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THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD  PR

Earlier this week, a small film group in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island reached out. They had seen a story about Kiss and Cry on TV and asked if they could kindly program our film at their theatre through TIFF’s Film Circuit program. We’re starting to receive similar messages from groups across Ontario, and now even across the world. So why are all these groups reaching out to us?


We owe much of that interest in Kiss And Cry to the team at TARO PR. Robyn, Tamar, Brianna and Lauren worked with us filmmakers and devised a smart outreach plan, and found marketing hooks in our story that they knew would resonate with media outlets. They were able to take the subject of our local film  - Carley Allison, a young figure skater and singer who finds love just as she is diagnosed with an incredibly rare cancer - and make it national news.  


Taro wisely took the approach that Kiss and Cry wasn’t necessarily an entertainment story, but a wider-reaching human interest piece. The hook? That Sarah Fisher, our lead actress, was the real life best best-friend of the person she is portraying on screen. Not only was this “hook” the ultimate way to pay tribute to a beloved friend, it had also (to our knowledge) never been done before in a film.


Here are just some of the key media appearances that Kiss and Cry secured both locally and nationally. 


CBC Newshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOOrA9CRF4w


The Socialhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uHuW1vSB4Q


Toronto Starhttps://www.thestar.com/entertainment/movies/2017/01/24/toronto-actress-stars-as-her-dead-best-friend-singer-carley-allison-in-new-movie.html


Global Nationalhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVGJiR2Nkig


Entertainment Tonighthttp://etcanada.com/video/869649987554/chantal-kreviazuk-talks-kiss-and-cry/



Taro PR has given us an amazing gift in these media hits. The videos and articles can be used as selling tools when dealing with broadcasters and distributors around the world. And they also live online for years after for those who see the film and want to delve further into the story behind the making of Kiss and Cry.


 Visit their website at http://www.taropr.com/feature-films.html

THE ARTS GUILD - INTERVIEW

"Sean Cisterna. I’ve known this dude as long as I’ve been covering the film and entertainment business. In fact, his film Moon Point was when I really started getting into the coverage of films. That was wayyyy back in 2012. What is spooky is that it was February 2012 when I attended the premiere of Moon Point, and now fast forward to February 2017, and here I am chatting about his latest film.

Cisterna has established himself as a creator of feel-good, Canadian-indie films. Moon Pointwas certainly one of them. With feature film Full Out, Cisterna began to create feel-good films around real-life characters, with the 2015 film spotlighting the life of gymnast Ariana Berlin.

Kiss and Cry takes his filmmaking adventure to a whole new level. He always had an eye for a good story, but this film showcases his skill in focusing on the details. While capturing the life of Toronto teen Carley Elle Allison, and her battle with Cancer, Cisterna develops a film that stays away from the negative and celebrates life and smiles, things that Carley herself cared about.

In this interview, we have a heart-to-heart conversation with him about the making of the film, the process of getting all the elements together, and the minute details he paid attention to while bringing Carley’s story to the big screen."

Adnan F.E Mohamedbhai - The Arts Guild

POSITIONING YOUR FILM SO THAT FUNDERS UNDERSTAND ITS MARKETABILITY

I attended a film distribution panel at the Canadian Film Festival last week and marvelled at how much this topic continues to evolve on a yearly basis. I mean, when I was first starting out in the industry 15 years ago, films could make a decent amount of their investment back on home video sales, for instance. Now, with home video virtually yielding very little returns (I recently had a reliable source indicating about 5% on a best case scenario), we as filmmakers quickly need to think about our film as products that are to be consumed by audiences if we are to maximize as many sales as possible. In other words, we need to think of our films as businesses.  Amongst the panellists at the Toronto event was Dan Lyon, Feature Film Executive at Telefilm Canada, who shared with us some key thoughts on positioning your film so that funders understand its marketability. Read his article below and let me know what you think - sean@seancisterna.com



POSITIONING YOUR FILM SO THAT FUNDERS UNDERSTAND ITS MARKETABILITY

By Dan Lyon, Feature Film Executive, Telefilm Canada



Let’s start with a bold assumption: most films that fail to reach a significant audience, do so for one of the following reasons.

