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Marketing and PR Assistant

Marketing professionals can be found all over the film industry, from distribution to film sales, production company to finance company - all require the talents of creative individuals who can attract an audiences interest.

My First Job in Film: How to become a marketing and PR assistant
Stage
1

Use MFJF and other resources to apply for work placements and internships in entertainment marketing, advertising agencies or in-house departments.

Stage
2

Decide which area of the film industry to focus on, apply to marketing, advertising and publicity agencies and departments in distribution, film sales, production or finance companies.

Stage
3

Expect to be working at assistant level for two years before promotion, there's a lot to learn.

HOW THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY USES MARKETING.

Marketing Departments can be found all over the film industry, most notably in distribution, production and film sales companies. The marketing division for each of these companies can be conducted by a team of people or an individual. You can find marketing and PR professionals working as part of an in-house team at the distributors or production companies; there are also businesses devoted to entertainment publicity, red carpet events, press junkets or editing trailers. So how do the different areas of the industry use marketing?

What does the Marketing Department do in a distribution company?

How a film is marketed to consumers can have a server impact on its success or failure at the box office. An excellent campaign with significant word of mouth (organically generated marketing that is priceless) and internet buzz can have us booking our tickets at the local multiplex or independent cinema. A poor campaign can see a film under viewed, and exhibitors underwhelmed at their share of the profits.

Independent films made in the UK are not only competing with the studios big budget extravaganzas, they are also fighting for a slice of an audiences leisure time. Statistically, independent films attract an audience in the 30 + age bracket, many of whom have children or work longer than average hours leaving leisure time at a minimum. A Marketing Department will take a very different strategy for reaching this audience than they would the large tentpole films released by the studios, which would be appealing to all age brackets but most likely it’s the 15-25 demographic who visit the cinema theatres most regularly.  As the consumer is becoming ever more discerning when viewing their content, (VOD companies can specialise in short films, foreign films and documentaries), marketing strategy needs to constantly evolve to find new ways of connecting films to viewers.  

Distribution companies have Marketing and PR Departments/people to cover theatrical and home entertainment. For the theatrical release, the distributor will have put together a P & A (print and advertising) budget. On a big budget feature, the media spend of the P & A can be close to a third of a feature film’s overall cost, which is something most independent films cannot compete. A film without a large advertising budget can still be successful in attracting an audience. Social media and the internet are very low-cost ways of publicising a film, so marketing an independent film with no budget has become increasingly feasible.

Marketing and PR professionals use communication tools and creative concepts to connect their product to the audience. The marketing of a film refers to the strategy behind the campaign, below are the tools marketing professionals employ to get us into the cinema:

  • Advertising in the traditional sense uses posters on buses, tube stations, billboards, and print publications to advertise a film’s release. Specific websites used by the film’s target audience are identified, advertising space is purchased and saturated with colourful images of the film designed to catch our eye.

  • Artwork.  A well-conceived poster can reflect the feel or genre of the film, guiding the audience's expectations. The artwork that accompanies the film will be different for theatrical and home entertainment, both of which require lots of thought as they will appeal to different demographics.

  • Trailers of various lengths will be cut for broadcast and other media outlets (online and cable entertainment shows) to create a buzz before the film’s release. Trailers have a greater impact than artwork alone. If badly executed, however, potential audience members can be put off. The most effective trailers give you a flavour of the film - but don't give away too much of the story. Specialised companies produce trailers for distributors, it’s a very niche area of the industry.

  • Websites and social media currently play a huge role in the marketing process of a film. Identifying and engaging the film’s audience before its release via social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, setting up accounts in the name of the films characters who post online, or create a buzz by posting teasers and on set information during production. Before the film is released a website is established offering competitions and games tailored to the film. ‘The Hunger Games’ website, for example, provided a game where you could compete. 

  • Merchandising and tie-ins with corporate sponsorship. Action figures, lunch boxes, you name it. If a film has an identifiable brand, it can be used for merchandising. Tie-ins with corporations mean characters or images for the film are lent to established brands such as soft drinks or snacks companies. Product placement on individual films can generate significant revenue for filmmakers. Making sure the cola an actor is drinking is Coke rather than Pepsi for example, or James Bond ordering a Heineken instead of his usual Martini.

