Sheri Candler Interview 12-12-10

Sheri Candler of Sheri Candler Marketing & Publicity. Interview 12-12-10

Sheri Candler and I started talking about a year ago. She had seen one of my posts and contacted me. Over the months we spoke often, became friends and finally got to physically meet at the Flyway Film Festival on my last tour.  I think she has a lot of good things to say about marketing and distribution.  Who is Sheri Candler?

Sheri Candler is an inbound marketing strategist who helps independent filmmakers build identities for themselves and their films.  Through the use of online tools such as social networking, podcasts, blogs, online media publications and radio, she assists filmmakers in building an engaged and robust online community for their work.

Sheri was involved with promoting 2009 NFB Cannes Short Film Corner winner “Sebastian’s Voodoo”; “Butterflies,” one of the first films to utilize the YouTube rental program; 2010 Slamdance official selection “YELLOWBRICKROAD;” and the feature documentary “Ride The Divide” which utilized a unique hybrid distribution strategy partnering with LiveStrong and mountain biking organizations.

She collaborates with Jon Reiss, author of “Think Outside the Box Office,” and participates in his TOTBO workshop series by teaching filmmakers about utilizing social media and building personal brands; she consults with non profit film distribution, marketing & filmmaker education organization The Film Collaborative; she writes articles for Microfilmmaker Magazine covering the issues of marketing and distribution for microbudget films; and she is a featured expert in the new “Guerilla Filmmakers Pocketbook” by Chris Jones, Genevieve Jolliffe & Andrew Zinnes.

She can be found online at www.shericandler.com, on Twitter @shericandler and on Facebook Sheri Candler Marketing and Publicity.

And now Part One of my interview…

KB: How did you get in to the crazy business?

SC: I graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor’s in Broadcasting and Film so I had taken film, radio and TV production courses. After seeing that my talents didn’t lie in filmmaking, I chose the broadcast track and went to work after college in TV and radio working at various stations including a stint at Radio 7 Moscow, Russia as the morning and evening drive time English news announcer.

While I had studied marketing as part of the curriculum in school, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about it until I moved to Vladivostok Russia with my husband where he was in charge of developing a cellular telephone company from the ground up and they needed someone with Western marketing training. So out came the textbooks and I set about making the marketing plans and hiring Russian personnel to help get a marketing department up and running. I found that I actually enjoyed the work, much more so than media production and spent a lot of time researching, studying and experimenting on making the company successful. It was B2C work. It turned out to be the best performing of all the Russian cellular entities in the company and from there we moved to the corporate headquarters in London.

There wasn’t any work for me in the corporate office, so I took a job that incorporated my knowledge of broadcasting and marketing and started working as the Marketing Manager of a Japanese broadcast equipment manufacturer. My territory was the Middle East, Africa and Europe dealing with the dealerships in each country. So B2B work.

We moved back to the States and I started working with a local film festival as the marketing and sponsorship manager and this is where I started meeting filmmakers again. It was 2008 and the time when distribution started getting harder to obtain but the means to reaching people directly using social media and online tools were far easier than in the past. I started thinking that rather than despair at all the job rejections I was getting at distributors and studios, maybe I should just work directly with filmmakers and that is what I have been doing.

KB: I am an Independent Filmmaker and I am going to get my film in to Sundance, why do I need someone like you?

SC: HA! My first question would be what makes you think so? With over 10,000 entries this year, what connections do you have, what stars do you have, what labs have you participated in that would make you think you’ll get in? Not to mention a superior film. But, I’m game, so you did get in.

I see my role as marketing a film, with publicity as only one tool in the mix. I want to help you break down who your audience is, specifically not generally, and figure out how to reach them best. Most filmmakers going to Sundance have not done this. They STILL think they will just hire a sales agent who will bring them distribution deals with no thought about who the audience is or building up a following. Doing that work all along in production will only HELP you in getting your film sold to a distributor if that is what you want or having leverage to get a good hybrid deal where you sell to the audience you have built up and they sell to the audience you can’t easily reach. I’m all about retaining as much control over your work as you can. I am not at all about signing over all rights to one entity.

