The Toronto International Film Festival is right around the corner, which means many lucky filmmakers will have the opportunity to talk about their film with critics, podcasters, and other influential members of the media.
How can you use these podia to best represent your work? Here are some helpful tips for knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to be light on your feet to react to the unexpected.
1. Hire a publicist! Most press will look for your publicity contact to make interview requests, and a publicist can help you decide the best outlets to work with and what those outlets will expect. However, even with a publicist, you may get some direct calls from the press...in which case, move on to #2.
2. If you get an unexpected call from the press, feel free to ask them if you can call them back, so you have some time to prepare. You aren't required to be put on the spot, and you can decline the interview altogether if you'd like. Ask for the reporter's name and contact info, as well as a sense of the topics he or she would like to talk about. Before calling them back, Google their past work and the recent articles posted by their publication to see if it's a good fit.
3. Take some time to prepare. Before calling them back, consider the audience for the outlet you will be speaking to. Is it young adult, or a very film savvy readership? Think about how those groups will respond to your film and identify the points you'd like to make about your work that will resonate with them.
4. Here are some questions to help you craft your responses. What is your film about, and what are its strengths? What are some elements of the moviemaking process that will be of interest to a broad audience? What is compelling about the film or the story behind the film? Come up with 2-3 clear answers (also known as talking points) to help you be clear in your conversation. Personal anecdotes and stories are also helpful ways for the reporter to tell your story, so make this process easy by being prepared to share.
5. If you have controversial elements in your film, you should especially consider hiring a publicist to help you with the process. In general, if you can visualize the headline you'd like to see written, that can help inform your replies. A publicist can help you practice ways to pivot by "bridging" questions back to this main point, and can help you find ways to remain calm in a stressful situation.
6. Stick with what you know. If you aren't sure about a particular date or detail, don't answer--it's ok to say you don't know! Be relaxed and friendly. Occasionally a reporter will try to get a saucier story by pressing for details, but for the most part the writer is likely just as excited about your project as you are, and simply wants to find ways to get the most clicks on a piece they care about.
7. If you are fortunate enough to catch the interest of the press, return the favor! Share and re-post the piece, and link to it from your website. Everyone benefits from stories about film, art, and entertainment catching on with a diverse readership!