  • Brand partnerships are connections between film industry institutions, such as studios and distributors, products or brands. For example, Dominos Pizza teamed up with Lionsgate. The pizza company offer one of Lionsgate releases as a free extra to every pizza purchased, thus creating the 'perfect' night in.

Publicity for a film will require actors, director and producers to discuss the film face to face via press junkets and talk shows. Alongside in-house PR, individual companies deal specifically with publicity during production and release. They will be responsible for hiring a company to produce junkets. Publicity is used in the following ways:

  • Press junket. Members of the domestic and international press congregate in hotel rooms around the globe to interview an actor for three minutes about their part in the film. Actors can really sell films; they are one of the key ‘hooks’ on which a film is financed and promoted. An actors ‘relationship’ with the press can create positive buzz if the journalist leaves the room in buoyant mood, although most actors will site the publicity tour as one of the hardest tasks they must perform. Any above the line talent will be contractually obliged to promote the film. Some find the grind of the one-in-one-out conveyor belt of journalists easier to master than others, it’s the job of their appointed PR person to make sure they are on schedule and stem any concerns or complaints. This can mean sorting out lunch, or negotiating breaks or changes to schedule.

  • Press screening. Arranging for the press to see and review the film before its release, this is an important part of the publicity teams job. From these screening the team can collate press quotes, to add to the campaign (place on posters or magazine adverts).

  • Digital Assets. A unit publicist (there can be more than one on a major production) will liaise with the EPK producer to set up interviews with cast and crew. The EPK team (camera, sound and producer) will film behind the scenes footage during production, also known a B-roll, which distributors use when compiling DVD and Blu-ray releases. Other digital assets include the stills from the shoot shot by the production photographer.

  • Press releases. The publicity team will be across press releases during principal photography and post-production, deal with any press enquiries and actively engage with journalists when finding coverage via the media outlets. They create production notes, which are handed out to the press, often at press junkets. The pack include a synopsis of the film, cast and crew biographies, and information about the production.

  • Publicity stunt. One of the greatest ways to attract an audience's attention to a film is via the publicity stunt. Marketing and publicity have gone to great lengths in the past few years to top the efforts of previous film releases. A great publicity stunt that helped generate an organic buzz around a film’s release recently were the ‘flying people’ over New York, used to advertise the film ‘Chronicle’.

Production companies: 

Marketing Departments in production companies are chiefly concerned with advertising the production companies good standing and reputation in the industry as a way of attracting investors to a project. They will also help create material to take to film markets/film festivals etc. 

Film sales:

An individual in charge of marketing will devises ways of giving a feel for the film through its genre through posters, teasers or mood boards/films, not an easy task. This area of marketing requires creative thinking if the film is yet to enter production. 

What are the entry level roles into marketing and PR

Work experience and internships:

Entrants wishing to work in marketing can apply for work experience and internships; this is stage one of your career and the building blocks of your CV. Work experience placements are mostly unpaid and should not exceed 160 hours, carried out over a four week period full-time or three months part-time. You should apply for work experience while you are studying, as the placements are designed to offer a learning opportunity. Internships should be paid placements (many are NMW) unless they come under a banner of a student internship. Internships should see applicants given a more immersive role in the office and given some projects they can get their teeth into. Alongside opportunities listed on MFJF, some of the studios and bigger independents such as Warner Bros, Studio Canal, eOne, Disney, Fox, Paramount (via LinkedIn), Universal and Lionsgate also offer paid internships. The UK branches of these companies don't offer these placements to the same extent as their US counterparts, so make sure you check the location when searching their websites.   

Assistant positions:

Marketing assistant and publicity assistant roles can be found at distribution companies and the larger agencies. You could also look for work in these jobs at non-entertainment related agencies to get some practical experience. Marketing a film is a very specific job, if this is an area you wish to pursue don't leave it too long to make the cross over otherwise, you could find yourself starting back at the beginning. 

