We`re Not Just Pretty: Susan Smythe Bishop

Susan Smythe Bishop’s career in the motion picture industry spans more than 19 years. She joined Alliance Communications in 1992, and worked on (to name a few) The English Patient, Austin Powers and The Lord of The Rings trilogy. She also collaborated with many high-profile Canadian filmmakers, such as David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Denise Robert. Later, Bishop was promoted to senior vice-president of Publicity and Promotions, and raised the level of promotional activity from a local market focus to fully integrated national partnerships.

Bishop joined Maple Pictures in 2008 as co-vice-president of Publicity and Promotions, where she oversees the publicity and promotions for half of Maple’s product for the Theatrical and Home Entertainment divisions.

Fun fact! Bishop creates event cakes as a side business and donates all profits to the Canadian Picture Pioneers, as a way of giving back to the industry that she’s grown to love. She’s even earned the prize of “Best Wedding Cake” for two consecutive years at Bonnie Gordon’s annual Cake Competition.

Twitter: @MaplePictures

How long have you been in your current position?
I’ve been working with Maple Pictures for just under two years.
How does your company leverage PR ?
Our primary objectives are to increase awareness of our product and to grow our brand. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including taking part in press junkets, tailoring national opinion-maker screening programs, developing fully integrated national partnerships in all media (with a heavy emphasis on social) that encompasses publicity, sweepstakes/contests and event marketing. We place heavy importance on partnership marketing and working with like-minded companies. With this approach, we can tap into each other’s resources, extend our promotional reach and benefit from each others brand equity. 
What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
I’ve almost always hired at entry level positions. Ideally, I think that’s how it should always work as when someone leaves our department – the person immediately below them should be able to take over the reins.
 
An interest in PR and/or a PR background helps, and anyone that has done an internship with a like-minded company would be considered for an interview. In my opinion, the amount of experience required for an entry level position isn’t nearly as important as the personality of the person we are looking for. They have to be a good fit with our team, they have to have a very positive outlook, be a team player, have a good sense of humour and have a natural sense of gratitude. We don’t want to bring someone in who will expect to be promoted within six months, and really shy away from candidates that appear to be star-struck.
Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?  
This is a hard question because there simply isn’t just one. I have learned just as much (if not more) from younger staff as I have from my previous bosses. My early experiences gave me the foundation I needed. Paying close attention to my employees has shown me that it’s so very important to have balance in your life and not allow your job to define you. I’ve learned to look for inspiration in everyone I meet, so anyone I’ve come in contact with may have unwittingly become a mentor to me in one way or another. I’ve even drawn inspiration from people whose behaviour is so atrocious that I secretly thank them for showing me how NEVER to behave or treat people.
What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows?   
Well, it actually makes me laugh a little because as far as I’m concerned, I think we have a rather un-sexy career! Don’t get me wrong, I really love what I do (in fact, it took me stepping away from it for a year to really appreciate how much I loved it and this industry). But, it’s not as though we are constantly hanging out with celebrities at parties.  
Our job is to make talent look great to the press, even if/when they treat us badly (and some do). We’re the ones that get soaked in the rain while holding the umbrella for the actors as they are stepping onto the red carpet; we are the ones to make sure talent are comfortably seated at the dinner table and that their order has been taken, before we sneak to the bar to munch on bar mix. And, it’s not just about working with actors. In fact, that is a small part of what we do. 
It’s sometimes our job to work 18 hour days to pull off an event or a huge promotion without a hitch or to get that proposal polished and ready to present. It can be a really fun, creative and fulfilling career for sure, but you will never find me in stilettos on the job – I’ll be the one wearing sensible shoes, and laughing with my co-workers, as they are the ones I want to hang out with!
What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?   
For junior PR pros, I would say be upfront, honest and earnest with everything you do. For senior PR pros, I think there is so much to be learned from the younger people in our industry. I don’t believe that “I’ve been doing this for years, so I have all of the answers” really holds up anymore (if it ever did), because things have changed on the media landscape so rapidly. The younger PR staff are so savvy and can adapt so easily to change. It’s important that we learn from each other.
What do you love most about your job?  
I absolutely love the people I get to work with each day – I’m so fortunate to work with such an amazing group of smart and fun people. I also really love the challenge of putting together a promotional campaign with next to no budget; it really pushes and challenges me to be more creative. More than anything though, I have to say that watching the younger staff learn and grow has become a huge part of what drives me in this crazy business of ours. That is so rewarding and gratifying.
A little more from the fourth floor:
Designer:  Douglas Coupland.
Store: Anthropologie.
Book: Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.
Snack: Riceworks Crisps.
Season: Spring.
Sexy: A great sense of humour.
Inspiration: O, the Oprah Magazine.
Drink: Lychee Martini.
Motto in two words: Be Thankful.
Idea of perfect happiness: Just hanging out with my husband and our dog.
Indulgence: Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream icing.
Celebrity crush: Colin Firth.
Favourite tweeter to follow: @JonGordon11

