Putting on a World Premiere

Reprinted from StudentFilmmakers magazine, April 2008. Download a PDF copy of the article.

Putting on a World Premiere

Your film's journey starts with that first step

Most independent filmmakers know that making the film is the easy part. Getting the film out to the world is more of a challenge. When you’re making a film, you’re dedicated to only one thing. Your efforts have a focus and it takes all your time and energy to get the film finished. But once it’s done what do you do next? There are so many items on your check list: creating a DVD, designing postcards, making movie posters, creating a web page, applying to film festivals—the list seems endless.

Every journey starts with the first step, and for your film’s journey that first step should be a splashy public screening-–a movie premiere--to announce to the world that your important film has been born.

What’s the point of holding a world premiere? First it’s a great way to thank all the people who made the film possible--to honor the actors, crew and your financial backers at a special event. They’ve put in a lot of work (or money), and they want to see results up on the big screen. You don’t have to have a red carpet and klieg lights to make them feel special. Just seeing their name in the credits, with a theater full of people, is thrilling enough. Add in a Q&A, a post screening party, and you’ll have them lining up to help you on your next film.

But a second reason to hold a premiere is that the event can get you much needed publicity; it can garner some helpful quotes from critics and movie reviewers—quotes that you can use on the cover of your DVD, on your movie poster, and on the postcards—all things you’ll need for the festival circuit.

The first question is, where to hold the premiere? I live just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, so you’d think Boston would be my first choice—a metropolitan area with two competing newspapers and four local television stations. But Boston, like New York, LA, or Chicago, has far too many festivals and hosts too many film screenings for the media to give my short film the attention it deserves. Instead, I’d look at nearby towns and small cities, like Dedham or Worchester because those places almost never have film premieres and the splash I’d get there would be ten times greater that if I held it in Boston. Another strategy is to hold it in the town where the film was shot, or where the main actor lives. The idea is to find a place that has a direct tie in to the film and where the media will be excited about the event.

It’s great to hold the premiere at a real movie theater, and smaller cities and towns often have a theater that’s been divided into several screens. Getting the theater to let you have one of those screens for a night is far easier in a small city or town than in New York, Atlanta or Chicago.

You might consider turning your premiere into a benefit for a charity in that town. Instead of just having an event that’s a lot of fun, why not have your premiere do some good as well? You raise money for the charity, and they help you promote your film. Everyone wins.

Once a date, time and venue has been nailed down, the most important thing on your list is getting the local media to write stories about the premiere and hopefully write a positive review of your film. The press coverage will help fill the theater and the reviews will provide some nice quotes when you design your DVD, movie poster, and postcards. Getting press coverage requires a careful campaign and some lead-time. You’ll need to write a press release. You can do a web search for “Press Releases” to find information on how to write an effective one, but basically you’re writing an article about your film that includes all the pertinent information. Add quotes from you and the actors that make the film sound fascinating and a must-see. You’ll be amazed at how much of your press release appears in published articles (especially in small-town weeklies). In addition to the press release, you’ll need several high quality production stills (not screen captures), a film description, and a list of cast and crew. For now, that’s your press kit. You should have at least 10 DVDs so you can send them to movie reviewers at the weekly and daily paper. Don’t be afraid to e-mail specific reporters who cover local events for the daily and weekly papers, as well as the arts and entertainment editor. Often an e-mail address is listed at the bottom of the articles that a reporter writes. Attach your press kit to the e-mail. Always follow up with a phone call. For local television stations you’ll need an electronic press kit—the same items as above plus short clips (20-30 seconds) from the film. Choose a dramatic or funny scene that delivers a quick punch. The clips should be available on tape. Call your local stations and find out which format they’ll accept—Beta SP, DVCAM are possible choices.

Some people are under the mistaken impression that film festivals won’t accept your film unless they can bill it as a world premiere. That is true of a couple of bigname festivals, but it applies to features not shorts. The vast majority of festivals want films that have a proven track record, so they look for films that have been accepted by other festivals, or have had important public screenings—like your gala premiere.

Finally, a premiere can start the wordof-mouth promotion that is critical to any successful project. All you need is for someone to tell someone who knows someone who works for the head of _____ ___(fill in the blank) and your film suddenly has traction.

PublicationsSam Kauffmann