Film and TV drama

Publicist

Also known as: Press representative, Public relations officer, Publicity coordinator, Publicity consultant, Unit publicist

Publicist

What does a publicist do?

Publicists create the ‘buzz’ that surrounds the release of a film. They get the critics talking.

They are responsible for getting media coverage of the film through having good relationships with journalists and critics. They create press packs, which usually include the film's synopsis, production notes, cast and crew credits and biographies, stills and the electronic press kit (EPK). Film publicists also schedule press screenings for bigger budget movies. Unit publicists invite journalists to the set during shooting.

They handle all major aspects of press relations and keep the distributor and producer informed of PR developments. They look over all publicity materials with consideration of any legal, ethical and cultural issues. If there’s any controversy at any stage, it’s the publicist who deals with damage control – and they need to be available at any time of the day and night to do so.

Watch and read

What’s a publicist good at?

  • Understanding the media: have good contacts in the film and media industries, know the needs of journalists in print, TV, radio and online
  • Writing: write the promotional story of the film, create press packs, devise release plans
  • Knowledge of the film market: identify the core audience for a film, know how to reach them and excite them, be aware of box office figures, viewing figures and the film trends
  • Flexibility: thrive in changing situations, enjoy spontaneity
  • Persuasion: network with the influencers in the film industry, such as press, critics and programmers, and pitch and convince them of the strength of the film

Who does a publicist work with?

Publicists work with cinemas, studio executives, members of the film's cast and crew, film critics, film press and film festival representatives and other people promoting the film, such as the marketing manager.

How do I become a publicist?

Publicists will have worked in the film or TV industry for many years before they get to this position. There’s no set career path, but common routes to this role include public relations, journalism, marketing and film production. A good way to start would be as an assistant in the marketing department of a distribution, production, or film sales company or TV channel. See the job profile marketing assistant for details of how to do this.

At school or college:

  • If you want to go to university, A-levels or Highers in business studies, English or media studies are useful. Or you might want to take the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:
  • OCR Technical Diploma/Extended Diploma in Business
  • BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Business
  • BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship
  • If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:
  • AQA Foundation Technical Level Business: Marketing Communications
  • AQA Technical Level Business: Marketing
  • NCFE Diploma in Skills for Business: Sales and Marketing
  • NCTJ Diploma in Journalism

Get an apprenticeship:

Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. However, it can be challenging to find jobs as an apprentice with production companies as many are not able to take people on for a whole year, which is an apprenticeship requirement at the moment. It might be worth looking for a job as an apprentice in an industry that uses similar skills, such as advertising. This could help you develop your craft and create a body of work for a portfolio that you can use to find your way into film and TV drama at a later point.

These are the relevant apprenticeships that might be available throughout the UK:

In Scotland, you might be able to find degree-level apprenticeships through the following framework:

  • Digital Marketing (SCQF Level 8, Scotland)

Creative Pioneers is a good source of apprenticeships in these fields. This will not necessarily get you into the film industry but will put you in a stronger position to apply for marketing roles.

Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will be giving you the skills you want. Go to how to become an apprentice to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region or approach companies directly.

Get a degree:

It’s a good idea to have a degree for a publicist role, though not essential. Degrees in journalism, marketing, business or film production are particularly relevant. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses in film and TV. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the film and TV industries.

Look outside the industry:

Consider any PR roles in any industry as this experience will be helpful in getting into film later. Also consider roles in marketing. Marketing agencies may have more roles available than TV channels or production companies. You will develop technical expertise that you can transfer to film or TV drama.

You might also be interested in…

Being a marketing executive or games publisher in the games industry.

Further resources

Further resources