As a lead-in to our release, we have screened Self Helpless at a few spots around the East Coast. Sometimes we had to rent the theaters, sometimes we just split ticket sales. The reception for Self Helpless was unbelievable, and we definitely learned a lot about screening our film.
We had previously thought that once you made a good movie, and got an audience to show up, the job was done. Just put in the DVD and crack a beer right? Wrong. The way your film is presented can have a huge effect on the way the audience perceives it. There are many different factors that contribute subtly to people’s experience at your screening. The farther your film falls from mainstream studio pictures, the more these concepts apply. If you have just completed a film, and screening it for the public in some form is part of your plans for the future, then you might be able to learn from our mistakes. Here are some key rules that we have learned from being out in the trenches:
Know Your Equipment - Learn to work a projector, lots of theaters are more accustomed to screening film reels. You may need to dust off their projector and help set it up. Do a sound and picture check before the show. Know your test points: the darkest, brightest, quietest, and loudest points in the film. If you can tweak the theater’s settings to work for those scenes, then you should be good.
Come Prepared – Bring multiple screeners in multiple formats. Even if a theater says they can screen your Blu-ray, sometimes their machine breaks down. Make sure that you have tested each screener at home, and not just on your computer.
Watch Your Money – Some people will try to fuck you, and some will just plain make mistakes. If you are renting a theater, make sure you get an agreement in writing stating that all ticket sales go to you. Have a trusted friend sell tickets, and have another one check them at the door to the theater. If the theater will not let you handle the ticket sales yourself, make sure you keep a head count. Also, get a photo of the whole crowd if you can. Bring your own posters in and help put them up in a good location. Don’t just drop them off and trust that they will get put up.
Dress Professionally – Any public speaking instructor that the most important factors in you presentation being a success are your posture and your dress. I wear a suit to all of our screenings. I do this because I take my business seriously, and it helps me get laid. If you dress like a worthless, bumper sticker activist college student then that is how people will view your film.
Introduce Your Film – Better yet, have someone who is good at public speaking introduce it for you. This is your chance to give people a tiny bit of context. Be subtle. Don’t ask forgiveness for how low budget your film is. Just thank people for coming, describe your film in no more than one sentence, and let everyone that the cast or crew will be doing a Q&A in the theater after the film.
Stay Out of the Theater – Do not sit next to your friends and tell them about how you shot each scene. Your presence diminishes the separation from reality that you have worked so hard to create. If you want to be in the theater to see people’s reaction, sneak in after the movie has started and sit in the back. Usually we just head to the nearest dive bar and stumble back for Q&A.
Learn From Your Screening – And realize what you can’t learn from it. Every audience is a little different. Often we would talk about cutting a joke that didn’t get a lot of laughs, and then it would kill the next night. What you can get is a good sense of was the general energy level in the theater is. We were able to pinpoint the sections of Self Helpless where a little of the wind got sucked out of the theater. That showed us which sections we needed to tighten up.
Coordinate the Lights and Sound For Q&A – Try to work with the projectionist on this. If they are too busy, then have someone from your team up in the booth to flip the switches. It is simple, but crucial. As soon as the rolling credits start we bring the lights up just a bit (so you can still see the credits), and we lower the music a ton. We have found that if we forget either of these details then the audience becomes confused and people stand up because they think the show is over.
Start Your Own Q&A – If you just stand in the front of the theater and ask if there are any questions, you will often hear crickets. A better strategy is to start with a statement. Talk about the process of making the movie, tell a funny anecdote, or even ask the audience a question. Anything that will get the conversation between you and the audience going. Once you get things rolling, keep them rolling. Don’t think that you are holding people up. Those folks paid good money to see your film, give them as much as you can.
Microphones – A mic (or in our case 4 mics) is crucial for both your introduction and your Q&A. Find out beforehand if the theater has a mic setup. Often they will have plugs but no mics, or not enough of them. Learn how to set up a few mics and a mixer and bring your own. Q&A is a lot more professional if you aren’t just screaming at the crowd.
Email and What’s Next – Be sure to bring some clipboards and pens so you can pass them around and get everyone’s email address. Also, make sure you have a great answer for “What are you going to do next?”. You are guaranteed to get this question.
Throw an After Party – You don’t need to rent out a fancy club. Even if it is nothing more than telling everyone where the crew will be going for a beer after the show, this can be a great way to interact with your fans (read: get laid). Just make sure that the venue is within a 4 minute walk from the theater, your attendance drops off exponentially after that.
Screening your baby in a theater can be a ton of fun, and it can even make you a little money. This is certainly your best chance to get some action. After a year straight of sleeping on floors, eating PB&Js, and maxing out your credits card, you deserve a rock star night! I hope these suggestions are helpful. Let me know when and where your film is screening. I promise to bring at least 5 people.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Posted by Self Helpless at 3:07 PM
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Awesome comment from ZenFilms on our torrent-only release strategy. Thanks so much for taking the time to give us your suggestions. I have already put some of them into effect. When someone takes the time to put together such a well crafted response I feel that I should do the same. I copied some of your comments where it would help people to understand my answer. Much thanks for all the input and support, it is really great when other filmmakers show love. Check out the Zen crew on Twitter: @ZenFilms.
