This series of articles is aimed at first time or micro budget filmmakers like myself, who are trying to maximise the exposure of their finished works, whilst not bankrupting themselves in the process. I will discuss what should be included in your electronic press kit, why you should make one, as well as a few ways you could use it to market your film and hopefully, get people talking.
What Is A Press Kit?
Firstly, for those of you who aren’t entirely sure what an electronic press kit (EPK) is, it is simply a digital version of a standard press kit, which is a document, folder, or booklet etc, containing all the information the reader could possibly need to know about your film for the purposes of marketing. There will be a synopsis, a cast and crew list with good headshots and bio’s, some stills from the film, some ‘behind the camera’ production shots, your contact details, as well as a few typical interview questions answered by the cast and crew, that people writing about your film can use to pull quotes and phrases from for their articles.
To give you a general idea of what a press kit can look like, here is the one I made for my first film Lift.
Here are some others to show some different styles. I found these by doing a quick google search for ‘film EPK’. If you wish to see more, just search for the same.
These pdf’s are all hosted on my website so don’t worry, you are not clicking off to any strange sites.
Should I Make A Press Kit?
In a word, yes.
Making an electronic press kit is one of the easiest steps you can take towards promoting your film. It is fundamental to your marketing strategy. However, it is also one of the most overlooked and underutilized tools at a filmmaker’s disposal.
There are thousands of short films being made every year in Britain alone, so you need to do something to separate yourself from the pack. You can’t just think that because you have made a film, anybody is going to care. You are not entitled to anything, no matter what some people believe. You have to make them care. This means being proactive in your marketing, and a good press kit is a step towards doing just that. If you have a bit of design experience, which you most certainly do as you just made yourself a film, then you will be able to put one together in an hour or two, and it won’t cost you a thing.
A press kit will by no means make your film any better, nor will it help you get into festivals (more on that later), but if used in the right way, it will help ensure that more people are actually aware of your film, and it might just make them want to come see it.
What Should I Put In My Press Kit?
Now that you have seen some examples, let’s talk about what actually goes inside a press kit in a bit more detail.
The Cover Sheet.
The first thing readers will see is of course the cover. It needs to be clean, easy to read, and in my opinion, have continuity with the rest of your marketing materials. You want people to be able to see your cover and instantly associate it with your film, so it is a good idea to use a condensed version of your poster. Put your contact details on there, along with some quotes pulled from previous reviews you have received about your film. Some people plaster their award wreaths all over the front too. This is a good idea in some cases, but can also work against you in others. More on that below.
Making a good poster can actually be a lot harder than you think. There are some truly terrible ones out there. The old adage ‘less is more’ can serve you well in this case. Just take a look at the The Usual Suspects poster above.
Nothing fancy, but still, highly effective.
A solid synopsis can do wonders for generating interest in your film. It is a summary of the story, written in such a way that it piques the curiosity of the reader, and ultimately, gets them in a seat. You want your synopsis to be concise, and not give too much away. Don’t let it read as “This happens, and then this happens”. It should read like the blurb on the back of a DVD box or a book. Think of the synopses you see on IMDb or Netflix that make you say “That sounds alright, let’s watch that one.”
For a feature length film you may want to include three synopses of varying lengths, though this is unnecessary with a short film. If you did, you would be hard pressed not to give the whole story away.
You may also want to include a statement about the film as whole. Why did you make the film? Who did you make it with? What was your inspiration? You can use it to help make people understand where you were coming from when you made the film.
Like the synopsis, keep it short and concise. People don’t want to read more than they have to. Keep cutting it down until it is straight and to the point. I chose to put this on the same page as the synopsis in my press kit for Lift, in order to keep the page count down.
Take a look at the press kits above if you need some ideas.
The Contact Details.
You want people to be able to contact you easily. People are busy, and if you make their life harder than it needs to be, they might just decide to pass over you and your film. There are plenty of other people with films out there they can actually get in touch with.
As I said earlier, you can put these on the cover too. This is one thing I wish I had done with the Lift press kit. I did put some social media and website info on the front, but contact details would have really been a lot more helpful.
The Techs and Specs.
Next up is the technical information. This is the part that tells the people who need to know it, all the nitty gritty bits about your film.
Put the names of the writer(s) and director, runtime, the aspect ratio, sound mix, the formats the film is available in, the dialogue language, whether or not it is subtitled and in what languages, the country of production as well as the date of production and/or completion.
You can also put some more thematic information in this section to help the people who need to categorize your film such as the genre (drama, comedy) and the themes (family, grief, golf, space travel).
Not everyone who reads your press kit will need all of this information, however, if someone does need to check up on a technical aspect of your production, then they will be able to locate everything they need without having to contact you. Easy.
