PPP: (Picture, Parties, Panels) - a formula for success

Guest post by Joao Amorim, Emmy Award nominee director of 2012: Time for Change, a feature doc offering an optimistic alternative to apocalyptic doom and gloom and featuring leading experts, scientists and celebrities including: Sting, Ellen Page, David Lynch, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Gilberto Gil, Dean Radin, Buckminster Fuller, Paul Stamets, Shiva Rea, Tiokasin Ghosthorse and many more.  It is currently playing in NYC at Loews Village 7 through Oct. 28th. Moving towards an Open Source culture in film distribution with 2012: Time for Change

Understanding the changing distribution landscape in 2008 while we were financing this project, Mangusta Productions and I decided to build in some P&A monies into our budget.  When we completed the film in March 2010 we all agreed that the best chance we had to reach a wide audience with this film was to take it straight to our fans and build a movement from the ground up, grassroots style.

I had built some good relationships with environmental groups during the making of the film and we decided to begin by proposing a partnership with Green Festivals – the largest sustainability event in the U.S. that takes place in 4 cities throughout the year.  We suggested that we would bring several luminaries featured in the film to speak on a panel at their expo in exchange for a booth at the festival where we could sell dvd’s and other merchandise, and promote our screenings which would take place in that city simultaneously.  We began this process in San Francisco in April and  were able to put some amazing post-screening panels together featuring people in the film, as well as others activists based in the area.  The results were phenomenal.  We sold out a 280 seat theater three nights in a row and sold out of all our merchandise.  Finally, we co-hosted a party with a local venue and were able to connect directly with our audience and create new relationships that would help in spreading the word about the film.

We duplicated this model in two more cities with Greenfest; Chicago and Seattle. In Seattle, we decided to experiment with a more traditional theatrical run.  Partnering with Intention Media, the filmmakers that managed the initial release of  What the Bleep do we Know?!, we booked a full run at the Varsity Landmark Theater in Seattle in conjunction with our Greenfest panel. This release was successful enough to get extended for three weeks at that theater, and also allowed us to get reviews in some of the major papers.  We were able to book a theater in Portland because of our results in Seattle.  After seeing the enthusiastic response in these initial cities, and receiving a lot of requests for screenings around the world, we realized that people were hungry for what the film was offering and decided to plan a more traditional limited theatrical release.

In order to keep building momentum while we planned our proper theatrical release we scheduled a special screening in NYC specifically to attract press.  We did a “green carpet” event with celebrity luminaries and supporters. As with all of our other screenings we had a panel discussion following the screening, this time featuring Sting, Paul Stamets, Daniel Pinchbeck, Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Ganga White and myself.  Continuing with our PPP concept, the Picture with Panel was followed by a great Party where the audience could mingle with the luminaries…

This event gave us a lot of visibility in the media and ended up landing us a great piece on the well-respected BBC World show “Talking Movies”

Over the final summer months and early fall, we took orders for special screenings around the world and prepared for our theatrical run in NYC and LA.

In October we opened theatrically in Los Angeles and NY. We stuck to the panel strategy but amped it up, allowing for multiple panels a day, and for several local community organizations to join in.  We also offered media sponsorships in exchange for exposure on our website and promotional materials.  This helped us to blast the word out to hundreds of thousands of people via email (note: another key component in our strategy since the beginning has been collecting peoples email addresses at each and every screening). Perhaps our greatest ally has been Daniel Pinchbeck’s social network Evolver who have helped promote the film and been our foot soldiers for spreading word of mouth from Day 1.

Our PPP model is proving to be very effective, having already grossed over 60K in the box office. Our first week in NY and in LA we out grossed every other film in those theaters (Loews Village 7 and Laemmle’s Sunset 5, respectively) and are currently rated 9th in the country for per-screen average as of last weeks box office numbers.

Although some media channels (NY Times) have been very dismissive of the film, we are getting the exact opposite response from our audience. We at Mangusta have learned a lot from this experience, and hope we can get this film out to more cities. I think we are close to reaching a critical mass and with a few more successful weekends, we could have the opportunity to introduce the film to the collective society on a wider scale.

After our screenings we have had panelists ranging from people in the film such as Gilberto Gil, Sting, Paul Stamets, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Penny Livingston-Stark, Tiokasin Ghosthorse and Ganga White, as well as other supporters from the community who were not involved in the making of the film such as Morgan Spurlock, Collin Beaven (No Impact Man), Damon Dash, Mallika Chopra, and John Perry Barlow.

Michael Moore recently requested a copy of the film for his theater in Traverse City after hearing about it from people in the community who’d asked for it to be screened there.  After seeing it they booked it and we had a very well-attended screening there followed by a Skype Q&A with myself.

This is all very much still a work in progress but my tentative conclusion is that it takes more then a good picture to get the people to the theater, you need to create a true event out of the experience. That is when I came up with the PPP model. You always need at least two of the P’s to get a group and all three to get a crowd.

At this point we want to spread the word of the film around the world and have many ways for people to get involved. For more info on our film please visit us at www.2012timeforchange.com and join the movement! Evolve to Solve.

João Amorim is Brazilian Director and Producer, focused on documentaries and animated films, with a social and environmental angle. João also helps run the NGO CICLO.ORG and the social media company PostModern Times.  He is currently working on the feature animation film "Gaia and Last Forrest".