Pat Healy, Festival Fiend

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I'm a 2017 Spring Intern at PR Collaborative and senior at The Catholic University of America majoring in Media Studies with a concentration in documentary video production. For the past three and a half years, I have worked part-time for the AFI Silver Theatre and the AFI Docs Film Festival. In the fall of my junior year, I studied abroad in Prague at the infamous Czech film school, FAMU, which in the 1960s had produced a majority of the young directors who had comprised the Czechoslovak New Wave of cinema.

Over Labor Day weekend of my senior year, I was selected among forty-nine other students from all over the globe to participate in the Telluride Film Festival’s Student Symposium—an intensive film screening and discussion seminar that brings the key filmmakers of the festival together with budding film students and enthusiasts for in-depth conversations of their work. For my final semester in my undergraduate career, I have created an independent study that focuses on the symbolic connection between the venues of a film festival and the different strands of programming that relate to these sites of cultural commerce; as part of my research, I will be attending the Berlinale this February on a student accreditation.

What brought me to intern for PR Collaborative is the high quality of the firm’s past film slate—they had worked on national and regional campaigns for BLACKFISH (2013), THE ACT OF KILLING (2013), and THE HUNTING GROUND (2015), some of my favorite recent documentary films. Having the chance to assist in promoting new documentary releases like I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (2017) and OKLAHOMA CITY (2017) has been exhilarating. I have been able to learn grassroots marketing efforts while also being trusted to help plan and execute large-scale press screenings. In addition, I feel surrounded by some of the brightest and most-talented individuals at PR Collaborative; from policy to film, each supervisor adds something special to the overall office environment. Ultimately, I’m proud to be a PR Collaborative intern, and I am looking forward to how this experience takes me further in life.

Fun facts: My favorite food is calamari, I have an unhealthy addiction to Grey’s Anatomy, my favorite new wave of cinema is the current Romanian one, I am both a cat and a dog person, and I love brunch.

Meet Our 2016 Film Intern!

Michelle Cohn, George Washington University

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I am a junior at George Washington University majoring in American Studies and double minoring in Journalism/Mass Communication and French. I’m particularly interested in the power of film, and what we can learn about a society from the entertainment they produce. Being at PR Collaborative has given me an inside look at all the work and research that goes into press screenings, grassroots publicity, and partnering with larger institutions for events!

PR Collaborative gives lots of hands-on opportunities to learn the specifics of publicizing films. Attending the press screening for the film DENIAL was a great experience because I got an inside look at how screenings are organized and executed. On top of that, I got to see an amazing movie about an important and meaningful topic that continues to be relevant today.

PR Collaborative helps filmmakers spread their message and challenge audiences to think critically about culture and society. I’m so happy to be working with such a great time of smart, hard-working individuals, and I get excited every time I see a film we work with go out into the market!

Fun Facts: I sing in an all-female a cappella group, I’m on the Executive Board for a student theater company, and I enjoy impressionist artwork, stand-up comedy, and bagels.

Our Summer 2016 Film Interns!

Hannah Bishop, George Washington University

I am going into my junior year at The George Washington University with a major in communication.  I have always been interested in PR and the role it plays in media.  In particular, this internship has taught me the ins and outs of PR in the film industry and, even more so, has shown me the important role PR plays in ensuring the success of big events.   

So far, one of the most exciting parts of this internship (besides feeling like I’m somehow more closely connected to celebrities) has been the films I’ve gotten to watch. The documentaries featured at the AFI Docs film festival bring up issues and shed light on parts of our society that I think everyone should learn about. It’s these interesting stories that make coming to this internship every day even more of a learning experience.   

Not only am I learning about PR and communications, but I am also learning more about social issues, different cultures, and present policy concerns.  I’m excited to be part of a team that helps share these stories with the public and am even more excited about what else I’ll learn in the remainder of my time at PR Collaborative. 

Fun facts: I’m originally from Chicago and love big cities and coffee. I have a British passport, and my most prized possessions are my Ellen DeGeneres cooking apron and my TV. I watch the series finale of Parenthood whenever I’m bored and am determined to be a contestant on Survivor.

Samantha Blumberg, Washington University in St. Louis

Entering Washington University in Saint Louis as a freshman two years ago, I had little to no idea which field of work I was aiming for. However, my simulated team of Nigerian government officials had successfully extorted several hundreds of thousands of dollars from our simulated citizens in AP Comparative Politics the year before, so I decided to declare my Political Science major later that year. 