1. Torrent-only: You are correct that we would most likely make more money if we abandoned the torrent-only part of our release model. We are willing to take in less income in the long term if it means that more people will see Self Helpless in the short term. Our goal is to get the most people we possibly can to download Self Helpless during that one week window. We really believe that when those folks see the movie, they will love it and they will tell people about it. This is how I hear about a lot of music and movies. Then I usually head straight to iTunes or Netflix because I don’t want to bother with torrents. I get nervous about viruses, and I like to make sure I have the highest quality version of that song or movie. For people like me, the movie will be available from those familiar retail locations.
The Self Helpless torrent will be a tool in itself. The torrent will have links to all of our sites, as well as our store and trailer. The idea of including two short advertisements (10 seconds each) in the torrent release appeals to me. These ads would be designed so that they did not detract from viewing the movie. Most likely they would just be clips from one of Devin the Dude’s shows, or from a SOJA video. They would not appear until at least 20 minutes into the film (I agree, ads before the movie would suck).
This may end up being out greatest contribution to a viable torrent-based distribution model for the future. Downloaders are not opposed to filmmakers making money from their craft. They just want to watch the movie for free, right now. If we can make a torrent version of Self Helpless that people will enjoy watching, even with 2 short ads included, then this will be a big step in the right direction for infinite distribution. If people love the movie, they can get the ad free version on DVD.
2. Merchandise: I agree with everything you said here. We are trying to get our merch store together, but this takes a lot of time what with all of us working crappy full time jobs. We aren’t expecting to get rich selling merchandise. We are hoping to make enough money to keep paying our expenses, making more DVDs and possibly touring the film in the future.
“Your PR spin seems to focus on the fact that the movie is free... but you could run into some problems: if your movie is full of fart gags and guns, the movie intelligencia are going to be snooty and unlikely to want to be associated with it. It's all very well being pioneering but it has to be "on message" to get the support of their cozy love-in”
Our PR spin is focused on the fact that we have made a great movie and we know that the torrent community is the future of media distribution. We are fully committed to offending the “movie intelligentsia”. If we get 100% on the tomato meter then the world has come crashing down.
The beauty of bringing our film directly to the fans through our torrent release is that we don’t have to spend 3 years groveling to film festivals and major film critics to get our movie to its audience. We can just bypass all of those old-school gatekeepers and give the movie to our target audience. If they like it, they will pass it on.
“read up on how to write a press release - it'll make the difference”
We wouldn’t do it any other way. Before we sent out our press release we researched the proper format and ran a draft past a few local journalists to make sure that were coming real professional like. We also heard this message from the dudes who made 10 MPH. Their blog is essential reading.
“I would advocate a donation button because I think you'll find you have people who want to support you but it's not their kind of movie. I could possibly be in this category... I like guns and Mexicans but not farts.”
We just don’t get down with the whole donation idea. That’s cool if it works for other people, it’s just not for us. We are going to offer some very cheap merchandise (like shot glasses and posters) in case someone wants to show us a little love, but not quite at the $15 DVD level. If someone downloads the movie for free and can’t find anything that they would like to buy from our store, then hopefully they will just tell a few people about Self Helpless and we will call it even.
“Screenings before release? Pre-orders? Kind of contradicts your earlier goals... just be mindful it doesn't mess up your direct to torrent concept.”
Wait, I thought you said not to do the torrent concept? ; ) Actually this stuff fits in pretty well with what we are trying to do. We did a handful of screenings to get the film seen and improve it based on audience response, and to make some cash and get laid.
Pre orders are great. Since they will obviously just be friends and family, they will at least help us fund the DVD replication order. Obviously the pre-order DVDs won’t get sent out until after the torrent-only run.
Posted by Self Helpless at 2:44 PM
Friday, December 18, 2009
Sorry to our RSS fans for reposting all the articles today. We cherish all 17 of you and had no intention of spammifying you. I had to repost in order to allow comments on a bunch of articles that I had forgotten to do that with. Apologies. Please feel free to use the newly enabled comments section to voice your hatred. New post on advice for screening in theaters coming soon. You all rule, thank you for taking interest in our work. We promise to keep working fucking balls out hard as hell.
Posted by Self Helpless at 1:11 PM
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Has anyone else ever wanted to figure out how the hell to self distribute their film? It is funny to think of the days when we were googling "no budget comedy" in the hopes of finding someone else out there who we could talk to and learn from. There were plenty of eureka moments when one blog post or youtube video would completely change the way we were looking at distribution. Sound familiar?
Our torrent-only model is explicitly NOT the new great distribution model. It is a model that fits our movie in a lot of important ways. Once we actually put it into action, we hope to serve as an interesting case study for the indie community (read: real indie, like PB&J, sleeping on floors because all of the couches are full indie). I try to put as many of our ideas out there as I can, because I can remember when I would have killed to read about someone else's distribution model.
The other night I was geeking out on twitter (as usual) when I stumbled on a twitter conversation. A bunch of people that we have connected with in the indie community were discussing how to increase audiences for independent film. I believe you can still check out the "conversation" if you search for #infdist on twitter. This was the first time a lot of my fellow filmmakers got to hear about our torrent-only release model. It was cool to see everyone's reaction. It was particularly dope to get a lot of support from Jon Reiss. Jon is an experienced director who has been spearheading the new indie distribution movement. His book, Think Outside the Box Office, is required reading for anyone who is at any stage of creating an indie film. He even reposted some of our material on his blog. We studied a lot of stuff from guys like Jon Reiss, Chris Gore, Ted Hope, and a bunch of other people who have embraced the power of the D.I.Y. film movement. This research was the foundation of our distribution strategy.
