that has first-hand experience on the story is very compelling.

 

Lastly, it is important to remember that the media--like distributors--need your story. There's no need to by shy or nervous or feel in any way like they are only doing you a favor. Be professional, be polite, tell your story (as a filmmaker you're already a professional storyteller!) and have fun.

 

Summary
  • Using the media isn't just an option. It is a necessity.
  • Media coverage helps distributors and filmmakers promote a film.
  • Write a press release, getting help if you need it.
  • Follow the steps to finding and contacting the right media.
  • Get reviews.

 

 

 

--Mark Steven Bosko

 

 

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