This is an archived blog from when I ran Conscious Public Relations Inc. from 2008-2018. Excuse the potential outdated-ness!

I have a love and dislike relationship with the Canadian film industry. In February of last year (15 months ago) I wrote a blog post and contemplated on my career as a Publicist in the film industry. I’m happy to report that I still remain active in it through my festival and PR work, but a recent NSI Canada video (a good one, actually) on new models of film marketing, finance, and distribution in the digital era got me thinking about the issue and feeling disillusioned again.

It’s amazing that we have new (and cheaper!) tools now, and people still don’t get it. Here are the latest figures from Playback on the top 5 grossing Canadian films for this week:

1. The Trotsky – $148,120 over 1 week
2. Le Journal D’aurelie Laflamme – $101,661 over 4 weeks
3. Hubble 3D – $36,932 over 9 weeks
4. Gunless – $19,280 over 3 weeks
5. Cooking with Stella – $786 over 9 weeks

Now, the stats. I must point out, this is an unusual week for English-Canadian cinema; usually the top 5 of the week are Quebecois films. So it’s an anomale week. The Trotsky has trumped all 4 films in just its opening week. Why? Jay Baruchel. I’ve been a fan of his since Million Dollar Baby, and didn’t realize he was Canadian until he starred in a little Canadian feature called Fetching Cody. Since then he’s done well for himself and has now gotten a bit of star status, at least in my opinion, as a Canadian actor. Definitely has a huge career ahead of him which will in turn fare well for the films he’s in. He doesn’t even have his own website, but I’m sure he has a damn good publicist.

Now, Gunless. Distributed by Alliance Atlantis, you’d think this would have some decent box office sales. And, I saw about 3 separate local interviews (including one with Paul Gross) with the film’s stars and a few transit ads to promote the film. I think they did everything right, except they made a Canadian Western. Westerns are primarily an American genre, so my argument is that as Canadians, we just don’t care for them. Sorry.

Cooking with Stella is even more disappointing. You see the number, and the length of weeks the movie’s been out. I saw ads on this film, and the emails from First Weekend Club. The website’s great too. I would have liked to see the film, but life got in the way. So the verdict is, a somewhat interesting looking film, but not enough of a recognizable star for people to care. Don McKellar is as Canadian as it gets, but he’s still not mainstream. I wonder who his publicist is.

Now, before this blog gets even more depressing, I want to point out the bright side of it all. SOME people get it. They secure distributors asap, or at least the financing to market and exhibit independently. But I still think 50-80% of filmmakers don’t get it. They’re all wrapped up in making films close to their hearts that they forget about who might potentially watch it and eventually make back the money that’s been invested in it.

So using a recent eHow.com article on how to raise marketing funds and publicity for a film (by Karen Cotten) and an old school article called “DIY Film Publicity” by Ken Hegan (published in MovieMaker Magazine in 1998), I’m going to share my own tips for 2010 – which have and haven’t changed since 1998 – and hope that someone will take heed to them. Or for the love of god, maybe hire me to help do it right. The rules apply to both features and shorts, although, for shorts, it’s harder to hit the mainstream unless you’ve gotten into one or more major film fests and made a good name for the project.

1. Make a good film. Something different, and keep in mind who’s going to go watch it (this will make for good market research later). Your film is a product to be bought and seen. If it’s not good, it’ll stay on your shelf forever to be seen only by family during reunions and to laugh at during drinking parties.

2. Take high res production stills. Hire someone with a good camera, like Dean Buscher.

3. Make lots of DVD copies, especially if you plan on submitting to film festivals.

4. Make a trailer and put it up on Youtube and your website, if you plan on having one.

5. You don’t need a media kit (“press kit”). Websites replace the need for this. Be sure to include synopses (short ones and long ones), A-crew bios, A-cast bios, photos (downloadable high res that you made during production), contact info, and behind-the-scenes production notes or videos. If you don’t have the budget for a website, make a media kit but try to keep it to 5 pages or less with the logo or a snapshot of your film at the top as a letterhead. And proofread it for correct spelling and grammar, for god’s sake. I can’t stand bad communications. Be ready to put this document on a DVD with high res stills for when film festivals and media ask for it.

5a. If you can manage the time, make a blog on your website so you can track where the film’s been (and where YOU’VE travelled in the process) to make for more exciting stories.

5b. Make Facebook Fan Pages and Twitter accounts for your films and update content regularly, or assign someone to do it for you.

6. When you communicate with media (news, TV, radio AND online), research their emails, and send them 200 words on a) who you are and b) what your film is, what the website for it is, when it’s screening, and why it’s an awesome film for people to see. You do NOT need to do a news release (/”press release”/”media release”). Keep in mind niche media and interest groups that would be interested in seeing your film. Meetup.com has a ton of film-watching groups too. Magazines have 2-3 month deadlines, and try to send between 9am-1pm to newspapers, as they are often working on stories later in the day. When they respond back asking for info, photos, or prescreeners, respond or send them ASAP. You can’t afford to lose the story because you didn’t check your email.

7. Go to your screening and do a Q&A. Bring your A-cast, producer, and writer if they can come too. Films are much more exciting to go to when there’s a Q&A after the film. And, you’ll build more fans especially when you’re film’s screening more than once at a film fest.

8. Always have a poster flyer in hand for networking events (eg. film fest parties). Paul Armstrong is a guru for this, and he’s the producer of his films. If you don’t have a flyer, have business cards. You need SOMETHING to give out so that people will follow up.

9. If you’re a Producer or indie filmmaker, BUDGET FOR MARKETING. If you’re not managing marketing yourself, hire someone. I get asked too many times to do things for free, and my time is precious so I can’t help everyone. But if you don’t invest in marketing, it’s almost as bad as not doing #1.

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