We entered the indie film world just as a lot of the new ideas on D.I.Y. were being formally articulated. One of the best things that we did during the post production process was to cash in our social lives, dump our Chilean pseudo-girlfriends, and spend 4 cold months reading shit on the interwebs. This period of miserably monastic study allowed us to bypass the standard new indie filmmaker trap: fall in love with own film, blow meager P&A budget on unrealistic festival submissions, confront the reality of not getting a "deal", begin to learn about D.I.Y. distribution. We owe a ton to the folks in the indie community who have been willing to write blogs and books, speak on panels, and upload podcasts. Thanks to the wealth of knowledge that was available to us, we were able to move full force into D.I.Y. distribution as soon as Self Helpless was done. Hopefully everyone can learn from our experiences in the upcoming months. Thanks to everyone for the support. We got nothin' but love fo ya.
Ted Hope is a very well know film producer (American Splendor, 21 Grams, Adventureland and about 60 other features). He is also a leader in the new media approach to indie filmmaking. This guy shoots 50 setups in a day, then gets home and writes a 1,500 word blog post, and blasts off on Twitter for an hour. His latest blog post really caught my eye as it relates directly to a lot of the inspirations behind Self Helpless. You should take a look at Ted's Blog here. I am re-posting my response below so that Self Helpless fans can have a look at it.
Wow, I can't believe someone is finally talking about this! This was a huge part of the motivation for creating Self Helpless. We are four guys in our twenties who are equally at home watching "Kisses" or "Lovely By Surprise" and "Caddyshack". And there are TONS of people like us out there. We have often discussed our dissatisfaction with indie films insistence on making heavy, emotional, esoteric films that are so steeped in art that they are rendered inaccessible. Films like that can be great, but there needs to be more diversity out there.
Self Helpless is definitely a low-brow comedy. It is full of guns and drugs and mexicans and farting. But there is also some really original stuff in there. The plot is absurdly twisted as are most of the characters. And, the movie feels completely indie! It has excessively long flashbacks, homegrown animation, and plenty of classically comical motifs.
I am not just trying to plug my movie. I really feel that there is room for people to start making more indie films that will appeal to a young audience. It is clear that internet basted, tech-reliant distribution is the future of indie. Young people are the most interweb-savvy customers out there. They are willing to go through twitter, and itunes, and blogger, and dig… just to follow, find, and support something they think is cool. “Trailer Park Boys, “Always Sunny”, “Flight of the Conchords”, the networks have it figured out, now we need to play catch up.
We have based our entire release model for Self Helpless on our faith in the young indie audience. We are running a seven day bittorrent-only release. We WANT people to download the movie because we know they will support it. This is how you access the young indie audience: young filmmakers make great films directed at their peers, they provide the fans free access to the films, and they create quality merchandise that people will want to buy (instead of begging for donations).
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Everyone likes to be able to claim to be the "first" to do something. Self Helpless is clearly not the first film to release a legal bittorrent; so what exactly are we the "first" to do?
I guess, technically, until someone else uses our model we are the "only" rather than the "first". Self Helpless is the only feature length comedy ever to employ a specialized promotional campaign surrounding a BitTorrent-only release. We are approaching our release in a way that has never been done. I want to be clear here, I am not hating on anyone else's release model. I am just trying to explain how ours is unique. I also encourage anyone who has an excess of time to hate on our model.
1) We are running a 7 day bittorrent-only release. Most movies that release a torrent try to have their movie on sale simultaneously. Their hope is that torrent downloads will drive DVD sales. We are going with a torrent-only run for a number of reasons. First, we feel that downloaders are the new taste makers. If your movie becomes popular within the torrent community this will translate to a wider audience. Hollywood films are often pre-screened for critics and important industry types. We are pre-screening Self Helpless for downloaders because they are our most important potential fans. Second, we want as many downloads as possible. Most films release on a pay to watch platform first so that the only way people can see the movie is by paying for it. We want as many people as possible to download Self Helpless, so that is the platform that people will have to access it on if they want to see the movie as soon as possible. Third, we have a point to prove. Lots of movies have dipped their toes in the torrent pool. They release torrents as a last ditch option, they use it to drive DVD sales, or as a publicity stunt. When you go with a torrent-only release, you are all in. If Self Helpless can become successful using a completely torrent based release, then this will demonstrate the validity of the torrent community as a major marketing force (if you aren't aware of this already then you have some catching up to do).
2) We are not asking anyone to donate anything. We do not feel comfortable begging people to give us money. We have made a movie that people are going to love. We believe that they will love it enough to want to buy a DVD or a t-shirt. And we will make sure that we create some sweet merch that will actually be worth buying. I didn't buy a Fade to Black on DVD because I thought I need to support Jay-Z financially, he is a fucking billionaire. I bought it because I love that movie and I want to be able to watch it on my TV, whenever I want, with all the special features.
3) The torrent release is our first choice. Even as we were writing the script, we discussed free playing an important role in the distribution of Self Helpless. We are downloaders, and we made this movie for downloaders. We skipped the whole cycle of "waste tons of money and energy on a film festival run, realize there are no more distribution deals out there, write lots of blog posts about how the industry is fucked up, resort to giving away the movie, cry often and heavily". Bittorrent is an amazing technology that allows us to get our movie seen by millions of people who just happen to be our exact target audience. As an entrepreneur, it would be nothing short of absurd not to consider a torrent release as an incredible opportunity. There is something completely different in the spirit of our release. This is not a last ditch effort. This is what we have always wanted to do with Self Helpless.
