The Art of the Business 11 – What??!? I need another photo shoot?

"Business-y" photo of Rebecca by Pink Monkey StudiosLast month, I wrote a post on the importance of having a good publicity photo. This month, I talk about the importance of having a good production photo.

But, you say, photo shoots are expensive and time-consuming. Can’t I get away with just one?

Nope, sorry, not gonna do it. Here’s why:

1. You need production photos for your archives. You never know when you might need archive photos: for your website, grant applications, etc.

2. If you were lucky enough to get preview coverage, you must have different photos to acccompany your review. Newspapers generally don’t like to run the same photos that they ran for previews, and they generally like to run photos that are from the show, with the actual set, costumes, lights, props and actors.

Usually, these shoots take place during the final dress rehearsal, so the photographer can flit around and take the pictures without disturbing the audience. Alternatively, some people schedule it for the break between two-show days. The earlier the better–if you have dalies reviewing your show, you’ll need them pretty quickly, so that’s why most people go with the final dress rehearsal option.

Here’s one last tip for you (thanks to Simon for this one): most of the indie companies I work for don’t have the ability to upload their photos to a website for the press to download, which is what the big companies do. Flickr doesn’t work, because it won’t let you upload the size of photos you need to for publication. Photo Bucket is an excellent alternative. Allows you to store your high-res photos, all you have to do is email the URL to the press.

Here are some examples:

This is the publicity photo for Metamorphoses (image Pink Monkey Studios):
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This was one of the production photos:

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This was the publicity image for Exit Commander Kitty:
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And here is a production photo:
kitty-3

Bone in Her Teeth by Leaky Heaven Circus has some of the best photos I have ever seen:

Publicity:
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Production:
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And my all time favorite:
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Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Rebecca Coleman Marketing and Media Relations, a Vancouver PR company. She blogs at artofthebiz.com and twitters under rebeccacoleman.

A thorn between two roses

See what happens when you start a blog? I’m sitting a panel at the 2008 Making a Scene Conference today with two delightful Rebeccas; Bollwitt and Coleman, alphabetically. We’ll be discussing The New Face of Marketing: Facebook, text and the bloggers’ world. apparently.

MaS, for anyone who might not know, is our professional theatre community’s annual conference, now in its ninth year. Hosted by the GVPTA, it’s four days packed full of workshops and discussion of this art of ours You can read more info here.

Our panel is today at 1:30 in the upper lobby of the Arts Club Granville Island Stage. Please stop by if you’ve got the time. I’m in pretty good company.

comic-book-guy

The Art of the Business Part 10 – The importance of a good publicity photo

Kirsten Slenning as Kitty. Photo Credit: Cory Dawson

"Business-y" photo of Rebecca by Pink Monkey StudiosIf you are producing a play, you know you need them. Gone are the days of putting the word out about a photo call, and having a bunch of photographers and TV cameras show up to get a shot to accompany a story or review. Those guys just don’t have the resources–you have to bring it to them. And, you gotta be smart about it.

A good publicity photo is more than a necessity. A really interesting and arresting image can actually get you additional media coverage. I recently did publicity for TigerMilk Collective’s Exit Commander Kitty. I got them a preview in the Vancouver Province, but they got themselves on the cover of the entertainment section with this photo.

Here are some tips for getting a great picture.

Vaughn Jones. Photo Credit: Pink Monkey Studios

1. Hire a pro. Having your BFF take a bunch of photos with their Cannon Sureshot is not going to cut it. Figure out how much money you have to spend, then put it out some photographers, and see what they can do for you. Try to hire someone that specializes in theatre photography, and look at their websites and past work. My favorite is Pink Monkey Studios. They did this fantastic image for Metamorphoses.

