Postcards are Your Secret Weapon -
Don't Leave Home Without Them
by Mark Stolaroff
So, you've probably noticed that I haven't been as active recently, both on social
media and with my newsletter. I've been busy finishing two films and also shooting branded content for a big ad agency.
One of the films I'm finishing, a supernatural psychological thriller called Devil's Whisper, is world premiering June 10th in Los Angeles at the Dances With Films film festival. I have been both finishing the film (post sound work, final grading, creating the DCP, etc.) and
preparing for the festival. As part of this latter endeavor, I recently designed the postcard we'll hand out at the festival.
I am NOT a graphic designer, but I do have strong opinions on postcard design, after creating countless postcards over the
past 20 years or so.
I don't have time in my class to discuss
postcard best practices, so I thought I would pass along my thoughts in a blog post.
DO I NEED A POSTCARD?
you do. Not really to mail, but if you're going to a festival, the postcard is your first line of defense. It's your
M16. It's the easiest, cheapest and potentially most powerful marketing tool you have at a festival. And it's like
a Swiss Army knife, (I know I'm using too many weapon metaphors here...) - it has multiple uses:
- If done well, it can be an incredibly effective
device to get people into your screenings
- It's a Press Kit you carry in your back pocket
- It can be used as a business card
- It can be used as a conversation starter
- It's a social media guide to your film, and
can be used to promote other aspects of your film, like a Kickstarter campaign or contest
- It's an Email Capturing and Audience Aggregating Device
to be all these things, it has to be designed a certain way. So like a good engineer, let's look at how they should be
the front of your postcard should be an incredibly compelling image of your film. Period. You don't have to crap it up
with any other information--that's what the back is for. So, likely this will be the amazing poster image you've designed
or asked your graphic design buddy to design (or, God-forbid, you paid a company to design). Most importantly, it should be eye catching. When it's
sitting on a table with 50 other postcards competing for people's attention, it should stand out. It should compel people
to pick it up and flip it over. That's the whole purpose. If your graphic doesn't do this, then you're mostly
dead in the water right from the start.
I like to think of the back of the postcard as a Pocket
Press Kit. Cram it full of information. The front can be spartan and simple and seductive, the back is where you put everything
else. Yes, it should be laid out clearly and cleanly, and be easy to read and glance over, but don't be afraid to put
a lot of information here. The front is designed to hook them, the back is designed to deepen their interest. I like
to divide the back up into two halves, and then further divide it up into sections. Each section has a specific purpose. These
Obviously. You should have
the title clearly stated on the back of your postcard. Sometimes your title won't even be on the front (and really it
doesn't have to be, as long as your front is compelling enough to get someone to pick up the card and turn it over). Sometimes
the title treatment on the front is hard to read; the back will have your title in large, bold easy-to-read print.
Always include the director's name in a clear, easy-to-catch place. Often films
are identified by title and director's name at a festival. Maybe someone's heard of the director or they met the director
(who is usually at the festival and the face of the film). Make it easy for people to know which film that person directed.
After your graphic on the front, this is the second most important place to compel your
audience to see the film. Make your synopsis stand out. Make it interesting. Make your film sound irresistible. And this doesn't
have to be a tag line or log line (you can put your tag line on the front). You have a few sentences to make your point here.
Think of the back of the postcard and your synopsis specifically as the place one goes when they are already interested in
your film. The 3 second rule applies to the front, not the back. People might be reading your synopsis while they're waiting
in line for another screening. There's time. Take your time and draw them in even more.
The billing block on the back of your postcard, to me, has a very practical reason for being there.
Someone may know someone (cast or crew) involved with your film and then they'll want to see the film because of that.
The billing block gives them that information. Often several members of your cast and crew are at the festival; you'll
want them handing out postcards too. It helps when they can hand the postcard to someone they've just met (and talked
up) and say, "That's me! I shot this film." Now the person can remember who they met and have the information
to see the film. This doesn't have to be your final billing block or your legal billing block; just make it practical,
(but be aware if you have credit obligations with any cast or crew members to honor those and be mindful of the politics involved
with including some people and leaving others out).
If you have a website (and you should by the time you reach your first festival), include
the URL somewhere on the back. And if you have a website, you should have a way for people to give you their email address,
(more on that in a bit).
Screening Times, Places/Ticket Information
This is probably the
most important information to include if you're at a film festival, obviously. In the immediate sense, it's the postcard's
reason for being, (though there are really so many reasons for being, right?). Make sure to include day, date, time, venue,
address, ticket links, etc. If you are taking this postcard to more than one festival, put multiple festival screening times
on the same postcard, (more on this in a bit).
Include festival laurels
and awards if you have them. This is another way to draw a potential audience member into your screening--it's your Stamp
Of Approval--and a fancy laurel can help graphically dress up the back of your postcard.
Once you have reviews, make sure to put strong pull quotes on the back. Again, this can be a very
effective device to get people into the theater, buttressing your image and synopsis. These elements should all work together
to make your film overwhelmingly compelling (have I used that word enough??).
Calls To Action/Social Media Links
This is incredibly important for the long haul. Screening times represent your postcard's
short term purpose; CTA's and social links represent their long term value. Allow your fans a way to connect up with you
later. Getting them to follow you on Twitter or Facebook is a given, but more importantly, you want them to give you their
email address so you can implore them to help you down the line. You may ask them to rate or review your film; you may ask
them to help spread the word about your release, or better, pre-buy your film on iTunes to help better position it on that
platform. You may be selling your film on your website and you'll want to email them about buying the film from you or
getting a copy as a gift. Email addresses are the most important goal of your postcard beyond getting them into the theater.
Come up with a compelling reason for folks to give you their email address. Run a contest, give something away to everyone
who signs up on your list.
I like to include my name, cell phone and email address on the back of the postcard. If
that info is there, the postcard can be your business card at the festival. You want to make sure someone can get ahold of
you either at the festival or afterwards. Maybe someone wants to do a story on your film, or invite the film to another festival,
or give you money to make your next movie. Who knows--anything can happen at a film festival. Make sure those opportunities
don't pass you by.
I suppose there are
differing opinions on this, but I like the 6" x 4.25" size. It's big enough to get noticed and put all your
info on it, but small enough to fit in your back pocket. When I'm at a festival, I always have a bunch in my jean's
pocket or my coat pocket. You can go bigger, in an attempt to stand out on the table, but then you've got to cart them
around in your hand or bag, and when you hand them to someone, they have to either fold them or hold them (which means they're
going to toss them).
How many should you get? Well, postcards are
cheap. Once you get to the 500 quantity, getting an extra 500 is only a few more dollars. Now, I don't like to throw them
away (bad for the environment), and 500 is usually more than you'll need at a single festival, no matter how aggressive
you are handing them out or dropping them off around town. Still, if you can use them beyond one festival, it makes a lot
of financial sense to get 1,000, or maybe more.
The way to make a postcard go further
is to design sticker zones. You can see from thePig postcard example above the
zone I eventually covered with a sticker once I went to my next festival (demonstrated by the portion covered by the blue
rectangle). The stickers you're designing for are the standard Avery 5160 Address Labels (1" x 2 5/8"). These
come 30 labels to a sheet and they're cheap. I'm very proud of the technique I've developed over the many (too
many) years I've spent slapping stickers on cards. Someday I'll video tape that and share it on Instagram!
When should you eventually
print more? When you have a different or better story to tell. For your first festival, all you'll have is your synopsis
and screening times and info like that. Eventually, you'll have press quotes and awards and maybe your release to plug;
you'll want to design a new postcard at that point.
Where Do I Print Them?
Uprinting.com. This has been my go-to print shop for years. They're cheap, fast, and easy to use, and the quality is good.
And if you live in Los Angeles, there's the added bonus of saving on the shipping. You do all your ordering online, but
you can choose to pick up your order at one of two different LA locations. And you can print just about anything from their
site. I've made countless postcards, business cards, posters (11x17, 27x40, others) and even a six foot tall vinyl banner
I hope this has been helpful. If you have any additional postcard tips or tricks, please email them to me. Looking
forward to seeing your postcards at the next festival!
Copyright © 2017 Mark Stolaroff. All
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