Last night, the Writers Guild Foundation held a panel discussion about publicity. I was one of the panelists, but I ended up learning a fair amount myself.
For example, according to a Variety editor, it’s perfectly okay for a screenwriter to pick up the phone and call a writer at the trades when you’ve sold a project.1 It’s strange: in this blog, I’m constantly telling aspiring screenwriters to stop asking for permission and just do what they want to do. But I honestly wouldn’t be ballsy enough to call an unknown writer at the trades to do this.
Chris Day, who runs publicity for my agency (UTA) brought with him a memo I’d written in the Big Fish era. At his suggestion, I was meeting with publicists, and had listed my goals and messages.2 I promised attendees at the panel that I would find the original memo and post a .pdf of it. So here it is: Big Fish publicity goals.
One of the questions that came from the audience–but probably should have started out the evening–was, What is the point of publicity, exactly? Most of us aren’t looking to be famous per se, and unlike a novelist, our names alone aren’t going to be selling books.
The Writers Guild Foundation stresses that any time a screenwriter gets press, that helps all screenwriters. And to some degree, that’s true. There are no famous screenwriters, but it would be nice if the general public had some sense that movies are actually written, and that the actors aren’t making up their dialogue.
But I’d say the main reason to think about publicity is to help the movies and TV shows you’re involved with. The screenwriter tends to know more about the story than anyone else on the project, so you can be a crucial resource as journalists figure out how to write about the plot. I’ve attended a half-dozen junkets, and have rarely seen myself directly quoted. But I recognize a lot of what I’ve said in the stories that are written. If I can help create a consistent, positive message, then I’ve done my job.
The other reason to think about publicity is in terms of your overall career. I have no doubt that I’ve gotten meetings with certain directors and actors because of repeated exposure to my name. It’s nice if someone likes Big Fish. It’s even better if they remember I wrote it. Every time a news story includes the phrase, “…August, whose credits include Big Fish, Corpse Bride and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…” that’s like refreshing the cache on someone’s internal IMDb.