EPK Advice

Sophie Black at work on the set
Sophie Black at work on the set

Another guest blog from Stop/Eject‘s producer Sophie Black today. She’s been hard at work creating the Electronic Press Kit, to promote the post-production crowd-funding campaign, and I asked her to share her thoughts on what makes a good EPK.

The Electronic Press Kit is an important part of post-production because we use it to send to regional news programmes and television shows, in the hope that they will do a feature on our film. There’s a lot of things which can be put into it – and in some cases it’s down to choice and what you think will best promote your film – but I got my checklist from Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide, which I’ve been using as a guidebook. Actually it’s a corking book, and very useful, so I recommend that you get a copy. But, in the meantime, here is his checklist for EPK assemblage, and my notes on each:

  1. Two Trailers – one with music and one without. This is mainly in case they want to show the trailer but are fearful of copyright infringement with the music. We included just the one copy of the trailer, with music, because the sound track (not the score) is still in early days and it might feel seem somewhat exposed without the music. If you have the same concerns then you can do what we did and include a copy of the license agreement for your music, so that they feel safe to use it. If you haven’t got clearance for your music – what are you doing? Go and get some at once! And if you can’t, you lose all chance of having your trailer played anywhere that gets attention, and you’re wasting valuable promotional opportunities. Another reason to only include one trailer is that ours came with a swanky little pitch video, so there’s two videos included in the package already!
  2. Selected Scenes – basically this is an opportunity for you to put in the best scenes of the film to show how great your film is, or to show the general style and tone of your film (if your trailer hasn’t done this enough for you). But of course, you do run the risk of giving away too much too soon. We didn’t include any scenes in our EPK because ours is to promote the trailer and the final funding campaign, rather than a finished film (yes, this does mean there may be a second EPK at a later date).
  3. B-roll

    A Making-Of Featurette – Gore says that this is optional but I LOVE behind the scenes footage. No news room is going to want to show a full making-of in a small report, but including a snippet of one can entice them in (a person at a planning desk is still ‘your audience’, after all) and make them want to do their own piece on the film. Particularly when targeting local news, clips of their best scenery with film crews working on them – and looking all professional – will basically spell out the story for them. So we didn’t include a full Making-of, but I did include a happy little montage of the crew assembling the alcove and equipment in the Rivergardens, taken straight from the first podcast. Lovely Belper Scenery: check. Crew looking professional and hard at work: check.

  4. B-roll Footage – again, optional, but I recommend it more than anything. If you weren’t lucky enough to have a news crew capturing your activity whilst you were still on set (and, let’s be honest, you’d have to have quite a name for yourself for that to happen, and in that case you probably wouldn’t want them there), then sending your own behind-the-scenes footage is the only way for that to be featured in the report. News stories about films being made, particularly by independent filmmakers in local areas, are often character-driven and at least half made-up by behind the scenes footage. In conclusion, don’t submit clips of the director looking thoughtful and saying ‘action’, or the actors rehearsing a scene in front of a nice camera, and you probably won’t get a story! Again, any clips you do send should be relevant to the people you’re sending it too, so the majority of ours showed the Belper/Matlock streets and landmarks being used.
  5. Interview footage
    Interview footage

    Interviews – and here is where the second half of a character-driven news report comes from. Companies like the BBC will always shoot their own interviews, as a rule, but submitting your own interview clips will show them the type of thing the cast/crew would say in an interview, and suggests that they are in fact worth interviewing! Even better, get a clip of them saying something along the lines of “the local area is brilliant etc.” then it shows the crew will have relevant things to say for the local news channels, and that we might even make them look good – it gives them a sample sound bite and hopefully shows that the programme will get some good publicity in return. I put the interview clips in order of relevance to who I was sending to, assuming that the news crew will lose interest towards the end – that’s a good rule with anything like this, actually. Put your best stuff first – these people are very busy and might not even have chance to see all of it, even if they want to, so you have to snare them quick. So the clip of Neil talking about how lovely it was to film in the East Midlands went right towards the top. The majority of the interview snippets came from Neil and Georgina, being our main attractions, but I also included a clip of myself from an early podcast, purely because I was talking about the locations and showing how beautiful they looked.

