Journalists can be the best ally an independent filmmaker has. Many filmmakers don't know how to treat them.

Here is how you can really annoy a journalist:

 1. Lying

Telling a journalist that your story is true when it isn't is about the worst thing you can do. The damage done to your relationship is probably irreparable.

Almost as bad is insisting to a journalist that your story is newsworthy. Journalists make their own judgment on whether or not an item is newsworthy. That's their job, not yours.

2. Bribery

Journalists can't be bribed to include you in editorials. That's why they invented advertorials and advertisements for which they do take money.

3. No Respect For Deadlines

Have you ever had a telephone call from someone you know right before you are trying to leave, or about to quit for the day? Do you know the feeling you get when you are trying politely to get rid of someone? This is exactly how a journalist feels when you call them while they are on a deadline. You need to understand what the deadlines are for the journalist you are pursuing. Also remember that deadlines vary according to the media you are hustling, be it print, web, TV or radio.

4. Incorrect Databases

Just because you have a media database crammed with 100's of names you got from a mate who works in 'new media' does not mean that you should blast every single journalist with your press release.

Sending your releases to irrelevant or disinterested parties is just a waste of time.

Research your database. Build personal relationships with them. A handful of interested journalists is better than dozens and hundreds of journalists who couldn't care less about you.

Write and Sell the Hot Script5. Double Hitting

Nothing annoys a journalist in a publication more than if you approach a colleague of theirs in the same publication at the same time. Journalists like to feel special, and need to feel that they have a scoop. Just because you haven't heard back doesn't mean they aren't interested. It probably simply means that they are on 'deadline.'

Be patient. Wait until they pass on your story, and then ask if they mind if you approach their colleague. They usually don't mind at this point, although they most likely will have shared your story ahead of time.

6. Expecting Your Press Release Printed Word Perfect

Journalists rarely print your press release. They will reprint facts, ie: time and place of a screening, and your contact details. But not the words from your press release.
A good trick around this is to write them a list of FAQ's. You can see my FAQ's for the British Independent Film Awards here. Do this write and they will quote you, and this will be word perfect.

7. Wrong Media Targeting

There is no point in getting your project reviewed if it is being seen by the wrong people - people who wouldn't ever be interested in your film. Do your research and make sure your time and energy are used to get the word out to the right audience.

8. Expecting Journalists To Perform Miracles

Overnight publicity miracles don't happen overnight. PR works best by continually feeding your target media with news article after news article. Remeber too, that one or two articles won't change your profile much. Your reputation and profile builds over a series of well planned publicity events.

9. Shooting From The Hip

When a journalist puts you on the spot with a tricky quicky question, take a moment to reflect. If you aren't comfortable, ask the journalist if you can move on. The worst thing you can do is make things up. Then you have to call back and grovel and apologise. When that happens all your good work goes down the proverbial toilet.

10. Believing Journalists Are Vindictive

Mostly this in not true. Here's what journalists really want:

  • a story of interest their audience
  • concise, factual information
  • detailed information on a topic they are researching
  • as little extra work as possible
  • to meet deadlines
  • to look hip and cool to their employers and colleagues

"PART II: 10 Things Journalists Hate About Filmmakers:

Don’t care what you-say-about-me…spell my name right. Then make sure they spell your name write.
Make sure the journalist, states your claim-to-fame, without typing the words “self promoting”
Not talking to a journalist unless he has a photographer with him/her. No-photo No-Talkie
Never do a video shoot, even viral, if journalist doesn’t have a makeup man. No-makeup No-Shootie
Never talk to a journalist who doesn’t have a budget for lunch. Plus, be careful what you order & eat, for that is what they will write."
- Dov Simens

Elliot Grove
Elliot Grove founded Raindance a quarter century ago as a thought experiment: Can you make a film with no money, no training and no experience, he asked? When people like his first intern Edgar Wright started making movies he founded the Raindance Film Festival to celebrate their work in 1993, the British Independent Film Awards in 1998.

Elliot has produced over 700 short films, and 5 feature films. He has written eight scripts, one of which is currently in pre-production. His first feature film, TABLE 5 (1997) was shot on 35mm and completed for a total of £278.38. He teaches writers and producers in the UK, Europe, Japan and America. In 2006 he produced the multiple-award winning The Living and the Dead.
In 2013 he relaunched the production arm: Raw Talent with the cult film director Ate de Jong. Their first venture was the psychological thriller Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey. finished late 2013.

He has written three books which have become industry standards: RAINDANCE WRITERS LAB 2nd Edition (Focal Press 2008), Raindance Producers' Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking (Focal Press 2013) and 130 PROJECTS TO GET YOU INTO FILMMAKING (Barrons 2009). He was awarded a PhD in 2009 for services to film education. His first novel THE BANDIT QUEEN is scheduled for publication next year.

Elliot teaches several courses at Raindance including Lo To No Budget Filmmaking and Writer's Foundation Certificate.

Read articles by Elliot Grove.