Sometimes: Think Small And Find Success

There is a better mousetrap. One of the problems with the old way of making a film -- with the belief that someone would buy it -- is that the apparatus only applied to a few select films aimed at the widest audiences.  Yes, occasionally a filmmaker hit the lottery and everything aligned perfectly to engineer a sale, but by now we see that clearly as the exception and not the rule.  Some of the beauty that is being revealed during The-Collapse-Of-The-World-As-We-Once-Knew-It (COTWAWOKI), is that new experiments bring a wider selection of work to a wider selection of community.

Reading the NY Times recent article on how music labels are taking they DIY approach that they had for bands, are applying it to films too, frankly warmed my heart -- or whatever that is when you get the warm wave from the top of your head down through your toes. Endomorphines?  Anyway, it gives me hope that one day where ever you are in this country of ours, you could see interesting diverse culture among a crowd of similarly-minded and appreciative audiences, that one day you could find your own community in every county, no matter what you liked, or believed in.  Okay, maybe that's a tad idealistic, but...

You see, when filmmakers sought to sell their work, the work was supposed to be designed for everybody.  The work was going to be publicized to EVERYBODY.  When you aim widely, you are really limited in both the stories you can tell and how you can tell it.  When the target gets small, the game changes.  We get new options.  In the new game, there can be far more winners.  When we think small, we can think in a much broader manner as to the what & the how.  Thinking of a different game, we can think of far more models than the old one.

It made me think back to John Bradhum's post on TFF on "Film Gigging". It made me think of Peri Lewnes and others efforts to build a Film Club & Pub circuit.  It made me think of 's Joseph Infantalino's tale of finding cinephiles in New Jersey.  It made me think of way back when Docker's sponsored the Fuel Film Tour and we found bigger indie audiences in Columbus, Ohio than we did in NYC.  It makes me think of micro-cinema and living room theater circuits.  It makes me think of Eddie Burns and his new film "Nice Guy Johnny" designed for digi distro.  It makes me think of the thousands of alternative rock genres, and how music fans support them all.

The other day I got a great email from Drag City pushing Harmony Korine's "Trash Humpers".

Drag City is seriously considering going into the movie rental business!

Why not? We've just about done everything else in the entertainment business, putting out music for twenty-plus (and a few minus) years on whichever format the people fancied, and eventually branching into booking live entertainment (music and comedy so far), radio (wherever they'll let us broadcast - thanks WMBR, WNUR and anyone else we may be forgetting), the book world (hardback and paperback books, as well as magazines of various kinds and even a comic book), television (not ready for prime time yet), and finally, the holy grail of the entertainment industries, motion pictures. This summer, we handled the successful and compelling theatrical distribution of Harmony Korine's successful and compelling Trash Humpers across these United States, booking and promoting the film in fifty-plus (and no minus) markets, all told. This was followed with the release of the Trash Humpers DVD on September 21st. So far, we've sold several thousand copies in North America.

Their email continues in a refreshingly rock and roll manner, biting the hand that feeds.  I suspect as time goes on I will get more and more of such letters, geared towards one taste or another of mine, pushing the product that you can only get from them.

Someday they will all know where we are.  Someday we will have revealed our tastes to such an extent that the good stuff finds us.  Someday there will be no escape from the things we might love.  And then, when that day comes, it won't be about people trying to appeal to everyone.  It will be about being true to that special someone.  Instead of expanding our reach, we will know we should just direct our reach.  Direct it, and be true, be specific, and be precise.  It won't be that lie of "build it and they will come."  It will be "build it so you can find them".

Eddie Burns Learns To Love Doing It DIY

Michael Tully of HammerToNail has a really great interview with Edward Burns on his path from small to medium to sorta big and then back again.  It's filled with the kind of insights that can only be offered by those that have been there -- and are willing to be truly honest, with both themselves and us.

I remember when we were at Tribeca, and John Sloss, who I’m sure you know, has this new venture called FilmBuff, who is our distribution partner with this film. And he gave me an argument, but not so much for VOD. Maybe five years ago, I had this movie called Looking For Kitty. And the movie got one tiny, tiny distribution offer from THINKFilm. It was one of those no advance partnerships, and we had made the movie for a quarter of a million dollars. John said, “Look, you’re gonna sell the movie for nothing and they’re gonna own it, just so you can satisfy that part of your ego that wants the film to be released theatrically.” He goes, “If you were to just go straight to DVD, you could make your money back. And maybe make some more money.” At the time—this was maybe ’04 or ’05—my ego wouldn’t allow me to do it. So, we sell the film to THINKFilm, get no money, we’re supposed to have a partnership, and we’ve never seen a red cent from it. Years later, when we’re presented with the same kind of offer for Purple Violets, now iTunes is up and the iTunes movie site is in their infancy. And we thought, “Look at how bands are delivering their music directly to their fans. Maybe there’s a way for us to try and do that with the film.” And we did. I don’t have the numbers exactly right but I think it was like a nine-month exclusive window for iTunes. And we did surprisingly good business there.