In the following years, as I experimented with Olin Business school classes, I discovered a passion for marketing and communications, deciding that ideally, I’d find an overlap between public relations and public policy.

As I considered potential internships for the summer of 2016, PR Collaborative proved to strike the perfect balance. I ultimately applied for the AFI DOCS media relations internship amidst my star-struck realization that my favorite documentary director, Alex Gibney, (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief) would be featuring Zero Days in the annual film festival. However, by my first several weeks as a PR Collaborative intern, I had already gained so much more than I had initially imagined. 

Having access to the many moving and brilliant documentaries being featured in the festival has provided me with new, first-hand insight into some of the most pressing current policy issues as well as a new-found appreciation for the documentary production and the filmmaking industry as a whole. I have learned how to organize and coordinate media involvement and promotion, and I could not be more thrilled to experience the amazing final product of all of our hard work. I now hope to look into future film-related PR career options and am so grateful to have had this incredible opportunity.

Fun Facts: One time I crashed a speed boat into a mountain, I play tennis often and poorly, and I survived the Bermuda Triangle at age nine.

Julie Guacci, University of Maryland, College Park

I graduated in May from the University of Maryland, College Park with a dual degree in Marketing and History and a citation in International Studies from the College Park Scholars program. I have always been interested in working in entertainment, not only because I live just outside of New York City but also because I have been performing on stage since elementary school. Last summer, I interned at Signature Theatre Company in New York and gained an understanding of how to market new shows to the public and the process of getting a show from its early stages to opening night. I jumped at the chance to work at PR Collaborative this summer to learn about film marketing and PR and further my experience with the intersection of business and entertainment as I look to apply to full-time positions this fall.

As a film marketing and PR intern for PR Collaborative, I have been able to apply my knowledge from my undergraduate studies and professional experience to help design promotional efforts and perform research in the context of film openings and press days. I am enjoying learning about the inner workings of PR and pitching to local media outlets. I can definitely see a possibility of pursuing a film-related career in the future.

Fun Facts about me: At the University of Maryland, I was a National Anthem Singer and have sung at nearly every athletic event, from field hockey and lacrosse to men's basketball among many others. I studied abroad in Italy for a classics program, traveling to Rome and Sorrento for three weeks. 

The Blackfish Effect

Three years after it hit theaters, Blackfish continues to resonate well beyond the movies. In response to public pressure catalyzed by the film, SeaWorld announced an end to its orca breeding program and a plan to transition the whales to a more natural, yet still captive, environment.

PR Collaborative is proud to have played a role in changing attitudes toward SeaWorld. We handled the Washington, DC press campaign for Magnolia Pictures in addition to spearheading the grassroots outreach to animal conservation organizations such as PETA and the Oceanic Preservation Society. 

Establishing early relationships with top animal welfare organizations and ocean conservation groups proved essential to building the film’s theatrical audience while simultaneously activating a community to agitate for reform. The stellar press reception coupled with the grassroots support helped make Blackfish one of the top-grossing documentaries of 2013 and scored a ratings coup for CNN.

SeaWorld has suffered since the release of Blackfish in 2013; its profits fell 84 percent in 2015 and attendance dropped by 100,000 visitors. Additionally, the “Blackfish effect” has echoed beyond the sea-park industry. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is retiring its iconic elephants in May, citing a “mood shift” in customers’ attitudes towards performing animals.

Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing orca that killed several people while in captivity. Filmmaker Gabriella Cowperthwaite created an unforgettable portrait of these highly intelligent animals and the trauma they endure living under the whip of a multi-billion dollar entertainment giant. Cowperthwaite, in a recent interview with NPR, called SeaWorld’s new policies a “defining moment.”

Watch the trailer

Meet Our Spring 2016 Film Interns!

Brianna Hall

I’ve learned a few unexpected things at PR Collaborative so far: wearing a sweater featuring a white tiger is great, not everyone likes zombies, and if given the opportunity to attend a free screening, you should (because it’s someone’s job to get you to go).

Hi, I’m Brianna, and I’m a film intern.

