Wednesday, 29 July 2015
On launch day I gave my first ever interview to Steve Taylor Bryant of Garbage File. Here is the article in full...
Marketing and advertising are not new. The advent of public relations companies is decades old. Yet, as the world gets smaller due to advancements in technology, the gulf between creativity and its audience seems to grow ever larger and never more so than in anything remotely independently produced. We deal with PR companies daily here at /G-f and, due to this site's structure, we can afford to be very selective as to what we pick up, which means that we are on the look out for those who do it differently, those that show passion for the client or the product rather than just spamming sites hoping to pick up a buck, and those that are more personal, who want to know if we are a fit for them, are where we seem to aim.
Whilst every entertainment media needs to do more and to do things better when representing creator owned or independent clients, we have seen growth in this area in the book industry, the success of The Self Publisher's Showcase is a great example of what has happened in the writing arts just recently, the comic industry seems to be at the start of its own revolution which is interesting to see unfold and the flood of independent comics onto the internet is bringing new artists to huge audience. When it comes to film though there appears to be a massive issue in getting the message out about films. We have fantastic contacts within film festivals and their media departments go above and beyond, but even getting into a festival seems impossible sometimes. A couple of projects we supported went on to festival success but needed that media exposure to begin with and they came to us directly, no PR firm, an email from a writer on both occasions. When I asked why, both writers told me that small independent projects can't attract decent public relations without a level of success first which I'll be honest I find very odd. If they can become successful why the need for PR? In simple terms if the writer is doing press with me he's not written anything new. If he's got to talk to 100 sites to get some eyes on his film he's exhausted and not written anything new. The lack of PR companies taking these guys on is actually stifling the creativity we all love independent film for so something has to change, surely? Step back into my life a former colleague from sites of the past who has decided enough is enough and has staked his reputation and own personal finances on making the changes the film industry desperately needs. Will his new company change things? On a grand scale? We can only hope and do our bit but having met his stubborn nature before I expect radical changes over a sustained period of time.
Here's my chat with WhiteScreen head honcho Daniel White.
"Thanks for taking time out of your hectic schedule to speak to us today.
Good morning and, as I was told when I started the website launch campaign, "welcome to wonderland."
What is WhiteScreen PR and why now?
That's a very good question and one I had to ask myself. Yesterday, I read an interesting interview with Dustin Hoffman who commented that the film industry is in the worst state it has been in since he began making films. It is an opinion I passionately agree with, at least when you are looking at the current mainstream output. I'm not saying that it's all doom and gloom but there seems to be very little mainstream innovation these days. It all seems to be reboot, remake and sequel with little of the flair and ground breaking that was evident with films previously. I grew up in the Eighties, so became used to the worlds that films transported me to and it was never just a case of sitting there and watching. For me, cinema needs to be an interactive and emotionally connected experience. You know the sort of thing I mean? Edge of your seat cheering Indiana Jones on to victory or seriously empathising with the evil of apartheid and the fight that Steve Biko took part in, as vividly told in Attenborough's masterpiece Cry Freedom. Whatever I'm watching I need to be made to believe, to care, and I just don't feel that way about so much that I see released anymore.
Independent film makers have always been counted on for producing great films that really push boundaries and, in some instances crash straight through them. It's cutting edge and it's always relevant. Over the last few years I have been writing for a number of media sites (including Garbage File's previous incarnation) and this gave me the opportunity to watch some really outstanding Indie projects. Directors like Tom Sands (Backtrack) and Harry McQueen (Hinterland) really have something special and, when I spoke to them, they share a common passion for great film making. To my mind, making a film is not just about it turning a profit, it is also about great storytelling and character development and the Independent Film Market has now got to the stage that is showing up Hollywood as just not caring any more. I have also read press releases that lack passion and energy and it feels that the PR industry as a whole can be accused of going through the motions whilst not showing that it really cares about projects its supposed to be representing. My business and marketing background is extensive and WhiteScreen was born out of a desire to see great films represented with the passion and skill that they deserve. Most film makers will tell you that they want to focus on the creative side, actually making the films, I wanted to develop a company that supported their extensive talent whilst adding my own individual flavour. Why now? Because the film industry has been sold out to corporate greed that betrays those that work tirelessly to create works of cinematic artistic beauty. I will not put up with slap dash or second best and I am not interested in becoming a PR guru or any other such meaningless rubbish, The company tag line? It's chosen for a reason because, by "turning up the spotlight on the real talent," we can instigate a revolution that will rip back the film industry from the vulture-like grip of those who simply don't care any more.
Where did the name for WhiteScreen Promotions come from?
White Labels in the music industry are records used to promote new and innovative music and artists so the name reflects the focus for the company, in terms of the film industry. I want to specialise on working with Independent film projects and it is an exclusivity that I am proud to champion. Independent Film making is very different to mainstream and I felt that it was time that the PR offering reflected that. White also happens to be my surname and links me personally to the company. In a very real sense I am the company and, whilst I have a network of skilled and passionately like minded people, the vision for WhiteScreen is very much central to who I am.
Two words, passion and individuality. Each project has its own life force and, to represent it with a generic, pre written script, is offensive to both the film maker and the film itself. I am fed up with reading press releases sent out from faceless corporations that don't show any love for the film industry. Conventional PR has lost its way and in no way reflects the wonderful diversity and unmatchable talent that I witness every day. WhiteScreen Promotions was created because I love great films and, to be honest, I am fed up with limp and lacklustre PR.
