Filmmaker Reality Check: Distribution Without PR Can Be a Dead-end Street

iStock_000003102483XSmallI recently had a conversation with two filmmakers who had finished their first full length feature film.  I asked them what their marketing game plan was.  Their response was that they were going to submit their film to festivals, contact distributors and that once they landed a deal, the distribution company would take care of all of the public relations and marketing and would most likely pay for a PR firm to promote the film.

I tried not to look too incredulous.

They were completely serious.  From their perspective, they had done their job. They had produced their film.  The rest wasn’t their concern.  Someone else would do the work for them.

They had no marketing plan, they had no money set aside in their budget to PR or promote their film.  They had a film, yes, but now they were completely at the mercy of others.

A public relations and marketing plan could have initially helped them secure a distribution deal, but even if they landed one, a distribution deal is simply step one, it in no way insures that a film will be properly marketed.

If you are an independent filmmaker, make the following your mantra:

With or without a distribution deal, to succeed, my job is to market, market and –  market!

This unrealistic mindset is one that I see on a regular basis with filmmakers and authors.  Filmmakers believe a distributor will solve all their PR and marketing problems, while authors believe that a publisher will be the white knight to take care of any promotional or marketing issues. Whereas most musicians now realize that there has been a huge paradigm shift and they need to market themselves, authors and filmmakers still generally believe that landing a publishing or distribution deal solves their problems.

I’ve seldom seen a distribution company that handles low budget films actively market a film.  I give seminars on PR for artists and have heard story after story about filmmakers who thought their job was to produce the film and that marketing would be taken care of.  A number of these had already landed distribution deals.  They didn’t budget for marketing or PR and had no idea that promotion was part of their responsibility.

Sadly, these are all films that very few people will ever see.

Copyright © Anthony Mora Communications 2013

 

Blockbusters Gone Bad

white-house-down-wallpapers-hdThe summer blockbuster season is all but done.

Man of Steel and World War Z did well.

But, White House Down, which cost $150 million to make, had made around $72 million domestically the last time I checked.

The Lone Ranger was a huge disappointment, which Disney admits could signify a loss of 190 million.

Even with Will Smith and family on board, After Earth didn’t fare well at all.

And while the blockbusters were playing like horror films when it came to the box-office, a surprise summertime horror flick, The Conjuring, opened at No. 1, while big budget R.I.P.D., came in seventh on its opening weekend.

So what’s the problem here?  The studio heads are lamenting the fact that there are just too many mega movies.  If so, whose fault is that?  And is that really the problem?  Can there really be too many multi-million dollar films where aliens or monsters of some sort threaten mankind with yet another Armageddon?

Do we just have too much of a good thing?

Is oversaturation of the sublime the problem we’re dealing with?

Probably not.

But if that’s not the issue, what is?

Could it be that spending hundreds of millions in an effort to court teenage boys a bad business move?  That can’t be it. I mean you can’t find a more dependable, loyal audience, right?

It makes perfect business sense to stop making romantic comedies and lose the female audience in order to focus on making yet one more cookie-cutter, superhero machines-gone-wild-and-the-world-almost-comes-to-a-catastrophic-end film.  I mean why should the studios care about female viewers?  They don’t buy anyway.

Hollywood is like a gambler who keeps going back to the same table remembering that he hit it big there in the past, which must guarantee it will happen again – if he just keeps playing the same way long enough.   That’s always a good business approach.

Moreover studio heads are obsessed with being cool, even at the expense of a practical efficient business model.  The over 40 crowd isn’t cool.  The film execs find that a boring demographic, so they ignore that sector during the big bang summer months.

The industry could always consider diversity, targeting a number of smaller niche markets with reasonably budgeted projects.  Perhaps smaller films with a compelling storyline and roles in which actors can actually act. Perhaps character driven projects with a strong narrative.  There could be a number of smaller projects where the risk is spread and the market bull’s-eye was broadened.

But what fun would that be?  No CGI, nothing blowing up or crashing.  Best to bet the house on four or five big roles of the dice.