My knowledge of film stemmed from watching obscure Netflix recommendations on the couch with my mom every night after dinner in high school. Let me back up. I grew up in a wicked small town in Maine. We didn’t have a movie theatre, the video store was in the Laundromat, and the internet would go down during every blizzard. Good times, right? I grew up watching VHS versions of Shrek, XXX: State of the Union, and Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams – this is where I’m drawing my critical cinema eye from.

As an intern, it’s my job to convince people to move past the binge-worthy Netflix choices, leave their apartments, and watch a decent feature film in a movie theatre with popcorn. I love it, and who wouldn’t love free films?

Aside from PR Collaborative, I’m a sophomore at American University majoring in public relations and strategic communications with a minor in international relations. I’m interested in traveling, living abroad, and new languages. This summer, I’ll spend two months in Colombia at an Eco-Yoga retreat re-finding my inner Zen, after losing it during my commute to Georgetown twice a week this semester. You can often find me in coffee shops drinking almond milk mochas or watching Criminal Minds in my dorm’s twin bed.

It’s the Suite Life of Brianna Hall, film intern.

Martin Valderruten

I have always been fascinated by the entertainment world, and I feel so lucky to be able to combine my love of PR and movies with such a unique and exciting internship.

I was born in Colombia, South America, but grew up South Florida. My father would always take me to my local movie theater growing up, and we would spend afternoons watching movies. So it’s not surprising that film became my largest passion in life, along with English and adventures. I’m pursuing pursuing a major in Public Relations and a minor in Spanish, with the goal of ultimately going into the PR industry and opening my own firm.

PR Collaborative has rolled out the red carpet by making this internship both interesting and engaging. Not only have I started to learn about the organization, but I also learned how to deal with clients and the general public when debuting a new film. Any intern with PR Collaborative is in for an amazing opportunity. This is a hands-on opportunity to learn not only about PR, but also, about how film is able to change the world one documentary at a time.

It’s Always Sunny in Utah

The Sundance Film Festival kicked off on January 28 in Park City, Utah. Vice President of Film, Renee Tsao, attended the festival and experienced the excitement firsthand. Here’s our round-up of films that made the news and news that made headlines. 

  • The Birth of a Nation received a preemptive standing round of applause before the film even began. That auspicious start was followed by critical and popular accolades for the “searing slave drama,” which was awarded the grand jury prize for a narrative film and was voted best movie by audiences. Read more here
  • Diversity dominated Sundance. Tom Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, called 2016 “the year of the women.” Given the abundance of female directors to breakout actress performances with resounding standing ovations, we hope Bernard is right. However, Variety asks whether this diversity can last in Hollywood.
  • “Stop complaining.” Kristen Stewart shared a controversial piece of advice for women in Hollywood: “Go do something.” Stewart was at Sundance promoting her movie, Certain Women, a portrait of intersecting lives in Montana. 
  • Swiss Army Man divided audiences and made headlines at Sundance. It was later purchased by A24. Think Castaway – minus Wilson, plus a dead body. Read more here.
  • Amazon and Netflix are the latest big spenders in the film industry. These two new players in the industry made it clear that they have money to spend and that they’re here to stay. What does this mean for the average moviegoer? Renew your Amazon Prime and Netflix accounts this year. It’ll be worth it.
  • Speaking of Amazon and Netflix, director Sian Hader says, “We are living in a new age of film.” Hader wrote and directed Tallulah, staring Ellen Page and Allison Janney, and was also a writer and producer for Orange is the New Black. Netflix scooped up Tallulah before it even debuted at Sundance. 

88th Academy Awards: Documentary Features Shortlist

PR Collaborative was honored to have worked on eight of the 15 films in the Documentary Features category that were shortlisted for the 88th Academy Awards: 

