Committing To Hybrid Distribution: "The Taqwacores" Story (Pt. 2 of 2)

Guest post by filmmaker Eyad Zahra.   His first feature film “The Taqwacores.” -- a DIY production -- world premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and opens in New York City at the East Village Cinema today, October 22nd. To learn more, visit www.punkislam.com.  Check out the 1st part of this post here.

Make no mistake.  The indie film world is pretty topsy-turvy right now.  As anybody who reads Ted’s blog knows, there are fewer buyers out there, all the while the digital revolution has allowed for movies to be made then ever.  The market is flipped upside down, and who knows when or where it will every land back on its feet.

As the producer and director of The Taqwacores, my first feature length film, I have had the highest of highs, and lowest of lows in my first filmmaking adventure.  I want to be honest here, and not sugar coat the experience whatsoever.  It has been a wild roller coaster to make this independent feature film, a roller coaster ride that has been going on for nearly 3.5 years (and counting).

As a first time feature length filmmaker, I had thought the biggest hump was production.  I figured, all we had to do was get through those 3 weeks of shooting, and everything else would be down hill.

The reality is that it never gets downhill.  It only gets uphill, and it gets steeper and steeper the more you go forward.

That said, I would do this all over again in a heartbeat. That’s how much I love the story I have chosen to tell, and the life-long friendships I have made because of this production.  To any filmmaker out there, you better make sure you love (not just “like”) the people you are working with, and that your narrative is something you can dedicate years of your life too.

To learn more about how we made the film, check out the production notes here.

Today we release the film in New York City at the East Village Cinema.

At this juncture, we are releasing the film domestically through Strand Releasing (Marcus Hu, Jon Gerrans, and David Bowlds), and these guys have been nothing short of incredible.  They have allowed me to be part of the entire release process, and I deal directly with the heads of the company, and my concerns are always answered by them in an immediate manner.   I have been even given an open invitation to swing by their offices any time.

What I love about our release strategy is that we are using a hybrid method towards launching this film.  We are doing a standard limited theatrical launch in NYC and LA, while along stressing an intense grassroots campaign effort.  It’s a bit of the old and new wrapped in one, which allows me to be involved as much as I want to be.  I have been involved in every major decision for the film.  I also manage our online media (website, facebook fan page, twitter) personally.

We originally launched the film at the Sundance Film Festival, which we were incredibly fortunate to get into.  You can read about how that happened here.

At Sundance is where the seeds of our distribution deal were planted.   Our sales team Visit Films (Ryan Kampe, Aida LiPera), were quite remarkable in helping us setup to sell at Sundance in a matter of weeks.  Visit Films is a global sales representative with a business model designed to help first-time filmmakers maximize their audiences on a global scale.  They are really the only people who do what they do in the United States.  By having only one sales agent to deal with all of our distribution deals, and our global film festival outreach, a huge weight had been lifted off our backs.

We were quite lucky to find ourselves working with both Visit Films and Strand Releasing, and for us, working with these companies has been an incredible fit.  I know there is now a movement for filmmakers to remove themselves from sales reps and distributers, but I urge caution to all filmmakers on this point.  Make sure the route you choose is best for your film.  Research as many case studies as you can, and always think of what’s best in the long run.

Eyad gives an in-depth presentation about the do and don’ts of DIY indie filmmaking through a workshop he has created called “DIY NOW”.  He has presented “DIY NOW” at USC and most recently at the ABU DHABI FILM FESTIVAL.  To learn more about DIY NOW, contact EYAD at info@rumanni.com