April 6, 2016

7 Essential Ways to Prepare for Your Festival Premiere

Our film HERE ALONE will world premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival
You did the impossible: you made a film that got into a top-tier festival. Time to celebrate, right? Not so fast. 

After wrapping production on the post-apocalyptic thriller Here Alone, my sanity was in shreds. I tried to hoist my bruised body off the sofa. But somehow, while fighting the urge to let my skin graft to the polyester-blended fabric, Here Alone received an amazing invitation to premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. Director Rod Blackhurst and I, along with our fellow producers Noah Lang, Arun Kumar, and Josh Murphy, celebrated quickly.

...Maybe too quickly. We had so much work left to do.  

Here are seven things you can do way in advance to ensure that your film's future premiere is streamlined, successful, and absolutely enjoyable.

Brainstorm talking points on what makes your film unique.

1. Anticipate the paperwork

For every frame of creative content captured, there is a contractual or supporting page created to match. Festivals are no different. Your festival will require a short and long synopsis, bios of major players (director, talent, writer, producers, etc.), and a catalog of questions used to target press. Questions can include: Are there any interesting stories about how your film was funded? What influenced this work? What are you working on next?

Secure updated bios as early as possible for your major players, as people get busy, and chasing them down for a bio can be frustrating. Also, start by writing a 500-word synopsis, which can then be narrowed down to 250 words, and finally to 50. While you can't predict exact questions, brainstorm talking points on what makes your film unique within the industry and press world, not just in relation to other films you’ve seen.  

"Here Alone" Credit: Adam McDaid

We created a poster concept in the development phase so that when production began, our on-set photographer knew which image to try to capture.

2) If you're out of money, be prepared to DIY publicity  

A PR firm can provide tons of benefits to your festival premiere and beyond. But the reality is that established firms can cost up to $7,500. So if you're paying for everything in dimes at this stage, you’ll have to tackle your film's press yourself.

Begin contemplating and compiling the following to make sure your DIY outreach is backed up with solid assets.

  • Hi-resolution film stills and behind-the-scenes imagery: Collect at least 10 film stills and 10 behind-the-scenes images, allocating 3-5 of each to the festival and the rest for press needs. For all stills and images, make captions short and sweet and credit your photographer or cinematographer.
  • Create a digital film poster: Brainstorm poster design concepts prior to filming to save time on design later. On Here Alone, we created a concept in the development phase so that when production began, our on-set photographer knew which image to try to capture.
  • Create an electronic press kit (EPK):  As you’ll probably be cold-emailing a lot of press contacts and badgering your network for connections, the EPK is a great document to have at hand. Your EPK should consist of a logline, long synopsis, bios of your major talent and players, a director’s statement, and a full credit list. It can also include items like a "pre-interview" section, where your director and talent discuss important aspects of your film. Boil all of this down into a sharp PDF with a killer cover page.
  • Establish a press contact on your film's team: Pinpoint a person on your team that is able to dedicate time to responding to inquiries and does so with exuberance. Also, make sure that you don’t list a generic email address, such as info@yourfilm.com, for your cheerful and approachable press point person. Members of the press want to know that someone is actively checking—and actively responding to—their inquiries.
On set of "Here Alone" Credit: Adam McDaid

3) Make all of your assets "exclusive"

There is nothing new about giving a little to get a little, which is why some crafty managers end up as associate producers. This adage also applies to getting coverage for your film.

Giving a press outlet exclusive items means that they can be the first to share that specific asset with their readership (and the world.) Provide exclusives and you'll entice press outlets to cover your flick, but there's also something in it for them: more traffic and eyes to their site (and, in turn, your film). 

Exclusive items can include film stills, behind-the-scenes photos, trailers, clips, posters, storyboards, and more. Prior to submission, compile a list of assets that you'd be able to market as exclusive.

Research post-production facilities and get quotes and timelines for your DCP prior to submitting to festivals.

4) Tackle that dreaded DCP

A large expense that indie filmmakers can be caught off-guard by is the Digital Cinema Package (DCP). A DCP is a 35mm film print equivalent that many (but not all) festivals require for screenings. Like many technical things that are abbreviated, DCPs cost money, take time to create, and require a post-production house to complete. It's one of those processes that is damn near impossible to do yourself. A DCP costs roughly between $2,000-$3,000 and can take up to a week to process.