FDA Trainee Scheme:

A dedicated distribution and sales scheme is run by the Film Distribution Association in association with Creative Skillset. This placement is only open once a year, so make sure to sign up to newsletters and keep tabs on their Twitter feeds to know when they're advertising. The scheme is very attractive, so your application needs to be the best it can be, demonstrating career focus, dedication and drive. Make sure to answer all the questions thoroughly, if you have a small amount of experience with a camera take the option to make a video application and stand out from the crowd.

WHAT OTHER ROLES ARE THERE IN A MARKETING?

Positions can differ when working in-house for an independent agency, some of the positions you are likely to find are:

  • Researcher

  • Junior account manager

  • Junior marketing manager

  • Account manager

  • Marketing manager

  • Creative director

  • Marketing director

  • Executive director

There are many roles within the creative agencies where the term ‘manager’ and ‘executive’ describe varying levels of experience. A ‘junior executive’ in some cases can represent a graduate who is acting as an assistant to the account manager. Look carefully at job descriptions to see which roles would suit your level of experience.

Publicity:

  • Publicity assistant.

  • Publicist.

  • Unit publicist.

Marketing:

  • Marketing assistant.

  • Junior account manager/junior executive.

  • Marketing manager. 

WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF AN INTERN WORKING IN MARKETING?

As an intern, or if you are taking a work experience placement, your primary focus is one of learning. Find out which tasks are assigned to the junior members of the team, would you have the correct skill set for them too? What does everyone do? Internships are not only a great way of making contacts, but they also afford you the time to conduct a little research of your own - while listening carefully and taking instruction from senior members of the team. Listen and learn, then detail in your CV how this experience makes you an excellent candidate for a paid assistant position.

What are the responsibilities of a Marketing Assistant?

As with many junior positions you may be called upon to do a bit of everything to begin with, some of this may be exciting, some not so much. Take your time when working at the junior level to familiarise yourself with the professional etiquette, and learn how the office functions. When taking up a position as a marketing assistant, you can be called upon to:

Complete clerical work.

From filing to putting together reports and presentations which assist the management team. Alongside administrative duties, you can be asked to caption and catalogue photography from the publicity stills photographers.

Be client focused.

When clients come into the office, you can be asked to make sure they are comfortable and provide refreshments. All companies have their protocol when clients come into the building, find your nearest deli/coffee shop (make sure it serves good coffee).

Research

Successful marketing campaigns are based on significant research and planning of the promotion. You can be asked to check out the competition, release dates for forthcoming films, what's been green lit, find out what other press junkets or PR activities are happening during the release window. When presenting your findings provide the facts, you can also offer an opinion of what the data represents, and how that will impact on the marketing strategy. Being able to talk coherently in front of an audience is going to be a feature of the job throughout your career if you're uncomfortable with this aspect of the role you may want to look at a public speaking course.

Sitting in on meetings.

Making notes for senior members of the company. Pay attention to how members of the team go about presenting their ideas and offer examples when backing arguments. You will be working with some vibrant personalities when working in marketing and publicity, being able to communicate, present yourself in a confident manner and demonstrate clarity when presenting your ideas is critical. Equally be confident enough to ask if you don’t know how to do something. From day one always ask if you're unsure, no one will mind taking you through procedures or explaining why the company works the way they do.

Arranging collection and delivery.

Make sure you package up the cargo correctly, find out if sensitive information is included and make sure envelopes are properly sealed.

Support the implementation of social media strategy.

Developing brand awareness and generating inbound traffic. A knowledge of blogging and email marketing would be advantageous. Many companies have a blog that will need updating regularly. It’s also an excellent way to show off your literary skills to senior members of staff if you enjoy writing make an offer to take that responsibility.

The coffee run.

All entry level jobs are subject to the coffee run. Make sure you take some petty cash with you.

Assisting at red carpet and publicity events.

Red carpet events need a lot of wrangling, journalists, camera crew and members of the press will all be squeezed into the press pens. Members of marketing and publicity will be looking after the talent, making sure all the journalists get their interviews, and everyone leaves happy.