Granted it’s not just the huge summer films that are the issue, costs are spiraling out of control across the board.  For example,  the 1974 Great Gatsby cost approximately 8 million while the remake is said to have run over 120 million.  Of course that makes sense, because the remake was at least 112 million dollars better.   Right?  If this isn’t a compelling argument for taking up reading, I don’t know what is.

But, I digress.  Forget Gatsby.  There were no aliens or natural disasters anywhere in that movie.  No one blew up the White House or swallowed a city.  Why even make such an unrealistic project?  Some people never learn.

Never fear, next summer will arrive with a blockbuster bang, because… well… because it worked, once upon a time.

Copyright © Anthony Mora Communications 2013

Spielberg, Lucas & the Fate of The Film Industry

MovieLogos1If anyone knows the film business, Steven Spielberg does.  Many consider him a visionary.  He’s been a force that has shaped the industry as we know it.   So, if it’s true that Spielberg knows the film biz, the industry is in for some hard times.  His most recent prediction is not a happy one.

As part of a panel at USC for the opening of the university’s School of Cinematic Arts’ new Interactive Media Building, Spielberg predicted the “implosion” of the film industry. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Spielberg predicted things could wind up so that: “you’re gonna have to pay $25 for the next ‘Iron Man,’ you’re probably only going to have to pay $7 to see ‘Lincoln.’ “

According to Spielberg the industry could falter if, as he predicts, several high-budget, high-profile films fail.  The impact could alter the film industry as we know it.  “That’s the big danger, and there’s eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown, “he explained. “There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen mega budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

And this is not only Spielberg’s take on the state of the film industry.   George Lucas, who was also on the panel, concurred with Spielberg’s view.  According to Lucas, cable television is now “much more adventurous” than the movie industry. The two film giants told the students that this is a time of huge changes both for the film industry and filmmakers. “The pathway to get into theaters is really getting smaller and smaller,” explained Lucas.

The irony is that these pronouncements come from two filmmakers who helped usher in the blockbuster film world that we now live in. But I doubt that even they could envision the direction that the film world would take.  Studios now pour hundreds of millions into huge blockbuster films.  Those films pay for just about everything else’s the studios do, but when those blockbusters begin to fail, the walls will come crushing down.  Add to that the threat that  TV poses, particularly cable and the new online on demand models that are surfacing, and the traditional film model is in real trouble.

But, at least from my perspective, having worked as a film producer, writer and film PR consultant, this could be the best thing that could possibly happen to the industry.  Yes, there could be a huge shakeup which will be uncomfortable for many, but these huge films with their bloated blockbuster budgets have strangled the industry.  There is no room left in the traditional model for low budget or mid range films that tell an interesting story and offer actors roles that allow them to actually act.

The current film industry model is to bet the entire industry on the success or failure of blockbusters  Either the studios, and the film world as a whole, will realize that they are playing a losing hand, and change their gameplan accordingly, or they will learn the hard way.  For as Spielberg and Lucas predict, the inevitable is coming.

If they take those hundreds of millions and make smaller budget action, fantasy, or sci-fi films that work and then produce films in a number different genres that target different audiences, that will help spread the risk.  The industry needs to produce more films that target different sectors.  Those films will make more modest returns, that’s true, but there will be more of them and costs will be kept in check.  Under this model you’ll not only have a much saner approach to film making, you’ll end up with more creative, dynamic compelling films.  The movie industry is more than aliens, robots, superheroes and CGI.  It’s about storytelling.

So filmmakers take heart.  Yes the film world is in for a wild ride, but it will be one that in the end could very well offer more producers, directors and actors more opportunities and will offer the public more quality films.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2013

Megzus. “Cool Movies and Films of 2012, 2011, and 2013.” Photo. Megzus. 14 Jan 2013. 17 Jun 2013. <http://bit.ly/175Mz2J&gt;

 

What To Do Once You Land A Media Interview

936313_10151357079912061_1679321435_nTo start, be happy.  You’ve achieved an important objective.  But you don’t want to simply show up for an interview without preparation.  This is an opportunity you want to fully maximize.  The following few days we’ll be outlining a media check list, reviewing all of the points that you need to consider before appearing in front of the camera.  The visual points are obviously geared towards a TV appearance, These points are essential to consider before doing any type of interview, whether print, radio, TV or online.    Some of these points are basic, but you’d be surprised how many people forget the basics when doing an interview.

