I started Touchwood PR three years ago but have been working in film publicity for 17 years.
How does your company leverage PR?
On film projects, we like to approach PR as creatively as possible. Rather than standard press releases, straight pitches and reviews, we dissect each project and pull out ideas and themes that can be pitched not just in the film section, but in music, style, life and news sections. By approaching each project in a unique way, we are often able to garner much more interest from the press and public and give the film more wings. The first thing I ask myself when I take on a film is – ‘why and how is this film relevant right now?’ and that question generates a lot of great ideas.
You also need to know who you are pitching and why. This requires research in a way that you can’t Google: face-to-face interaction. Spending time lunching, talking and drinking with journalists is not just fun, but it is the only way to truly understand what matters to them. It is called ‘media RELATIONS’ after all. And making that effort is half the work and the best part of the job.
From a crisis communications perspective of the work we do, the best thing we do is react swiftly and honestly. The whole idea of ‘messages’ is one that needs clarification. People think PR is all spin. I disagree. All messages, no matter how well crafted, need to come from a place of honesty. Otherwise, it’s just someone paying lip service. And that is not good for any spokesperson or brand. We help executives and filmmakers to be comfortable with what they are trying to express. A well-thought out answer that you truly believe in can never come back to haunt you.
What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
Producer (and now friend and client) Sandra Cunningham. I had moved from Montreal to Toronto to intern at TIFF in ’95 and she was programming for Perspective Canada at the time. I was supposed to be in Toronto for 10 weeks and because she saw something in me, here I am 17 years later. She made some great connections for me. Because of her referral I ended up working for some amazing people who have been very good to me along the way.
Tough and kind need not be exclusive of one another. You can be both and often simultaneously. Treat people with respect. One, it makes life more pleasant and two, you never know where your intern will be 10 years from now. You might work for her/him one day. And people might not remember what you said or did to them, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
What do you love most about your job?
I love that on most days my work feels like my play. I love that the people I work with are as passionate about what they do as I am. I love that we laugh. A lot. This feeling translates into the quality of work we produce and how we approach not just work, but our personal lives as well. I love that I get to work not just with the North American film industry but also on an international scope. Film knows no boundaries, why should I? I love being entrusted with something someone has worked on intensely for years and bringing that to the attention of the media and public. There is no greater joy than a front page, above the fold article on a filmmaker no one has ever heard of before.
If you weren’t doing PR, what would you do?
Social worker or psychologist. Not too far off from what I do already. I am an information junkie and I love connecting dots and fully understanding where people are coming from.
A little more from the fourth floor:
Netflix.com – I watch a movie almost every day.
I have three kids ranging from four to 11 years. If it’s clean, pressed and hides my jiggly bits, I am happy. Once I have paid for my kids’ educations, I will buy myself a kick-ass Chanel outfit.
Any stationary store. I have a serious addiction to notebooks and pens. I collect them whenever I travel.
Law Of Attraction.
A snowfall in Paris while walking in the Montmartre cemetery, surrounded by poets and filmmakers who have inspired millions.
June Caldwell. For a long time I had her picture on my fridge to remind me of the kind of old woman I wanted to grow into.
Red wine in the winter. Gin and tonic in the summer.
My feet in the sand, staring out at the ocean, regardless of season; watching movies with my kids cuddled under the blankets on a rainy day.
Chocolate covered almonds.
Guillaume Canet. Bradley Cooper speaking French is a close second.
@lafleurdeparis – she’s an American film/fashion journalist living in Paris and she’s the perfect mix of quirky and knowledgeable.