We’re Not Just Pretty: Andrea Grau

In the three short years since Andrea Grau founded Touchwood PR, she has
secured clients such as Telefilm CanadaAlliance FilmsEntertainment OnePathé
International,
 American
Zoetrope
Back
Alley Films
, Rhombus
Media
Union
Pictures
VVS Films,
and several other independent Canadian and international producers and
filmmakers. Touchwood PR works in all areas of film and television:
distribution, production, festivals and events.

Before launching Touchwood, Grau ran the Toronto
International Film Festival communications department for eight seasons. In
this role, Grau developed and executed media strategies to position TIFF as a
leader in the industry, conducted in-depth media training for executives and
staff, and acted as ambassador for all programmed films. Additionally, she has
organized hundreds of media events including press conferences, cocktail
receptions, speaking engagements and seminars.

Prior to TIFF, Grau worked for Odeon Films, part of Alliance
Atlantis (now Alliance Films), as manager of publicity for seven years. In this
role, Grau oversaw the publicity component of all 60+ theatrical releases per
year.



How long have you been in your current position? 
I started Touchwood PR three years ago but have been working in film publicity for 17 years.


How does your company leverage PR?

On film projects, we like to approach PR as creatively as possible. Rather than standard press releases, straight pitches and reviews, we dissect each project and pull out ideas and themes that can be pitched not just in the film section, but in music, style, life and news sections.  By approaching each project in a unique way, we are often able to garner much more interest from the press and public and give the film more wings. The first thing I ask myself when I take on a film is – ‘why and how is this film relevant right now?’ and that question generates a lot of great ideas.


You also need to know who you
are pitching and why. This requires research in a way that you can’t Google:
face-to-face interaction. Spending time lunching, talking and drinking with
journalists is not just fun, but it is the only way to truly understand what
matters to them. It is called ‘media RELATIONS’ after all. And making that
effort is half the work and the best part of the job.



From a crisis communications
perspective of the work we do, the best thing we do is react swiftly and
honestly. The whole idea of ‘messages’ is one that needs clarification. People
think PR is all spin. I disagree. All messages, no matter how well crafted,
need to come from a place of honesty. Otherwise, it’s just someone paying lip
service. And that is not good for any spokesperson or brand. We help executives
and filmmakers to be comfortable with what they are trying to express. A
well-thought out answer that you truly believe in can never come back to haunt
you.



What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?

A PR degree is not that important to me. PR skills like writing and pitching can be learned on the job, but you can’t make a shy person into an extrovert. I myself didn’t study PR; I studied film. I just have natural people skills and an innate ability to create strong relationships that are based on respect and honesty.

Passion for the arts is key.
If you are working long hours and don’t believe in what you are doing, no paycheck
will make it less painful. A good/calm/funny personality is very important.
Someone who understands teamwork and is not above doing menial tasks in order
to get the job done. In our office, we all lick envelopes and we have fun doing
it! Also, in my eyes nothing is less
efficient than becoming aggressive and rude when the work gets stressful. I
have never encountered a problem (and I have encountered many) that could not
be fixed with common sense and a cool head. A well-timed smile also helps to
diffuse a sticky situation.

Who
gave you your first big career break?

Producer (and now friend and
client) Sandra Cunningham. I had moved from Montreal to Toronto to intern at
TIFF in ’95 and she was programming for Perspective Canada at the time. I was
supposed to be in Toronto for 10 weeks and because she saw something in me,
here I am 17 years later. She made some great connections for me. Because of
her referral I ended up working for some amazing people who have been very good
to me along the way.


What’s your biggest
piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?

Tough and kind need not be
exclusive of one another. You can be both and often simultaneously. Treat
people with respect. One, it makes life more pleasant and two, you never know
where your intern will be 10 years from now. You might work for her/him one
day. And people might not remember what you said or did to them, but they will
always remember how you made them feel.



What do you love most about your job?

I love that on most days my
work feels like my play. I love that the people
 I work with are as passionate about what they
do as I am. I love that we laugh. A lot. This feeling translates into the
quality of work we produce and how we approach not just work, but our personal
lives as well. I love that I get to work not just with the North American film
industry but also on an international scope. Film knows no boundaries, why
should I?
 I love being entrusted with
something someone has worked on intensely for years and bringing that to the
attention of the media and public. There is no greater joy than a front page,
above the fold article on a filmmaker no one has ever heard of before.
      


If you weren’t doing PR, what would you do?

Social worker or psychologist.
Not too far off from what I do already. I am an information junkie and I love
connecting dots and fully understanding where people are coming from.



A little more from the fourth floor:

Website
Netflix.com
– I watch a movie almost every day.


Designer
I have three kids ranging
from four to 11 years. If it’s clean, pressed and hides my jiggly bits, I am happy. Once
I have paid for my kids’ educations, I will buy myself a kick-ass Chanel
outfit.


Store
Any stationary
store. I have a serious addiction to notebooks and pens. I collect them
whenever I travel.


Book:  
Law Of Attraction.


Snack
Raw almonds.


Sexy

A snowfall in
Paris while walking in the Montmartre cemetery, surrounded by poets and
filmmakers who have inspired millions.


Inspiration:  
June Caldwell. For a long time I had her
picture on my fridge to remind me of the kind of old woman I wanted to grow
into.


Drink: 

Red wine in the
winter. Gin and tonic in the summer.


Motto in two words
Be kind.


Idea of perfect happiness
My feet in the
sand, staring out at the ocean, regardless of season; watching movies with my
kids cuddled under the blankets on a rainy day.


Indulgence
Chocolate covered
almonds.


Celebrity crush
Guillaume Canet. Bradley Cooper speaking French is a close second.


Favourite tweeter to follow
@lafleurdeparis
– she’s an American film/fashion journalist living in Paris and she’s the
perfect mix of quirky and knowledgeable.