1)  Review the two or three primary points that you want to get across during the interview.

2) Make sure you’ve checked yourself in a mirror before you go on camera.  Is your hair in place?  Is your tie crooked?  Is your lipstick smeared?  Give yourself the basic once-over.

3)  Relax.  You are there to have a conversation.  Well, at least you want it to look like a conversation.

4) No slouching.  Sit with good posture.

5) Focus on the interviewer.  The camera and crew is part of the furniture as far as you’re concerned.

6)  Remember, you don’t have to force the information; weave your points into the interview.  If you spend your time forcing an issue, it will come out sounding strained and stilted.

Nope, you’re not done yet.  We’ve just started.  To be continued…

Copyright © Anthony Mora2013

The Film Festival Marketing Approach

sundance_film_festival_egyptian_theater_03Film festivals are definitely one approach to market and showcase your film and one I would encourage any filmmaker to consider.  But using that as your sole approach can backfire.  Let’s say one of your primary goals is to show your film at film festivals, particularly at the top festivals.  Fine, the film festival route is certainly a viable one when it comes to promoting and marketing your film, but keep in mind that’s not the only route.  Plenty of independent films land a distributor or self distribute and find an audience going different routes altogether.  Regardless of whether you go the film festival route or have another strategy, you should start thinking about your film’s marketing and release strategy as soon as possible.  If you’re smart, you’ll start before the screenplay is finished, certainly before the first frame has been shot.

Remember, the PR & marketing can be the engine that drives the project.  It can open doors to distribution, financing and build your audience base.  Keep your options open every step of the way.  As I mentioned earlier festivals are one approach, but not the only one.  Let’s say  you’re working on a documentary; you have a number of distribution and showing possibilities from the festivals, to theatrical to outside the box screenings at schools, museums, organizations and churches.  Often these types of screenings can run even during a festival showing.

One way festivals can help, is they are great places for forming relationships with others involved in various aspects of the film process.  This can be particularly helpful for producers and filmmakers who are going to self distribute their film.  Filmmakers now need to take a more active role in the marketing, public relations, and distribution of their films and festivals can definitely help forge important relationships.

But there can also be a downside to festivals.  It’s possible to get locked in the film festival loop and not look at alternative, creative ways to market, show and showcase your film.  Even if your film is accepted to one or more, that in itself does not guarantee your film will succeed. Too many film producers base their entire marketing strategy on being accepted by a festival.  If it turns out no festival bites, which happens a fair amount of time, these filmmakers are left with no alternate strategy.  They are more or less stranded and left with no alternate approach.  You don’t want to find yourself in that position.

My advice is to begin on day one with a PR and marketing strategy that goes forward whether or not your film finds its way to a festival.  Regardless of the direction you choose to take, get your PR and marketing gameplan in place, start your PR outreach and launch your filmmaking journey.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2013

Cresswell, Jackson. “Sundance London Film Festival is Launching in April 2012.” Collider. 15, Mar 2011. 19 Apr 2013. <http://collider.com/sundance-london-film-festival-2012/>

The Starving Artist Syndrome – Get Over It!

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.― Henry Ford

We’ve represented a wide range of clients since I launched my company over twenty years ago.  We’ve worked with professionals such as physicians and attorneys; we’ve represented spas, salons, and beauty products.  We’ve worked with fashion designers, musicians, film producers and authors.  We’ve also represented fine artists, painters and sculptors.

Some clients that we’ve worked with have often been launching a new company, struggling to get ahead and working to build their business.  Some have had obstacles to work through and overcome.  Our job has always been to work with them to help them achieve their goals.