  1. The filmmakers fundamentally did not care, from and following the inception of the project, whether or not the film ever reaches a significant audience. I would label this as “disinterest in the commercial marketplace”; or
  2. The filmmakers produced a film which fell short of the expectations of the intended audience. I would call such a film a “failed production”; or
  3. The filmmakers produced a film which would have met the expectations of the intended audience, but the film was marketed without any energy and imagination and/or to the wrong audience. We can call this “bad distribution.”  



Now that the labelling and finger-pointing is out of the way, allow me to make another bold statement. It is so bold, that I will place it not only in bold type, but capital letters (and if you could hear me speaking now, you would almost think I was screaming):

IT IS CRUCIAL FOR ALL CONCERNED AT EVERY STAGE OF THE PROJECT, FROM OUTLINE THROUGH EACH DRAFT OF THE SCRIPT AND FROM ROUGH CUT THROUGH RELEASE IN ALL MEDIA,  TO IDENTIFY WHO IS THE PAYING AUDIENCE AND WHAT WILL ATTRACT THEM TO THIS FILM. 


Question: Some writers, directors and producers may now be asking: isn’t it the distributor’s job to identify the audience and figure out how to entice them to spend money on my film? 

Answer: GO BACK AND READ THE STATEMENT IN CAPS, ABOVE. Positioning the film for an audience begins with the creative team. It is impossible to attract funders (public and private – the latter includes distributors) unless the creators have an audience in mind throughout the development of the project. 


At certain stages of development (in particular, the packaging stage), funders including Telefilm Canada request a preliminary marketing plan. As stated in Telefilm’s published guidelines, the preliminary marketing plan should identify the target audience(s), commercial potential and a preliminary theatrical release strategy in Canada. My personal preference is to call this document a “positioning statement”, and it is a great idea to craft one even if no one asks for it. Often, the preliminary plan is prepared in consultation with a distributor or freelance marketing consultant. It’s a terrific discipline, and often very illuminating, for the filmmaker (or producer/director/writer team) to take the first pass at preparing the positioning statement on their own. Sometimes, you may find that all members of the creative team are not in agreement regarding the intended audience. Once the distributor comes aboard, you may find that the distributor is not in full agreement with the creative team regarding the intended audience. What do you do if this happens (at either stage)? Discuss it, debate it, turn it inside out, and do everything possible to reach consensus on this most fundamental matter. If consensus proves impossible, chances are pretty good that the project is fundamentally flawed (or perhaps just poorly conceived).


A positioning statement is not a detailed marketing plan (the detailed plan is part of the distributor’s mandate). Thus, there is no need at this early stage to build a budget and allocate the expenses (such as $x for print ads, $y for television, and so on). Here are the main positioning elements I looked for (and sometimes helped to formulate) during my years as a distributor, marketing consultant and executive producer, and that I now require for purposes of project evaluation in my role as a government funder:


PREMISE -  a one-liner, identify the story and genre. Grab the potential funder (who you should think of as your first audience) by stating an interesting premise. Sometimes, the best way to describe what you are after is to reference another film, such as “a romantic comedy/female “Rocky” story about an aspiring country and western singer.”


SYNOPSIS – expand the premise to tell the story in a few paragraphs. Describe the setting, basic plot, main characters, and reveal the tone without trying to describe every twist, turn and nuance. Hint: a good synopsis is more difficult to write than most people would think. 


AUDIENCE -  there is usually a primary audience (gender and age range) and a secondary audience (ditto). Identify in a few words what will attract each target group to the film – such as the humour, the romance, or the social commentary.


