Building a Killer Press Kit

The press kit is the most important tool for any filmmaker seeking media coverage, but many independent film press kits are either overstuffed with irrelevant information or seriously lacking vital data.

The killer press kit does not have to be elaborate, nor does it require fancy packaging and gimmicks. All it needs is basic, clear content providing the right amount of facts and background. Let’s go page-by-page and see what it takes to make the perfect press kit.

Part One: The cover. This obviously starts with the title of the film plus the name of the production company and/or distributor, the director, and (if applicable) name-value cast members. If the film has won awards or was an official selection at an A-list film festival, you can list these. If the film snagged a knockout quote from a major film critic or media outlet, you can also include that. The bottom of the page should list the contact information for the production company and/or distributor, the film’s sales rep (if it is still being marketed for pick-up), and the press contact (if an outside agency is being used for the PR campaign).

Part Two: This is devoted to the cast and crew data. And yes, it is only a page. If the film has recognizable actors, lead with the cast listing. You don’t need to cite every performer in the film. The actors playing the major eight to ten characters are sufficient. For the crew, include the director, producers (both executive and associate producers), screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, and the composer of the film’s music score. If the film has a special technical hook, such as funky makeup or innovative special effects, then these artists’ names should also be present.

This page should also include some other key data: running time, MPAA rating or lack thereof, aspect ratio (which several industry publications request), format the film is currently in (don’t be shy if the film is in 16mm or digital video), the year that production officially ended, the production company and (if it has one) the distributor, and the film’s website. If the film is not in English or contains other languages, state that plus the fact that there are subtitles.

Part Three: The synopsis. Do not give a short, one-paragraph synopsis followed by a longer in-depth summary. Why tell the same story twice? Just stick with a single synopsis that runs no longer than a page and includes enough information to whet the reader’s appetite without giving away the entire flow of the story and its conclusion. If the synopsis goes over a page, cut it down.

Part Four (optional): If the film has an unusual, dramatic, or amusing production history, then write a single sheet explaining this, using the heading “Production History” or “On the Making of . . .,” or titles to that effect. If the film has a rather ordinary production history, don’t bother sharing it; move on to the next section.

Part Five: The biographies section highlights the career achievements of the cast and crew. If Part Two began with the cast listings, then start this section with the cast. Biographies should not be more than a single paragraph and should not include cute notes that have nothing to do with the film, such as “this actress lives in SoHo with her five cats.” If you have someone very prominent in the film, the paragraph can obviously be as thick as it needs to be.

Whether you choose to list all of the actors from Part Two or just main stars is your choice; likewise, you may choose to include only the director, producer, screenwriter, and cinematographer for the crew biographies.

On a separate sheet at the end of this section should be the biography of the production company behind the film. If the film has an independent distributor, request that the company provide information on how they wish to be presented in the press kit.

Part Six: Press coverage and reviews. This section should not be packed with every single article or review. Only include reviews, features, and interviews from well-recognized media that praise the film (believe it or not, I’ve seen press kits with mediocre reviews of their films!). Coverage from obscure or amateur media is not a good idea, no matter how sincere their write-ups might be. If you are photocopying newspapers or magazine articles, make sure the copies are clear, easy to read, and include the names and dates of the publications. If the photocopies are of a poor quality, it is okay to use online versions of the coverage.

Do not include: A director’s statement—the film is the director’s statement. Also, avoid press clips from other projects involving the cast or crew—these are not relevant to the film being presented.

And most important: Run a spell-check and then have several people proofread the press kit before handing it out. Spelling errors, missing words, and improper English in a press kit are frowned on by the professional writers and editors who need to work from this material.
And that is the press kit. Staple the pages together neatly and prepare to face the media.

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