To make sure you’re not caught with your DCP pants down, research post-production facilities and get quotes and timelines prior to submitting to festivals. Also, when the time comes to start authoring a DCP, work with the post-production house and your festival’s tech department on the exact specs needed for optimal projection and sound.

Lucy Walters and Adam David Thompson in HERE ALONE.
A film still from HERE ALONE used for promotional purposes on the Tribeca Film Festival website. Featuring Adam David Thompson as Chris and Lucy Walters as Ann. Credit: Adam McDaid

You're going to have to buy extra tickets to your premiere on top of the freebies the festival provides.

5) Set aside $$ for your premiere tickets

Most festivals grant you free tickets to the screenings of your film, but those tickets are by no means limitless. If you have contractual obligations to provide festival tickets, have a long list of collaborators, or are just trying to make sure mom and dad see it, you're going to have to buy extra tickets on top of the freebies the festival provides.

Build in a ticket buffer for possible last-minute attendees, especially distributors or press that aren't able to make it to the Press & Industry screenings your festival arranges. Most tickets are in the $15-$25 range, so securing 10 extra tickets for each of your 2 or 3 festival screenings can add up fast.     

6) Think about distribution

Your festival premiere is your first step into the distribution pool. Planning for it ensures that you’re ready to swim in the deep end without inflatable armbands.

Create a document that begins to address the massive amount of information distributors need in order to proceed with buying your film. Some of these major items include: establishing a proper chain of title for the script and film, showing screenplay purchase agreements, assignment of rights to the film's controlling company, and providing any other chain of title documents (such as copyrights or certificates of recordation).

Make a list of all applicable guilds that your film worked with (SAG, WGA, DGA, etc.) and a similar list with any above-the-line obligations, such as deferments, back-end participations, final cut approvals, and any credit or likeness ties for your talent or director. 

Finally, if you don’t have one already, make sure that you’ve secured an attorney to handle the complicated distribution legal process.

"Here Alone" Credit: Adam McDaid

7) Be prepared to answer "what's next?"

While it does put you in hopeful distribution waters, your premiere will also be a springboard for future projects. You’ll be socializing and talking shop with potential distributors, filmmakers, producers, investors, and more industry contacts than you can shake a stick at. And when talking about your current film, they’ll all eventually ask, “What’s next?”

We received requests for our "what’s next" just days after Tribeca announced their lineup.

Be ready to answer, not only at the premiere but also in the weeks leading up to it. With Here Alone, we received requests for our "what’s next" just days after Tribeca announced their lineup. Luckily, we have North, a dramatic feature that is scripted, budgeted, scheduled, and scouted. It’s a turn-key project that is ready to strike while our festival irons are still hot. 

Being prepared for "what’s next" is a lot to ask—especially after considering the information above—but having your conversation points ready and a script or treatment prepped to send will show potential investors or collaborators that you have your ducks in a row. Add to the conversation as many supporting production documents as you can muster—budgets, schedules, casting wish-list, etc.—and those collaborators will be further enticed to jump on board.

Eventually, you'll be ready to get your "what’s next" ready for another festival premiere. 

Our Co-Producer Trevor Eiler (who is also our visual designer) created this Tribeca Film Festival 'announcement poster' that we could share across all social media platforms when the film festival lineup was announced. While not the official poster for the film, it gave everyone something visual to share, instead of just a common text-based update. Credit: Trevor Eiler

Your Comment

13 Comments

This was a good one! Thanks for sharing!

April 6, 2016 at 3:45PM, Edited April 6, 3:45PM

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Joakim
319

@Joakim - Of course! Hope the article was helpful.

April 7, 2016 at 8:30AM

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Rod Blackhurst
Director
Director | Producer

This continues to be some of the most vital content posted on here. Thank you, as always, for being so open and sharing the process that went into this film. I'll see you guys Friday night!

April 6, 2016 at 8:36PM

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Oren Soffer
Director of Photography
2125

Thank you for this.... in a myriad of shallow and click bait so-called "master classes" this is very valuable. Openheartedness and sharing of information on this level resembles the kind of person people like Roger Deakins is.

