Your film has a story! Where it came from, why it matters, or who came up with it in the first place (while stranded in a Maryland blizzard, for instance).
Public Relations is the art of telling that story, through source material, documentation, and data—all compiled in a package known as an Electronic Press Kit (EPK). Sounds thrilling, doesn’t it? It will be, when you sell your film to a distributor! A good EPK can be essential for a successful film sale. But for busy indie filmmakers hustling to get their thing made, accumulating the PR materials that make up a good EPK can be tough to prioritize.
We’ve learned from past experience the vital importance of tracking this stuff from the beginning, so for Rust Creek we were prepared with an BTS crew to document our production. Those videos, photos, and stories helped us land a deal with IFC Midnight.
We want to set you up for success when it comes to distributing your film too. So whether you’re in production now, or simply planning for the future, here are five tips for preparing your press kit.
1. Here’s what NOT to do…
Do NOT post film content on social media. Highlight this in your NDA and remind your cast and crew regularly. Not everyone understands that social media posts are a breach of contract. No on-set selfies, no tweets from the trailer. Save it for after the film has been officially announced.
Do NOT post your film on IMDb, your website, or anywhere else on the internet. If you want an official announcement in a trade publication, you have to let them be the first to print the news. Once you’ve published it elsewhere, it’s no longer newsworthy.
It can take years for a film to go from production to distribution. Don’t waste any opportunity to generate public interest or build momentum during the shoot. Keep your promotional material fresh and save that attention and enthusiasm for when your film becomes available to audiences!
2. But DO take photos!
You will need quality production stills and candid shots of your cast, crew, and producing team in action. A set photographer is highly recommended. It’s great if they have experience, but depending on your budget you might have to go with an enthusiastic amateur. There are a number of factors to bear in mind for composing killer images, and this article in The Independent gives some great tips.
A behind-the-scenes photographer captures actor Jeremy Glazer preparing for a scene on the set of Rust Creek.
It may spark your imagination to check out press coverage of other films in your genre and observe what kind of shots tend to be used. Bear this in mind when creating a shot list with your set photographer.
3. You’ll need video too
It’s almost as if you’re shooting two films—the “making of” documentary about your movie and the movie itself. While the documentary footage may be less intricate than the scripted film, it still requires scripting and logistical planning.
You won’t need a videographer on set every day, but make sure someone is on hand for important moments: major set pieces, stunts and FX, the first and last shots, etc.
And set aside time for multiple interviews with your principle cast and crew. They can be done quickly and orchestrated to not interfere with the shooting schedule, and they will really add value your press kit! The Beat has some useful tips for shooting these, and you can find examples from our Rust Creek EPK on YouTube.
4. Track your credits
This is tougher than it seems! You will have contracts and deal memos for your cast and crew, but what about all the other people who lend a hand in a less official capacity? The volunteers and good samaritans and “special thanks”-eligible folks? We relied on so many friends and friends-of-friends in the making of Rust Creek, it was necessary to sit down once a week and write down names.
It’s frustrating to watch your credits roll and realize you forgot someone important. But there is a saving grace in IMDb, which allows you to continue adding names if needed. Even so, we can vouch for the peace of mind that comes with tracking this list through the development and production process.
5. Announce your film
Once you’ve wrapped, it’s time to alert the press! How does the press find out you have a film to announce? With a press release.
We highly recommend saving this step for the end of production. You don’t want to tip your hand too soon. Better to announce what you are doing and have nearly completed, than what you hope to do in the future. You don’t need outsiders scrutinizing every production delay or reshoot, wondering why that brilliant masterpiece you were planning still isn’t finished. A lot of things can happen during production, but we just want to be judged by the end result!
Once that ideal timeframe is at hand, here are some practical pitching tips from publicist J. Brad Wilke.
Now that you’ve read our list, it’s time to write the story of your movie. Take a few minutes and use your imagination. If you were a journalist, what would you find fascinating about the making of your film? Put yourself in the shoes of someone writing about you and make a list of important points.
THIS IS A DEEP TOPIC. There are many more things to consider, and we will dive in more deeply in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!