4) We are mounting a full on PR campaign to promote the release of our torrent. We are not just assuming that if we put the movie up on the ol' interwebs, it will suddenly grow wings and fly away. Studios spend money to create press and drive sales. We are spending money (and time) creating press to drive downloads. Studios spend money to stop downloaders. We are spending money (and time) trying to get as many people as possible to download Self Helpless.
5) We are not a documentary. Although there have certainly been other narrative features released on bittorrent, it is worth noting how differently they fair. From my limited experience, I can say that documentary filmmaking is extraordinarily tough. One advantage that you have if you have done your job well is cause-based support. If you do a film about climate change, or gang violence, or hunger you will get some support for your effort to expose a socially important issue. If you make a comedy about drugs, guns, mexicans, and milk-farts, you have to rely solely on the quality of your product. If Self Helpless doesn't make people laugh, they are not going to cut us any slack because they believe in our cause. This makes our model a heavy commitment. We are giving Self Helpless away and we are counting on the belief that people will love it.
We know that our torrent-only release model is a bit of a gamble. We are betting all our chips that Self Helpless is so original, and quirky, and over the top funny that we will be able to build a big enough fan base to cover our budget. Maybe it is risky, but there is nothing we would rather bet on than the quality of our movie.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Just sent this in an email (which may or may not make me clinically fucked), then realized it might make a good blog. I think it pretty much sums up where I am at:
"...My first feature film, Self Helpless, is done. I am broke. It is cold on the East Coast. All I want is the opportunity to work really goddamned hard. I am a great producer, I produced the shit out of Self Helpless for under $10K. I am currently applying for $9 an hour jobs, HOPING I can land a gig at UNO's. But it's all good, because my movie kicks ass. It is going to become a cult hit. It is gross, and subtle, and hilarious. And we have an insane, awesome, revolutionary distribution strategy. And, on top of all that, I am not a child soldier in Africa, or a rice farmer in Eastern China. So I try to remember that I am pretty lucky..."
I am unemployed, homeless, no girlfriend, no sundance, no SXSW, no distributor, NO MONEY AT ALL FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE
I have made a GREAT movie which everyone loves, i have dreamed up a GREAT distribution strategy, I know where my next meal is coming from, I am the most resourceful, motivated, semi-insane motherfucker I know.
I guess it just depends how I look at it.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Press releases are going out today. I wanted to make sure that our loyal blog followers would be the first to know. Here is the official announcement of Self Helpless’ upcoming release:
Self Helpless is the first feature length film ever to employ a specialized promotional campaign surrounding a BitTorrent-only release. In early 2010, Self Helpless will be released exclusively as a free download on various BitTorrent sites. After a 7 day BitTorrent-only run, the film will be commercially released on DVD, Blu-Ray, and High Definition Digital Download.
The Self Helpless torrent will be released on a number of major BitTorrent sites and (hopefully) some private BitTorrent communities. The torrent will include links to our facebook page, twitter feed, and our online store. This will allow people who download Self Helpless to connect with the movie and support it.
In an era when big studios spend massive amounts of money to keep people from downloading their movies, we are mounting a promotional campaign with the goal of getting as many people to download Self Helpless as possible.
The simple fact is that Self Helpless is a great movie. A torrent-only release will allow us to get our movie to the exact people we made it for. Selling DVDs and merchandise from our website will allow fans of the movie to support Self Helpless. From both a business and an artistic perspective, giving the movie away just makes sense.
We are playing with the idea of including two short advertisements in the torrent version of the movie. This would generate a small amount of revenue for us, and it would demonstrate a very viable way that studios can profit from marketing directly to downloaders (instead of wasting money trying to stop them).
If you dig our torrent-only release plan and you would like to know more about it, take a look at the FAQ post below.
Self Helpless is the first feature length film ever to employ a specialized promotional campaign surrounding a BitTorrent-only release. We have had a lot of questions since we announced this distribution plan. This should help clarify exactly what the hell we think we are doing.
How will you make money if you are giving the movie away?
We will be releasing Self Helpless on DVD and digital download one week after the torrent-only release. We will be selling t-shirts, posters, and other merchandise ASAP. We are also considering placing 2 short (10 second) advertisements in the torrent version of the movie. If enough people download the movie, we hope to set up a screening tour to visit places where Self Helpless is popular.
If someone has already downloaded the movie why would they buy your DVD?
A few reasons:
1) Movies are more fun to watch on a TV than a computer.
2) If people like a movie they often want to own the official, advertisement free version of it. Some people are just straight up collectors.
3) The DVD has tons of sweet extras like live Devin the Dude concert footage, slide shows, deleted scenes, and behind the scenes footage.
4) A few people will buy a DVD just to support something that they dig.
Are you going to have a donate thingy on your website?
As a group of intelligent, healthy young men, we just don’t feel right about begging people to donate to us. If you like Self Helpless then buy a copy. If you don’t have $15 for a DVD (been there) we will have some cheaper stuff like posters and stickers. If you don’t have any money then just tell a few of your friends about the movie and come see us when we come to your town.
