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:

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.

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.
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. 


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

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!  


Checking out The Raccoons at Festival Music House.

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

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.

TIFF ’10: Theatre Yoga

We heart TIFF. Really, what’s not to love about this fabulous Toronto institution? Three hundred films shown over 11 days, red carpets, parties and celebrity sightings galore – sounds like our kind of fun. The thing is, by day two we’ve usually ditched the heels, by day six we’re speed dialing our RMTs, and by day 10 we’re yearning for a quiet night in.

We asked our favourite yogis, Sari Nisker from Spynga and YuMee Chung from Passport to Prana, to give us their top moves for staying limber, energized and feeling our best at this year’s fest. Om(g)!

Pre-fest: Downward Dog
Starting with a quick pre-fest downward dog is a perfect way to get more oxygen flowing to your star-crazed brain and getting your body ready to move. Begin on your hands and knees, with hands and knees positioned shoulder and hip distance apart. Curl your toes under and lift your hips back and up towards the stars. If you feel much of the weight in your shoulders or hands, bend your knees a little and draw your chest towards your thighs. Take 10-15 deep breaths, which will allow the blood flow to reverse and will instantly lift your mood. Being upside down is the secret celebrity youth potion, don’t ya know?

In line: quads and hips
Excitedly waiting in line for a film (and hoping to catch a glimpse of a celeb)? This is a great opportunity to stretch your quads and hips. Stand tall, shift your weight to your left foot and begin to bend your leg up from your right knee. Draw your foot back, reach down and grab your right ankle, and slowly bring your heel towards your right glute (butt). To intensify the stretch, allow the right foot to draw back into your hand to create some resistance. Take a few deep breaths and lift your chest as you hold the position. Remember to get an even stretch and repeat with the other leg. Ladies: please move with caution if you are in heels that are more than one inch in height.

In your (coveted) seat:

Close your eyelids and move your inner gaze along four points (holding each for one slow, deep inhale and one slow, deep exhale through your nose): (1) up towards your forehead, (2) down towards your chin, (3) over to the left ear, (4) over to the right ear. Then, do three slow clockwise circles with your eyes before doing three counter-clockwise circles. Finally, rub your hands briskly to generate some heat between your palms and cup them over your closed eyes. Breath deeply a few times, allowing the heat to relax the muscles and calm the mind.

Your eyes need some stretching too.


Sit up straight in your seat, and lower the right ear towards the right shoulder until you feel a gentle pull on the left side of your neck. If you’d like a deeper stretch, place your right hand lightly on the head to encourage the movement. Enjoy for five deep breaths before turning the nose to point down towards your right underarm, until you feel the stretch move a little closer to your spine. Stay for five breaths and repeat on the left. Inhale deeply, and lower the chin towards the chest with an exhale. As you inhale, roll the right ear towards the right shoulder, and as you exhale, roll the chin back down to the chest. As you inhale, roll the left ear towards the left shoulder, and as you exhale roll the chin back down to the chest. Repeat four to six times.

This will feel amazing.

Sitting forward in your seat, place your right hand on the back end of the right-side armrest and place your left hand on your right knee. Inhale and grow tall through your spine, and then exhale as you twist to the right, letting your hands give you some leverage. Look over the right shoulder and keep your seat grounded, resisting the urge to let your hips turn with you. Take five deep breaths in this simple twist before switching sides.

Like this! Only…cooler.

Nourish and stretch
Eating and drinking during TIFF is vital. Waiting in line for water and snacks, open and stretch out your shoulders. Bring your hands behind your back, interlace your fingers and imagine that you have Brad Pitt’s hand on your upper back and you never want to let it go. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and stretch the arms straight down towards the red carpet. Breathe and smile brightly.

Practice these stretches daily while watching the hot lineup of films at TIFF this year. Your body will thank you on September 20, when it’s all over!

Photo credits:

TIFF’10: Meet Our Client: Allen Altman

With a talent for playing deep, brooding roles, complemented by characters ranging from comedic to dramatic, Montreal-raised Allen Altman is making a scene at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The dashing actor stars in Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated film, Incendies, and a Greg Atkins short titled Above The Knee.

Altman will also shine on the small screen this fall, with his recurring role on HBO Canada’s Living in your Car and Incendo Productions’ Wandering Eye. Prior to becoming an actor, Altman enjoyed a successful career as a model. He studied acting at Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York City before relocating to Los Angeles to learn the Meisner Technique with Sandy Marshall, and later, at Warren Robertson’s Theatre Workshop.

Altman (who is bilingual) lives and works in Toronto, where he gardens and avidly practices Bikram yoga.


What do you do?
I am an actor, and I run an interior design company.

How long have you worked with rock-it promotions?
I met Debra about five years ago.

What do you love most about your job?
I am passionate about following my INSTINCT in everything. I also love the playfulness and discovery in acting, being able to live in the moment. Whether it’s drama or a comedy, it’s so rewarding to follow your heart. Over the years, I realized that the more you follow your voice, the greater the rewards.

What do you like the least about your profession/industry?
I am no bull, and raw, and have a hard time with superficiality and attitude. I try and stay focused on the work and the generous positive artists I collaborate with.   

What’s your next big goal?
I would love to do a movie with Bruce McDonald. He directed me in Living in Your Car and I found his honesty inspiring and his positivity contagious.

Why is PR important to you (and what you do professionally)?
Some projects are so rewarding and the storytelling is so epic that you want to shout it from the rooftop.
PR is the rooftop. When I read the script for Incendies, even before auditioning, I knew that it would be amazing, especially with Denis Villeneuve directing. I feel blessed to have worked on it and want celebrate that.