Many of the artists we’ve worked with have been amazing clients and successes in their field.  They’ve been a pleasure to work with.  But (there usually seems to be a “but”, right?)  I have found that the fine art world still suffers from a syndrome that is specific to them – the Starving Artists Syndrome.   These particular artists contact me about marketing and PR and then spend the bulk of the conversation explaining their starving artist status.

I was prepared to find this belief in the art world.  It’s been rearing its head for a while.  What I was not prepared for was how many artists embraced it, wrapped themselves in it, and wore it as a badge of courage.  I don’t mean to sound heartless, but there are a number of people out there who revel in their starving artist status.  It’s who they are.  It’s what defines them.

To quote Michael Michalko, author of a number of books including Creative Thinkering: Putting your Imagination to Work, “The artist is not a special person… Every one of us is born a creative, spontaneous thinker. The only difference between people who are creative and people who are not is a simple belief.”  But often that belief brings with it a number of other incredibly destructive beliefs including those absurd notions that a life in the arts equates with a life filled with struggle, hardship, and ultimately, failure.

If you in any way identify with this starving artist definition, I have three words of advice – get over it! Shift your perspective, instead of describing yourself as a starving artist; see yourself as an artist entrepreneur.  This will require more than a definition change, but that is your starting place.  No one knows better than an artist that perception creates reality. Henry Ford, an artist in his own right, was on the mark when he said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”  Artists, take those words to heart.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2013

The Art of Success

art of successAs an artist, you never know what is going to grab the media’s attention.  That’s why your best bet is to do the work you love and then tailor your marketing to fit your artwork.  I’m not a believer in trying to figure out what‘s going to entice the media, or coming up with the next big thing. Film companies and TV networks have tried that approach for years and you’ve seen what their track record is like.  Your job is to focus on your art, your creativity and on your strengths.  But that doesn’t mean you forget about the marketing aspect of your business, because art is a business.    And that needn’t be a bad thing.  It simply is.  Don’t resist it; use it to your advantage.

It all comes down to your perspective and how you approach this aspect of your career.  Remember creative marketing is an art.   Not to mention the fact that without marketing, most likely your art will be your avocation instead of your vocation.  But again don’t tailor your work towards your marketing, but tailor your marketing towards your art.

For example, our client, Brendan O’Connell, has been painting his Walmart series for going on eight years now.  This is not a series he’s worked on because he thought it would be a great marketing tool.  He painted the series because that’s what he was organically moved and inspired to paint.  He was following his calling.  Now the media has caught up.   His work has struck a chord.   He was featured on CBS Sunday.  Watch Brendan O’Connell (Walmart’s Warhol) CBS SundayHe’ll be coming out in People magazine; he was profiled in the New Yorker and was interviewed on the Colbert Report.

Brendan O’Connell on the Colbert Report!

The bottom line is he stay focused on his art first, but was prepared when media interest surfaced.  So, yes come up with a marketing plan and a direction, make that an integral part of your career gameplan, but don’t try to assume you know what’s going to interest the media and tailor your work in that way.  You’ll generally be wrong and you won’t be doing your work…

…Focus on your art, your unique vision and then tailor your marketing accordingly.  Be authentic, do your work and prepare for success.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2013

The PR & Marketing of Oscar 2013

oscars_2013_nomineesIt’s an interesting PR and marketing year for the Academy Awards.  On the Best Actor end, it will be a miracle if anyone beats out Daniel Day-Lewis.  Denzel Washington is a strong contender as is Bradley Cooper, but it’s hard to imagine Lincoln not taking that one home – which will probably be fine with Joaquin Phoenix since he can’t stand that award process.  He described the last time he was nominated as one of the worst periods of his life.  So why does Hollywood have to go and torture him again?  But still, in the public relations department it never hurts to get a nomination.

In the Best Actress category although it’s amazingly refreshing to see that Emmanuelle Riva was nominated, some say the money is on Jennifer Lawrence.  Others say it could be Jessica Chastain’s. Still, Quvenzhane Wallis, who at 9 years old is the youngest Best Actress nominee in history, could continue to surprise everyone.