Mylene Dinh-Robic and Adam Lolacher

2. Go for a theme. Do not, under any circumstances, and I can’t emphasize this enough, take a publicity shot that is a scene from the play. Many theatre companies get caught up in “but the set’s not done yet, the costumes aren’t done yet, we can’t get the shot.” You don’t need the set, you don’t need the costumes, what you need is an idea. Think about your show, and try to boil it down to theme that is only a few words long. And then think about a visual image for your theme. Think ‘iconic.’ This image from Beirut is one of my all-time favorites.

3. Get a little variety. Newspapers will often ask for “portrait” (which means the longest part of the photo is vertical) or “landscape” (which means the longest part of the photo is horizonal). It depends upon what kind of space they have to fit the photo in, so make sure you have good shots in both formats.

4. But not too much variety. There was a time in the past when you needed to have B&W and Colour. Not any more. Just take colour shots. Do B&W if you want, for emphasis, or to fit with your theme, but these guys all have Photoshop and know how to use it.

5. Go big. The newspapers like photos that are as big as you can get them. So that means, a really high resolution, like 300dpi, and big (often they are 4-5MGs each). That way, they can do what they like with them–use them big, like on the cover of the entertainment section, or crop them down or shrink them to accompany a review.

6. Know your cutlines. Cutlines are the information about who is in the photo–the names of the actors, the characters they play, and it’s good to include the name of the photographer, although a lot of papers can’t print that.

7. Timing is everything. Lots of people like to use their publicity shot for posters, etc., so often they are done long before rehearsals even start. Even earlier if you are planning a season brochure. If you don’t have them done that early, I recommend you get them done as early as possible–no less than 2-3 weeks before you open so that you have images to go along with previews.

Publicity pictures are an incredibly important part of marketing your show, so do put lots of thought and care into them.

Look for information on Production Photo shoots and B-roll in future posts.

Until then, here’s to bums in seats everywhere!

Rebecca Coleman

“Business-y” Photo of Rebecca by Pink Monkey Studios

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company. For more of Rebecca’s Art of the Business advise and observations, check out her blog here.


Spinning off….

Well, it is with excitement, trepidation and a big, deep breath that I make this announcement: I am spinning off my own blog. The Art of the Business, which has, for the past 9 months been incubating on The Next Stage, is launching out on its own over at www.artof the biz.com.

Once upon a time, about a year ago, I lost my job, and decided that it was time for me to start doing this publicity thing (which I’d been doing more as a hobby business for about seven years) full-time. So, I took a small business course at BCIT, and wrote a business plan and launched Titania Productions on December 1, 2007. Back then, I had more time than business, and I had this idea that I wanted to write a monthly column of marketing tips and tricks for artists. I had already been in touch with Simon, who had been writing for Beyond Robson. We immediately connected on our joint passion to help artists become more serious about their businesses, so when I pitched the idea to him, he was all for it.

So I started writing, and the column slowly grew into more. I started recording podcasts, and the subject matter for the column started to expand into other areas of business. And I was seriously getting into the blogging thing. And then, about a month ago, I sent Simon an email saying that I was thinking of starting my own blog, and, to his credit, he was very supportive. And today is that day….

I want to say a very special thanks to Simon for being a great editor, and an even better friend. As a sounding board, a spell-checker, and a fount of information on the technical aspects of blogging, he has been invaluable. In my inbox at this moment, there are 196 emails from Simon, and about the same amount in my sent mail to him. It’s been a blast….  In fact, Simon is some of the inspiration for my first blog post.

I will continue to write a monthly piece for The Next Stage. But now the Vancouver Theatre Blogger scene is one stronger. Our quest to build an audience for local theatre and to help artists become better business people continues.

Dishpig and Mr. Fox: The Final Four Farewell

by guest blogger Rebecca Coleman.

Okay, first off, apologies for the liberal use of alliteration. But that stuff has been proven to get people’s attention. Except when it pisses them off. Okay!