SELLING POINTS – sample selling points would be the stars (attached or wished-for, and please be truthful); universal theme (such as good vs evil, first love, or an underdog story); music (identify the soundtrack possibilities); based on a true story or well-known work of fiction; the track record of the director, etc. 

Why is this the right film at the right time? “Show me the money” remains important, but above all show me the passion. Passion means far more than the customary desire to be creative and to succeed in attracting funding for the project; true passion for the material is what funders look for in both the positioning statement and the verbal pitch.   


REFERENCE FILMS -  reference films should be selected on the basis that they attracted a significant audience, targeted to the same primary and secondary groups which you have selected. Identify the title, year of release, and estimated gross (both worldwide and Canadian). Hint: imdb.com usually identifies the U.S. gross but this is actually the North American gross; to estimate the Canadian gross, divide the “U.S.” figure by 10. 


HOOKS -  imagine that you are the executive in charge of marketing for the distribution company – take the “selling points” (see above) and go a step deeper to determine the factors that will truly hook the intended audience. Imagine that you must describe to a journalist, editor or tv producer why he/she should be interested in writing about the film or inviting you to appear on their tv show. Now imagine that you must write the tag line for the print ad…no, stop imagining, just do it! 


MARKETING STRATEGY -  although not the detailed strategy, it is necessary to make some preliminary assumptions regarding the size, scope and pattern of the release. Is it intended as a wide release, or platform? Is a festival launch desirable? Is it necessary for the success of the film, to arrange a simultaneous US theatrical release? What is the range of the expected P&A (prints and advertising) budget? What are the opportunities for special promotions and music tie-ins? To what extent does the strategy rely upon the casting of marquee talent? What are the possibilities for internet marketing and grassroots efforts? 


CONCLUSION – wrap it up in a neat, enthusiastic (but not overly zealous) concluding paragraph for your funder – the highly marketable elements are x, y, and z; this film has elements similar to other successful films such as a, b and c; such films have achieved a box office of $x in the Canadian market. 


The primary reason why a funder (including Telefilm Canada) becomes interested in a project at the development stage, is that there is a strong likelihood that the film being developed will eventually succeed at being selected for production financing. Since it is unlikely that a film will be selected for production financing unless the funder believes that the film will attract a paying audience, allow me to repeat:

IT IS CRUCIAL FOR ALL CONCERNED AT EVERY STAGE OF THE PROJECT, FROM OUTLINE THROUGH EACH DRAFT OF THE SCRIPT AND FROM ROUGH CUT THROUGH RELEASE IN ALL MEDIA,  TO IDENTIFY WHO IS THE PAYING AUDIENCE AND WHAT WILL ATTRACT THEM TO THIS FILM. 


Thank you for being a good positioner. Now let’s go get those audiences! 


JENNIFER BEALS SINGS O CANADA - October 2014


On the set of my new movie, Full Out, Jennifer Beals breaks into an impromptu version of O Canada. Joining her on stage is Ana Golja, Valorie Kondos Field and Ariana Berlin.



 

CAPTURING STORIES PROJECT - March 2014


I was commissioned to create some creative pieces on the history of Richmond Hill, the community where I live just north of Toronto. Check out some of the short films that tell the stories of the Town's past, present and future.

 

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH JEREMY LALONDE - February 2014


Thanks to director/podcaster Jeremy LaLonde for asking me awkward questions.

 

THE MIND REELS - VIDEO PODCAST - February 2014


Thanks to Tim and Sue for having me on the show!

 

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS in MOSCOW - November 2012


Good times at the 6th Breaking Down Barriers film festival in Moscow, Russia - Nov 9-12, 2012. Can't wait until 2014's festival. 

Looking back at the footage, it's basically a tribute video about me. I guess I suffered from some sort of Narcissus complex while in Moscow.


JESSICA HOLMES INTERVIEW - October 2012


Canada's favourite funnywoman, Jessica Holmes, interviews filmmakers Sean Cisterna and Avi Federgreen about their new feature documentary, 30 Ghosts.