Best wishes for you film, it's looks interesting, although I'm also biased towards this genre ;)

April 7, 2016 at 1:12AM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
921

@Torben - Thank you for the kind words. We all love Roger Deakins and that's a generous comparison. We believe that it's important to send the elevator back down and help lift others up....because we were once there ourselves (hell, we're still there, but maybe we made it to the 1st floor of a 50 story building). There's not enough of that in the film industry.

April 7, 2016 at 8:32AM

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Rod Blackhurst
Director
Director | Producer

The only thing I would point out as being inaccurate is the DCP part.
If you use Premiere Pro CC, you can create a DCP from the comfort of your computer, for no additional money, up to 2K.
My film NaturePlay ( natureplayfilm.com ) just premiered in Thessaloniki with a DCP I created on my Macbook Pro.
A part that is missing is the "Deliverables"
Depending on who you get for distribution, you'll need to provide many different versions of your movie. Some without any graphics, some without any voices, but with all sound effects and so on. There's more, this is just scratching the surface. Make sure you do your homework.

April 7, 2016 at 9:35AM

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Daniel Stilling, DFF
Director Of Photography
74

Hey Daniel, one of the producers of HERE ALONE here. Wait for our next post to talk all things deliverables! Don't want to spoil all the fun in one post.

Absolutely on DCP. There's also great services such as Affordable DCP, etc that are cheaper as well.

For us, we didn't have a post production supervisor and the cost we budgeted for on the DCP side allowed us to work with experienced folks for the tech specs we needed to hit within our super truncated timeline. If we had the luxury of more time, we would've shopped around, etc but as the old adage goes - fast, cheap, good, pick two. We chose fast and good!

Hope you dig the film and huge congrats on your film's premiere.

April 7, 2016 at 1:47PM

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Noah Lang
Writer
Producer

Daniel - Rod here, director and producer of HERE ALONE. You're right, anyone can make a DCP - but to have it meet the screening scrutiny of a lot of eyeballs at a place like Tribeca we'd recommend having a professional make it, just like you'd hire a composer, a sound designer, a colorist, etc.

All my best - Rod

April 7, 2016 at 3:45PM

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Rod Blackhurst
Director
Director | Producer

We've been using DCP-o-matic, which is free and has worked great for us. The first time we used it we got lucky and managed to test our DCP at our local small cinema before delivering to the festival. Saved us $6000 over 3 projects. Delivery requirements sometimes vary and, in our experience, we have always needed to deliver on a usb hard drive (with less than 1tb capacity, or you could format a larger drive to create a small enough partition). Preferably, nothing else should be on the drive and use NTFS drive format, although OS X Extended does seem to work. I'd really suggest to test your DIY DCP to avoid any last minute scares.

April 11, 2016 at 3:43PM, Edited April 11, 3:45PM

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Tim Burgess
Filmmaker
67

@Tim - Unfortunately we had to deliver 2 CRU drives to Tribeca and we needed to test in a post house that could play the 5.1 surround sound mix of the film - so we couldn't stay in house and do it ourselves. If you can find a real cinema that will let you test your homemade CRU drives and 5.1 mix for free - that's awesome - we're jealous!

April 12, 2016 at 5:19PM

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Rod Blackhurst
Director
Director | Producer

If yo are partnered with a theater chain for release there is no reason why this won't happen. Every system is different slightly on top of that. DCP's are not complicated but once you have experience setting up one correctly it is fairly easy from there.

April 13, 2016 at 11:02AM

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Darren Orange
Director/Producer
272

Another great and informative article from these filmmakers. I loved there first few articles enough to actually contribute to "Here Alone," and I can't wait to see it. I'm already looking forward to their "what's next," which sounds like a "close cousin" (as opposed to distant) to my project.

April 12, 2016 at 2:04PM

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Thomas Prill
Soon-to-be Producer
170

@Thomas - Thank you for the kind words. We're an open book and just want to help other filmmakers out who want to find a way to make their first feature. I just saw your e-mail and will reply soon!

April 12, 2016 at 5:20PM

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Rod Blackhurst
Director
Director | Producer