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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old December 13th, 2009, 12:48 AM   #1
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Poor man's publicity?

So, I have a short film I've been submitting to fests and other places with varying degrees of success, and I occasionally have local screenings (I made a post about one not too long ago), and I don't really know how to make it known to the world that me and my movie are out there. I have a small group I email whenever one of these things happens, and also my facebook friends, but other than that, I don't really know how to market or publicize the event in a meaningful way, except the brute force approach of making posters and flyers and leaving them everywhere, which seems like it could get expensive and may not be at all effective.

So, anyone had luck getting great numbers of folks to come to their screenings without going to ridiculous lengths to do so?
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Old December 13th, 2009, 09:17 AM   #2
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New media (like Facebook) alone won't cut it. You've got to use traditional media as well.

1. Send a copy of your movie in advance to the movie reviewer for your local alternative arts weekly (or more if you have more than one). In Houston, it looks like the Houston Press is the big one. You'll need to make sure it gets in the reviewer's hands at least 3-4 weeks before press time. Call the paper and find out when they come out, and when their press deadline is. Do the same for online arts, movie or local happenings blogs, too.

2. See if you can work out a promotional arrangement with local community and college radio stations (KPFT 90.1, University of Houston, Houston Community College, Rice University, etc.) Many of these nonprofit stations will "sponsor" your event, and announce it several times a day, in exchange for you putting their logo on your posters, etc.

3. Do some research and find press contacts for all the newspaper, online blogs, AM and FM radio and TV stations in the area. Get the e-mail addresses of as many of the arts editors, talk-show producers, and human interest columnists in your local market you can find. Set them up as a separate e-mail list and send them press releases 4 weeks prior to the event, and then again 2 weeks prior. Make sure you put a heading section that summarizes the critical information, who, what, where, when, how much and who to contact. Make the event sound exciting and newsworthy and be sure to make it clear that you (or the actor, director, etc.) is available for interviews. For some tips on press releases, see How to Write a Press Release - wikiHow.

4. Slapping up posters everywhere is not effective, and is a waste of effort. Print up a few posters and 300-500 postcards, with the what, where, when and how much info on them, instead (I print them on cardstock and slice them up myself). Postcards work well because people can take them with them and stick them on their refrigerator. Then put piles of them in strategic locations where you think your audience will notice them. Independent video stores and coffee shops are good places to catch a general film crowd. What is your movie about? You should be able to find people who are interested in the subject matter, too. If it's a movie about bicycles, ask the bike shops in town if you can put a poster up on their bulletin board and leave postcards. Carry a stack of postcards with you and hand them out like business cards to family, friends, and others you meet as you go about your day.

5. If you are doing a lot of these events, one of the most effective things you can do is make sure you have a sign-up list at each and every event for people to leave their name, address, e-mail and/or cel phone number if they want to be notified of future screenings. It doesn't take long to build up a mailing list of a couple hundred people. Everyone on the list gets an e-mail 2 weeks in advance and another reminder the week of the event. I've also set up a Twitter account and people who have signed up get a "Don't Forget" tweet one hour before the event. If you have your own website, put a sign-up form up online, or you can use Facebook or Google Groups to let people sign up.

6. What kind of venue are you using for your screening? If you can, try to find one that serves some kind of refreshment. Coffee houses are good, if they're not too noisy. In a perfect world, they'll have sandwiches and beer on the menu too, and a separate room for performances/screenings. Many venues do their own publicity, too, so make sure to get publicity materials to the venue manager in advance.

One other tip. In my experience, independent film screenings do NOT do well on Friday or Saturday nights. There's far too much competition on weekends for your audience's attention. Try Wednesday or Thursday evenings instead. Room availability is better on those nights, too.

It's a lot to do, but if you do ALL of it consistently, every time, you can pack the joint and build a loyal audience.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 12:54 AM   #3
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Thanks. I will try some or all of this next time I get a chance. I'm sorry, let me clarify. I am not hosting/responsible for the screening, it's generally a situation where my film gets invited to play with a collection of others, so I have no say in venue, or time of screening. As for the press releases et al, a lot of these things are not, shall we say, super organized, so 3-4 weeks is out of the question if they don't tell you 'til two weeks before the event that you've been selected.

Unfortunately, the trend with all but the huge week long fests seems to be to hold them on weekends.

One more thing, with the press releases, contacts, etc., let me ask this: the first time my film screens, it might be interesting to some of them (local guy in local fest, whatever), however, won't it just be annoying, and old news, if I keep harassing them every time I have a screening at a new event?

PS. . .I'm still not getting the email notifications on responses to my threads. Thanks.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 11:27 AM   #4
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Are these all festivals in Houston, or elsewhere? If elsewhere, obviously, you want to contact the media in the city where the film would be screening. I would not rely on the festival staff alone to promote your film. As soon as you find out you've been accepted into the fest, get review copies and press releases out to alternative print, radio and online media (you can try TV, but I've had little luck getting them to bite) in the city where you're screening.

Here are some good resources for tracking down out-of-town media:
Association of Alternative Newsweeklies
NFCB
and Google Blog or some other blog search engine.

Again, try to find people interested in the subject matter of the film, not just the indy film crowd. Do some internet searches for listservs or bulletin boards for groups related to your subject matter in the city where the screening takes place and send them a press release.

As for the hometown media, I wouldn't worry too much about overloading them with press releases. As long as you're sending them actual news events, such as an announcement that you've been accepted to a particular festival, they should be able to handle it. That is, after all, their job. Persistence pays off, and if they get used to getting well-written press releases from you on a regular basis, the more likely they may be to think of you when they're working on, say, a story about the local independent film scene.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 12:59 PM   #5
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I have been in both local and national and even international (canadian) fests, and have tried the press release thing with some success. The problem has always been that since they're relatively tiny unknown fests (I aimed real low until recently--having had a terrible submussion/acceptance ratio in the past, just to see if I could into anything at all) , I haven't been attending in person unless they're in Texas, so when they occasionally respond with "sure, we'll interview you, what time will you be there." Well, I won't!

As for subject matter. . .it's a narrative comedy, and I would say the crowd is anyone who likes to open their mouth and emit a "ha" sound several times, very fast, possibly while squirting things from their eyes and nose. So the target audience is everyone, any age (maybe 12-death).
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Old December 14th, 2009, 06:26 PM   #6
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I can reccommend ConstantContact.com......they do online press releases and newsletters. They are a paid service, but they have a 30 day free trial period. They are very helpful, and did their best to train me when I used their service.
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Old December 22nd, 2009, 06:47 AM   #7
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Thanks. I sent one out I thought was actually pretty well done, but I'll check out your recommendations.
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