  6. Promotional Images  –  just as with a regular press kit, it is important to include  your poster, logo, website screenshot etc., only in this case in a digital format. If you’re lucky, your logo may even be used in the background when the newsreader headlines your story, so make sure it’s in a high resolution! I also included a scan of our Belper News feature – the way I see it, that showed that we were already ‘news worthy’ and hope that it encourages further publicity.

Yes, that is a big list, but put it all together and you’ll have yourself a bonafide, well-researched-looking EPK!

At the start of the DVD, you should also include your company logo, and a disclaimer which is well-worded to discourage people from spreading your material willy-nilly without putting them off promoting it at all.

Before EVERY clip on the EPK, make sure you include the title of the film, the director’s name, a brief description of what the clip is, and a total running time of said clip. This makes the whole thing look very corporate but is helpful for the people researching and compiling your story on the other side.

You also have to silence the creative editor inside you, which is the part I found hardest. The clips you submit should be snappy and interesting, cutting straight to the relevant shots of people working and the local scenery looking great, or a one-sentence answer (if possible) in your interview clips. There’s no room for elegant pacing here.

Finished EPK
Finished EPK

One area where you can be creative, however, is in the presentation of the package itself. Don’t just put the clips onto a basic disk with a note – here is an opportunity for you to show how professional and interesting your film is before they’ve even watched the disk, which will make them want to do so. I created the disks using Lightscribe, featuring the film’s logo, and the covering letter/DVD contents sheet were made using our original posters as backgrounds. This kept everything in our colour scheme and made it looks as though everything was designed specifically for the EPK. It’s also important to ring up the news companies in advance to make initial contact; you can get addresses and numbers on the internet but you have to track down the name of the person to send the EPK directly to, to avoid it going unsorted in a forgotten pile. Plus it gets your names into the reporters’ heads before the EPK arrives, and they will (hopefully) know to look out for it.

Cheers, Sophie. Let’s hope this gets us some local news coverage.

EPK Advice

Trailer Tips

Watching the Soul Searcher trailer
Lara Greenway and Ray Bullock Jnr. watch the Soul Searcher trailer for, like, the gazillionth time.

For independent filmmakers, there was a time when trailers were something you didn’t worry about until the movie was finished and you were looking to get it distributed. Maybe you cut a basic one during or just after production to show the cast and crew some of the fruits of their hard work. (This proved a massive morale booster during Soul Searcher‘s six-week principal photography slog.)

But times have changed. Now the saturation of broadband has made video on the web an everyday thing, and a trailer for your short film or micro-budget feature posted on-line has a good chance of reaching some kind of audience and starting to build word of mouth about your project. Not to mention the rise of crowd-funding, for which having a pitch video – typically consisting partly of a trailer – is essential. Indeed, shooting a trailer before you’ve shot the film, in order to raise finance, has become extremely common.

So today I’m going to share some advice on editing trailers. I can’t claim to be an expert on trailer editing – it’s not an area of editing I’ve ever been able to specialise in – but the trailers I’ve cut generally get a good reaction, so I must be doing something right.

By the way, these tips assume that you’ve actually shot the film. If not, you’re more in the area of a teaser trailer, which is a whole other subject.


The first trailer I cut for Soul Searcher – the morale-booster – used Mark Mancina’s theme from Speed. Since it was just for cast and crew and wasn’t going on the internet, the copyright thing wasn’t an issue. But these days you’ll definitely want to put your trailer online, so make sure you have the rights to use the music.

If you already have a composer lined up for your film, it may seem logical to have them score your trailer. This is what I did for Soul Searcher’s second trailer, edited primarily for a preview screening at 2004’s Borderlines Film Festival. Unfortunately this didn’t really work. The composer dutifully reflected every little change in the on-screen action. But that’s not how trailer music works. Trailer music needs to be driving and insistent, and should only change moods at two or three carefully planned points. So here’s the tip:

ALWAYS CUT YOUR TRAILER TO MUSIC. Never edit first and try to add music later or have music written to fit.