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  • Best of Enemies (Magnolia Pictures) - In the summer of 1968, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley, Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Vidal and Buckley believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America. As they debated politics and policies, their explosive exchanges devolved into vitriolic name-calling, keeping viewers riveted and changing television news forever.
  • Cartel Land (The Orchard) - In the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician known as "El Doctor," leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Meanwhile, in Arizona's Altar Valley – a narrow, 52-mile-long desert corridor known as Cocaine Alley – Tim "Nailer" Foley, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across the American border. CARTEL LAND is an on-the-ground look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy: the murderous Mexican drug cartels.
  • The Hunting Ground (RADiUS-TWC) – A haunting expose of sexual assault on college campuses, The Hunting Ground follows undergraduate rape survivors pursuing both their education and justice, despite ongoing harassment of them and their families. Scrutinizing the gamut of higher education from elite Ivies and state universities to small colleges, the filmmakers reveal a system of institutional cover-ups, rationalizations, victim-blaming, and denial that creates perfect storm conditions for sexual predators to prey with impunity.
  • The Look of Silence (Drafthouse Films) –Through Oppenheimer’s footage of perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered as well as the identities of the killers. The documentary focuses on the youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, who decides to break the suffocating spell of submission and terror by doing something unimaginable in a society where the murderers remain in power: confront the men who killed his brother. A powerful companion piece to Oppenheimer’s Oscar-nominated documentary, The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence bears witness to the collapse of fifty years of silence
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  • 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets (Participant Media) - On Black Friday 2012, a white middle-aged male and a black teenager exchanged angry words over the volume of the music in the boy’s car. Michael Dunn fired 10 bullets at a car full of unarmed teenagers and then fled. Three of those bullets hit 17-year-old Jordan Davis, who died at the scene. Thus began the long journey of unraveling the truth. The film follows that journey, revealing how hidden racial prejudice can result in tragedy.
  • We Come as Friends (BBC Worldwide North America) - At the moment when the Sudan, the continent’s biggest country, is being divided into two nations, an old “civilizing” pathology re-emerges – that of colonialism, the clash of empires, and new episodes of bloody (and holy) wars over land and resources. The director explores the landscape in his tiny, self-made, tin and canvas flying machine, entering improbable locations and getting access to people’s thoughts and dreams in both stunning and heartbreaking ways. Chinese oil workers, UN peacekeepers, Sudanese warlords, and American evangelists ironically weave common ground in this documentary.
  • Where to Invade Next – Michael Moore, playing the role of “invader,” visits a host of nations to learn how the U.S. could improve its own prospects. This eye-opening comedy is a call to arms. Turns out the solutions to America’s most entrenched problems already exist in the world—they’re just waiting to be co-opted. Click here to read more about our work with Where to Invade Next. [Link to blog post]
  • Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (Netflix) - Chronicling events that unfolded over 93 days in 2013 and 2014, this film witnesses the formation of a new civil rights movement in Ukraine. What started as peaceful student demonstrations supporting European integration morphed into a full-fledged violent revolution calling for the resignation of the nation's president. Winter on Fire captures the remarkable mobilization of nearly a million citizens from across the country protesting the corrupt political regime that utilized extreme force against its own people.

PR Collaborative managed media strategy, outreach and research for the documentaries. We take great pride in helping these documentary filmmakers share their stories, which often shed light on important current issues and promote social activism. 124 films were originally submitted in the category, and the five nominees will be announced on January 14, 2016. 

Middleburg Film Festival 2015

For the third year in a row, PR Collaborative contributed to the success of the third annual Middleburg Film Festival. The festival featured a carefully curated selection of 26 narrative, foreign and documentary films in an intimate theatre environment, followed by fascinating Q and A's with world-renowned filmmakers and actors.  

The films screened October 22 – 25, 2015 in Virginia’s historic wine country located one hour outside of Washington DC. The 2015 main slate featured titles from seven women directors including ITHACA, SHERPA, SUFFRAGETTE, THE ARMOR OF LIGHT, MUSTANG, PEGGY GUGGENHEIM – ART ADDICT, and MISS YOU ALREADY. The festival also screened a selection of foreign language submissions to the Oscars.

Middleburg Film Festival welcomed many special guests, including director and actress Meg Ryan, directors Lee Daniels, Catherine Hardwicke, and Marc Abraham, actor and film subject Tab Hunter, and actress Bo Derek. Carter Burwell was honored as 2015's Distinguished Film Composer with a selection of his most memorable scores presented by the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra. The festival also honored Academy Award-nominee Dante Spinotti as this year's Distinguished Cinematographer.

SPOTLIGHT won the Audience Award for Best Narrative, and HARRY & SNOWMAN won the Audience Award for Best Documentary. The winners were chosen by audience ballot.

In addition to securing media coverage for the festival, PR Collaborative also worked on the campaigns for two films in the festival: Abigail Disney's THE ARMOR OF LIGHT and Catherine Hardwicke's MISS YOU ALREADY.