Utilizing public relations is one of the smartest tactical moves any independent filmmaker can make. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the rarest moves ever taken. In fact, the only time most independent filmmakers even think about hiring a PR firm is after it becomes painfully apparent that the film isn’t going to be grabbing headlines. This nerve-racking “PR scramble” usually gets thrown into motion at the “oh, s**t” moment – the very second when the first major film festival or studio passes on the film. Suddenly everything gets turned upside down as the filmmakers second-guess themselves and their film. The “PR scramble” is a haunting sight that nobody wants to see, much less experience. Therefore, in an effort to help you avoid it yourself, here are some insights on public relations.
Don’t Let Your Ego Blind Your Need For PR
I’ve always believed the reason why most independent filmmakers fail to budget for public relations early on – or ever for that matter – is because they are bred to believe their cinematic gem will get national PR on its own. Every filmmaker, including myself, has been guilty of hesitating to spend money on PR because they think their film will get them all the PR they can imagine for free. The truth of the matter is that trying to get an indie film noticed without the use of a professional public relations company is like trying to steer a Formula One racecar through the Monte Carlo Grand Prix – without a steering wheel. Sure you’ll make a lot of noise as you peel off the starting line, but you’ll crash and burn quickly because you can never win a race without a steering wheel….
Public Relations Is An Art For Trained Professionals Only
So, don’t try this at home! Far too many filmmakers discount the value of a well-trained PR executive and try to handle their own public relations. Sure, anyone with a pulse and a passion for their project can garner up some level of basic PR. But, they simply can’t create or maintain the same media traction that a seasoned PR film can.
Come To The “PR Party” Early
Hiring a PR firm is something you should do before anyone sees the final finished version of your film, not after. Doing so will allow your PR team to create a viable strategy on how to find the right audience for your film. Finding a supportive group of enthusiastic viewers, no matter how small, will create a positive public relations nucleus that you can build on. A good PR firm has deep contacts to major media outlets, film festivals and distributors, so allowing them to flex their muscles on your film’s behalf early on will help your film reach the heights you dream about.
However, bringing your film to the “PR Party” after it’s already stumbled publically will surely damage those dreams of yours. This is because expecting a PR firm to change a film’s public perception after the film has already been deemed unworthy is like expecting a four-year old to understand quantum physics. It’s possible, sure, but highly improbable. Remember, crafting a successful public relations campaign takes time, strategy and access; all of which must be negotiated early on in the process.
Get A Dose Of “PR Reality”
Your film is your baby, and most proud parents find their kids to be flawless. But, your PR firm will have no subjective or emotional attachment to your film, so their comments will be some of the most honest and accurate ones made. Remember, your friends, spouse, significant other or family members will never tell you what they really think of your film, because they have to live with you. Neither will film festivals, most executives and some agents, just in case you make something they love at a later date.
However, since your PR firm is a “hired gun” to create the right angle and find the right home for your film, they have free reign to be honest with you. While you may not like what they have to say, rest assured they are on your side. Besides, PR firms are masters at sugarcoating even the most horrific news, so it won’t feel really bad even when it is really bad.
Bigger Is Not Always Better
Paying for the biggest PR firm may not be the best move for your film. While they will surely have the contacts and muscle you’ll need, your film may get lost amongst the other A list projects the PR firm represents. Don’t kid yourself. Just because you pay the same amount as a much larger film (which runs several thousand dollars per month), your film simply won’t get the same bang for its buck, because large media outlets are more naturally drawn to star-studded projects.
Clearly Understand Exactly What You’re Paying For
Have the PR firm lay out exactly how they plan to promote your film, to whom, and for how long. Then have them list how and when they will give you progress updates. You should also know what is expected of them, and how much your total representation will cost you. Furthermore, don’t sign a long-term contract with them, until you see the results they create. This way, if they ultimately fail to deliver what they promised, you can amicably part ways with them and find another firm.
The most important thing to remember about PR firms is that they are not miracle workers. They are highly capable strategists with a Rolodex that most people would kill to have. Thus, they can only be as great as your film is.
It’s like that old saying “A rose by any other name is still a rose.” If your film is a rose, a great PR firm will nurture its full bloom. However, if your film is a weed, your PR firm will try like hell to make it look like a rose, and hopefully convince most people it’s a middle-of-the pack daisy. Surely daisies aren’t as fabulous as roses, but they sure as hell aren’t weeds!
Until next Tuesday, thank you for lending me your eyes!