Rebecca’s got a post up today about the brand new web site launch for Babz Chula’s Artist support site. Bex and some friends gave it a complete overhaul and it looks great, as does Babz, as you can see in her new intro video on the home page.
Ah, the long, languid days of summer. The West Coast has settled into the torpor of a brain-mush inducing heatwave and everything seems, well…West Coastey. I do anyway, with my crew in recess for the summer and that pre-Fringe dip in Indie Stage activity I’ve been feeling like a kid on summer vacation. That should be in summer school. Isn’t it funny how when artists aren’t in the middle of a project we feel like we’re playing hooky? There’s been this guilt gnawing away at the back of my consciousness making me feel lazy, like I should be writing copy or blogging furiously or fund-raising or something instead of just going into work every day at my full time day job. It’s kind of sick.
Well, Rebecca and the Zoo Crew have taken care of that. She’s asked me to pinch-hit for her as ITSAZOO’s publicist while she treats herself to a Grecian vacation. It turns out there is some indie theatrical activity in the offing, and I’m pleased as punch to be helping out this young crew of artists determined to hammer out a niche for our art form here. They’re a brainy, genuinely talented crew out of UVic who have been turning heads with their smart and playful work, both onstage and in clever site-specific productions as well.
They continue to build their canon with the original adaptation The Road to Canterbury, opening here at Queen Elizabeth Park on August 5th. It’s a re-working of Chaucer’s Picaresque tales by Co-Artistic Director Sebastien Archibald that leads you through the park and through some surprising contemporizing of several classic legends. You can read more at their Facebook event page here…
So yay, back in the saddle again. And there looks to be a few more projects bearing down on me, not the least of which is working with the Plank gang again to prepare a critical Fringe guide for this year’s fest (Psst, in case you missed it, they announced this year’s line-up). After the resounding success of last year’s guide, we don’t have much choice.
Anyway Vancouver, that’s what’s going on with me. What are you all working on, besides a killer tan?
A year and a half ago I met a firecracker of a theatre publicist. Her name was Rebecca Coleman. Still is, actually.
She was, at the time, busy making a name for herself in the independent arts scene here in Vancouver. A trained actor, a theatre geek, and a single mom, she was springboarding off of her passion in order to generate a steady income to raise young Michael. And, being a workaholic, she was doing just fine at it. Better than fine, actually, she was crushing it. She was attacking her new career with a voracity that you couldn’t help but notice.
I sure couldn’t anyway, because she called me up one day and said “hey, what’s this blogging thing that you’re into all about?”.
I said oh, you know, you just get to self-publish ideas and thoughts and, well, get your stuff out there, you know?
She said “cool, I want to try it. Can I write on your site?”
Instantly detecting the scent of less work in the air I said “hell yeah. Give ‘er.” Thus began one of the more popular features of this here magazine, the Art of the Business series by Rebecca Coleman.
Turned out she was really good at it. So good in fact, that the Art of the Biz – eventually and inevitably – spun off into its own home on the internets, where it flourishes to this day. And Rebecca, well, she continued deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of Social Media, discovering its secrets and realizing its highly potent applications as a marketing weapon, and using various platforms and philosophies to great success in her own business to the increasing benefit of her clients, of which she has too many today to even talk to me. (That last part was a lie. We actually have a burgeoning business giving Social Marketing seminars, workshops and private coachings together. It’s a good thing we get along so well, and that we both have great big senses of humour.)
Now that she has popped out of the other end of that rabbit hole, she has gone ahead and assembled her collected gleanings and wisdoms into a handy Guide to Getting Started With Social Media for Artists and Arts Organizations. It went on sale over at her website at midnight last night, for an introductory offer of $19.95. It’s a simple and well-organized handbook to help you cut through the noise and weirdness of the jungle that is the new way to market. This is a jungle that all businesses, from huge multi-level corporations on down to our little indie theatre troupes have to learn to navigate now. This book is a wonderful resource, and you’re in good hands with Bex as your tour guide.
Click the cover below for more information, and to purchase a copy to call your very own:
Over the last few months, I’ve been doing guest posts on the topic of visuals to accompany your publicity campaign. We talked about the two photo shoots you need for your show, the publicity shot, and the production photo.
Today, I want to talk about moving pictures. While it’s true that theatre does not translate well on video, many companies are taking advantage of new, and more accessable technology to help get the word out about their shows.
If you haven’t taken advantage of Simon’s video listing services yet, you should. It’s free, easy, and fast. He will meet with you, and then he shoots you, speaking directly to camera, about why the audience should come see your show. Within the day, it’s up on The Next Stage Video Listings page, and available to you through YouTube. You can embed it to your Facebook event page. This kind of video works because people are very passionate about their shows, and your passion while speaking about it can be very contagious.
If you want to try to get your play featured on the evening news, you need b-roll. B-roll is, essentially, footage of your show that you supply to TV news stations, in hopes that they will do a story on it. Because the quality of your footage needs to be high, this is not something you can just do yourself, unless you are a professional cameraman or director. You need to hire a professional.
The key to B-roll is to keep it short–I recommend under 3 minutes. Chances are, if you are lucky enough to actually get your footage on the air, only about 10-30 seconds will air. You may want to supplement your footage with short interview segments by directors or stars.
Here are some examples of how you can use video to promote your show:
Last 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.
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.
If 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.
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.
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!
“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.