A film press release is a marketing tool. And it’s a one to two page document that tells media outlets about something that’s newsworthy. In terms of a movie this could be a crowdfunding campaign, casting calls; screenings or festival wins. This helps people discover your movie, which in turn drives them to your web site and buy link. Think Like a Journalist!
Journalists are constantly on the prowl for story ideas. With a press release you need to think like they do and understand they’re looking for. While a press release is a marketing tool, it can’t read like marketing copy or you’ll wind up in the slush pile.
It needs to read like a news story with a neutral point of view and avoiding marketing fluff. By having your film press release read like a hard news article, editor needs to do less work editing it – if you do it right, the editor can just run it the way it’s written.
In journalism classes six questions get drilled into your head: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How? Your press release needs to answer these questions in the context of your movie.
Another thing to keep in mind is reporters write in what’s called inverted pyramid format. This means the story begins with the most newsworthy items, moving into less important details as the story progresses. If possible you give brief answers in the first paragraph (known as the lead), expanding on them as you go.
If you read a few press releases you’ll get the idea – the press release starts with a paragraph that’s chock full of information, and expands on it as the story progresses. This is done so an editor can cut from the end of the story, possibly down to a one-paragraph blurb, without losing the meatiest bits.
Press releases are formulaic – yours will probably follow a format like this:
- Eye-catching headline (similar to a movie logline, but don’t make it the same)
- Great lead paragraph answering who, what, when, where, why and how
- Quote from someone attached to the movie (Producer, director, lead actor, writer)
- More paragraphs expanding on the points raised in the lead
- End with a paragraph blurb about the production company, producer, or company publishing the release
- Include a few pictures, stills, headshots, etc.
- At the end of the release, there’s usually a centered hash mark or the number 30, indicating the end of the story
- Always include contact information so a reporter can get in touch for more information (this can be a header or footer)
- It’s Got to be Newsworthy
A while back I had a professional media coordinator volunteer her time to help my crowdfunding campaign in exchange for a producer credit. While we were planning the film press release, she posed a question that made me really think: these days anyone can make a movie, what’s so special about yours? My initial answer sucked, so we spent some time talking through the concept of the short.
It was a silly little comedy, a spoof of spy movies and cooking shows rolled into one funny little script. And we’d taken honorable mention in a screenwriting contest. That became our spin, so we leveraged that in the release.
You may have to take some time and think about this, but chances are you can find something newsworthy about your movie. Think about who’s attached, how you funded it, why you wrote it…there’s bound to be something other people would find interesting.
Pros Have a Plan
News falls into two categories – hard news which are considered really important things that have to be reported immediately (war, politics, crime), and soft news which is everything else. Movies are considered soft news, so these types of stories are usually scheduled in advance.
Most media outlets will list their editors and reporters on their web site with instructions on how to contact them. Follow the outlet’s guidelines and follow up about a week or so later. They’ll probably tell you the editorial schedule.
While you’re planning your distribution, think carefully about timing. You need to get the release out early enough to make a difference (say people attending a screening or contributing to your fundraising campaign), but if you send it out too early it’ll be premature and not newsworthy. Also note holiday material – like Christmas or Halloween – may be scheduled months in advance.
I Wrote a Release – So Now What?
After you write the release, it won’t do you any good if you don’t distribute it. My advice is to start locally.
The first place you should put it is your web site if you have one. You do have one, right? Good.
The next place are local papers and news sites. Look up newspapers and bloggers in the town where the movie was shot, where the cast and crew came from, the director and producer’s home town …any outlet with any connection is fair game. For these markets you should tweak the film press release toward their angle and contact them personally.
The next level out are the distribution services. There are a number of them, some free, some you have to pay for, that will send your film press release to numerous news outlets.
I personally use PRLog. They offer free, ad-supported distribution for free with paid options that include more perks, like extra images and links. To be honest, while I’ve paid for a few releases most of the time I use the free option. The paid releases get posted on bigger news outlets, but don’t knock the free distribution. I’ve had bloggers pick up my PRLog press releases and write articles on their blogs about my movies without me needing to contact them directly.
Done right, a film press release is a low-cost tool that can help drive targeted traffic to your movie’s web site.