Watch the Dark Shadows trailer and notice how they use music to pace the edit and underline the transitions. Also note how they punctuate the comedy by stopping the music for the bigs gags, then bring it back in over a reaction shot.


Everything you need to know about how to edit a trailer can be learnt from simply watching trailers. You’ll notice that they’re structured into well-defined acts, with a key plot point and a change in the music between each act. Like an actual film, the first act will normally set up the world and characters, the second will present a sticky situation and the third will be about trying to resolve that situation, although of course in a trailer no resolution will come.

These days the studio logos tend to be a few shots in, or even at the start of the second act. If you don’t have a motion graphic logo for your production company, now’s the time to sort one out because it won’t feel like a trailer without it.

At the end of the third act will be the title and the “button”. This is a final beat – a sort of exclamation mark at the end of the trailer’s sentence – and is usually comedic. That’s followed by a couple of brief screens of credits (SFMoviePoster is a useful font to get hold of here) and a release date.

Look at the structure in The Dicator’s trailer below: a prelude building mystery, a first act setting up the character, a second act showing the kidnapping predicament, and a third act in which hilarity ensues. Possibly.


Two stylistic things that have been pretty big in trailers for a few years are speed changes and lines over black.

Speed changes work best on tracking or craning shots, and quite simply involve speeding up the first part of the shot for no other reason that it looks kind of cool. Slow motion is used a lot as well, often because you need to emphasise a dramatic point in the trailer more than the director felt was necessary for the film itself. For the same reason, adding a digital zoom-in to a key close-up is quite common.

Running lines of dialogue over a black screen is another emphasis tool. Typically these come at the transition points between acts. We get a montage of shots and music, then everything goes black and silent except for one key line of dialogue, then – BOOM! – a new piece of music kicks in and we’re assailed with moving images once again.

Similarly, fades to black get used a lot in trailers. These can help hide continuity issues caused when you compress a scene, but also aid generally in pacing.

Strobing has become popular lately too – cutting black frames into shots to break them up. It adds pace and makes the viewer feel like they’re not getting to see everything. See the end of this Prometheus trailer for an example.

Text and Voiceovers

Keep these to a minimum. In fact, don’t do a voiceover at all unless you can afford to hire the actual Trailer Voice Guy. Anyone else voicing over your trailer will immediately make it sound amateurish, unless it makes sense for one of the characters in the film to do the VO.

And don’t put your cast’s names up in big letters in your trailer, unless they’re genuine name actors.

Taglines are fine as on-screen text. Check out trailers for films in a similar genre to help you choose a font. There was a time when every trailer had text which moved towards you, with the letters simultaneously separating out. That fad seems to be over now, but look out for things like this in big movie trailers which you can emulate. Dramas and chick-flicks tend to have their captions over a background of out-of-focus points of light – easy enough to shoot with a DSLR and some Christmas lights if you can’t get hold of a stock motion graphic.

Take This Waltz, below, uses this kind of text background.


Sound is just as phenomenally important in a trailer as it is in any other moving image format. Bad sound can instantly ruin all the hard work you’ve put in to make your trailer look like a “real” trailer.

It can be difficult, especially if you’re cutting your trailer early in post-production. You haven’t done your ADR yet and you don’t even have a post-production sound crew on board.

The solution? Download Audacity – a free piece of audio editing software – and use its noise removal filter on any troublesome production sound. It won’t work miracles, but if you have background noise like traffic, hiss or mains hum it will seriously reduce it. As a side effect you will get digital artefacts, but these will be inaudible once you’ve mixed in your music.

Make judicious use of good sound effects. Get hold of some nice, chunky whooshes to underscore your speed-changes, or your captions zooming on. If your film is a comedy, maybe throw in a record scratch effect when your music jars to a halt for an act change.

Check out the use of loud, whooshy, slammy noises (technical term) in the Men in Black III trailer:

And finally…

In case you somehow missed it, here’s the trailer for my new short film, Stop/Eject:

Trailer Tips

Crowd-Funding Evaluation Part 3: Spreading the Word

Like I said in part one, when you’re running a crowd-funding campaign you wake up every morning wracking your brains for some new way of encouraging donations today. In this post I’m going to look at all the things we did to promote the campaign.

