I spoke to Lynnaire MacDonald, founder of Film Sprites PR, a life-long writer and passionate film lover, about her background in film, and what propelled her to publicity and marketing success. A resident of New Zealand, I spoke to Lynnaire from the UK, a 13 hour time difference.
Robin Write: Welcome to The My Evening, Your Morning Show With Robin Write.
RW: So let’s break the ice a little. If you had to recommend to me, right now, three books, any books, what would they be?
Lynnaire MacDonald: I love James Altucher’s “Choose Yourself”. Brilliantly written and inspiring. Plus he uses some cinematic examples in there as well. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger because it’s edgy and timeless. And the latest edition of “1001 Movies To See Before You Die”, because it’s great to see how many films you can tick off on the list.
RW: It’s kind of intriguing too, to see what films they add from the last few years. Or what they have to bump out.
LM: My thoughts exactly.
RW: I always see that book or something pretty much like it, in book stores, but hold off buying it because a) I’ll wait for the next edition, and b) could well get it for Christmas. What’s the best film you have seen this calendar year? Is it worthy to make the 1001 movies you must see before you die?
LM: I absolutely loved The Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It was the funniest and cleverest film I’ve seen in a long time. Although, my opinion might have a slight bias owing to the fact I went to a screening of the film with a Q&A afterwards with Taika Waititi, Sam Neill and Julian Dennison. I definitely think it would make the list. Although again, being a Kiwi and seeing a Kiwi film do so well it’s partly national pride as well. It’s so wonderful to see a New Zealand film resonate with so many people across the world.
RW: Do people ask you if you have seen The Whale Rider?
LM: That, and variations of it! Whale Rider, The Lord of the Rings, the Flight of the Conchords TV series. The list goes on.
RW: So tell me a little bit about were you are from. Your background. Where you grew up?
LM: I was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, but moved to the North Island and lived there for the first three years of my life. I was living on my grandparents’ farm and orchard, so it was pretty idyllic. I vividly remember going down to quite possibly the quaintest little rural shop when I was 3 years old with my young cousins and buying up gargantuan bags of comic books! We moved back to down to Christchurch when I was three and so far I’ve lived there ever since. Although planning a move to London shortly. I am of Maori and New Zealand European descent.
RW: The Maori culture is fascinating to me. Did the comics books fascination go with you to adulthood?
LM: Absolutely. I’m definitely a Marvel girl through and through, although I do appreciate the DC cinematic universe as well.
RW: Favorite characters?
LM: Valkyrie is definitely a favorite. But Thor and Loki are faves too. I love the Loki: Agent of Asgard series.
RW: What do you make generally of the depiction of comic book stories on film? I know that’s a broad question.
LM: I think everyone is going to receive depictions of comic book stories on film differently. You’ll have audience members who have absolutely no knowledge of the comic book canon, many who do. For me, I appreciate the nods and references to canon in the films, but I’m not going to go stark raving mad if a film diverts from the reference material. I think it’s the same with any film that uses something for source material, really. I really love what Marvel has done with bringing the Marvelverse to life on screen and the directors and scriptwriters really giving their flavor and vision to well-known and well-loved characters. I cannot wait to see how Taika Waititi has weaved his style into Thor: Ragnarok. I think it’s going to be really special.
RW: How far back does the passion for film go? Or is that a stupid question?
LM: Not a stupid question at all! It has been with me since early childhood. A lot of my childhood memories center around film. I can pretty much recall every film I saw with friends growing up. I have a photographic memory, so I also recall things like what the cinema looked like, what other movies were playing at the time, etc. It’s been something that has been with me for such a long time, and I’m grateful for that.
RW: That’s great. My wife is like that, remembers things from toddlerhood. I remember lots of key moments though. How grand cinemas were when I was a kid, before the multiplex domination.
LM: Oh yes. There’s something really special about the independent cinemas as opposed to multiplexes.
RW: I pass an old cinema, now a bingo hall, yuk-yuk, every day I go to work, and it fills me with nostalgic joy. Memories of the red carpets, the confectionery kiosk, the stairs going up. An old style cinema is something I would like to open one day.
LM: We have a few here in Christchurch which is wonderful.
RW: My town is crummy, big cinemas showing commercial films. I am an indie, world cinema guy, nothing like that here. Couldn’t even see Boyhood in this town. So we should really talk about the now. What kicked Film Sprites PR into action? But first, what is it for those that don’t know?