Rave: Somewhere

On December 20, we were lucky enough to not only get an early peek at Sofia Coppola’s latest film, Somewhere, but Stephen Dorff himself graced viewers with his presence. A reserved and somewhat bashful man, Dorff answered questions about the movie that otherwise would have left us lying awake in bed wondering “what happened?”. Ok, maybe not that extreme, but getting a chance to listen to Dorff’s interpretations of his character really allowed the movie to come full circle. We had a little taste of what it would be like to be in the audience at Inside the Actors Studio… and got to stare at someone that is way too easy on the eyes.

For 98% of the film, the camera does not let Dorff out of its sight. Most of the time he isn’t even speaking; it’s quintessential Coppola. Like her past films (for example, Lost in Translation), the pace is slow, the mood is set through what isn’t said, and you walk away thinking and analyzing.
Dorff’s character, Johnny Marco, is an A-list actor who lives in the famed Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles. He drives a Ferrari, and parties with the most beautiful people in L.A., but is going through the motions, numb. In a life that could be filled with anything and everything, Johnny spends his days alone.
When his daughter, Cleo, played (perfectly) by Elle Fanning, shows up at his room at the Marmont to stay with him indefinitely, Dorff has to confront his lifeless life.
The father and daughter duo are left to bond, and emotions that Johnny has lost touch with are revived by Cleo. 
Aside from the story, the videography is in that signature Coppola helter-skelter style. Angles and long shots are interesting and visually appealing, as is the location of the flick itself. From Mulholland Drive to desert roads in California to Italy’s finest hotels, the scenery makes us want to skip town and move to the City of Angels.
The hotels are elegant and ooze history. Here’s an interesting tidbit: after the film, Dorff told the audience that the hotel in Italy was chosen because of Coppola’s memory of staying in a hotel with her father (filmmaker extraordinaire Francis Ford Coppola) in a massive suite that had its own pool. The grandiosity of it all struck her even as a young girl, and she wanted to feature the same look and feel in this movie.
Released to the public today, Somewhere is special and a definite must-see. It is tender and funny, and Stephen Dorff says it best; “[Sofia] rediscovered me – she made me cool again.” We always thought he was cool, but after seeing Somewhere, the bar’s been raised yet again.

A big thanks to Alliance Films for offering us screening tickets!

We’re Not Just Pretty: Carmite Cohen

Carmite Cohen knew from a young age that she’d somehow do something in the entertainment industry, because she was always filled with useless pop culture trivia and seemed to know everything about movies and TV shows.
She grew up in Israel, and spent her childhood in various countries, including Iran, Haiti, Rwanda, Niger and finally, Canada. Movies and TV shows were always a fascination, no matter what language they were delivered in.
After graduating from The University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Film Studies, Cohen moved to Toronto and completed the Seneca/York joint program for Radio and Television Production. 
Working (for free!) on commercials, TV and film productions in order to gain experience, she was hired at Alliance Films in 1997 as a production assistant. By 1998, she moved to Licensing and Merchandising, and secured and developed book, toy, apparel and video game deals.  
In 2001, Cohen transitioned to the Home Entertainment department as director of Marketing & Promotions (DVDs were just entering the market – exciting!). She was promoted to vice-president of Marketing, Publicity and Promotions of Home Entertainment in 2005, then joined the Theatrical Publicity and Promotions department as vice-president.
Some of her favourite things: hanging with family and her two awesome kids, travelling, good friends, magazines, The Biggest Loser, a good burger, shoes, New York, and going to the movies, of course!

Alliance Films
How long have you been in your current position?  
Just shy of four years.

How does your company leverage PR?
Alliance has a very diverse slate of films, from commercial fare to smaller art films, so we approach each one as if it’s a product launch and assess its needs. The question we always ask is, “how do we start the chatter and generate as much awareness pre-release as possible?”


Depending on the film, we try to generate opportunities for awareness with tastemaker and word-of-mouth screenings, stunting events, grassroots efforts and promotions, on-campus programs, strategic third party partnerships, and now, more than ever, engaging with our audience through various social media opportunities.
 

