You’ve made a movie. Now how do you publicize it? You or a publicist will have to reach out to reporters or news organizations with short pitch emails that sometimes include a press release. But before you send out any pitches, you’d be wise to craft a dynamite film press kit. The press kit can be sent all or in part to journalists who are interested in your story, or posted on your website for people to download at-will. Many of these press kit items will apply equally to both documentary films as well as fictional films.
What’s in a press kit? That’s the question that this article is here to answer.
List: Components of a good film press kit
A press release
Probably the most important and basic element of a film press kit is a press release. You can easily look around the internet for sample press releases so your format matches theirs, more or less. Typically a PDF document, your press release will concisely explain:
- That you have a film coming out in a festival/on television/on DVD, etc
- What the film is about and why that’s newsworthy (ideally to the publications you’re trying to pitch to– if the topic of the film or shooting location is local there’s an easy angle you can leverage)
- How people can see the film
- How you can be contacted for more information
Often times press releases will have quotes from the filmmaker and sometimes the participants in your documentary film (or actors if it’s a fictional film). Press releases are ideally short: perhaps only a page long but can overflow on to a second page if needed. They should include your contact information and links to your film’s website and a trailer video (ideally one that’s hosted on a site like YouTube that’s embeddable by news organizations on their own website). More on links later. If your film is screening at a film festival, include specific showtimes and addresses of the theater. Have a few people read your press release and make sure that it includes all the relevant information.
A written synopsis of the film
A synopsis might be a paragraph or two but not longer than that. If you’ve already made the film, we’re going to assume you’ve already figured out a synopsis that works well!
Bios of key figures
Filmmaker bios – If you’re pitching the film as a story, journalists will want to know who made the film. Including your past credits as a filmmaker can be useful, and, depending on your relationship with the story, any personal connection you have to the subject matter (i.e. “John first became fascinated with tractors when his grandmother was run over by one. So making a film that took place in a farm equipment factory made sense…”).
Key film participant bios – If you’ve made a documentary film about this one specific sculpter, you’re going to want to include a short bio of them and their work alongside your own bio as a filmmaker. In the case of a film where you have a somewhat well known actor you may want to include their bio as well with their past acting credits.
If you’re at the stage where you’re promoting your film to the public you should defitely have a proper film trailer. And ideally it should be hosted on YouTube– the easiest video hosting platform for people to share videos from (yes, it’s easier than Vimeo for most regular folks). As a filmmaker you want your trailer to be shared as widely as possible, and that means embedded on news organizations websites, blogs, people’s Facebook and Twitter feeds– all over the place essentially. You should include a link to your trailer in your press release and in your press kit generally.
Additionally you should make it clear in the press release or elsewhere that a private screener link is available to watch the full film for journalists or bloggers. Don’t include this link and password combo in the document; people should have to reach out to you to get it if you’re posting the press kit publicly on your website.
High resolution photographs
Images have great power in selling films– almost as much a video in some cases. There are several types of photographs that can be great additions to film press kits. They are:
- Still images from the film – either taken as actual frame grabs from the film or (even better) taken on set with a real still camera like a DSLR
- Behind the scenes action photos of the film getting made (i.e. the director with a camera, etc)
- Headshots of the filmmaker(s) and/or of the principle people in the film
- The film’s poster image and/or key art
You’ll want to provide a selection of nice high resolution images that make your project look professional and interesting. Not too many to have to sift through– under ten images, journalists are busy after all– but ideally at least a couple for the photo editors to choose from. It’s common for newspapers to request images at 300 DPI or higher but in reality they’ll take any image if it looks good enough.
You’ll want to include your contact information or that of a designated team member to handle media requests. It’s a good idea to include both a phone number and an email address — you want to be as easily contactable as possible if a reporter is interested in the story.
Link to relevant websites
A press release and press kit might include links to:
- The official film website
- A trailer on YouTube
- A link to the production company or filmmaker website if applicable
Additional film press kit materials
Optionally you might also include a director’s statement on the work or a logline. Fuller credits for the film might also be included, although these are typically not printed or used by journalists.
What does a press kit for a film look like?
There are different ways of structuring a film press kit. Sometimes a press kit is entirely self-contained in a PDF document (with images embedded and so forth). Other times the press kit is a section on a film’s website whree people can download photographs, a PDF of the press release, find contact information, and so forth. Sometimes a press release might take the form of a bundled zip file that people can download on to their computers.
The two types of articles about films
Generally speaking there are two types of articles that news organizations publish about films. These are film reviews, where the writer is a movie reviewer and not a reporter, or feature stories, in which case the writer is a reporter and not a movie reviewer. The purpose of a movie review is to tell readers whether or not a film is worth seeing.
The purpose of a feature story on the other hand– which is often longer in length and will commonly involve an interview with the filmmaker– tells the story of the film getting made as a news item. Feature stories can sometimes also be published even as a film is still being shot and not yet completed. Both types of articles can be helpful for filmmakers.
Similarly, feature stories can also appear on radio and on television news shows.