LM: Film Sprites PR is a publicity and digital marketing consultancy for film. We have been providing PR, digital marketing and crowdfunding promotion since 2014 and have worked with filmmakers across the globe, including the UK, US, Netherlands, Australia and NZ. Well, the origin of Film Sprites PR is a bit of a strange one. I never wanted to start a PR business. It’s true! I didn’t want to work for myself. But sometimes the Universe will take you down paths you didn’t expect. I had always wanted to work in the film industry, but it was a burning desire I repressed for so many years. I numbed it by pursuing a career in teaching that just wasn’t for me, and then did medical administration. It took the earthquakes in 2010/2011 in Christchurch to put me on the right path. When the big February earthquake hit, I was living in the Central City, AKA “the red zone”. No way in or out of the cordon without ID, military personnel everywhere for quite some time…and then there were the constant aftershocks. I ended up with bad PTSD. When I decided to seek therapy, the very first day I saw my therapist she said to me: “you know, your eyes light up when you talk about film. Do you think it’s something you’d like to pursue?” At that stage it wasn’t. That night, I went to see a screening of NT Live’s Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle, and it was like everything cracked open for me. I recalled being a teenager and seeing Trainspotting for the first time and being so inspired by the fact that film didn’t have to be light and fluffy. It could be dark and visceral and thought-provoking. I came out of the theater that night and it was hard to speak. I just couldn’t. I knew that post-quake, I couldn’t wait any longer – I had to work in film. Fast-forward to 2014 and getting a PR and Business Communications Certification, I was networking but not really getting any “bites”. I had asked a few people for advice, but none were forthcoming. Being the stubborn woman I am I said; “Fine. I’ll do it myself.”. April 17th I went onto Twitter and ASKED. I just asked; “are there any filmmakers who want PR/digital marketing assistance?” by the end of the day I had 3 clients, by the end of the weekend I had 6 and by the end of that month I had 12.
RW: Now that’s a story. And as an undiscovered screenwriter, I might nab the rights to that.
LM: Well there you go!
RW: But seriously, that is inspiring.
LM: Thank you. The truly ridiculous thing is that I still have the ticket from the screening tucked away in what I call my “lucky locket”. It’s like a talisman.
RW: Right. Don’t ever lose it!!! Is Film Sprites what you would call successful right now?
I definitely think people have different notions of success. I’ve had people email me and say: “I always knew I’d be successful”, and I just don’t know what that means! I think I’m too close to the business to really tell. I think we’re successful in that we’ve had the ability to connect some incredible filmmakers and their films to media and audiences. The success of our clients is more important than the company’s success, and it always will be.
RW: That’s a great attitude. And one that will no doubt take you further than you are right now.
LM: Thank you.
RW: How did the name Film Sprites come about?
LM: That’s another weird story! Initially when I started, I literally had to scramble around and build from scratch. I never had a business plan, branding or anything like that. Initially I’d wanted to call it “Indie Film Angels”, because I’m very spiritual and angels have always been important to me, but that name was taken. So I wanted something with a hint of magic. Sprites are seen as playful, mischievous creatures. Given that I’m exceptionally cheeky, it was a good fit. So we started as “Indie Film Sprites”, then “Film Sprites” and now “Film Sprites PR” to make it crystal clear what it is we do. Funnily enough, I would end up reading the original script for NT Live’s Frankenstein and they mention sprites, but I can’t for the life of me recall if that line was changed in the actual performance. But there you go.
RW: Awesome. So you’re a story-teller too it seems.
LM: I think so. I received my first typewriter at the age of 3, which was funny because I actually wanted a Tonka Truck.
RW: Did you ever get the Tonka Truck?
LM: I didn’t! But I got far more joy out of the typewriter I think.
RW: So to close, and I honestly wanted to ask you a lot more, what are you plans for the rest of the year? Business AND pleasure?
LM: We’re beginning to wind things down for the year at Film Sprites PR and over the NZ summer I’m going to be taking some time off for photography, snorkeling and of course watching a whole lot of films. I’m looking to eventually sell the business so I can work for a studio in the UK. Marvel Studios, I’m looking at you! So there’s going to be a whole lot of upskilling and networking as well. Regardless of what happens, 2017 is going to be a really big year for both Film Sprites PR as a business and for myself personally, so I’m really looking forward to the future.
RW: Sounds great, truly. Hope I get to see how far you go.
LM: Thank you!
RW: Loved talking to you. It’s been enlightening, and a real pleasure.
RW: A tale of courage and ambition!!! That’s the tagline.
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Lynnaire MacDonald can be found through Film Sprites PR here: