Publicity and the AudienceThrough word-of-mouth, the production website, social networking, and the blogosphere, the audience can be well-connected to the film production long before the film’s actual premiere on the big screen. As the PM or PC, you won’t be as involved in the shaping of the publicity plan but you can assist the publicity team during principal photography.

Marketing vs. Unit Publicity

While marketing includes ads and banners on television, the point of unit publicity is to reach the audience and generate word of mouth. A unit publicity plan seeks to arrange interviews that can become stories.

Though you cannot really control the actual text or discourse, the idea is to orchestrate a press kit with sample questions or a newsworthy publicity event. The only requirement here is that the film must be newsworthy—not necessarily controversial, but something the audience wants to know about, read about, and hear about. The unit publicist finds the story and visual look of your film that will generate interest in the production but, more importantly, will interest audiences in seeing and buying the finished film.

Unit Publicity Schedule vs. Main Unit Schedule

The united publicity schedule runs almost concurrently to that of the production team. The plan is formed during preproduction, the elements are collected primarily during the shoot, and the collected elements are delivered in a strategic manner that maximizes the production’s visibility at time of release.

One of the main challenges is to integrate the already hectic schedule of the main unit with the unit publicity’s schedule to gather the publicity elements. If the publicity package elements are not collected, such as photographs of the cast in character, how will posters be created and the audience know what film they are supposed to go see?

An independent film with limited financial resources should start with word-of-mouth publicity as soon as possible. Higher budget releases may choose silence in order to release the publicity elements in a more strategically timed manner.

If the content of the film is controversial, it would be wise to start your publicity campaign with word of mouth rather than leaving a long break between the buzz you generate and the release of the film. This  break could take the discussion to a different, potentially problematic, level.

A television series is a different scenario; create a proper publicity plan for the first and second seasons because the series will already have an established audience.

Kinds of Unit Publicity Elements

Press Kit:

  • Crafted by the unit publicist and includes:
    • Biographies of the main cast and crew
    • Synopsis and background
    • Press releases
    • Story behind the production
    • Publicity photographs
    • Interview transcript/list of sample questions
    • Artwork (if desired)
    • Hard and soft copy versions
  • Designed so that a reporter can appropriately prep before an interview with a film representative or be able to write an article/blog without an interview

Photographs:

  • Can include:
    • Cast in character in studio
    • Cast in character mid-scene
    • Behind-the-scenes
  • Used not only for the press kit but for posters and any other visual marketing

Electronic Press Kit:

  • Can include:
    • Video interviews with key cast and crew
    • Behind-the-scenes segments of shooting of a film
    • Teaser trailer
  • Should allow reporters to insert footage and/or interviews into their news stories
  • Comprised of separated video clips for the user to select and edit as needed

Website Production:

  • Should have key goals for facilitating the publicity of the film, like
    • Expanding the film’s story
    • Discussing controversial elements of the production
  • Uses visual designs by the art department
  • Can be interactive or static, depending on budget, staff, and multiplatform plan
  • Developed and maintained by an outside company
  • Launched either as soon as possible or in conjunction with the release of other publicity and marketing elements

Postings and Interviews:

  • Distributed via social networks and blogs
  • Used to keep up the buzz about the film’s production
  • Designed and released in a strategic manner to optimize their use
  • Can be hosted by a cast and/or crew member, or constructed as the blog/social media account of one of the film’s characters

Short Features:

  • Contains new stories from a character’s POV
  • Offers clues leading up to film release
  • May be planned and executed by a separate company

Other Publicity Elements:

  • Capitalizes on multiplatform opportunities, like:
    • Companion video game
    • Cell phone app
  • Limited only by budget and imagination
  • Should use separate company if extravagant/laborious

Publicity Plan: Confidentiality

If the plan from the start Is to keep the production a secret, the crew will need to sign confidentiality agreements. Increased security must protect the borders of the set and visitors will not be allowed, unless they’ve gone through a strict approval process.

The name of the actual production should never be used. The crew should be very aware of this from the beginning of the shoot and should be reminded throughout the shoot. Ask for the crew’s input when creating a plan to keep everything under wraps so that they feel like part of the secret; that inclusion is important in this part of the production.