Any other thoughts you want to share about your public relations experience?

I love Debra Goldblatt, and Christina (Walters) and Lisa (Power). The gang at rock-it know what actors deal with and they make PR fun and effortless.  

A little more from the fourth floor:
Website: Cainer.com
Designer: Andy Warhol
Store: Home Depot
Book: Fallen by David Maine
Snack: Olives
Season: Seasons of love
Sexy: To me, honesty and the capacity to laugh at yourself are sexy.
Inspiration: The elements 
Drink: Water
Motto in two words: Fearless Creativity
Idea of perfect happiness: Always staying curious…
Indulgence: Green and Black’s’ Organic Ginger Black Chocolate 
Greatest achievement: Life

TIFF ’10: A visit from….Karen Kwan

TIFF is madness! While we love the running around that goes hand in hand with this amazing festival, we still need some help calming down and feeling healthy for these 10 days. Never is this more true than mid-festival (read: right now), so we invited Karen Kwan, health and beauty expert, up to the fourth floor to give us tips. Here are her top four methods for looking and feeling great, all festival long. 

Get physical.
The films may inspire you, but all that sitting on your derriere for hours on end is bad for your health. Take a break from movie-watching to burn off all of those cocktails and canapés you’ve been inhaling at all the TIFF parties (bonus: you’ll relieve some stress while you’re at it). Trust me: You never regret working out, right? Right.

Simply look gorgeous.
Don’t stress about being ready for photo ops. If you can fit in visits to the complimentary beauty suites, fantastic! (I know I’m making a pit stop at the Murale/Sally Hershberger suite at the Intercontinental Hotel, fo’ sho!). If not, you can still always be ready for the paparazzi by picking the right cosmetics. The beauty essentials I know I can count on include Stila Long Wear Liquid Lip Color in Patina, L’Oréal Studio Secrets Professional Magic Perfecting Base (keeps my oily T-zone nice and matte), and I know I won’t have to worry about my manicure chipping because I’ve already got my nails done in OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel Lacquer.

Satisfy your sweet tooth.
Not something my dietitian would approve of, but sometimes something sweet is the only thing that’ll soothe my frayed nerves. My fave cupcakes are from Sweet Bliss in Leslieville.  They are totally worth the jaunt over to the east end. If you’re under high stress and prefer something with an actual proven health benefit, keep a bar of dark chocolate in your handbag. Eating an ounce and half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks has been shown to reduce levels of stress hormones.

Get some fresh air.
And the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel, mojito in hand, doesn’t count. Put down the cocktail and seek out some greenery, TIFFsters. Take five in a park or garden and it’ll help lift your mood, according to a University of Essex study.

Kwan quit her job in marketing in 2001 to pursue a career in magazines. From her first gig at Redwood Custom Communications, where she worked on publications for clients including Sears, Home Depot and Scotts, she went on to work on the launch of FQ magazine. In 2005, she landed at FLARE magazine in the copy department. During her four years at FLARE, Kwan, in her role as health and lifestyle editor, discovered her interest in healthy living, including a passion for running – something she considers a blessing, considering her even bigger passion for eating. Currently, Kwan works as a freelance writer, and in December 2009 the Montreal native launched her blog Health & Swellness, where she covers “health, beauty and anything else that catches my fancy – that’s where the ‘swellness’ comes into play.”

Twitter: @healthswellness

TIFF ’10: Media, Darling: Liam Lacey

Shortly after graduating from the University of Toronto in 1979, Liam Lacey began covering the arts for The Globe and Mail.  He has written about music, theatre, television and, for 15 years, film.

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
With great difficulty.

About 95 per cent of what I write about is determined by the film distribution companies’ release schedules. Much of the other five per cent is targeted by ambitious editors trying to impress their managers by copying things they’ve seen in other publications.

That said, the best way for someone to get my attention is by offering an extraordinarily interesting original exclusive story for a national audience that doesn’t require a lot of work on my part. (There – I’ve given away the whole enchilada).

Falling short of that, start with an email, followed two days later by a phone call with, if possible, an explanation why this story is something my publication wants to be a part of.

Though I try to remain objective about the merits of any particular story, I feel slightly more receptive toward a publicist who is aware of my publication’s readership and my role there and isn’t simply carpet-spamming the media on the chance of scoring some newspaper real estate.

What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals? 
An editor I once had said the most important factor determining anyone’s future career success is the check mark on his or her grade two report card that says: “Works well with others.”

I doubt there ever actually were such check marks on grade two report cards, but the point is valid: Patience, good humour, knowledge of the subject and good organizational skills are greatly appreciated, even if we never tell you so. If you don’t get the story you want this time, you can still leave a positive impression that will pay dividends later for you and your next client.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make? 
I think the worst mistake is when publicists take rejection or negative coverage personally. The best publicists, from my perspective, have to be both type-A in their dedication to their work and self-effacing in their professional relationships. Your success depends on making the client and the journalist look good, whatever you privately believe about them.

Your pet peeve (relating to PR)?
The quality of materials is important: Wrong dates and DVDs that don’t play (an incredibly common phenomenon) make life much too stressful.

Also, you should assume that all journalists are amnesiacs: You may have done a great job back in May announcing that one-week run of that must-see film at the Royal, but could you remind us two or three more times closer to the opening? We live in the racket of tomorrow’s deadline.

Any other thoughts you’d like to add? 
I always hope that publicists make buckets of money to compensate for all the painful tongue-biting they have to do.