Thursday, April 9, 2009

Who Needs Hollwood? Not these guys.

There's a new movement in filmmaking. It's what you might call a "who need's Hollywood?", DIY approach. A number of new filmmakers have had some awesome success with this. The thing is there is no one way for everybody. Each filmmaker seems to find their own road. But there are some commonalities, like social networking, self-distribution, and audience interaction, and always hard work.

Arin Crumley and Susan Buice successfully produced, directed and distributed their feature film, Four Eyed Monsters, through the internet and a lot of Google time. One thing about this is that technology moves so fast, and things are ever changing, so that what worked for them is already outdated. But their independent spirit in going down their own road, even paving their way through a wilderness, was the thing we can all take away from their experience and apply to ourselves. By the way, Four Eyed monsters garnered two Independent Spirit Award nominations.

The road they took started with vlogs on YouTube. I think they planned this as part of their strategy in marketing their film. Their vlogs were about the behind the scenes "making of" stuff that you might find in typical DVD extras. But there is nothing typical about these guys. The film itself was kind of a similar docudrama of their relationship, much of it in a vlog fourth wall style. That sounds a bit repugnant on paper. But the film is really beautiful. Check out the trailer to get a feel for it.  So while the film was about their relationship's birth, life and death, as the tagline reads, the vlogs were about that too, along with the making of the film and with more reality.

The interesting this is that their "making of" experience is like none you've ever seen, or maybe never will. They forged their way to gather a YouTube and social network audience, which they translated into theatrical sales, by capturing emails and zip codes and persuading  theaters across the country to show their film during four Thursdays September in 2005, I think it was. That itself is quite an accomplishment. But it doesn't end there. in fact it still hasn't ended.

They acquired support form a number of online web film distributor ventures, including YouTube, where they were the first online feature release, and, who paid them a dollar for everyone who they referred to Spout, amounting to $35,000. Their vlogs were so popular that they included them as a series of episodes on the DVD, along with the film and a soundtrack CD. The DVD has sold around 1500 copies through their website, mainly. Now they are talking to DVD distributors and I think they are available at Borders and maybe on a cable movie channel in the future.

This is backwards from what the conventional Hollywood big business model professes. In that model, you never release to the DVD market and certainly not the internet, until you have exploited the theatrical market. Not these guys. They offered their film for free on YouTube, along with the vlog episodes, which built interest for the DVD and generated the theatrical and DVD markets.

I've heard filmmakers worry about exposing their film like this, as a quick way to kill all chances for conventional distribution. but what Arin is saying is that conventional distribution is a pipe dream. Susan calls it the prince with the glass slipper. This is so true, and so obvious, it's amazing filmmakers haven't seen this before. We are wasting our time submitting to festival after festival, where are chances are a few hundred out of 5000 to 6000 for the big festivals. Even if we have a good film, and even if it;s picked up by a festival, the chances of finding a distributor this way are so remote. There are usually one or two film at any festival, if that, that get a distribution deal. Then what? Our films are shelved. We don't have to accept this treatment.

Like Arin and Susan we have the greatest marketing tool at our fingertips, and it's free. The internet. Lance Weller and some others have a website,, where these kinds of things are discussed openly. You'd be surprised at how many filmmakers are finding audiences this way.

Here are some websites to check out:
YouTube Screening Room

At these sites you'll find a lot more links.

Check out my own venture at, and my film project, Stop War.

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