You are the first feature film to launch a promotional campaign supporting a torrent-only release. Why not do something more normal, like submit to film festivals, or distributors?
We made this entire film out of pocket, fueled by raw hustle. We are not interested in sitting around for the next two years waiting for someone to decide that they want to “accept our submission”. That just doesn’t sit well with us. We have the technology to get Self Helpless seen by its target audience without any help from distributors or film festivals. We would be stupid not to release it on our own.
Ok, if you are going to release the movie as a torrent why not just release it on DVD at the same time?
We want as many people as possible to download the torrent version of the movie. If this version ends up containing advertisements then this will mean more exposure for our advertisers (anybody know anyone who works at High Times?). Even if we don’t end up going with the advertisement idea, it is important to us to release the movie exclusively on bit torrent. In a sense we hope that this will prove our model. If we can make a little money off a torrent-only release then we will have effectively proven the absurdity of anti-piracy efforts.
Are you hoping this will get you “discovered”?
Discovered as in money and hot babes start raining from the Los Angeles skies? I guess that would be cool. What we believe will really happen is that this distribution strategy will get Self Helpless seen, by the exact people who we made it for, and by LOTS of them.
Is this just a publicity stunt?
If we manage to get some publicity for creating a very innovative release strategy that would be great. That would probably even help our download numbers. The torrent-only release is simply the best way to get our movie seen by the people who we made it for. From a business standpoint, we would be crazy not to take advantage of this opportunity.
Where can I see the movie right now?
We are trying to set up a few screenings before the release. If you sign up for our email list we will let you know as soon as we get stuff scheduled. Other than that, you will be able to pre-order the DVD.
Why so long until the movie is released?
Lot’s of albums get their release date moved up because songs get leaked. We are delaying our release in order to promote it to those very downloaders. I know this sounds backwards. A typical movie release promo campaign takes between 3 and 5 months. We are constructing a full PR campaign to build a buzz around the release of the Self Helpless torrent. We figure, there is a lot of cool stuff out there to download. If we are going to convince people to check out our movie, we are going to have to spend some time letting them know about us.
What if someone leaks the movie?
That would be awesome. Next Question.
Are you trying to create the distribution model that will save my indie film?
No. Our model only works if you manage to create a feature length comedy that is hilarious and quirky, features the acting debut of Devin the Dude, is shot in 2 countries, and contains lots of drugs, guns and crazy Mexican gangsters, all with a budget of $9,500. Oh, and after that you have to edit the movie, compose the soundtrack, license the music, and do all the animation. Then you have to live on people’s floors for a few months, and shovel shit at my grandma’s farm while you save money to put towards your innovative release strategy. Then you have to be willing to work full time for very low pay for the next year after releasing the movie in order to continue to promote it. If you can do all this, and not have your wife/kids/friends completely hate you, then this model might be perfect for you. If not then you should read all of the blogs, and books, and tweets that are out there about indie film distribution. Then you should come up with a better, more original idea that works for your film.
I have a question about your distribution strategy, will you read my email?
I am chained to my computer at all times. I would be more than happy to answer any and all questions, comments, and hate mail.
We have published a number of articles about the upcoming release of Self Helpless as we have continued to update our distribution model. The indie film industry is changing at such a rapid pace right now that failure to adapt would be nothing short of suicide. A few major principles have stayed the same throughout the various shapes that our release strategy has taken:
- We do not get down with approval-based entities. Anything that requires submission for consideration (film festivals, distributors, certain online communities) will only be considered as an auxiliary component of our distribution. There will be absolutely no sitting around waiting to hear from someone who controls our future.
- Free is key. From the very beginning (like during the writing process) we had planned on giving the movie away for free. We have all downloaded stuff, and we have all supported artists that we really like. We know how that works, and we know that this is the future of art and media.
- Hustle is worth more than money. We are not interested in getting bought out by a distributor so that Self Helpless can collect dust on a back shelf at Coconuts in Methuen, MA. We would be honored to have the privilege of working our asses off distributing this movie by hand. When you have, literally, been shoveling shit for a living, working 60 hours a week hustling an independent film that you really care about doesn’t sound too bad.
- Innovation is our best friend. If what we are doing is unprecedented, then it has a chance of being great. We make it our business to read every goddamned blog, article, and tweet that circulates around the indie film industry. We learn from other people’s successes and struggles, and we adapt this information to form a new vision. If there was an established model that could work for everyone then we would follow it. Since there isn’t, we are working to create our own.
These are the basic tenets that we have developed over the last few months of crafting our distribution strategy. If you have read the torrent-only release FAQ (above) then you can probably see how these concepts ended up manifesting themselves in our current distribution model. Figuring out the stuff that we give a shit about was the hardest part. After that it was just a few months of working out how to apply those principles.
Monday, November 23, 2009
It is difficult to put into words exactly how awesome our Boston premiere was. First, the Brattle Theater could not possibly kick more ass. It is a classic one-screen cinema house. The screen is on a stage in front of a 235 seat theater with a balcony. The crowd was better than our wildest dreams. 200+ people came out of the woodwork to support Self Helpless! The theater ran out of beer within ten minutes, resulting in various trips to the liquor store. My rough count was 5 thirty racks, 4 bottles of wine, and 2 bottles of whiskey that were smuggled in to the theater. The crowd was unbelievably live, everyone laughed pretty much the entire time. That NEVER happens at movies. Apparently Self Helpless is really funny when you are completely gunned, who knew?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Yet another GREAT article published in Hartford. This time it is the Courant showing love. Our screening on Friday at 9pm should be packed after all this good press! Much love to Art Cinema. That place rules. Porn and indie films, the perfect Self Helpless venue.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Good news, we just scheduled our after party for the Brattle Theater screening. We will be taking years off our lives at Tommy Doyle's on Harvard Square. This dope Irish pub is just a stone's throw from the theater. They have offered us their entire second floor zone to hurt our livers in. NO COVER with a Self Helpless ticket stub. Should be a great time that we will all regret on Friday morning.
