For the past five years, Aron Gaudet and I dedicated our lives to making and distributing our film, The Way We Get By. Our story takes place in Bangor, Maine and profiles three senior citizens, who have dedicated their lives to greeting troops heading off to war and returning home. The story is about finding purpose in your life and the role service plays in helping overcome your own personal obstacles.
For our three subjects, greeting troops changed their lives, and in many ways, this film changed our lives—personally and professionally. We want to share with you the journey that we took—to inspire you to find your own business model to extend the life of your film and reach the largest possible audience.
FINDING A SPOT IN THE LINE-UP
Aron and I had certain goals we wanted to accomplish with our first feature-length project. We wanted to make a quality film and get it in front of an audience, but we also wanted to establish our careers as filmmakers. This meant some of our choices would be made because it was the best move for our film, and some would be made to help our careers.
But all of it was a moot point if no one else thought our film had potential. We knew we had to find someone to help champion our film. So for three years, we had applied to grants and fellowships and we were rejected from everything. Our confidence in us—and the film—were starting to diminish.
Just when we had started to give up hope, in the fall of 2007, Aron and I were selected for the WGBH Filmmaker in Residence program—a nine-month residency at the largest PBS station in the country. In order to do this, we needed to dedicate ourselves to our film full-time.
We had begun saving some money for our wedding that we hoped to have in coming years. We decided that we would just have to hold off and used that money to get us on a budget so we could quit our jobs. At the time, it felt like the riskiest decision we had ever made--- it was literally enough for rent and small budget for food.
The residency provided us with an editing room, work space, and perhaps one of the most valuable opportunities: a one-day workshop at POV—the critically-acclaimed PBS series. We met with the editorial, legal, and online teams for a full day of useful information tailored directly to The Way We Get By. At the end of the workshop, the POV team encouraged us to apply to their Open Call.
We left that day excited to be on their radar but also knowing only fifteen or so films would be chosen from over a thousand submissions. To make matters worse, we had a box of 300 tapes to log and capture back in Boston—and only three months to edit a rough cut of our film to meet the POV deadline.
During this time, we also learned about the ITVS LINCS program, offering up to $100,000 of finishing funds in the form of a licensing agreement. We had applied for several grants already, with no success, but we were hoping this was different. We were applying with two PBS stations as our partners—Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) and WGBH—so we thought we at least had a shot. We also knew it was one of the only realistic ways to pay for all the hard costs coming down the road—color correction, sound mixing, upconverting to HD—that our dwindling savings would never cover.
In August of 2008, after a summer spent editing seven days a week, fifteen hours a day we completed a rough cut of our film and submitted it to POV.
With barely enough savings to keep us going, we anxiously waited to hear back from someone—POV, ITVS-- just someone to tell us we had something.
Part One: Finding A Spot In The Line-Up Part Two: Timing Is Everything Part Three: Going Local & Maximizing Your Distribution Window Part Four: Minimize Your Loss And Hope For A Greater Payoff In The End Part Five: Going Local Pays Off
Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet are now working on their next project—a narrative feature, “Go Baby” they plan to shoot early next year. They recently launched SUNNY SIDE UP FILMS, www.sunnysideupfilms.com, which also supports the national distribution of independent films.
Tune in to see The Way We Get By for its encore presentation as part of the 2010 season on POV August 3, 2010. For more information, visit: www.thewaywegebymovie.com