Monday, October 12, 2009

Where's that confounded audience?

Remember the Led Zeppelin song The Crunge from Houses of the Holy where Bonham whispers at the end of the song, "where's that confounded bridge?" I've been reading quite a bit over the years about how vital it is for Indie filmmakers to find, create, bolster, and maintain an audience for their films (Do It Yourself- DIY)! It's obvious on a certain level, but for years and years I thought this was a lot of bunk!!!

Many folks like to point to The Blair Witch Project as an example of homegrown, DIY marketing to help create a mega hit. Of course, there was a lot more to the story. TBWP got it's start as a series of 10 min. segments on IFC, not exactly cable access. The first segment aired on John Pierson's show Split Screen in 1997 on the 10th episode and included the set up of the phony history of the witch in Maryland, the lost footage from the missing film student's, etc. This was a cliff hanger episode, which lead in to the next season, starting w/ episode 11 in Spring of 1998 which included snippets of the "found footage". I watched that episode and the whole season because I directed a segment for said show entitled The Real Casino which appeared on episode 18 of the same season. Anyhow, I was impressed with eeriness of the 'found footage' which ended up becoming the backbone of the feature film. Almost a full 7 months before the film got into Sundance, or had a website, fans were bombarding the website message board w/ millions of hits. Of course, the film got in to the little festival called Sundance, (John Pierson was on the board at Sundance) and then got picked up by Artisan and the rest is history...

Once someone examines this history it starts to become clear why this isn't exactly DIY marketing. When you first hit the light of day on a cable network that was a subsidiary at the time of GE/NBC and get into a major festival it starts to look a whole lot more like traditional use of media, but dressed up as something brand new and cheery. And the fact of the matter is no matter how many examples people trot out about how the 'net is gonna be the great equalizer, how people are gonna be able to sprout up out of Peoria, and all points beyond, to market their film to the audience and create the next Blair Witch. The fact is when you investigate further you see the use of traditional media, and huge corporations always seem to be in the mix. One need not look any further than the new Paranormal Activity to see the fingers of traditional media creating a hit. No matter how hard some may try, the fact is you really need the big boys and traditional media to help foster a huge hit. I believed that because from empirical evidence it was true. Sure, there were films like The Last Broadcast or the whole mumble core movement, but the fact is those films didn't make a dent in the mainstream consciousness.

However, ten years after TBWP one film has begun to change my mind... A little film from Denver, CO called INK!!! Here's a film that did get into a quality fest, The Santa Barbara Int. Film Fest, but rather than ride the fest circuit forever and hope for a decent distribution offer, the filmmakers took the bull by the horns and actually used DIY to create and foster an audience! Rather than sit here and explain everything they did, it'd be easier to go here and read for yourself... I can give a basic brush stroke look at it. The filmmakers were very wise in creating some buzz at a major festival first, then coming back for some home cooking and building an audience in their home town of Denver. They organized a theatrical run that lasted something ridiculous like 20 straight weeks, WOW!!! Then they used that success to slowly invade LA, first at the Egyptian theatre, then at Holly Shorts festival at Laemmle Sunset 5, where yours truly's film Warriors of the Discotheque: The Starck Club Documentary screened earlier that day. Then after a few successful solo screenings they secured a one week run... Again w/o a distrib. w/o a huge pr firm, w/o major media! This has truly been DIY!
This is the first film I've come across that's made me truly believe that we don't need the big boys to actually get our work out there and be seen. But, not only be seen, hell I can put my work on youtube for that. It may be possible to even make a living selling our work to that audience we found, created, and fostered over time....
Btw, you can help bolster me up here

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