Ways Filmmakers Annoy Journalists And Ruin Their Reputations

With the festival season about to overwhelm us, and news of how journalists hate filmmakers, consider the flipside: How do filmmakers annoy journalists? Journalists can be the best ally an independent filmmaker has. Many filmmakers don’t know how to treat them.

Here’s how filmmakers annoy journalists:

 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.

5. 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 25th anniversay of Raindance here. Do this right 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 More Ways Filmmakers Annoy Journalists:

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



Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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