It’s always interesting when Best Film nominations don’t also result in Best Director nominations, but that happened this year with Argo, Django Unchained Les Misérables, and Zero Dark Thirty.  The four films are up for best picture, but when the Best Director Oscar is going to be awarded you won’t hear Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino, Tom Hooper or Kathryn Bigelow’s names being read.

An Oscar can transform a career, but it’s not just the actors or directors who benefit.  If Reuters, has it right, an Oscar nomination can up ticket sales by one-third, as well as increase DVD sales once the films are no longer in theaters.  Add that to cable downloads and the rest, and a nomination can pay off in a big way.

The kings of Oscar marketing, Harvey Weinstein, spent millions promoting The King’s Speech.  The company, ran by Harvey and his brother,  also released the film in time to maximize the buzz and PR in order to up the number of nominations.  Although no one knows the exact figures (apart from the Weinstein’s),  some have reported that the promotional budget for The Kings Speech rivaled the millions the Weinstein’s spent on marketing Shakespeare in Love.

The Weinstein’s did a repeat performance with The Artist.  Perhaps the most effective PR and marketing campaign in history, considering they were promoting what in any other year would have been an obscure, silent, black & white, French film.  It received 10 nominations and 5 Oscars including Best Picture.

This year the front runners are Lincoln (12 nominations) and Life of Pi (11 nominations)—even though many are betting on Argo and Zero Dark Thirty.   Still, the Weinstein’s are behind Silver Linings Playbook and in the world of Academy Award PR and marketing, you can never count them out.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2013

©A.M.P.A.S. “The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013″. Photo. Live Orange Blog. 11 Jan 2013. 21 Feb. 2013. <http://live.orange.com/en/oscars-2013-django-peut-il-battre-lincoln-oscarnoms/>

The Surprising Benefits of PR

I’ve written several articles on how to launch a campaign and why PR should be a major part of your marketing plan, but what about why you should launch a public relations campaign.  What are the main upsides?  There are the obvious benefits that come from launching a successful PR campaign.

For example, via a strong media outreach you can:

  • Reach your target market
  • Gain the validation and legitimacy of being featured in the news
  • Establish yourself as an expert in your field
  • Land more customers
  • Sell more products
  • Build and establish your brand
  • Enhance your reputation

These are some of the primary benefits that come from launching a media relations campaign, but in the two decades I’ve run a PR agency, I’ve seen some surprising, unexpected benefits come from PR outreaches.  The following is a list of some of the more remarkable opportunities that have come to clients from their PR campaigns:

  • A client who was going to self publish a book received (and accepted) an offer from a major publisher
  • Another writer did self publish his book and then had it picked up by a major publisher
  • A client was able to secure national and international distribution for his product
  • A film producer landed a distribution deal for his film
  • An artist was offered work with a major film company
  • A medical expert was offered his own health show.
  • A client was offered a semi regular spot on a morning TV show
  • A client landed a national commercial.
  • A client was offered a regular role on a reality TV show
  • A singer was offered a record contract
  • An actress was offered a role in a major feature film.

These are just some of the benefits that have come to clients from their PR campaigns.  That’s not to say that every public relations campaign is going to result in similar opportunities, but one of the most exciting aspects of PR is that you never know.  Let’s say a campaign brings you more clients, establishes you in your field and helps build your business, that’s time and money well spent.   But, as the above list illustrates, once you start to establish yourself, your brand your products, your business, your service, your book, your art, your film, or whatever it is your promoting through the media, magic really can happen.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

 

Producing A Film? Create Your PR Plan First

Film PRMaking a film can be a magical experience, but  many filmmakers get so excited about and engrossed in the making of their film that they forget producing their film is only step one.  Actually the production of your film should be pretty far down the line in your film to-do list.  Particularly when it comes to new filmmakers, the excitement of making a film, and all that is involved in scripting, pre-producing, casting, production and post production, has a tendency to become all consuming.  Creating the film becomes everything.  But here’s the question, what are you going to do once your film (filled with joy, enthusiasm and dreams as well as blood sweat and tears) is completed.  How are you going to get your film, promoted, marketed, distributed?  How are you going to build that bridge between your finished product and your audience?

