Q: What comes first, the producer’s rep, the publicist, or sending the film to festivals?
A: There really aren’t any rules dictating what processes should happen first. Each film is different, and the circumstances are always different. There are so many variables at play at any given time: the marketplace (which genres are “hot” at the time, and which aren’t selling well); the artistic quality of the film; the film’s box office appeal to the masses (or is it more suitable for festivals, arthouse theaters, cable, DVD?); the target audience, etc. If you were to talk to 100 filmmakers, each one would tell a different story of their path to success (and the definition of “success” varies).
I always suggest that if the budget allows, publicity efforts on a film should begin even before principal photography starts. I’ve written several times about how important it is for a filmmaker to reach out to one’s audience early and often, such as through blogging and twittering, to inform and update the audience about the project’s progress through the various stages of script completion, casting, pre-production through post; of the importance of shooting b-roll; taking production stills; interviewing the cast and crew; using a publicist to write production notes and compile material for a press kit.
Many filmmakers submit their films to festivals without the benefit of a publicist, agent, or producer’s rep. The top tier festivals are extremely competitive. The filmmaker who has a film of the quality that would be of interest to the top tier festivals would likely benefit from having a support staff to help smooth the way and build buzz for the film.
Some say the time to hire a producer’s rep and/or agent is when you’re ready to take the film to market, such as IFP or AFM. Most theatrical distributors, and some DVD distributors, insist on dealing only with reps and agents.
Many times, the deciding factor in whom a filmmaker hires and when, boils down to finances available at any given time.