Here are the top three things that led to donations, as far as I can tell:

  1. Emails to everyone in my address book
  2. An average of at least one Facebook post a day
  3. Appearance on Midlands Today
And here’s everything else we did. I can’t positively say that many of these things led directly to donations, but if nothing else I’m sure they contributed to general awareness which is also important for any campaign.

I found some websites and Facebook groups for audio cassette enthusiasts and some others for fans of time travel fiction, but my attempts to infiltrate them weren’t successful.

Places we asked to mention the campaign or spread the word, but we couldn’t get them to answer our messages:

  • Several popular indie filmmakers’ websites
  • Certain regional screen agencies who shall remain nameless
  • Local radio

I was particularly disappointed that none of the filmmakers were able to give even a brief mention to the project, especially as I sent them free invites to “How to Make a Fantasy Action Movie…” – the idea being that they would watch it, see what a unique and valuable resource it is for indie filmmakers and encourage their readers to donate in order to see it too. I’m sure these people get far more requests to promote crowd-funding campaigns than they could ever grant, but I felt sure that “How to Make…” would give us the edge.

To end this post on a more positive note, I must mention the brilliant Mike Rhodes who seemed to work like a demon promoting the campaign on Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else he could. Cheers, Mike!

In the final part of this evaluation I’ll be looking at the rewards we offered and the crowd-funding platform we chose. That should probably have been the first part. Whoops.

Crowd-Funding Evaluation Part 3: Spreading the Word

Midlands Today Report

The Midlands Today piece on Stop/Eject goes out tonight at 6:30pm on BBC 1 in the West Midlands, and on Sky Channel 979, but if you can’t wait that long you can see it here: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10150454093341266&set=vb.21263239760&type=2&theater

My first Midlands Today appearance in 2002
My first Midlands Today appearance in 2002

So how did I get my ugly mug on the custard and jelly? Well I’ve been on Midlands Today twice before – once with The Beacon in 2002 and then again with Soul Searcher in 2005. Both times I was interviewed by the same reporter, who gave me his number and said I should feel free to call him if I ever needed any other films promoting. So getting on this time was relatively easy. Even though that reporter no longer works full time at Midlands Today, he promptly forwarded the info I sent to the relevant person and the next day I had a phone call to arrange the shoot.

There’s a certain amount of luck involved as well. You have to catch them on a slow news day. And since your piece will not be news in the strictest sense, i.e. it won’t be tied particularly to that day, it will be the first piece to get bumped off the show and postponed to a later one if something more newsworthy comes up.

As to how I got on Midlands Today the first time, back in 2002, I’m afraid I simply can’t remember. I’m pretty sure I didn’t approach them, and there was some good coverage in the local papers at the time, so most probably a researcher saw that coverage and they contacted me.

I have to say that everyone I’ve met and dealt with at Midlands Today has been incredibly friendly and helpful and I’m very grateful to them for giving my little film project a bit of publicity.

Remember, there’s just one week left to make your contribution to Stop/Eject at http://tinyurl.com/stopeject

Midlands Today Report

Stop/Eject Visuals

Poster concept 1
Poster concept 1

On Friday morning Satnam Rana, arts correspondent for BBC Midlands Today, came and shot an interview with me about Stop/Eject. Two interviews in fact – one for radio, which went out just before 6pm that evening on BBC Hereford & Worcester – and one for TV, which was meant to go out that evening too, but subsequently got bumped back to tonight’s (Monday’s) show. Look out for it at 6:30pm in the West Midlands or on Sky channel 979.

Poster concept 2
Poster concept 2

The report should go on their website as well, so hopefully in my next post I’ll be able to bring you a link to that and I’ll also explain how I managed to get myself on TV.

There have been some visual developments with Stop/Eject in the last few days. Sophie has taken some of my crude storyboards and fleshed them out, while I’ve been taking photographs of cassettes and mangled tape and trying out some new poster concepts. The wrapped tape one has garnered the most response so far, some loving it, some hating it, but I’m interested to hear what you think.


Stop/Eject Visuals