On my press kit for Lift, I chose to put this information on the same page as my contact details to make it as easy as possible for those reading it.
The Cast and Crew.
For your cast and crew photos, make sure to use a good headshot if possible. For actors, this shouldn’t be a problem. They will in all likelihood have one ready to go. Crew members may not. If this is the case, grab a camera and take a nice shot for them in front of a good background. It is quick and easy, and means you won’t have to crop a picture of them holding a drink down the pub.
Keep bio’s short and simple. A paragraph at most. People don’t want to be reading big chunks of text, only for you to waffle on about how your childhood dream of making a film has now come true.
You should already have a snappy trailer ready to go, and for short films, I mean really snappy. There is no point making a two minute trailer for a five minute film. Use it as an exercise in editing and make it as short as you possibly can, then get it online and link to it as much as possible. Getting people to watch your short film is hard enough, getting them to watch a trailer of a short film can be nigh on impossible. A link in your electronic press kit can help you do that. People often forget that you can put clickable links into pdf’s. Don’t be one of these people. Make use of it, and make your trailer, and other info such as websites and social media for that matter, as easily accessible as possible.
The Stills and Production Shots.
Watch your film and choose some of the shots that you think show off the overall tone of your film the best, then grab a still and add it to your press kit. It is easy to get carried away with this, so just like the trailer, try not to give too much away.
As well as stills, it always a good idea to have some shots taken during production that you can put in your press kit. We didn’t do this whilst filming Lift. We were too focused on filming to think of anything else. When it came to making our press kit we realised what we were missing. We went back through all of our footage and grabbed some stills from the pre and post roll. This proved not to be quite enough, so we were a little bit cheeky, and went back to a couple of our locations to recreate a few moments of us ‘filming’. We got a third party (good old sis) to snap a few shots of us, and in the end they came out great.
Doing this saved us in the long run. When we were asked to screen the film on SkyArts, we were asked for some production shots for the press release. Thankfully we were well prepared to send a few across.
If, like us, you forgot to take some production shots whilst filming, then you should really consider doing something similar. Also, the next time you film, make sure to ask a friend to come along and take some shots. You never know when they could come in handy.
The Awards and Reviews.
As you screen at festivals you will hopefully win some awards, or at the least receive a few reviews. You can include these in your press kit, or even plaster them all over your cover. It can really give you a lot of credibility with some people. Even if the review you receive is bad, don’t be afraid to quote them out of context. They will actually expect you to do this, and will have most likely included a superlative in their review for this purpose. So, a review that reads ‘John Smith’s first film was incredibly bad‘ can become ‘John Smith’s first film was incredible‘. Take their words and use them for your benefit. They want to see their name up on your poster in big bold letters just as much as you want to see yours.
Award wreaths can be used in the same way, though you want to be careful if you are still submitting to festivals as they love their premieres. Bragging that your film has already been screened at another festival and won a bunch of awards, might not always do you as many favours as you think.
If you are sending your kit to the press, then it is a different story. Make sure those wreaths are up on the front cover for all to see. Not everyone wins awards for their films, so be proud of your accomplishments.
The Ten Questions.
The ten questions are not necessarily a required part of your press kit, but it is often a good choice to include them. They allow readers to pull information for their articles that is a little more personal in nature. Use the questions to share some of your thoughts and opinions as well as some anecdotes from your filmmaking process. It is the one section that allows you to show some of your own personality, as well as those of your crew mates, so don’t just answer all the questions yourself, get everyone involved. The questions don’t have to be anything too complex. Where did the idea come from? What was your favourite part of filming? What’s next? These are all great questions that will allow you to get some of who you are as a person, not just as a filmmaker across.
Print or Digital?
Typically, it is on bigger productions with a dedicated marketing budget that these are most often printed in hard copy, however some filmmakers at the other end of the spectrum do also choose to spend money on getting some printed up. I personally do not, an electronic press kit is more than adequate for my needs, and I will tell you why in the next article, but if you feel that it would strengthen your campaign to have a hard copy press kit, then go right ahead.
After all, everyone’s needs are different.
In summary, your press kit will be your go to piece of kit when promoting your film, and it is invaluable in creating buzz for your film, so it is important to get it right. It will tell the reader everything they could possibly need to know about the film and the people behind it.
In the next article, I will explain why I choose to use an electronic press kit over a printed hardcopy, and I will give some suggestions and ideas, on who you can send your press kit to in order to gain some exposure for your film, and ultimately, start to generate some buzz.
Elsewhere On The Web.
Thanks for sticking with me. Before I go I wanted to share this video from the Film Courage YouTube channel.
It sums up some of what I have been speaking about, as well as giving you some more opinions of press kits from the perspective of a festival submissions committee.
Have a watch, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Till then, take care.
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