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Tom Nixon

Alternative Publicity: Grabbin’ Eyeballs and Sparking Buzz

I’ve sneaked into one of the panel sessions at the SXSW Film conference. Couldn’t resist a session about generating buzz. Once again, please forgive the typos and mistakes – I’ve just posted this straight up without editing.

Audience in this session have notepads and pens – no laptops. Odd :)

On the panel we have:

Jessica Edwards, VP, Murphy PR
Negin Farsad, Comedian/Filmmaker, Vaguely Qualified Productions
David Modigliani, Producer/Dir, Crawford
Tommy Pallotta, Producer
Curt Ellis, Producer, Wicked Delicate Films

Let’s see what they have to offer…

Quick show of hands: Most of the audience here are film-makers.

Traditional Film publicity model: You hire a publicity agent and they pitch your film to the traditional media.

Promoting ‘King Corn’: Raised $500K for publicity. Theatrical screenings were useful, but showing the film in ‘grass roots settings’ like college campuses, farmers markets was very effective and could get paid for the screening.

Most films lose more money in publicity than they make at the box office so the key is to make your publicity dollar work better.

Launching film on Hulu: Crawford was first film to launch on this platform. More views that opening weekends of An Inconvenient Truth and Fahrenheit 911.

Create a ‘Host your own screening’ programme. These people become your PR machine – tapping into their friends and contacts.

It’s a myth that giving a film away online or at screenings damages DVD sales because of the value of the buzz that’s generated will ultimately sell more DVDs.

You never know who knows a mainstream journalist. Your grass roots publicity can cross over into the mainstream mass media.

Good publicity requires a strategy and understanding the publicity landscape.

Pallotta is going to try out releasing his new film on Bit Torrent with a note to tell people to write and talk about it if they like it, to see what kind of publicity that generates.

Holding a traditional screening will get you reviews in the mainstream press, but it doesn’t guarantee that people will actually go and see the film. But distributing for free online almost guarantees an audience which gives you a chance of a groundswell of buzz building.

Hulu will give you a share of ad revenue so you can make money from this distribution channel. It’s not much though – the biggest value is getting your film out to a large audience to build buzz.

Set up a Facebook, MySpace, Twitter ‘extravaganza’ (!). Good for word of mouth but not necessarily mainstream cross-over.

Hire street teams to hand out flyers in towns where screenings are happening.

Some amazing views towards P2P filesharing on the panel: “It doesn’t lose me any money and it gets my film publicised for free” – wow. But I wonder how this will change once high definition P2P sharing becomes commonplace.

Question from me: Are major studios innovating with grass roots publicity too, or is this just for independents and small studios?

Definitely. However they often to make it look like grass roots support rather than originating from the studio. Artificial word of mouth generating in forums with fake user accounts.

Makes me wonder what the opportunity is studios to innovate in this area in an authentic way.

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  1. interesting that they remark on social media for word of mouth but won’t guarantee mainstream crossover. I guess this isn’t just for the film industry but a remark on social media strategy generally?

    Posted 16th March 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
  2. Definitely. It can be an added bonus, or it can become the main event.

    Posted 16th March 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink