The Film Festival Doctor: Rebekah Louisa Smith, Founder and Director, talks to Insight

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Rebekah Louisa Smith connected with Insight by sending a message to our LinkedIn account. She is the Founder and Director of The Film Festival Doctor, a specialist PR and marketing company working with filmmakers to help them negotiate the film festival scene.

We are delighted to benefit from Rebekah’s expertise in the field, but this article neither endorses her company over other similar enterprises nor does it suggest that hiring a specialist PR company is a good and/or affordable idea for individual filmmakers.


Interview: Rebekan Louisa Smith, Founder and Director, The Film Festival Doctor

Insight: How does your com pay The Film Festival Doctor help filmmakers?

Rebekah: Whilst working at Wales’ horror film festival, Abertoir, I asked producers what they liked and disliked about festivals – and the general consensus was that they loved attending festivals for the networking opportunities, the social life, and seeing their film play theatrically.

However, what they disliked was the administration – they neither had the time nor the contacts to design their festival campaign (let alone manage it) and then promote their film. This was when I realised that there was a business opportunity for me; I could do all of this for them as I have a background as a PA and know the right people!

My company offers three different types of services to filmmakers:

➤  A film-festival PR management service
This includes the design and implementation of a film-festival PR campaign, managing the campaign (including submitting films to festivals and pitching the film to festivals directly), fee waivering, promoting and organising film-festival screenings, and managing the social media campaign.

➤  Creating a film-festival strategy
This strand comprises the creation of a film-festival strategy is for the film, which is then managed independently by the client.

➤  1-2-1 surgeries
These meetings are 30-minute or 1-hour 1-2-1 consultations, either in person or via Skype. These consultations offer bespoke and constructive advice to help the client to approach the festival sector correctly and to design an effective campaign for their film.

Insight: Why would a filmmaker choose to hire a company like yours?

Rebekah: Film-festival management is a full-time job that requires patience, strong planning, organisational skills and contacts. By hiring me as the production company’s Festival Manager, filmmakers let me take the weight off their shoulders to make the process much less stressful for them.

Insight: What are The Film Festival Doctor’s unique selling points?

Rebekah: I would say that my company specialises in fee waivering and pitching films directly to festival programmers, as opposed to relying on third-party platforms such as Withoutabox and Shortfilmdepot. And – of course – doing all of the admin work on behalf of filmmakers.

Insight: What kind of clients does you attract? Do you work with small or large production companies?

Rebekah: I work mainly with independent production companies, I have also worked with large sales agents in Abu Dhabi and the UK, and also worked for a prestigious UK distribution company.

Insight: What does one of your typical marketing/PR campaigns look like?

Rebekah: That is quite a big question, so I’ll give you a taster! We target the festivals where we would like to launch the film, and then have a back-up plan of other festivals where we’d like to screen the film if we don’t hit our primary targets. We submit to all of them and then wait to see if we get invited to screen.

During the submission process the film is constantly promoted 4 or 5 times per week via social media channels to the public, to industry professionals and to festival programmers.

Insight: Why are film festivals important?

Rebekah: There are many reasons why film festivals are important for films. With regards to independent films, they provide a theatrical distribution platform for both short and feature films. It is very difficult for indie features to receive a cinema screening (especially in the UK) as the cost is so high. They are also one of the places where strong networking and business relationships are conceived.

Insight: Is their anything The Film Festival Doctor does differently when approaching film festivals with specific remits? For example, Insight is a festival for films that explore the theme of ‘faith’.

Rebekah: I would not do so much differently, however when approaching the festival programmers I would ensure that I have films that might be a good fit for the festival and play well to the specific audience. For any films on which I work as a consultant that focus on faith, I would certainly encourage the filmmaker to submit to your festival. I would make sure that Insight is on their radar.

Insight: What added value does The Film Festival Doctor add to the marketing and promotion of a film?

Rebekah: I make sure that the film is promoted to the right people to get the best results.

Insight’s guest interview policy

The Insight Film Festival publishes interviews on our blog from guests of interest on an ad hoc basis. The Festival is delighted to publish a range of interview pieces on the themes of film and faith, and other subjects, but the personal views expressed in such articles do not reflect the views and opinions of the Insight Film Festival itself, which is an organisation that comprises individuals of many different faiths and none, all of whom have their own personal views and opinions on films, faith and other subjects.