Access to talent and content is the easy way for us to generate press for our films; building a PR campaign that will get everyone’s attention (including media) is always the challenge. But, that’s what makes it fun and if we’ve done our job well, the proof will be in the ticket sales on opening weekend.

  

What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?  
Industry experience is a given, but as important: confidence, passion for what you do, the ability to think on your feet, a great personality and a sense of humour. Because, lets face it, when you’re wrangling talent at 3 a.m. on day five of the Toronto International Film Festival, if you can’t laugh about it on some level, you’re in the wrong business.

Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?
I’ve been fortunate throughout my career, having worked in various parts of the film business, to have met some incredibly talented and creative people – marketers, publicists, filmmakers and studio execs. I’ve learned something from all of them. I’ve learned to really listen, be a sponge, and absorb as much of their expertise and advice as I can, and hopefully use it to benefit my own personal and professional growth.

What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows? 
It’s fun to watch, but I think it’s a little misleading because most times, the job is glamorized and perceived to be one big party after the next. You never really see the grunt work it takes to put together that event. PR has many perks, but the reality of it is that most of the time it’s highly stressful and not glamorous, it’s hard work and long hours, but if you’re committed, you’ll succeed.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior? 
No matter what the situation, always be professional and remember that it’s not personal, it’s business and “crazy and unreasonable” come with the territory.

What do you love most about your job? 
I love that I get to go to work everyday and my job is to promote movies! I still get giddy with excitement when I see a new trailer for a film that I’ll be working on. After all this time, it’s still fun, I’m still learning something every day, and I get to do it with a great group of people.

A little more from the fourth floor (a list of your favourite things):
Website: Deadline Hollywood Daily, Huffington Post, InStyle, and for my trashy gossip fix, Perez.
Designer: Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Stella McCartney.
Store: Want, Kitsch Boutique, Zara and anywhere that sells shoes.
Book: They Can Kill You But They Can’t Eat You by Dawn Steel (first woman to run a major U.S. movie studio), Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Snack: Apples with loads of almond butter.
Season: Summer.
Sexy: The look and style of the women of Mad Men.
Inspiration: New York City.
Drink: A really nice Malbec.
Motto in two words: It’s all about convenience (that’s four, I know!).
Idea of perfect happiness: Glass of wine, stack of magazines and a quiet house (even if it’s just for a little while).
Indulgence: Boots.
Celebrity crush: Bradley Cooper.

Favourite tweeter to follow: Denis Leary, Eat This Not That, Dr. Oz, Skinny Jeans, Funny or Die, OMG Facts.

TIFF’10: Our favourite moments

Annnd… it’s over. TIFF’10 was amazing. So much happened, and here are some of our favourite highlights:

Debra
I have many favourite memories about TIFF 2010, but working with Helen Mirren was an extraordinary privilege. At the end of a long day together, I was admiring her Cartier ring and she took it off and told me try it on. Such a fun, sweet moment. And a really, really amazing ring on a really, really amazing lady.

Ashley:
1. To keep warm while working the red carpet for the Alliance Films TIFF celebration, I started humming Broadway show tunes. Just as “If I were a Rich Man…” was flitting through my head, a black SUV pulled up and a man named Harvey got out. I may have *accidentally* started a rock-it-wide rumour that Harvey Fierstein (who originated the role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof) had arrived, rather than Harvey Weinstein.  Luckily, my colleagues were quick to pull my head out of the stars.
2.  Witnessing PR manager, Lisa Power, down a full bottle of Echinacea in less than a week to combat TIFF-borne illnesses.
   
Abby
1. We were hired to work the red carpet and guest list for a few pretty high-profile events. There was one person who kept trying to crash the parties. I’m not sure that she realized that we were the same people running each event, as she kept coming up with different reasons as to why she should be let in. First, she was a media member. Then, her French boyfriend was on the list. Next, her Canadian filmmaker boyfriend emailed to get her on a list. Finally, she became the VP of a music company. It was pretty entertaining to see the creative ways she kept trying to get in. A for effort. Plus, it made us laugh when we were tired and stressed. 

2. Turning down a $200-bribe to let some guys into the private Festival Music House event. My pride & ethics say “way to go” (as does my boss), but my bank account says I’m an idiot. 

Christina

Walking Juliette Lewis down the red carpet at the Alliance Films fiesta.