Organising press shows.

Inviting members of the media and arranging venue hire for gala shows and premiers.


HOW DO I GET A JOB AS A MARKETING/PR ASSISTANT?

If you are looking to pursue a career in the Marketing Department, you'll most likely have a degree or recognised industry qualification, a love of films and a genuine interest in connecting films to people. You should also be savvy enough to know that generating revenue is a key driver, so a knowledge of commerce is helpful. After all the film industry is a business, and like all businesses, it's there to make money. 

Work experience and internships

If you already have a strong marketing or publicity background and wish to move your skills into entertainment, then internships may not be necessary, but you will need to do your research on the film industry and how the various departments interact.  

Four weeks in a Marketing Department can be an eye-opening experience, and quite different from the campus classrooms and lecture hall. During your placement you may be called upon to make endless rounds of tea, it’s really up to you to make the experience worth your while. If you're making the tea, you'll be in the kitchen and everyone knows it's the best place to strike up a conversation. Not many people would mind if you ask them about their job, who they work with, what’s it like, how they view the industry. Don’t be shy, get out there and shake some hands. Personable, proactive interns are remembered, especially further down the line when junior positions become available.

CV

When working on your CV check through it (or ask someone else to) to see it reads well and is correctly formatted. You can use the CV advice and CV builder to help create a CV and covering letter, and you can check your CV against our example CVs to make sure it includes all the relevant information. You're going to want to keep your CV short and to the point, as many employers will be ‘scanning’ rather than reading, cut out the chaff and try to keep it down to one page. Always find out who to send your CV to and address them directly: pick up the phone and see who's in charge of recruitment, HR or the department you wish to enter. Be thorough and meticulous in your attention to detail, you need to make sure that your sheet of A4 lands on the right desk.  

If you sent out your CV without there being a job advertised you'll most likely be told they will keep your CV for future reference, however, you could get lucky and they might be recruiting that week, or you can make a good impression on the phone. Use your common sense, and if they sound busy they probably are, but if you get chatting ask for some advice, or see if they might be able to meet with you for a coffee.

Keep an eye on Twitter and follow what distribution, film sales or production companies have on their slate. Don’t just look at the main studio outlets for positions; there are a variety of smaller agencies that specialise in PR, editing trailers, working red carpet events and producing junkets. Keep your options open and see where it takes you, at this stage, all relevant experience is good experience.  

Research

As you look for jobs and conduct your initial research you will notice that marketing and PR agencies can specialise in a single industry or cross pollinate - specialising in sport and entertainment for instance. If you have other interests, this can be worth considering as you'll be able to use your skills across a wider remit. A knowledge of how the film industry works is going to be essential when working in marketing, and one of the first things you are going to need to be familiar with are the magazines and online resources the industry use for information such as:

If you receive the call to attend an interview, being up to date with the industry will give you an excellent footing, demonstrating your interest in the industry alongside your experience is very attractive to potential employers. Make sure you know how to answer the fundamental questions such as:  

  • How are films marketed?

  • What audience will the campaign be trying to reach?

  • What is the process when taking a film from script to screen? 

  • What is the difference between Marketing and Publicity Departments in distribution, production companies, film sales and finance companies?

Alongside knowing the Film Value Chain, you may also wish to continue your reading; so hit the library to find the following books:

Personality and attitude

There are only 32 distribution companies in the UK and some of those enterprises are very compact. Breaking into this area of the industry is going to be hard, you may not receive any feedback or responses from companies you send your CV to. Your job search jobs can take some time so develop a thick skin and tenacious resolve. So while you are looking for work you're going to need to provide a roof over your head, a wage is going to be essential during this time. Temping can give you the flexibility to attend job interviews, and allow you to work on your admin and Excel skills.

