The Perfect Press Release

I got up this morning and as per usual had a sneaky look at my email while I was waiting for the coffee to brew. The subject line just jumped at me:”call for applications: collaborative program 2016” Looking at it now, it doesn’t seem that special, but notice how it is entirely lower case.

I also noticed Steve Holmgren was copied. I know Steve, not only as a talented and award winning  filmmaker, but as the charismatic founder of one of the hippest film deals going in NYC, let alone anywhere: Union Docs.

Let me go through the presentation step by step, my comments in red below:

Dear Julian and Elliott,
Julian is our talented and energetic festival producer. By putting us both in the intro, she doubles the chance of getting it read. (She gave me 2 ‘t’s’ not one, but she had bothered to send it to Julian and I so I forgave her instantly – Never ever send a Dear Sir/Madam letter))

I work with Christopher Allen and Steve Holmgren at UnionDocs, the Brooklyn-based Center for Documentary Art. We have just opened the call for applicants our Collaborative Studio, a program for nonfiction media research and group production. We wondered if you might be able to help spread the word to your networks? We believe this is a really exciting opportunity that emerging documentary artists in your community will be interested in.

A bit of history, the project, the question and the reward (your community will be interested in) I’m also intrigued by the training angle as Raindance has a post grad course too.

As a grassroots non-profit, we really appreciate your help in getting this out there, and we are more than happy to return the favor for an initiative of yours in the near future.  We have created an illustrated presentation that is easy to embed on your website/blog and text announcements for twitter, facebook, and email newsletters. See below and let us know if you’d like any additional info.

Now a bit of violin music, but touchingly understated. Followed by another reward: We’ll return the favour. And then a clean, clear description if the elements included. By now I’m hooked and the coffee pot is hissing steam – so absorbed am I in this email.

I will check back with you in a few days to answer any questions you might have. Thanks again for your help!

So I am thinking, why keep this acquaintance, colleague and potential collaborator waiting any longer. Who wouldn’t like a poker chip in the good deed bank account from someone the Brooklyn? So I hopped on it right away. The coffee is poured and cooling. It only takes me a half hour or so to build this page.


Marcia. Hmmm. I am going to try and remember her name. I don’t know if she is one of Steve’s employees or an intern. Doesn’t matter. She’s very good. Perhaps we can work together in the future.

HEADLINE (Twitter length, 140 characters):
Documentary Makers: Apply for UnionDocs Collaborative 2016 in Brooklyn. International visa & residency options.

SHORT  DESCRIPTION (Facebook length, 450 characters):
Documentary artists in film, video, radio, photography, interactive: Want to push your practice & experiment with new approaches? Need to expand your understanding of the field? Open to collaborating on original projects? Applications now accepted for The UnionDocs Collaborative Studio starting Sept. 2016 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Deadline: June 30. International fellows encouraged, visa & residency options available.

Link to Illustrated Slide Presentation:

EMBED Illustrated Slide Presentation

LONG DESCRIPTION (Blog or Newsletter length, 2000 characters):

The UnionDocs Collaborative Studio (CoLAB) is a one-year program for a select group of 12 emerging media artists from the US and abroad. Based in one of NYC’s most exciting neighborhoods, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, UnionDocs offers a platform for exploring contemporary approaches to the documentary arts and a process for developing a collaborative project. The program consists of weekly production meetings, seminars, screenings and other public programs, along with regular masterclasses and critiques with visiting artists. Key benefits include:

– Dynamic interaction among a network of talented peers.

– Direct exchange with visiting artists and industry experts.

– A structured environment for research and experimentation.

– Mentoring on the production of original work and regular group critique.

– Exhibition opportunities for the year’s collaborative project.

The CoLAB represents a new and alternative fellowship model, offering residency and visa support for six participants coming from abroad and an equal number of spots for local, non-resident participants. It is designed to be affordable and, although participants are asked to make the UDC their primary creative focus, the schedule does accommodate full-time or freelance work. Rather than applying with a project proposal or rough cut, all participants are selected on the basis of previous work and enter the program at square one, open to discovery and fresh connections. The CoLAB has presenting original work at premiere venues such as MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight, the Harvard Film Archive, the Visible Evidence Conference, Camden International Film Festival, Hot Docs, and Direktorenhaus, Berlin, among other venues. We expect a very competitive group of applicants, representing some of the most exciting emerging talents in documentary.

I’m not a fan of this long paragraph, but OMG there are enough names dropped in this one.

Fade Out

Union Docs





Marcia also included this really great graphic. It was a JPEG about 700k meaning I had to fish around and open Photoshop in order to create the right sized image for this particular page. It is also large enough that I could use it on other applications as well.

Have you noted all the different pre-written formats for Blogs, Twitter and Facebook. She is using – one of the popular link-shorteners which provide metrics and tracking information once published. We use because I personally favour their metrics.

Also note as well that Marcia never underestimates the readers intelligence, often stating the obvious, such as Facebook length – 450 words.

Finally, if you are interested in documentary filmmaking and New York, why not click on the Union Docs link and find out more.

Of course I asked if they would promote our call for submissions on their lists:

This year sees the 24th edition of the Raindance Film Festival in the heart of London. Accepting films from around the world of all styles and lengths we focus heavily on independent and new filmmakers, nurturing talent. The proof of this? Nicolas Winding Refn and Christopher Nolan both screened early features at the festival. This year we are proud to announce that our shorts programme has become Oscar-eligible. More information is available on the website

Yours in filmmaking

Elliot Grove



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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