I think you should use a traditional publicist who is very connected with major media to get you and your film in the spotlight. But you had better have some cash stashed to pay that person because those connections come from years of work and they aren’t cheap. At a place like Sundance, those connections can really make a difference. I’ll freely admit that I don’t have those connections yet, but I can certainly work with that person to get marketplace attention from all sides.

Most traditional publicity firms are not focused on affinity press (bloggers, grassroots outreach, data mining for influencers and cultivating those relationships for a film, using social media the most effectively i.e. NOT as an advertising mechanism), but that is where I focus and having as much time in advance of a launch is key to being successful because working up those relationships and keeping them interested takes time. Hopefully you are starting well in advance of your acceptance.

KB If I am looking for someone to do Marketing & Publicity for my film, what should I look for?

SC: My friend Jon Reiss has coined the term the PMD, the Producer of Marketing and Distribution. That is the person on your team responsible for this work, and ONLY this work, while you are in preproduction, production, post production and distribution. There really aren’t many people experienced in all the facets of this work yet. Some come from a publicity background, some from sales, some from advertising, some are filmmakers who are more interested in marketing than making films.

I think you need to look for a combination of skills, enthusiasm and willingness to learn on the job. There are some skills necessary to starting the job though:

-A big picture thinker, but can handle getting the details taken care of. If the production has money allocated to put together a small crew, the PMD would be the person to hire specialists like graphic designers, web designers, publicists with connections etc. People who are highly trained in one area. If the production can’t afford all that, then the PMD will be doing a lot of learning and beg/borrowing.

-Marketing training is pretty essential. Distribution in some fashion is not that difficult to figure out, it is the marketing and attention getting for a project that determines its ultimate success. A good strategy and implementation of the strategy is key.

-Great writing skills. There is a load of writing to this job. Blog posts, articles, press releases, pitch letters, synopsis, advertising copy, newsletters, eblasts, introductory emails, festival submissions applications, just tons of writing so ask for a writing sample.

-Online research skills. When paring down your audience to a granular degree, this person needs to be able to find out where those people can best be reached. It may not even be online, but you can still find that out using the internet.

-Great communication skills. Someone who is comfortable talking to people both online and offline. The person you work with in this role will be the face of your project. They are speaking in the name of the film in every piece of communication. You want to be able to trust them in front of your potential audience and with your career. This is why I say not to leave this job to interns who rotate in and out and are a little young and immature. The impression that this person makes in representing your film to the public needs to be professional.

-Great listening skills. Not only will this person be talking to audience, they will also be using tools to listen to what people are saying, what they care about, what is happening in the world that your film might be positioned with.

They will also be forming relationships with influencers, organizations, publications, bloggers, festivals, and screening venues. This has to be done with tact and a real attitude of friendship. If this person is constantly shilling or coercing with no thought to what your production can do for these people, the response will not be as you hoped.

-Knowledge of online tools. Without huge budgets for media spend, you will be relying on using social networking to spread the word on your film which are free, but slow. You should be looking for someone who demonstrates they know how to use social networking. I don’t mean they have a lot of “friends” and “followers” but they actively use it every day in engaging ways. What you are trying to do with social networking is build a network or expand the one you already have, so take a look at how they have built their own and how they speak to them online.

Don’t underestimate the enthusiasm factor though. Even if a person has a lot to learn, they MUST be as passionate about your production as you are. This is a very long and hard slog and someone who is only there because of a paycheck or until a better offer comes along is not going to do the best job for you. I would take passion and a willingness to learn over highly trained and couldn’t care less about what they are marketing.

Check back for part two of this interview.

She can be found online at www.shericandler.com, on Twitter @shericandler and on Facebook Sheri Candler Marketing and Publicity.