If this article were actually a script, we’d be having a flashback sequence here.  We flash back to the incarnation of your project.  We would fade back to before you edited, shot, cast, or wrote your film and add a new focus to the process.  In this sequence your new flash back approach in the past would change your future.  You’d figure out a game plan outlining how to PR, promote and market your film.  Your new public relations plan would act as a guide, as a roadmap as you moved forward in your filmmaking process.  It would be a bridge-building process between you, your audience, distributors, potential investors and influences.  It would be the focus that helped insure your film would have a strong shot at succeeding.

So many filmmakers come to me after they’ve finished their film.  They’ve been so wrapped in the process and the project has inevitably gone over budget.  They didn’t consider a marketing campaign before they started production and now have very little money left for marketing.   There’s often little I can do for them at that point.  Those I have most success with either start with me during pre-production, or from the start realized that marketing was an essential part of the game plan and kept that in mind during the production process.

Ideally you want to start promoting your film and creating a buzz online and in the media before you finish shooting or editing your project.  A well thought out media relations and social media campaign can serve you in a number of ways.  Keep in mind, depending on your needs; you are going to be addressing different audiences with your media relations campaign.   One outreach could be directed to the general public, another to a more targeted grout of viewers, another to distributors and still another to possible investors.  You can also start creating a buzz for upcoming projects while promoting your current film.

So dive into your film project.  Make the very best film you can.  But be smart about it.  Make a PR and marketing campaign an essential part of your film’s game plan.  You don’t want to end up with a film that a few of your friends see, or gathers dust in your home, or gets submitted to a few film festivals and then fades away.  You’ve put your heart, soul, time and money into your film project.  You now owe it to the film and to yourself to give it a chance to succeed.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

I’m not Interesting Enough to do PR

There are those people who think that anything they do should be featured on the evening news.  It’s nice to have a strong ego, but sometimes it’s a bit much and as a PR consultant it’s often my job to tactfully let someone know that.  Then there are those who think that they’re just not interesting enough for anyone to take note.  This is the flip-side of the star mentality. If you suffer from this problem, which I’d dub dullitits, get over it.  The scenario usually goes something like this, you’re too bland, too shy, your business is too dull, no one is going to care about anything you have to say. Why should you even bother trying publicity? It’ll never work anyway.

I’m sure that there are some professionals that shouldn’t utilize public relations. I suppose that if you’re in the CIA, chances are you don’t want to broadcast it all over the news. But in the majority of cases, most businesses and entrepreneurs can utilize effective public relations to build their business.  For example, entrepreneurs who want to build their company, or launch a new product, professionals who want to highlight their service, healthcare practitioners who want to increase their practice, painters or sculptors who want to bring their artwork to a larger market, a professional who wants to establish him or herself as an expert in the field.  From my experience, just about everyone falls  into one of those categories. If you do, and you want to utilize the power of publicity to attract clients, build your business or establish your brand, stop thinking negatively. Believe me, you have a story to tell.  Everyone is interesting, every business has an aspect to it that makes for a good story, every field has interesting stories to tell.  Remember, you are the only “you” around. There might be others in your filed, or that run similar businesses or practices, but there is no one quite like you.  No one has your particular angle or your story.  No one does what you do quite like you do it. Whether you know it, or even want to believe it, you’re original, you’re unique. So start viewing yourself that way.

It helps to distance yourself from the situation. Pretend that you’re hiring yourself to represent your company, or your business, or product, or even yourself. How would you approach this assignment?  View the situation objectively.  What steps would you take? What advice would you give? Would you accept: I’m not interesting enough as an excuse to stop moving forward?  I’d bet not.  Don’t let your fears and doubts stop you. Remember, no matter how confident some people seem, most people have some secret doubts about not being interesting enough or not being success material. We’re all success material. Part of achieving success is working through those doubts and fears and moving forward toward your success.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

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