Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Sensation of Sight and The Power of Local

At our (one and only) festival appearance, we were lucky enough to score some face time with a pretty cool indie distributor. When I mentioned the hometown success we had been having with Self Helpless (sold out theaters, print articles, and a TV appearance) he pretty much laughed in my face. "Success anywhere outside of LA or NY is meaningless, and probably detrimental," was his basic message. While that may be true for films that are shopping to distributors for a theatrical release (old school), it is certainly not the case for those of us who are releasing our own films (true school). I was happy to discover a very concrete example of local success leading to major recognition for a film called The Sensation of Sight.

The Sensation of Sight is a truly independent film that was shot next door to us in New Hampshire. You can check out their excellent website here. The film's executive producer, Buzz McLaughlin, has been writing an illuminating series of blog posts about the film's distribution adventures. His most recent post detailed how his team was able to translate successful theatrical runs in indie theaters in New Hampshire to national recognition and an eventual distribution deal.

I won't recycle the entire blog post, but one piece of information was particularly interesting. After The Sensation of Sight sold out their opening weekend in New Hampshire, the theater reported their sales for that weekend to a number of national media services. Because of this, Variety listed the film at #4 in national per-screening box office gross for that weekend. This put The Sensation of Sight in front of a lot of people's eyes. I was completely unaware of this sales reporting system. Had we understood this aspect of the game, we might have been able to leverage this national reporting system to generate some press when Self Helpless sold out the Brattle theater in Boston, and the Roxy in Burlington, VT.

Check out The Sensation of Sight, and never underestimate the power of local, even if you live in a place where cows outnumber people!

Friday, January 8, 2010

How to exxxttteeeeeeend our film's life?

Jon Reiss recently addressed an interesting topic on his blog. Jon's post was a response to an article by Brian Newman which you can see here. Basically, they are talking about rethinking the "life" of a film. Generally films put a ton of time, money, and energy into pre-release PR. The goal is to build as much buzz as possible so as to maximize the exposure of their release. After the release, that's it. The movie is out there and people buy it, watch it, download it, whatever. While Jon feels that pre-release PR is very important because this is what puts a film on the media map, he and Brian also suggest that filmmakers consider putting more into the post-release life of their films.

This rings true with us. A lot of people have given us the old line "You only get one release, that is your biggest chance for sales, don't take it lightly". The "release" is just a date. It is (in the case of Self Helpless, and lots of other micro-budget films) nothing more than the first day you can buy or download our movie. This idea of the release date as some sacred and pivotal moment seems to be a hold over from the old distributor-based distribution days. So what are some concrete actions that filmmakers can take to continue to grow their audience after they release their film?

The main idea that we have for post-release PR for Self Helpless is a demand based tour. A lot of filmmakers seem to be touring their movie in order to build an audience before their release. This didn't appeal to us. With no press, or stars, or giant youtube following, we found that it was incredibly difficult to manufacture an audience once we got away from our home zone. We still think that a screening tour would be a great way to build audiences and get a shit-ton of tail. We are going to use "demand it" to set up a post-release tour. If we can build an audience with our torrent release, then hopefully those folks will want to see Self Helpless in a theater and meet the assholes who made it.

What are some other ways that filmmakers can continue to build their audience after releasing their film? Are there things that we can do that don't cost a ton of money? Everyone would like to release an app and an online game and a graphic novel, but that just aint in the cards for us. We would love anyone's suggestions.

If you are interested in connecting with some folks who are pondering answers to similar indy distribution question, try searching #infdist on twitter.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Where We Been At

Since we momentarily disappeared from the interwebs, I thought I owed it to y'all to give a quick update on where we are at with Self Helpless. Over the holidays all four of us have been keeping it very "indie filmmaker" status. Adam, PK, and myself are living with our parents and working at bars and restaurants in our home towns. Pluses: no rent means we can work on the credit card bills from producing Self Helpless Minuses: there are no girls in Perkinsville, VT, and living with your dad is the definition of lame. Drick (much like his character "The Drake") is a pothead blue collar worker sponging off his successful girlfriend. Life imitates art. Embracing the lameness is allowing us to (just barely) keep our heads above water, and fund all the release expenses.

Things are moving along with the release. We are making a final, more streamlined cut of the movie based on the feedback we got during our mini theatrical tour. We should be finishing that final cut, as well as all of the DVD extras and mastering by the end of January. That will allow us to send a disc out for replication a the beginning of February. That process, in my experience, usually takes a few weeks from start to finish. That should set us up to release the torrent version of the film in early March, and the retail version one week later.

While we are working on preparing all of the media for our release, we are simultaneously working on the PR side of things. I would love to get screeners out to a few people in the upcoming release. A little bit of indie press could go a long way towards getting folks to check out SH when it is released.

Now that the holidays are over we will be back in touch, and hustling to get Self Helpless released as soon as possible.