Finding work and sending out CVs can be a full-time job in itself. Some people will get lucky, finding work almost instantaneously after graduation. Some may have put in the hours (work experience/internships) while they are studying, some people might just be in the right place at the right time. Whatever situation you find yourself in, the resounding advice from professionals working in the film industry is to be persistent; persistent and relentless in the pursuit of your chosen career. Keep applying for positions, sending emails, dropping off CVs at company reception desks, and calling in to see if they have any vacancies or work experience opportunities. Marketing and PR have universal application if you find any opportunities outside entertainment they can be worth considering while looking for an opening.

At points it can feel frustrating when you’re not getting the roles you want, keep in mind the advice on being relentless and go back to your CV, think about what you can do to make it better, what experience could you gain in another capacity to start ticking boxes for potential employers. Reflect on the possible reason your CV is not being chosen for roles; it could be a lack of experience, the way your CV is presented or if you’re sending in generic CVs and covering letters - you should give yourself the best possible chance by tailoring each one to each job role.

Although the industry is incredibly flexible when it comes to changing career, if you’re applying for positions in another area of the industry you will need to be clear why you want to make the change, and give examples of what you have been doing to facilitate the move.

 

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WHAT IS MARKETING FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY LIKE TO WORK IN?

Marketing is full of creative individuals who are hardened to the fast paced, demanding atmosphere and working long hours when engaged in a campaign. Attention to detail is a must, deadlines can change at a moments notice, new jobs can spring up, and both you and your colleagues may find yourself in the office well into the evening. It can also be a collaborative and fulfilling area of the industry to work in, if you like being part of a team working towards a common goal you'll feel at home.

If you're working for an in house department at a sales/production/distribution company or studio, the marketing team will be involved in market research, assessing trends and scheduling the best times for specific production releases. If working in distribution, the marketing will include quantitative research which takes places during the development stage, within this study the department will assess how best to position the film within the marketplace, paying particular attention to audience trends, demographics and territories.

WILL I NEED ANY QUALIFICATIONS TO WORK IN MARKETING?

Although a degree is not essential, the majority of people working in marketing for the entertainment industry do hold a degree and can be looking for graduates in business, communication or marketing to fill junior roles. For many employers, it signifies you have the essential analytical skills needed to work in this area of the industry, and an excellent grounding in the principles of marketing and commerce.

If you're coming to the Marketing Department with a degree in film and media, all is not lost. The knowledge you have of the industry and the filmmaking process will stand you in good stead, but you will need to invest your time heavily in understanding ‘marketing’ as a discipline. Find core elements you want to specialise in and bring them to the table in your interview, be warned there are over 100 different types of marketing!

If you want to gain a better understanding of marketing and publicity at any stage of your career you could always consider a course; some can be costly, but you can also find a range of online courses for free:

WHAT PAPERWORK OR SOFTWARE SHOULD I BE FAMILIAR WITH.

Working within the office environment will require you to have strong administrative skills such as:

  • A strong knowledge of both Mac and Windows operating systems, and a good working knowledge of excel and powerpoint.

  • Being able to collate, store and analyse data using software can become a crucial part of your job, and a task junior members of staff are called upon to do.

  • Look to the trade papers for more information about the industry. Everyone will have their ‘go to’ sites for information, so ask your colleagues what they prefer and what they recommend.  

10 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR ALL NEW ENTRANTS OF ENTERTAINMENT MARKETING.

Vigilance and attention to detail.

If you're asked to send out information to vendors or clients for an event, double and triple check dates and times. Better still, walk away from it for a few minutes before pressing the send button. When you've been looking at the same information for a period, it often rolls into one, with 7 pm and 7 am looking practically identical.

Motivation is everything.

The working environment can often be quite tough on new entrants, so remember why you're doing the job and where it could lead you. Hopefully, your passion for the work will be motivation enough.

Commercial awareness.

Your general knowledge will develop over time, but you want to be able to demonstrate you have a grip on the market or more importantly can identify what the market is.

Common sense.

Use your judgement and participate in productive discussions if you're called to sit in. Remember, this is a great industry to work in if you have original and creative ideas that will sell a film to an audience. Use your common sense when to become involved in the conversation, and when to stay quiet. 

Watch films.

It may sound obvious but understanding what you are selling, and how audiences react to certain movies, will make you a better at your job. So go to the cinema, engage with a film as an audience member, but think about what drew you to the cinema in the first place. 