Flash forward three years later to Nice Guy Johnny. Two different things happened. We knew what we could make at iTunes even if we didn’t have the kind of “stars” and well-known faces that we had in Purple Violets, which certainly helped. So we said, “Let’s just think the lowest possible number we can do on iTunes. If we’re even gonna entertain theatrical, someone needs to beat that number.” But we never even got there, because John then said to me, “Remember back to Looking For Kitty. This is the moment. We can sell your film for theatrical distribution, and you’re gonna open up on four screens in New York and LA, like you did with Looking For Kitty, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that if this company has enough money to market the thing, we might make an impression, and you can expand to the next level of a platform release. If we do well there, maybe, maybe you can go on and expand fully.” He said, “Or, you can release your film onto VOD and be in 46 million living rooms, in that moment when you’re doing all of your press.” I heard that, and I was like, maybe if I was a young guy and this was my first film, I don’t know that I would be willing to forego theatrical, because you do fantasize about having your movie play in theaters. I don’t want to say “I’ve been there, done that,” but most times I’ve ended up disappointed with how the films were handled theatrically. As my producing partner says, “There’s nothing special about a specialized film release.” We just thought, we’ll take our film and we’ll do the most aggressive film festival tour we’ve ever done. And that’ll satisfy the need to see it in theaters, sit in the back row with an audience, hear the laughter, and get the thrill of theatrical out of that. But financially, it just made absolutely no sense to try and sell the film to an audience theatrically. And those were all of the things that played into embracing this model.

THANK YOU EDDIE.  There's a whole lot more of it on HammerToNail.  Check it out.

Homage Trailers Are The New Party Game

Start guessing what movie Eddie Burns is now playing homage too here:

Last one to guess, drinks the beer. Or is it the first one to guess, gets it. Either way Eddie has shown one easy answer on how to get people aware of your film in a new fun way.  Imagine if there was a website where filmmakers placed their homages and it was up to the audience to guess the original.  It would be a party game and a discovery tool all in one.

And if you want the answer, click here.

Old Is New Again

I have often felt that you could do a shot for shot remake of Godard's A WOMAN IS A WOMAN and win Sundance with it. It feels as fresh today as it did when it came out -- which is both a testament to the quality of the film and condemnation of our current culture. We haven't exactly moved forward in terms of our art forms and storytelling. One thing that has reinforced my conviction that remakes could be the freshest thing on the planet, is Eddie Burns' series of "homage" trailers he's done around his latest film NICE GUY JOHNNY. If I saw this trailer without the context of what Eddie is up to, I would run to the theater to catch the feature. Even knowing that this is the third in a series of trailers that Eddie has done, it still makes me want to see what he's been up to lately. Clearly he's been inspired, and is having a lot of fun.

Okay, so this homage is not to the french new wave, but it is to a film that was heavily informed by all that those folks were up to, and filtered it through a big Hollywood lens. Did you name it? Got it after the jump.

The Next Big Thing? Homage Trailers

Yesterday, I posted how Edward Burns has found inspiration in the classics, or at least in the classics' trailers.  I get a huge kick from his "remakes"  that he has created around his new film NICE GUY JOHNNY.  "Homages" to the greats are both funny to watch and a great discovery tool.  So if you had a jones for more after yesterday's serving of Antonioni's L'AVVENTURA, why stop there?  Here's Eddie's remake of Godard's CONTEMPT:

And of course, the original:

NICE GUY JOHNNY opens everywhere on all platforms October 26th.

Let's Remake The Greatest Movies Of All Time!

Okay, let's let the the great movies be the great movies (at least for now), but who says we can't have fun with their various extensions?  Eddie Burns is on a role.  He's always gotten a great deal of inspiration from the greats.  THE BROTHERS McMULLEN had a bit of Woody Allen -- in Irish drag -- as it's patron saint.  He's found new inspiration and energy from an embrace of DIY and social media, and as much as he's looking forward, he's drawing on the past.  To get us all ready for his new film NICE GUY JOHNNY (opening on all platforms Oct. 26), Eddie has looked at  the greatest movies ever made, but hey he's a busy guy, so he doesn't have time to watch the whole feature and has settled on the trailers. Does this trailer remind you of anything you've seen before? It should, because it is L'Avventura.  Eddie won't leave it there either; he's got more to remake.  This sort of inspired homage, playful and accessible, is a great example of the sort of innovative approaches filmmakers embrace when there is no corporate overlord lurching above.  You can picture that soon, we will be able to see the entire Criterion collection's trailers remade by Indie filmmakers having fun as they seek new ways to aid audiences in discovering their work.  And hey and if it brings a few fans back to the classics as a result of recognizing the originals..., that ain't so bad either.

Here's the trailer for Antonioni's original: