How To Write A Press Release For FilmOne of the most challenging aspects of being an independent filmmaker is promoting your film. Standing out amongst your peers is an enormous challenge, even for seasoned indie filmmakers. You could have an award winning film, but without a viewing audience your movie is worthless. Therefore, advertising and marketing are extremely important elements in promoting your independent film. However, public relations is also a very important step that shouldn’t be overlooked. Knowing how to build up excitement and awareness around your indie film will greatly increase your chances of success.

Some independent filmmakers confuse advertising and public relations and mistakenly identify the two as being the same thing. However, the differences between the two are quite distinctive. With advertising you, as an indie filmmaker, can:

  • Control what is said
  • How it is said
  • The frequency of its use
  • And to some extent the placement of your ad in the publication or on air.

In public relations there is no “sure thing” about how your film or the news surrounding it will be interpreted by the media and how it will be presented to the public. Although this may seem uncomforting, public relations does have two practical advantages over advertising.

  • It’s cost effective
  • It often has more credibility since an outside, “objective” source has deemed your activity to be newsworthy

Public Relations, when used correctly, can be one of the most important weapons in your arsenal. With all of this in mind here are some simple and effective tips on writing a great press release.

Formatting

Being able to correctly format a press release will not only show your competence in public relations, but it will also make your release look much more legitimate. As a result, the event or news story you wish to promote is less likely to be ignored by the journalist.

  1. You should first start off by typing the name, address and phone number of your company at the top left hand corner of the page as if you were addressing a letter. Once this is completed skip a line and enter your contact information or your publicist’s information (provided you have a publicist). In the event that you do not have a company name then your name will suffice. Obviously you would not put down your name twice; once as your company name and the other as your contact name. Below is an example of what this heading should look like (a full example of a finished press release is presented at the bottom of this article.) *If you really want your press release to stand out you should consider putting your company or personal logo in the upper right hand corner of the document.*

 

Raindance Film Festival         (Company Logo)  

The Raindance Centre
10 Craven Street
London WC2N 5PE

+44 (0)20 7930 3412

For More Information

John Doe
PR Director
+44 (0)12 3456 7890 (office)
+44 (0) 09 8765 4321 (cell)
John@raindance.co.uk

IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A COMPANY NAME USE THIS TEMPLATE INSTEAD

John Doe           (Personal Logo)                                                      Independent Filmmaker
+44 (0)12 3456 7890 (office)
+44 (0) 09 8765 4321 (cell)
John@gmail.com

  1. Sometimes you need to have your “news” released immediately. Other times you might want to give the journalist a heads up to an upcoming event. If your intentions are the latter then make sure you specify a date of when your story can be released to the public. If you forget or neglect to do this don’t be surprised if you find yourself watching your story on the evening news that very night! Any news that you would like to have released to the public immediately should have a “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” on the second line below your contact information. Below I have provided you with the correct format in this step:

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/To Be Released on XX/XX/XX

  1. The next element of a press release is a title. The title should be representative of your news story and should be creative, catchy and if appropriate, witty. Avoid using standard or cliché titles as they will often be ignored and perhaps even laughed at. Like the independent film you’re creating you want the title of your press release to stand out in a good way. Since journalists receive many press releases every day make sure yours sticks out. An easy and common way of doing this is typing out your title in BOLD letters. Also make sure to center your title. Here is an example of a possible headline for someone who is fortunate to cast the actress Winona Ryder in their indie film:

 

Rough “Ryder” Storms into the Theatres

  1. In the last step of your formatting skip a line after your title and realign your margin to the left. Next put the location of where your news is taking place, followed by a dash (-), the date and another dash. For example:

 

“London, UK – 19 July 2013 –”

The Actual Release

Journalists use a variety of criteria in determining whether or not your story is newsworthy and because they spend less then a minute scanning over releases make sure you establish what your actual news is.

