By Katie Chambers
At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Focus Features, Amazon, Fox Searchlight and Netflix were among the buyers in a bidding war for Michael Showalter’s dramatic comedy The Big Sick. Amazon won, paying $12 million for the U.S. rights. And NYWIFT member Jill Rosen was right there at the heart of the action building buzz for the breakout film.
Rosen is a freelance Marketing and Publicity Consultant specializing in entertainment. She is currently consulting at Film Nation Entertainment, one of the world’s leading distributors, financiers and producers of independent films and television. Their current slate includes the Academy Award nominees Arrival and Nocturnal Animals, and previous Oscar winners including Room, The Imitation Game and The King’s Speech.
Most recently, Rosen had the opportunity to work on The Big Sick, which had its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance International Film Festival and screens at SXSW next month.
I caught up with Rosen shortly after she returned to NYC from Park City.
How did you get into this side of the business?
I began my career in New York City, as a book publicist. After deciding that publishing is not where my passion was, I moved to LA to try my luck on the entertainment side of things. I was fortunate enough to secure an in-house job at The Walt Disney Studios in Home Entertainment before moving on to handle theatrical release campaigns at Miramax Films. At the time, Miramax Films was the specialty film arm of Disney, so my existing relationship working within the studio was very beneficial. After six years in LA, I decided to make a move abroad to London. There I worked on mostly independent films both agency-side and for sales agents and distributors including Focus Features and HanWay Films. The experience I received working from an international perspective has proved invaluable. I did miss home quite a bit though, so decided to make the move back to NYC last fall.
What is a typical day like for you?
It varies day-to-day. At the moment, I am working on a lot of film festival and awards stuff. We have a film called Song to Song having its world premiere at SXSW and we are in Cannes prep already! Sometimes I am handling unit publicity on film productions and independent projects. Other times, I’m spearheading marketing plans, social outreach and garnering general awareness whether it be TV, film or digital content.
Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling in Terrence Malick’s Song to Song (via SXSW.com)
For those who may not be “in the know”: explain what you mean by “unit publicity” and how that differs from marketing plans and social outreach?
Unit publicists provide the vital nuts and bolts of communication on-set during a film or TV shoot. As the conduit between producers, cast and crew, unit publicists make announcements about the production so it’s timed appropriately in the press, ensure press materials such photographic stills and additional content are captured and coordinate on-set press visits among other responsibilities.
Congratulations on the The Big Sick’s success – it certainly got great reviews, which then led to a big sale to Amazon. What did you and the marketing team do leading up to the festival to build that buzz, and how did you capitalize on it while you were at the festival?
There was good buzz about the film leading up to the festival so the challenge is sustaining that up until the time of the screening. Fortunately, we had good word of mouth through its positive reviews and features on the cast and filmmakers. We also kept up social outreach through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc., so we were able to keep the momentum going!
Has the newer film business structure, where streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix are buying alongside the traditional distributors, changed the way you approach marketing?
The film business has had to re-tool its business model and how we market films. SVOD [Subscription Video on Demand] players, including Amazon, are breathing new life into the business and forcing the industry to adapt. We are more attuned to the power of social media and the need for exclusive content to attract audiences more than ever before.
Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel, Michael Showalter, Zoe Kazan, Kumail Nanjiani, and Emily V. Gordon at an event for The Big Sick (via THR.com)
What was a typical day like for you at Sundance?
Each day is different, however the “official” day (when the premiere takes place) is the busiest! There is a lot of prep that goes into making sure everything goes smoothly and it takes a lot of coordination between us and the Sundance Film Team. We are running around town with cast and filmmakers for interviews before the premiere and then getting everyone ready before the screening in a very short window of time. The weather was especially snowy this year so there was a bit of a logistical challenge, but we got there in the end!
Any standout moments from your time at the festival?
The Women’s March on Main Street stood out for me. It was so inspiring to see all these women (and men) together in support of each other and that feeling of unity truly carried through the whole festival.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in a career in entertainment marketing?
Be persistent and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
What is next for you?
I have a few independent projects which I’m working on as well as a unit publicity job on the horizon. I’m always willing to have a chat on new productions if anyone wants to get in touch! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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