Submitted by Melissa Puch de Fripp
With the outgrowth of independent films in the marketplace, from micro-budget to larger budget features, it's more essential than ever to "outclass" the competition when it comes to marketing the film product. With that in mind, the first impression a filmmaker creates when sending materials to distributors, festival directors, reviewers, and media sources is more important than ever.
With the reality of independent features often going over budget, many new filmmakers find themselves in a position where they cannot afford a professional publicist. If you find you must create your own publicity kit, then you may simply follow this simple formula to create the right amount of "sizzle" and professionalism.
Keep in mind that busy news editors and film editors are inundated with requests for publicity, interviews, reviews, and photo opportunities, and they may literally only have sixty seconds to determine whether or not you go into the "A" pile or the circular file (i.e., the trash). Make your first impression count, and be sure to have trusted friends review your written material for typos, dropped words, and grammar.
The fourteen essentials are:
1) Glossy two pocket folders with cuts on one inside pocket for a business card. These are available at any office supply store.
2) Story Synopsis. Keep it short and simple and never longer than one page. The shorter the synopsis is, the better off you are, because a long synopsis can be edited down to something that doesn't even resemble your film once ninety-percent of your description is eliminated by an editor. Another trick is to provide two synopses. One a quarter page long, and one a half page long.
3) Cast List. Only integral cast, not minor roles and extras. The cast list should only be one page, and again the shorter the better.
4) Director's Biography. One page only.
5) Producer's Biography. One page only.
6) One Sheet of Mini-bios. Keep it to three paragraphs, one paragraph for your director of photography, one for your composer, and the third for another member you consider integral. Be sure to include awards and honors your key people have been given, if applicable. Note: If you have co-producers or associate producers, give them a one sheet of mini-bios, exactly like the one for director of photography, composer, etc.
7) Still Photographs. Black and white 8" x 10" glossies are the norm, but many filmmakers are also including color slides, which are good for magazines that include color in their pages or for cover stories. Be sure to either have a printed caption on the front of the photograph, or a typed label with the caption stuck on the back along with contact details. For slides, be sure to number the slides and place them in a professional one page slide holder (available at camera specialty stores) and attach one page with captions that correspond to the slide numbers.
8) Tip Sheet. This sheet should be nothing but the simplest facts, including genre, running time, what medium the film was shot in (35mm, 16mm, super 16, digital), locations used, and who your legal representation or producer's representative is, if applicable.
9) Action Photo of You. If you're the director, include a director's photo of you on the set, or stage one if you didn't have any decent shots of yourself taken during the film shoot. If you need to stage one, see if a camera rental facility will let you come in with your director of photography and take a shot next to the camera. If you're the producer, then it's recommended that you have a shot taken with the director. Thus you won't be left out of the publicity loop. Editors typically choose director's photographs over producer's photographs. Cover your bases.
10) Trailer. If you have a trailer, don't hesitate to duplicate it on ½" VHS tape. If you're dubbing your own trailers and they wind up looking too "second generation," either don't use it or spend the money to go to professional dubbing house to get cleaner looking copies. You're better off having no trailer or film clip enclosed than having a grainy looking one.
11) Articles. If you've already received any print media, be sure to get clean copies and enclose them in the press kit. If articles were printed with color photos, then be sure to get color copies to keep the visual impact alive.
12) An invitation to your latest screening.
13) Your business card.
14) A personalized memo or hand-written note to the editor who will be receiving your press kit, thanking them for taking the time to review your materials.
Optional. If there is something unique about your production which you want known, then by all means, write a one to three page "story" about your production and title it, "About the Production." On the upside, this helps an editor. On the downside, it may take some of the mystique and questions away from the reader. If you choose to write about your production, then do not include any horror stories of broken equipment, squabbles that you miraculously fixed, or how your relatives didn't come through with the cash, but you still made it without them. Save your war stories, and pull them out of your hat once your reputation is established and you're a big hit. For now, you want to seem like nothing less than a fabulous filmmaker with an aura of positive energy surrounding you.