What’s the Buzz?

How do you get your latest independent project in development noticed by people other than your Mum? Is there really a way to get free press and attention other than running naked down Melbourne’s Swanston Street?

This is hardly going to sound like a revolutionary statement, but publicity is one of the most vital tools any independent filmmaker can have in their filmmaking arsenal. The problem we independents face, is how do you get it? Especially when you’re most likely still developing your script and have no extra cash for any kind of publicity campaign, let alone anything to promote. But you have more going for you than you realise.

You make movies.

Now, those of us working in the industry know that this is just a job. And sometimes it’s a frustrating, difficult and disheartening job as well. And sometimes it isn’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that everyone still wants to be in the movies. Hollywood has traded off this fascination since the 1920’s. That’s why programs such as “Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous” and “Entertainment Tonight” and any other entertainment industry television show, magazine, radio show or newspaper sells so well. People are getting a slice of movie-making life. And they can’t get enough of it. So, as an independent, you need to grab that fascination and make it work for you.

I’m sure you’re sitting there thinking “Yeah, great idea – I’m going to call the editor of my local paper RIGHT NOW …. NOT!” But you should. Because you have a story to tell – everyone does – only yours is in the medium that everyone never gets tired of hearing about.

Are you looking to make your movie in your local area? Then write a press release about it. Are you under the age of 18 – a high school student – and about to make your first feature on DVC? Then ring your local paper and pitch the story to them. Are you looking for funding to make your feature film? Then write into a popular industry publication and start a discussion about more funding for the arts. Have you got a patron for your film company that is known? Then let people know about it!

Think I’m talking complete garbage? Well, you’re entitled to your opinion, but all those examples are taken from real life independent filmmakers who all generated publicty for their projects by doing just what I described.

So, who were these filmmakers? Well, I’m one of them. All of us generated press from opportunities we created, or took advantage of.

In the case of the high school students – they simply announced that they were making their first feature on DVC in Melbourne. A local paper picked up the story, followed by one of Melbourne’s large dailies. The idea that two kids were off to make a movie appealed to the industry. And to the public. It made it seem more accessible to all. They got so much attention from this story that one of the television news services picked it up and ran a story on them. And all of this cost the filmmakers nothing – yet we all know about them. And more importantly, the distributors and other filmmakers know about them.

Even if their first film doesn’t fly, we’ll remember who they are when they get to their second or third feature – and you can’t buy that kind of exposure.

Another two filmmakers have been trying to get a film up for three years, with no luck. They went off and shot a spectacular trailer, on limited money, and still no major funding arrived. Eventually an article about them was published in an industry e-newsletter after they wrote to the editor. It hit a nerve. The publication concerned got a huge response from it’s readers.

Those filmmakers are now known to most of the Melbourne and Sydney filmmaking crowd, who have gone to their website and viewed the trailer. Again – invaluable when pushing a film product. Since this has happened, they have been picked up by one of Australia’s largest sales agents who are in the process of selling their films.

In the last case – I decided to get a Patron for Salmac. We were new and we needed some street cred. I approached five British film industry luminaries, and after a couple of rejections, one wrote back saying yes. That was Sir Nigel Hawthorne. He had a look at a copy of the rough cut of A Little Rain Must Fall and decided he’d be happy to support us. I was over the moon.

The moment his name went on the company letterhead, press releases were on their way to all the major newspapers. Radio, television and newspaper interviews followed. And people began to know who we were, which has since lead to funding and distribution opportunities.

We’re in the business of entertainment. So, as independents, the best place to start is to sell yourself. That, my friends, is the way to sell your movie.

Originally published July 2006 © Sally McLean. All rights reserved.

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