I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, we are losing Greg Landucci to Toronto. For those of you who may not be familiar with the guy that Simon and I now affectionately call “The Dooch” (he doesn’t really like it, we’re just trying desperately to be cool), Greg is responsible for two of the best frickin’ Fringe shows in the last two years: Dishpig (2007) and Mr. Fox (2008). He wisely teamed up with TJ Dawe, who helped him write and edit both scripts, and directed them as well.

Now for the good news: Greg is doing a final, Farewell-to-the-Wet-Coast remount of both shows. Starting tomorrow, and running in rep for the next two weeks, it may well be your last chance to see Dishpig and Mr. Fox. So, if you haven’t already seen them, or you want to enjoy them one last time, now’s your chance.

Read on below for information about the shows and tickets and stuff, but the first two people who email me (rebeccacoleman@shaw.ca) can have a pair of tickets to see Dishpig for FREE tomorrow (Wednesday) night. I won’t even make you answer some random question about where Greg went to High School or something lame like that. You just have to be available to go see the show tomorrow night. Because that’s the kind of person I am.

Now for the nitty-gritty details: (Click here to see a video of Greg talking about why you should see these shows)

Landucci as the Dishpig
Landucci as the Dishpig

Dishpig is the story of one guy’s journey to discover himself in a stinky, wet, disgusting hell filled with cooking grease and soggy bread, otherwise known as a restaurant dishpit. Landucci plays 15 roles, changing characters at lighting speed, and creating some pretty fast an furious comedy.

Praise for Dishpig:

“Wow! Dishpig is an absolutely assured piece of one-man theatre, so strong a show that it immediately establishes local talent Greg Landucci as an actor worth following…. Together, Dawe and Landucci have crafted a must-see piece about life in hell.”
-Peter Birnie, The Vancouver Sun.

“Greg Landucci is Dishpig and all the other characters in this fabulous hour-long take on life at the very bottom of the service-industry ladder. Graphic, vulgar, hilarious and surprisingly moving, Dishpig has emerged from the Fringe as a stand-alone evening that you’ll wish lasted much longer.”
-Jerry Wasserman, The Province/Vancouver Plays.com

Landucci sweats it out at Mr. Fox
Landucci sweats it out at Mr. Fox

Mr. Fox tells the story of Landucci’s tenure as the infamous “Mr. Fox,” the mascot for Vancouver’s very popular radio station, CFOX. Mr. Fox’s experience runs the gamut-from women coming on to him, to being kicked, abused, and nearly drowned, all while wearing a very heavy, drenched-in-sweat (not always his own) fox suit.

Praise for Mr: Fox:

“Greg Landucci does it again. Last year we were introduced to this human dynamo in Dishpig, his intensely observed study of life in the “dishpit” at a local restaurant. Its success led Landucci to dig deeper into his own life, and out pops the latest loopy chapter…Not to be missed.”
-Peter Birnie, The Vancouver Sun

“The remarkable Greg Landucci performs his solo script directed by Fringe stand-up fave TJ Dawe, the team behind last year’s knockout, Dishpig…. His charming, ingenuous storytelling and hugely energetic acting make Landucci an absolute crowd-pleaser.”
-Jerry Wasserman, The Vancouver Province

Both Mr. Fox and Dishpig enjoyed stunning success on the Fringe circuit, playing to sold-out houses, gaining critical acclaim, and multiple Best of Fests. Dishpig runs Sept. 24, 26, Oct 2 ,and 4 (9 pm). Mr Fox runs Sept 25, 27, Oct 1 and 3 (7 pm). All shows are at 8 pm, except where noted. Tickets are $15, and are available through Tickets Tonight: 604 684 2787, or online at www.ticketstonight.ca. Cash-only tickets may be available at the door. All shows are at Havana, 1212 Commercial Dr.

Rebecca Coleman is a publicist whose company, Titania Productions, specializes in marketing and media relations for theatre.

The Art of the Business Part 8: Becoming more Bloggable

Last month I talked about the basics of starting your own blog. In this month’s column, the second of three on blogging, I talk about how to use new media as a way of promoting your art event.

