6.1 PR Planning & PR Crisis Management

Finally, it's never too early to start thinking about PR risks. For many projects, the PR risks only materialise when the film premieres at a festival or other screenings. For some films, the PR battles begin much earlier--during or even before production. This might be the case particularly if you are dealing with a controversial or newsworthy story, have high profile subjects or if the filmmaker themselves is high profile.

Throughout the production, it is worth continually revising some concise language about the content about narrative of the film and the issues it raises that could be used for publication. This will be useful to inform a future synopsis or summary of the film ahead of release.

However, in the unusual circumstance of the film being caught in a PR crisis, external crisis management may be required. If it's on release of the film, you may already have PR support to help navigate. But if it's earlier in the filmmaking process, it's important to discuss with Executive Producer(s) or funder(s) as soon as something may be brewing so that a mitigation plan can be quickly pulled together and any issues headed off. It pays to be prepared.

One example of an unanticipated PR crisis is '9.7,' a film about Colombian farmers who had 70 tonnes of seeds - essentially, their livelihoods - seized and destroyed by the Colombian government. It went from being a film about a grassroots movement to a media phenomenon that involved the filmmakers in a PR battle. A short version of the film was released on YouTube and after having thousands of shares and much press attention, the director decided to go public in order to avoid having the film receive potential rebuttals and stigmatization. Her image and words went viral and, as a result, a leading figure in Colombian agriculture publicly denied the facts of the film and threatened legal action.

Suggested Team Discussion Points:

Are the filmmakers comfortable being the public face of this project?
Have you discussed the attention that may come to the subjects of the film with them? Are they comfortable participating in press?
Are your subjects a legal or reputational risk to the project if they do speak in public/ to press?
Have you worked with a PR firm on a previous film?
Do you have one in mind for this film? Do they have the appropriate experience for your film's needs? Are they already on board?
Have you worked with a crisis communications firm on a previous project? Might you need one on this film?
Given the nature of your film, could there be a PR battle with antagonists? Are those antagonists well-resourced in the PR department?

6.2 PR Safety Resources


Media Trust - PR Guide

International Documentary Association - What a Successful PR Strategy Can Do For Your Film


International Documentary Association - A Pre-Production Publicity Checklist

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