Check out Tommy Doyle's here:
Great article on Self Helpless in the Hartford Advocate. Good to see Patrick Simone's home town showing love. Feel free to leave comments on the article at the bottom.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Whew! Just got home after the Queens International Film Festival. What a weekend. The festival was held at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, an incredible venue in Long Island City.
On Friday we scoped out some short films, then we met PK in Manhattan for the Bad Rabbit/Slick Rick/Goodie mob show at BB King's. Damn, Bad Rabbit (Boston) is the new band to watch. Anthony Hamilton meets Spank Rock. So fresh. Slick Rick was in classic form, backed up by Bad Rabbit, and Goodie Mob crushed, nuff said.
We woke up later than planned on Saturday morning and jetted over to the festival to watch some flicks and put up posters in inappropriate places (the ones in the urinals were a big hit). We saw a few really cool shorts. "You Will See Life" was made by two young babes from England; great actressing in that one. We also loved "Jenniffer and the Fish" and "Ice Breakers". Very unpretentionsly funny stuff. We stuck around for the world premiere of Buffalo Bushido. Wow. This is a feature length drama shot in Buffalo, NY. Very indie, very strong. Flawless acting, and highly engaging characters were the strong point of this film. Add in some dominant animation and this was easily the best film we saw at QIFF. I highly recommend it to everyone.
Our screening time was Sunday at 10am, so we had pretty much written it off as a private screening for ourselves and whatever crackheads we could pull in off the sidewalk. Much to our surprise, about 20 of our good friends from all over the city showed up to check us out. We were blown away, big thanks to everyone who fought through soul-crushing hangovers to show love. One guy that we had met at the opening night party even rode his bike out from Manhattan just to see the movie. Badass. Everyone really enjoyed the movie. Afterwords we all kicked it at the irish pub on the corner and caught up with friends and movie fans.
We met a bunch of cool people, and even got nominated for the Best Young Filmmaker award: http://queensfilmfestival.com/films/winners/2009/
We lost to a film that actually had some sort of socially redeeming value. What, milk-farts aren't award worthy? QIFF was a very cool festival, well organized and packed with cool movies. We hope to be back next year.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
We have published a few blog posts about our distribution strategy. Since things have changed a bit recently, I thought it would be good to fill everyone in on where we are at right now.
We are currently in the middle of our theatrical release. During the month of November we will be screening Self Helpless in NYC, Boston, Hartford CT, and Burlington VT. This is a completely independent theatrical run. We book the theaters, we do the promotion, sometimes we even set up the projector. The goal of this short period of theatrical-only release is to drum up some popular support and some good press for the movie before our DVD and digital release.
Around Christmas time we plan to release Self Helpless on DVD and digital download. The movie will be for sale from our website, and possibly from iTunes or Amazon (we haven’t decided if these outlets will bring in enough sales to be worth the money and hassle required to deal with them). We are also planning to stream the movie FOR FREE on our website. I know this sounds counterproductive. Why give something away for free when we are trying to sell it? Our goal with Self Helpless is get the movie seen. Like seen in a big way; we are shooting for cult status. We want to be the movie that people pirate and pass around and tell their friends about. As far as sales, we are basically just hoping to earn enough money to subsidize our tour.
We are planning to spend December and January setting up a screening tour. Our ability to do this will depend on how much buzz we manage to generate during our mini theatrical run. If all goes according to plan, at the beginning of February we will pile into a car and hit the road. The hope is to travel around the East Coast screening Self Helpless at colleges and art house theaters. Depending on how many stops we can set up, we hope to be on the road showing the movie for a month or so. After that, we will come home and take a nap!
We are aware that this plan may change by next week. That is the great thing about self-distribution, we can adjust to take advantage of different opportunities. This model is by no means going to get us rich. But if we work our asses off we might just be able to get Self Helpless seen by a lot of people, and who knows what that could bring.
Posted by Self Helpless at 10:14 PM
Monday, November 2, 2009
The announcement finally came down today. We will be screening on Sunday, November 15th, at 10 am in the Frank Sinatra Center for the Arts. I know what you are thinking: a movie at 10 am on a Sunday? Are you trying to keep people from coming? Obviously it wouldn't have been our first choice to schedule our NYC premiere right in the middle of everyone's hangover. That is just what happens when you are the new guy on the block. Until someone has deigned to review your movie, or you have been mentioned on a really cool movie blog, or you have made so much fucking money on your own that people have to pay attention to you, no one gives a shit.
That said, we are actually really excited for QIFF. We are screening on a weekend (way better than 10 am on a Friday) in the Frank Sinatra Center (a badass venue, especially for big fans of old blue eyes). QIFF is a festival that focuses on fringe movies like ours. They love young filmmakers, specifically first timers. And, of course, it is in NYC. This automatically drapes the whole thing in cool.