If you google Vancouver blog, the number one hit is Miss 604. Rebecca Bolwitt is a born-and-bred-in-Vancouver professional blogger and podcaster, whose Vancouver-centric blog garners 40,000-50,000 unique visitors a month.

I interviewed Rebecca about how new media is changing the face of traditional media, and how we, as artists, can use it to help market ourselves.

RC: How do you think blogs are changing the face of traditional media?

RB: Blogs are making traditional media know that they need to be more immediate. The thing about a blog versus a newspaper is that it [the newspaper] can’t change. The thing about blogging is that you can post a news story in the morning, and it can change through the day. You can have comments on it, you can continue the discussion. What blogging is doing for traditional media is that it’s making them realize that it’s becoming a two way discussion. You can hear back from your readers, and not just in traditional ways like letters to the editors.

Secondly, you can also go mobile—people can get updates on their phone, have online subscriptions—RSS—so the news goes to your inbox every morning, instead of your front door mat.

Thirdly, anybody can be a producer. Anybody can produce content, have people pay attention to it and watch it. Everyone can be a part of what the internet is becoming. And what the internet is becoming is something that traditional media outlets can no longer ignore—since it is so huge, it is so big, and it’s engaging people in conversation.

RC: Do you think blogs are gaining in credibility (as compared to mainstream media)?

RB: Yes, definitely. If I’m writing a post about Vancouver history, I research my pieces; from my dad, from textbooks, from online sources. I can quote them, and link back to my original source, which you can’t always do in a newspaper. People can also call you on it if you make mistakes. In that way, blogs can be very credible. We are gaining in credibility, however it is a very slow process.

A lot of people are scared of bloggers. People are still very hesitant to trust bloggers, because there are few bad seeds out there, and there are some who are doing it just for fun, but there are also those who would like to gain credibility in the mainstream realm.

RC: If I have an art event to promote, and I invite the mainstream media to come out and see it, we have a kind of unspoken contract that we will let them in for free, and they will give us some press about it. Does it work the same way with bloggers?

RB: Absolutely. If you are willing to give me access to your event and blog about it, certainly.
The thing about bloggers is, if you invite us to your event, we are very open and honest and transparent. That’s the big thing about blogging. If we’ve been invited to an event for free and in exchange we are writing a post about it, we are going to be honest about our experience. We can say if we had a bad time—or not. That’s just the way it is. We have no editor to report to, just ourselves, and as long as we let them know. I don’t want people to think I am being paid off to write positive reviews.

RC: How do I know that a blogger is legitimate? Anyone can have their own blog, what if they are just looking for free tickets?

RB: This is a very valid question. To know a blogger is legitimate, you need to know their first and last name, not just their handle. You need to know who this person is. Google them, and find out that they don’t also have a blog that is terrible and illegal. Ask around town and see if people know them, have heard of them. But most importantly, read their blog, and see what they’re all about. Make sure they are the right type of person you would want at your event—if it’s a fit. Also, if you are looking for the most reach, don’t be afraid of asking for their stats. Bloggers check their stats. How many unique visitors do they have every month?

RC: How do I pitch my event to you?

RB: If someone copies and pastes a press release in an email to me without even a “Hi, Rebecca!” or a “Hi, Miss 604!” I’m probably not going to pay much attention to it. You need to be personal. You need to know what the blogger’s about. Read their site.

Let the blogger have free access to it. For me, if it’s not on my radar as something I’m already going to attend or can/would attend, I would need that incentive.

To pitch an event to a blogger, you have to realize what they are writing about, You have read their site, and then contact them, either through email or a contact form on their site.

RC: Is it okay to ask a blogger about their stats?

RB: Yes it is!! 90% of bloggers look at their stats, and where traffic is coming from. A big thing for bloggers is to give them link love. What that means is, if you have a website link back to the blogger once they’ve written about you. That makes us feel really good. We like that people are paying attention, that they are open to bloggers, open to communication. It makes me want to deal with them in the future, and recommending them to my friends.

RC: What are some good blogs to pitch to?

RB: Try pitching to the group blogs in Vancouver. I also blog for Metroblogging Vancouver, and we have about 8 authors right now. Some focus on politics, some on food, so you can submit to us and someone will pick it up. Beyond Robson is another Vancouver group blog. The good thing about group blogs is that, more than likely, someone will be writing about your subject matter, and pick it up.

Other good ones to submit to are ones you read. If you read someone’s blog, and you have an event coming up, pitch it to them. If it’s a food event, find some food bloggers. If it’s a sporting event, find some sports bloggers. A good way to find popular blogs is to just google them. It means that they are doing it right, and have excellent SEO (search engine optimization).

RC: Any additional words of wisdom for using blogs/bloggers to promote your art event?

RB: The biggest thing in dealing with bloggers is reading blogs. Find some daily reads, the ones that you enjoy, and those are probably going to be the ones you are wanting to pitch to. You don’t want to send them a big huge press release, you want to be personal. NO generic “Dear Sir/Madam”. Be personable. Blogging is very personal, it’s a real discussion, it’s person to person, it’s comments, it’s transparent. Bloggers love free stuff, and when they get free stuff, they will write about it. Make sure you supply them with your website so they can link back to you, which will help drive traffic to your site.

In conclusion:

  • NO copy and paste press releases
  • Let the blogger know you’re reading their stuff
  • Make sure the event is a good fit
  • Link back

– Rebecca Bolwitt, Rebecca Coleman, Simon Ogden and Rob Parker of YaYah Studios will all be participating on a panel discussion tenatively called The New Face of Marketing: Facebook, Text and the Bloggers’ World at the Making a Scene Theatre Conference on Friday, November 14 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Granville Island.

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company.

Miss 604 image via Miss 604

For a streaming or downloadable podcast of this post (the interview in its entirety), click here.

Is there really such a thing as “No publicity is bad publicity”?

By guest blogger Rebecca Coleman

Quite a little brou-ha-ha going on these days in T.O. The Summerworks Theatre Festival, which is an independent, juried Arts festival, is causing a big stir. Well, not the festival per se, but a show in it called The Pastor Phelps Project.

Here’s their media blurb:

Pastor Fred Phelps and the good people of the Westboro Baptist Church are here to explain why God hates fags and America is doomed. It’s homophobia versus burlesque in a musical cabaret showdown. Stare into the abyss of fundamentalism; sexy political satire with razor wire barbs.

Well, the fine people at Westboro Baptist Church heard about this, and felt, I imagine, attacked, so they are putting a group together and going up to Toronto to picket the show. They have a website: http://www.godhatesfags.com.

Well, all the picketing and media releases and backing-and-forthing has certainly translated into publicity for both parties. Witness today’s story in The Globe and Mail. The focus of the story and, seemingly, the moral of it, is that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

I’m not so sure. On one hand, I totally get how hard it is to produce a show, to do live theatre. There’s never enough money, you are competing with tons of other (bigger budget) productions for a limited amount of space – get people in through the door however you can. Resort to nudity and “sex” or “blowjobs” in the title of your play. But on the other hand, it makes me feel uncomfortable to do it.

In an ideal world, I would love it if people wanted to come to see our shows because of oh, say, the writing, the acting, the direction. But in a world where we are obsessed with what Pamela Anderson had for breakfast, that’s a tough one. We often feel like we have to resort to some more erm, shall we say, dramatic tactics to get people in through the door. That makes me sad.

Part of what also makes me sad is that there is no real winner in this situation. Yes, the folks at Summerworks will probably have overflowing houses. But equal attention is being paid to the guys at Westboro.

As a publicist, I was taught that if there is no conflict, there is no story. As a kid, I was taught to ignore bullies. Because if they don’t get a reaction, there’s no payoff.

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company.