Alana
My favourite moment was going to Zach Galifianakis’ It’s Kind Of A Funny Story after party with the girls from rock-it.

Listening to Coeur de Pirate at Festival Music House – the coolest TIFF event ever!  

Lisa

Checking out The Raccoons at Festival Music House.

I also enjoyed getting my mini mani from Joe Fresh Beauty at Tastemakers Lounge.

Matt: 
Getting psyched to see City and Colour at Festival Music House, but then getting a call from babysitter that my daughter woke up barfing. Needless to say, my evening ended on my knees with a sponge, instead swaying in sweaty mob of people.  
1. Seeing the gorgeous Ryan Kwanten (from my favourite show True Blood) and the swaggalicious Terrence Howard at our Tastemakers Lounge at the Intercontinental Hotel Yorkville.
2. Getting to spend quality time with my client, the lovely actress Emily Hampshire. She lives in L.A. so I rarely get to actually hang out with her – and she is one cool and entertaining lady.
  

TIFF ’10: We’re Not Just Pretty: Victoria Gormley


Victoria Gormley studied communications and radio broadcasting at Fanshawe College. After graduating, she worked on-air on Easy Rock Q97.5. She then moved to Toronto and accepted a position at Alliance Atlantis (now, Alliance Films) as an assistant in their Home Video Marketing department. Shortly thereafter, Gormley was promoted to Publicity and Promotions Manager for Home Video.

In 2006, Gormley joined the Warner Bros. Canada theatrical team as Publicity and Promotions Manager (where she currently works).
“When away from the office, whilst still tied to my BlackBerry, I try to spend as much time with my family and friends as I can, with a few bottles of wine thrown in for good measure. Muskoka, re-runs of Law & Order, shoes, The Distillery District, and low-budget disaster movies are a few of my favourite things!”

Website: www.warnerbroscanada.com

How does your company leverage PR (i.e. to generate press, to build reputation, to manage crisis communications, etc)?
We leverage PR in a variety of different ways, all with the same goal in mind – to create early awareness and drive traffic to the theatres on opening weekend and beyond.

Our main focus is to maximize each and every press opportunity that comes our way, regardless of how likely we “think” it is to generate press activity – you’d be surprised what gets picked up, and in the same way, what is given a pass.

We also find that opinion makers have massively influenced consumer behavior, so building word of mouth is critical. One of the latest tools we’ve found success with is social networking. It’s allowed us to leverage our PR efforts in a far more savvy nature than traditional methods.

What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
From my experience, PR has more to do with personality than scholastic achievement. Energetic, personable people determined to see results have typically been a successful hire. That being said, experience is always a huge asset.

Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?
I don’t have any one mentor to mention, but have had the benefit and privilege of working with many highly exceptional people over the course of my career.

What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows (Melrose Place, Sex and The City, The Real L Word, The City, etc.)?
I think it’s great that the profession is being recognized in popular programs and that more people are exposed to the idea of having a career in PR. My only fear is that it glamorizes an industry that, let’s face it,  is generally not all glitz and glamour. I hope those entering the industry are doing so for the right reasons and won’t be too disappointed when they’re not given a clothing allowance or invited to Lake Como for a script reading with George Clooney.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?
Best advice I was ever given – be positive and offer ideas. The business needs fresh thoughts and the more quality ideas you offer, the more responsibility and recognition you’ll receive. (But also remember to be respectful of the tried and true methods that have proven successful).

Advice for all – The step & repeat is for the actors in the film – stop posing and get out of the shot! 😉

What do you love most about your job?
The content always changes and each film is its own product.

The challenge to respect each film and filmmaker’s work is interesting and exciting. We don’t always have to love the project, but we have to search for and ensure the best avenues to maximize awareness about the project.

A little more from the fourth floor:
Website: YouTube, The Hollywood Reporter, TMZ.com, The Onion, Go Fug Yourself, Funny or Die.
Designer: Nicole Miller, David Dixon, Kensie.
Store: The Bay (totally underrated), Want Boutique, BCBG.
Book: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Snack: Cereal (with as much artificial colour and flavouring as possible), and chocolate chip granola bars.
Season: Early fall.
Sexy: A great pair of heels.
Inspiration: My family, friends, and the idea of Freedom-45.
Drink: Hendricks & Tonic.
Motto in two words: Keep Going.
Idea of perfect happiness: Vodka Lemonade on a beach in Fiji.
Indulgence: Chicken Parm from Toni Bulloni’s, shoes and spa days.
Celebrity crush: Tom Hardy.