  1. The WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY and HOW (5 W’s and H) are essential to any press release. After establishing this information you need to explain why this news is important and why anyone would care (The Benefit Statement). This should conclude the first paragraph of your release. Although press releases are supposed to be short and sweet, neglecting any of this essential information will most likely result in your release being ignored or even worse, thrown out. Although background information is an important element in a press release it can be added on later. Your main goal at this point in time is to attract the journalist to your release.
  1. The second paragraph should be briefer than the first and should just give the journalist your contact information (or your publicist’s if you have one) in case they have follow up questions or inquires. Generally speaking, contact information includes a person’s first and last name, office and/or cell phone number and an e-mail address. A mailing address is not necessary as you have already provided this information at the top of your release. Additionally, journalists have strict deadlines and in the event that they need to contact you why in the world would they do it by mail?
  1. The third paragraph is where you include the secondary details and should basically expand on the ideas from your first paragraph. At this point in time it’s extremely important to pay attention and not confuse secondary details with background information. For example, if your “news” is that you were able to cast a notable actor in your film give a short explanation on how you were able to cast that actor. If your movie has recently won an award concentrate on a specific job or element that significantly impacted the success of your film being recognized.
  1. Background information is exactly what it sounds like and should make up the fourth paragraph. If we were to use the same two scenarios mentioned above we would either be giving a short biography on that actor or explaining the history of the award your film won. Once you complete this skip a line, center your margin and make a series of consecutive asterisks (generally 3 or 4).
  1. The last part of a press release should include information about your company or organization. In the business this is known as a boilerplate and is placed below the asterisks.

Helpful Tips and Reminders

Whenever you’re writing anything it’s extremely important to proofread your work, especially if your writings are going to be published or viewed by a professional. If you are unsure of how to proofread and edit your release or cannot do it objectively then ask a colleague or friend to look over it for you. However, make sure that the person proofreading your work is a responsible individual who is not watching TV, talking on the phone or doing anything else that would distract him/her from concentrating on your work.

Once your press release is completed it’s extremely important that you give the release to the different media outlets first thing in the morning. A release submitted in the middle of the day will most likely not be looked at as the producer or news editor has already decided what news stories are going to be presented for the day. And if there was any chance your story would’ve been included in the day’s news had you turned it in earlier it will most likely be lost in the shuffle or forgotten by days end. To avoid having your press release being buried beneath stacks of papers and folders (regardless of when you turn it in) print your release on a distinctive type of paper that is either heavier, colorful or both.

Like anything else in life, don’t expect everyone to be impressed by your “news” and press release. Some magazines might not specialize in the news you’re promoting while television stations and newspapers may have just too many “hard” news stories and cannot fit yours in the day’s news. However, by sticking to the basics of writing press releases you’re one step closer to getting your film noticed!

 

PRESS RELEASE SAMPLE LAYOUT

 

Raindance Film Festival                    (Company Logo)                     

The Raindance Centre
10 Craven Street
London WC2N 5PE

+44 (0)20 7930 3412

 

For More Information

John Doe
PR Director
+44 (0)12 3456 7890 (office)
+44 (0) 09 8765 4321 (cell)
John@raindance.co.uk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/To Be Released on XX/XX/XX

Title

Location – Date – Summary news lead (the five W's and H) and Benefit statement (who cares?).

Info/action statement (where to get more info. or how to take advantage of the news)

Secondary details (expand on first paragraph)

Background (history of the news item)
****
Organizational ID (aka “boilerplate”)

About The Author

Brett Welcher was a student at Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY, USA) where studied Public Relations at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He is interned at the Raindance Film Festival the summer or 2007 and thoroughly enjoyed his time working with professionals and learning about different aspects of the film industry. In the fall of 2007 Brett returned to the States where he will be finishing his last year in school.

Since then we have lost touch and found this excellent article in the archives. Brett - if you see this, get in touch! We miss you!

Raindance
Since 1992 Raindance has been offering advice and support for independent filmmakers. We started the Raindance Film Festival in 1993, and the British Independent Film Awards in 1998.

Most of our year is spent training thousands of new and established filmmakers in all aspects of film. Among high profile alumni are Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins), David Yates (Harry Potter), Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn – who actually met at a Raindance course. Raindance training is one of the world’s largest catering for over 3000 students per year.

In 2011 we launched an innovative Postgraduate Film Degree with Staffordshire University and the Independent Film Trust.

In 2013 we relaunched our production arm, Raw Talent with the feature Love.Honour.Obey.

13 thoughts on “How To Write A Press Release For Film

  1. Is it proper to create a press release on a letterhead? If that were the case, does some of the required formating change so as not to have redundant info in the letterhead/press release?

    • If the items on the letterhead are in a different typeface (size. font & maybe even color) than the typeface body of the press release it won't look redundant.

  2. What if you're in the process of submitting a film to festivals and thus don't have a screening day, location or time yet? Do you leave that information blank, take it out, write something else or don't write the press release until you've been accepted to festivals?

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