Since this may very well be our one and only film festival appearance (unless someone at Sundance takes acid and drops our DVD in the "make them instant superstars" box) we are going to live it up. We will be at every party, screening, and free breakfast. We will wear suits as often as possible. We will wallpaper the place with posters, and assault people with business cards. I hope some of our faithful NY fans will struggle out to show some support on Sunday morning, although I know what Simon, Felix, John Candy and The Drake would do.
Posted by Self Helpless at 7:28 PM
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Big thanks to everyone who came out on a rainy Wednesday night during midterms week to support Self Helpless. Despite competing with game 1 of the World Series, we still got 50 or so comedy fans to come and kick it with us. Everyone laughed a ton. We hung out afterwords and rapped with the audience. We met Hani, an Egyptian filmmaker living and studying in VT. He was down with our "up by the bootstrap" filmmaking style. It is always cool to meet people who really get it. It is equally cool to just entertain people. I got to meet a couple of students who just came because they had seen the trailer online and they were psyched. It was a really cool screening overall. There was a lot less commotion than at the world premiere, so we got to really connect with some audience members. Thanks to everyone who came out, we appreciate the support. Catch up with us on Facebook soon.
Posted by Self Helpless at 4:43 PM
Friday, October 23, 2009
Self Helpless is coming to Beantown. We will be screening on Thursday, November 19th at the Brattle Theater. The Brattle a classic indie theater located in Harvard Square, Cambridge. The folks at the theater were down with what we are doing, and the scheduled us on the perfect night. We hope to see our whole Boston crew in full effect. The theater has around 250 seats, so if we are going to repeat our Burlington performance everyone is going to have to bring a few friends. Details on the after party will be coming soon, but we promise to have a few bottles of happy juice to pass around at the theater. See you there!
Posted by Self Helpless at 9:34 PM
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Thanks to the good shredders at the UVM Snowboard Team, Self Helpless will be screening at UVM next week. We will be in Billings Lecture Hall (aka CC Theater) on Wednesday, 10/28 at 7:30 pm. The movie will run until around 9 and we will do Q&A for a bit afterwords. After party has yet to be scheduled, but I am sure someone will let us buy them a keg. See you there!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Holy shit, the world premiere was unbelievable. People came out of the woodwork for us. We nearly sold out a 180 seat theater at the Roxy in Burlington. Everyone laughed their asses off. We knew the movie was funny, but we didn't expect for everyone to laugh the ENTIRE TIME. The Q&A session was a lot of fun, and the audience seemed to enjoy it. We got some cool questions, and I think we had a few funny answers. A ton of people wanted to know when and where they could buy a copy, which is a good sign. We are working on getting the retail store up on the website within the month, stay tuned. The after party was a blast. Despite the fact that a lot of people had to work the next day, we still got a good crew over to lift where I put far too many tequila shots on the old credit card. That would probably explain why PK was shirtless, on top of a table at Mr. Mike's screaming "USA, 1, 2, 3, 4, USA" in a thick Brittish accent at 3 in the morning. Props to everyone who came out and showed support. We will be scheduling new screenings soon, keep an eye on the website. It was the perfect premiere, now we need to really get to work!
Posted by Self Helpless at 4:13 PM
Monday, October 12, 2009
Seven Days is a Burlington Vermont newspaper that covers all sorts of cool art and music stories from B-town. They just threw this blog up about Self Helpless:
Posted by Self Helpless at 2:04 PM
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Now that Self Helpless is done and ready to premiere, people have been wondering what the hell we're doing next. The usual answer is: "we're going on tour." This seems to be a rather mystifying response, so here is a breakdown of this whole “tour” idea.
Essentially, we plan to tour like indie rock bands tour. From city to city, gig to gig, we'll self promote and screen our movie. In our case though, instead of ratty-ass music clubs and dirty hipsters' basements, we'll be going to art-house theaters, college campuses and film festivals. We plan to start off screening Self Helpless in cities where we have a base of support from our friends and family, and connections with schools and the local media. Places like Burlington, Vt, Boston, Hartford, Ct and NYC are going to be key for building buzz. In each of these locations we have a solid grasp on how and where to schedule and promote screenings.
We will screen Self Helpless at several different venues in each city. The multiple venue aspect of this plan is important because it keeps costs down (more screenings per mile driven), and it gives us a chance to build some buzz with different types of audiences. The crowd that will attend a screening at an indie theater is very different from the audience at a packed college auditorium, and we love everybody!
Even if audiences go wild for the movie, we'll still have our work cut out for us. We know that this tour looks good on paper, the financial numbers really do work, but we will have to make it work on the ground. As with everything involved in the making of Self Helpless, the success of the tour will hinge upon our will to make it work. It's been a constant hustle thus far, and this phase won't be any different. As always, we look forward to the challenge, especially this one.
Posted by Self Helpless at 9:27 PM
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
If you don't know Devin the Dude, maybe you need to take a closer listen to Dre's "Chronic 2000". Devin was the cat on the first track who sang "I just want to fuuuck you". He has since had a huge hip hop career releasing a stack of solo albums as well as albums with his Huston crew Tha Coughee Brothas. Devin has done tracks with Snoop, Lil Wayne, Nas, Xzibit, Scarface, UGK, and tons of other dope MCs. Why does all this matter? Because Devin is making his big screen debut in Self Helpless.