Always make yourself available.

Don’t think yourself above the coffee run. Asking a member of the team who you haven’t yet been introduced to if they would like a drink is a great icebreaker.

Unlike a film set don't stay in your department.

Working in marketing can be a very friendly environment, so make the time to get to know the other people in the office. It’s nice to be nice!

Further your learning independently.

Marketing is an ever-evolving medium which has changed within the past ten years. Be aware of the many tools marketing have at their disposal, and work to define and improve upon your skills within the workplace.

Develop a strong understanding of social media platforms.

Think about how you would implement them on a campaign. You may feel emboldened to share this with other members of the team, or you may wish to use it as practice. Research how marketing has used some of the major and minor social media platforms to suit each campaign, and learn why some of them worked and why some clearly didn't.

Keep on top of industry news.

Follow distributors, film critics, media outlets, and as many interesting people as you can find on Twitter. Be aware of past and present campaigns, and keep your eyes peeled for exciting campaigns and brand promotions. Pinpointing what makes a campaign successful or unsuccessful is an excellent way of developing your understanding of the business.


FAQ’S:

What should I earn as a marketing assistant

The salary of a junior member of the marketing team will vary depending on which part of the country you're in. A marketing assistant can earn anywhere between £17,000 and £25,000 depending on the company. Please make sure you're making enough to cover all your costs for your first six months, and familiarise yourself with the national minimum wage, never accept less.

Will I get to go on set?

Working as part of the marketing team will not give you the opportunity to visit many film sets. If you are working in publicity (studio or independent) you can work your way into unit publicity who are on set daily, working closely with producers and the production office to promote the film and produce the EPK for the distribution company.

What hours am I likely to work?

Your contract will probably state a standard 35-40 hour work week, but marketing can be a very involving occupation. Most often the release schedule dictates hours. The build up to the release of a film can see you working some longer days, in the months without a release there will still be work to be done for forthcoming releases. On average most of the department can operate long hours because they get caught up in the workload, some work long hours because they've been given a tight deadline and need to come up with the goods. 

What is the role of the unit publicist.

A unit publicist can be self-employed, employed by the studio, producer or independent publicity company, they can be based in the production office for the duration of the shoot or at least allocated a desk when they're on set. They are responsible for any on set activity that involves the publicising of the film. As well as press releases they will be accompanying the EPK producer, and managing any press days that are scheduled. If working on an independent feature the unit publicist will have a relationship with the film’s sales company, who require onset photography and production notes to take to the film markets.

Will I be expected to attend any events?

If you're working as part of the publicity team who run the red carpet events, you will most likely be there to lend a hand ushering press and talent around the event. Red carpet events often involve journalists seeking quick interviews with the film's cast and filmmakers as they stroll along the red carpet (looking longingly at the doors if it’s a wet and windy night). This can be a scramble as the press pen is usually fit to burst with journalists and camera crew on one side and photographers on the other. Many journalists who work for entertainment channels make regular appearances at red carpet events to shoot a few pieces to camera and engage the stars of the film for a few brief moments. Members of publicity are responsible for any other interviews conducted on the night or any events that take place outside the cinema. It has become customary for the summer spectaculars to have an interviewer outside the venue talking to members of the cast, this can be given to journalists to use as generic footage of the premiere.

What are the trade papers I should be familiar with?
  • Screen International 
  • Variety 
  • Hollywood Reporter 
  • Deadline 
  • Indiewire 
  • Shots 
  • Campaign

I already work in marketing, can I cross over to film?

Knowledge of how the film industry works and what it takes to sell a film can be learnt along the way. An experienced professional in marketing should see their way clear to navigating all areas of the marketing industry, entertainment included. If you wish to gain a qualification you can look into qualifications run by CIM (The Chartered Institute of Marketing), which is the largest professional body dedicated to supporting career development in marketing.

thank you's ...

My First Job in Film would like to thank Sisi Cronin for sharing her experience and giving up her time to offer advice for this career guide. 

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