I want to work on a much more consultative basis, to be seen as part of the film making team. I don't think PR should ever be seen as an add on or ancillary service and, so often, this is what seems to happen with a completed film being handed over to a PR firm with little or no dialogue afterwards. I'm sure there are companies who don't work like this but I feel there is a need to be engaged with the creative process at pre production stage. Whilst this is a key difference to conventional PR, the same passion can be harnessed for films that are already in production. Passion and belief breed the same in others and conventional PR seems to have lost its mojo, I want to put some fire back into promotion.
WhiteScreen provides three vital service areas for its client and, because I can consult at the beginning of the film making process, it is an organic and naturally grown relationship. Festival Submission, which includes full sales and marketing representation, is a powerful way to promote a project to a wider audience, yet the process is time consuming. Having existing relationships with key festivals, it is a service I am delighted to provide. I also believe that press releases need to be individual and passionately written for specifics projects. How can you expect to raise expectation and excitement for a film when the press release reads like an instruction manual. Business and Marketing strategy is essential if a film is ever going to see the light of day and connecting with a project's brand and audience is something that I passionately believe in. I am always commenting that it is not just bad films that fail, it can and does happen to fantastic films that just did not make it to their audience. Curse of the Witching Tree is a wonderful example of a British Independent Film that was marketed expertly and the results were tangible, the film was picked up by two major supermarkets and received a great deal more press coverage as a result. Sadly, there are more bad examples than good ones and I want to ensure that any client I work with does not become one of those that just disappear. Social Networking is a must for indie films, especially as they don't have the well oiled and highly financed marketing clout that the mainstream provides. For me, social networking isn't just about throwing a trailer out onto Twitter, it needs to be planned and focused with interaction essential. When you look back at the WhiteScreen web launch campaign it showcases what can be achieved with the right planning and a more formal business approach without losing any of the individuality and attention grabbing belief.
What can WhiteScreen achieve in what seems like a closed marketplace?
Closed Market? In what way? The film industry is more open than it's ever been. More independent films are making it out and are being received by a hungry and starved audience. Film makers who will not be told what they can or can't film and won't be dictated to by those that don't really care about individuality any more. Trailblazing studios like 7DM are spearheading the revolution and challenging people to ask questions. Why does it have to be done this way? Why can't I make my film how I want it to be made? I spoke to a producer who was advising her film writer not to sell out to mainstream for the money. Why? Because the very heart of the project was at stake. Indie film makers will not sacrifice their vision for the sake of easy funding, even if this means going down a longer and more convoluted route to screen. In a market where so many sell out their integrity far too easily, I am proud to be working in a part of the industry that is now saying NO. Tell me where the integrity is in mainstream when the atrocious, fetid carbuncle of a film, 50 Shades of Grey, was allowed to blight our screens. Lousy writing, non existent characterisations, it was an offensive embarrassment. But "hey, it made money so lets make two more". The mainstream film industry is dying the death of a thousand cuts because it's owned not by the visionary but by the accountants. Closed Market? Well let's set some Indie TNT charges and blow it wide open, shall we?
Where do you see the state of the film industry today?
Dead or dying. I really can't remember the last time I saw a mainstream film that didn't make me want to cry, or choke on my over priced popcorn. That's the other problem isn't it? In order to go to the cinema nowadays you have to remortgage your house and that's even with buying your snacks from Poundland. Most of the time I end up feeling let down by a film that could have been so much more. Independent Films are going to re-invigorate and save the entire film industry and, as more voices are added to the chorus of discontent, Hollywood better sit up and take notice. The days are numbered for film financiers who will not invest in an indie film because it isn't a dead cert or sure fire return. I want WhiteScreen to pour petrol on an already burning fire and, by showing wider audiences that they can go and see a film which may not have big hitting A listers attached, it will still give them what they need to see and experience. Paramount announced at the beginning of the year that all its output for 2015 would be sequel, franchise or reboot and seemed proud. I wept. Don't get me started on Michael Bay helming the remake of Hitchcock's The Birds either, I feel like mailing him a copy of the remade Psycho and suggesting he thinks again.
Hollywood is never going anywhere and is certainly not evolving in a way people would hope. What do you see them having to do to help the industry?
The only hope for Hollywood is that it returns to its roots, it's forsaken its first love and begun an affair with greed. The balance is all wrong, of course this is a business, but it's show business. Hollywood is in a state now because it's all business and no show. Great and trailblazing film making needs to become the standard of excellence and not just the exception. Leave the classics alone and invest in the upcoming talent, give them a chance to shine and you may yet silence the death rattle.
How did you become interested in independent films originally and, of all the independent films you've seen, what works best for you?
The first independent film I ever saw was the French cult classic, La Femme Nikita. It got picked up by mainstream but its origins are independent. It's so dark and bleak with stand out performances from the entire cast. I also have a love of British indies and never get fed up with Time Bandits and Withnail and I. That's what I mean, who on earth in their right minds would green light a project about two out of work actors going on holiday to the Lake District? It's insanity! Yet the film showcases performances from Richard E Grant and Paul McGann that they have never matched again. Independent films are in their element when they are kept to their original concept. I love that with an Indie you are made to care about plotting and characterisation and it's truly exhilarating. WhiteScreen is a labour of love and it is an absolute pleasure to be part of the Indie Revolution that is going on today."
Twitter and Facebook.