Devin plays "The Dude", the Drake's trusted weed dealer. When The Drake comes to him to get a little stress relief, he ends up getting a rambling, nonsensical speech, and less weed than he was hoping for. Devin is hilarious in the scene. He is clearly a natural performer. His facial expressions and delivery are some of my favorite comedy in the movie.
How, you ask, did we get a major hip hop star to appear in our low-budget, low-brow comedy? A couple of years ago I met Devin (my favorite MC of all time, by the way) when I had the honor of DJing for him at a show in Burlington. The show went well and he was a cool cat to hang out with. Last winter he came back to town for another show. I caught up with him backstage after the show. I was just hoping he might be willing to let us use some of his music in the movie. We were blown away when Devin offered to make a cameo appearance in the movie. After a few months of phone calls back and forth, we set out for DC in a Prius packed with camera gear. We braved a late season snow storm and caught up with Devin on the day that he performed at the Go Go Awards. We shot the scene in a couple of hours, and it turned out to be fantastic.
Much love to Devin. He is a true talent, and a cool, down to earth guy. He definitely has a big future in acting. We were lucky to be able to work with him before his acting career takes off. For more on Devin the Dude check out www.myspace.com/devinthedude.
The traditional model of independent film making is quickly going the way of the dodo bird. It used to be a nice, easy 3 step process: 1 - make movie, 2 - go to film festival, 3 - sell movie to major studio. I am obviously overstating the simplicity here, but there was at least an established pattern.
With the explosion of accessible movie making technology, way more people are making movies. This has lead to a glut of films on the market. This technological boom has also resulted in the creation of a few different movie distribution models such as: VOD (video on demand), self-distribution, and direct to DVD distribution.
What we are pursuing with Self Helpless is a hybrid marketing strategy. Here is a general outline of our different angles on promoting the movie in the hopes of someone buying it:
1) Web Assault - We will be plastering advertisements all across Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, and Twitter. This has become standard practice these days. Our advantage is the large network of friends that the four of us have established. We have approximately 1,200 friends already lined up on Facebook alone. If everyone passes the movie on to 5 of their friends...
2) Promotional Copies - We will be sending promo copies of the movie to anyone and everyone we know that is even tangentially involved in the movie business. You have a friend who cleans the floors at a talent agency in wisconsin, what is his email address?
3) The Premiere - The world premiere hasn't been scheduled yet, and details are top secret. Suffice it to say that it will be off the proverbial meat rack. Picture 100 drunk Self Helpless fans, and 15 bloggers and reporters packed into a theater. Good times will abound.
4) Film Festivals - There are, literally, thousands of film festivals in the US evey year. We will be submitting Self Helpless to a select few festivals that seem to be cool enough to understand the genius behind farting in people's milk.
5) Screenings - We hope to organize premieres in a few different East coast cities to start with. If we decide to try to independently distribute DVDs then we will probably arrange a full tour. Lock your doors and hide your daughters, America!!
These are the major avenues that we are looing at for advertising and promotion. Our main focus is to be adaptabe and work hard. The movie is truly excellent and unique. All we have to do is hustle as hard as we can to get it out to the public.
Basically, the movie industry is crazy right now. Every fool and his mom is trying to sell an independent film, and at the same time studios are trying to cut their costs to the bone. One might think this spells doom for Self Helpless, but fear not.
Self Helpless is something of a miracle. Big Hollywood pictures can have budgts in the $100 million. "Independent" films (which often have a studio behind them) have budgets as low as $5-10 million. Low budget films tend to have a budget under $1 million. Movies with a budget under $20,000 are considered "no budget" films. Self Helpless was made for around $10,000. The fact that we managed to make a feature length movie that was shot in 2 countries and features an army of extras and a cameo appearance from a major hip hop star is nothing short of astounding.
This positions us uniquely in the film market. We have a finished product that is hilarious and entertaining. Studios don't need to worry about taking a risk on an unproven script, they can simply watch the audience go crazy at a screening. If there were ever a time to push a high quality, low budget film that makes people laugh, this is it. Cross your fingers!
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Ok, here is the complex answer to this oft-repeated question. Firstly, I acknowledge that we have been saying "in a month" for about four months. The further we get into this movie, the greater potential we discover that it has. This, in turn, leads to more work to reach that potential.
Filming took place from August to December of '08.
Rough editing all the scenes was completed around February of '09.
Final editing, animation, and music composition is finally close to being finished right now.
What remains is the main audio mixdown. Basically this is the process of looking at every single sound clip (dialogue, sound effects, background audio, songs) and seeing what needs to be done to make it sound as good as possible. Some things are too loud, too quiet, too sharp, blown out. Some need special effects to make them sound like phone calls and such. As you can guess, this is an exhausing process. First Adam and I spend between 2 and 5 hours (depending on the scene) setting all the clips in our audio editing program. Then Drick spends another 2 or 3 hours actually doing the mixing. This is a serious time investment, but it is essential to the quality of the viewing experience.
The computer goes to Drick's house in a couple days. He will probably be mixing for 2 weeks or so. Drick has vowed that, in the name of productivity, he will enforce a "no dope smoking until after mixing" policy for himself. A new leaf is being turned over.
During these 2 weeks of mixdown PK, Ski, and I will be working on: titles, a rough trailer, web promo materials, film festival stuff.
I'll hit you guys with an update on the film festival scene soon.