Completing a feature film is an enormous feat that can leave any normal human being exhausted. But even after your shoot has wrapped, there's still work to be done. In order to ensure the movie you spent years making, that you poured your heart and soul into gets seen -- you need to step in and take charge of the promo.
Maybe your passion project got accepted into a film festival or you decided to set up DIY theatrical distribution. Perhaps you were invited to screen your film at a university or community center. No matter where you're showing your movie, you want to make sure the theater is full. The best person to make sure your Latino film reaches a wide audience is you.
Film festivals have a full slate of movies to promote and it's easy for some to fall through the cracks. Plus, a mainstream fest or venue may not even know how to tap into the local Latino theatergoing audience. For a big release, it's best to hire a publicist who can create an impactful PR strategy and nab some positive reviews in publications with a large readership. But, we know that paying for a press rep doesn't always fit into your indie budget.
Below we offer seven easy steps you can take to promote your screening that won't break the bank. It's advice based on the specialized knowledge we've acquired while working for Latino and Latin American film festivals in San Francisco, New York, and Mexico City, and while helping Latino movies reach audiences on our website Cinelandia.
Set up an email newsletter.
This is the best place to collect contact information from audience members at your events and you can use the list to promote your future screenings. With MailChimp's Free Forever plan, you won't pay any fees if you have less than 2,000 subscribers. Post a link to a signup form for your email newsletter at least twice week across your movie's social media accounts. This will help build up your subscriber database. (It goes without saying that you should already have accounts for your film on Facebook and Twitter, at the very least.)
Contact Cinelandia USA. We're like Moviefone for Latino indie films.
Cinelandia is your one stop shop for finding screening information on U.S. Latino films and Latin American movies playing across the United States. We seek to promote Latino movies by offering event details to the public and a place for filmmakers to connect their projects with audiences eager to watch Latino films. Send an email to newsletter [at] cinelandiaUSA [dot] com and we'll list your event on our website. Make sure to include a short plot synopsis, a link to your trailer, high quality film stills, event details (screening venue address, date, time) and a link to buy tickets or for the event website. Avoid fancy formatting of your text, we need to easily copy and paste this info. If the movie does not have obvious Latino content in its storyline, please let us know about any Latino talent or crew that worked on the film. We'll also promote your screening on our social media accounts and may include it in our monthly email newsletter. (Subscribe to our Latino film newsletter here.)
Offer ticket giveaways to your screening.
This is hands down the best way to build up buzz for your event and collect contact information for an email newsletter. If your screening is at a festival, ask the staff if they can give you a few pairs of tickets to raffle off. It's something festivals often do with their promotional partners, but they may have overlooked your screening. Even if you have to buy two pairs of tickets to give away, it's worth it. Always offer contest winners a pair of tickets. People like to go to movies with their friends, family, or partners. Promote the giveaway on social media. You can point people to sign up for your email newsletter as a way to enter the contest or ask people to Retweet (on Twitter) or share your post (on Facebook) for a chance to win.
Create a Facebook event for your screening.
In the era of web 2.0, people look to social media for things to do. Facebook events offer you a way to directly reach people you may not have ever met in cities you've never been to. Just creating the event is not enough. Invite all your friends and ask them to do the same. Share the link to your Facebook event listing on other platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram. You can use this code to easily invite all your friends to the event at once.
Contact organizations that work on issues related to your film.
Is your film about veterans, immigration, or LGBT issues? There's probably a local or national non-profit, labor union, community center, or NGO that can connect you with a new audience. If your movie takes place in Latin America, reach out to that country's embassy or consulate. The local chapter of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce can also help. Don't forget to reach to out to Latino Studies departments at the local university. Ask them to send out an email blast about your screening to their newsletter subscribers. You can also offer them tickets to raffle off to their followers. Make sure they promote your screening or giveaway on social media by providing sample tweets, and Facebook copy with high quality shareable images. Make sure to include your handle and the hashtags you want them to use. (A fast and easy way to create shareable images with text and in the right size for each platform is Buffer's free tool called Pablo.)
Reach out to the staff of local Latino film festivals.
Even the smallest towns in middle America now have a Latino film festival or series. This is the best place to connect with an audience that has already shown interest in seeing movies similar to yours. To find contact info, start by googling or searching Facebook and Twitter for the city you are looking for + "latino film festival". Just like with other organizations ask them to send out an email blast about your screening to their newsletter subscribers and help promote your event on social media. (See above for more detailed suggestions.) Let them know you'll give them a shout out on your social media accounts so it seems like a fair trade.
Send an email to your friends, family, and every contact you have in your address book.
Ask them to help promote your screening by forwarding your email to any interested parties and posting the event details on social media. Also, include a link to your Facebook event ask them to invite their friends. If you're bilingual, write the email in English and Spanish. Provide a short plot synopsis, a link to your trailer, and sample tweets that include your handle and the hashtags you want them to use. At the bottom of your message link to all the social media accounts you've created for your project and invite them to sign up for your newsletter (provide a link). Make sure your message has a catchy subject line. Think of it as an article headline, but avoid superlatives and lots of exclamation points. You don't want it to look like spam. Pro tip: It's been shown that emojis in subjects lines can increase open rates. A long message can be tiresome for readers, break up the text with attractive films stills.
Congratulations on finishing your film and good luck on your screening!
Vanessa Erazo is the Co-Founder of Cinelandia, along with Sarah Bingham Miller. Cinelandia is dedicated to helping filmmakers connect their Latino films with moviegoing audiences through comprehensive online event listings. Follow @CinelandiaUSA on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Tumblr.