DIY Chronicles: THE WAY WE GET BY (Part 5 of 5): Going Local Pays Off

In the end, The Way We Get By by far exceeded our expectations. It was an unbelievably rewarding journey during one of the most difficult economic times in our country. We learned to never underestimate the support that can come from that small niche audience every film has. The people of Maine knew our story and wanted to help support our success. In every screening we’ve attended, there has been someone in the audience with a Maine connection there to support us. Going local paid off for us nationally—literally. Maine was a critical factor in making The Way We Get By a national success. And an amazing blessing for us as well. Leading up to our national broadcast, a group of vendors in Maine decided to throw us an amazing wedding in Maine----for free. A dream wedding we could never afford. Over 60 wedding vendors from across the state donated their services for our special day.

Leading up to the wedding, Mainers would stop us and tell us how much they enjoyed the film—how it affected them personally—and how much they looked forward to our next films too.

On October 16, we got married---a three day event on French’s Point in Stockton Maine. (LINK TO PAGE). The New York Times even covered the event.

THE WAY WE GET BY taught us personally so much about life and living it—and professionally it taught us about the importance of taking calculated business risks. But more importantly, we learned there is an audience for every film and filmmaker—you just have to find it. And for us—that loyal, dedicated audience—is in Maine.

Since THE WAY WE GET BY was released, Maine media outlets continue to share updates on the film’s success.  A few weeks ago, when we found out our film received a national Emmy nomination, the Strand Theater in Maine celebrated by honoring us on their marquee.

Now the question is---can we carry our supporters over to our next project. We hope that not only will they continue to support The Way We Get By, but hopefully help fund and support our future films.

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

DIY Chronicles: THE WAY WE GET BY (Part 4 of 5): Minimize Your Loss & Hope For A Greater Payoff In The End

Today's guest post is from filmmakers Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet.

With film prints in hand, it now changed our game plan. Though we knew likely we’d lose money realizing nationally in theaters, we were banking that the film reviews and national press would bring a greater exposure to our film—and if not help our bottom line—at least help our careers.

In the end, we decided to alter our business plan, aware of the risks, and launched a national theatrical run.

The money we had made in Maine allowed us to bring on International Film Circuit as our distributor for a national release.

 

Our national non-profit partners couldn’t provide any financial support to us, however they shared film and screening information with their members by email, on their websites, and on their social networks. Now it wasn’t just us tweeting something or adding an event to our Facebook fan page to our few thousand followers. It was a large network of organizations reaching hundreds of thousands of people.

 

During this time, were bringing in interns as fast as we could to help us make calls to colleges across the country. Our plan was to allow them to use our film as a “real-life” marketing project for students. Instead of some example from a book, they would evaluate the best ways to release our film in their state—where to play, how to plan for a local release, identify target groups to work with—and then see if their plan actually worked in real life. In return, we would give the schools and the students credit at the end of our film. They all had to deliver reports to us by a specific deadline to get in the final theatrical credits. Although we initially had commitments from about 20 schools, 14 actually had extended conversations with us, and seven schools in seven different states delivered marketing research that was usable. The schools gave us insight into many different communities as we rolled the film out. In addition, the students helped spread the word because they now had a stake in the film’s success—and wanted friends and family to see their names in the credits.

What we discovered as we opened was that even though our research was solid, it was really difficult to get our target groups out to the theatre. We began to fear that the studios we talked to were right—grassroots has little impact on the box office.

In July, we kicked off our national run at the IFC Center in New York City, breaking over $7,000 in box office opening weekend and $10,000 for the week. International Film Circuit believed that was a solid number to work with—along with the numerous festival awards we had now won—to open The Way We Get By in more theatres across the country. As the bookings for the film started to pile up, we began to gain more confidence. That didn’t last too long.

In August, we opened at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Los Angeles and got killed. The theatre is located in a very affluent Jewish neighborhood in the heart of Beverly Hills. Crowds of elderly Jewish people came in droves to the theater to see films that weekend—just not ours.

Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg about a Jewish radio pioneer was playing, and Woody Allen’s latest film Whatever Works opened the same weekend as we did. It was tough to see a lobby filled with senior citizens and know they were not there to see our film…with three subjects all over 70 years old.

All in all, over five months, from July – November (leading up to our Veterans Day POV broadcast), we opened in over 60 cities, spending every penny we made in Maine on marketing and promotion. New York and Los Angeles were, by far, the most expensive—hiring PR firms, placing qualifying ads, and putting on special events ended up costing thousands.

In key markets, our screenings became more of an event. In NYC and L.A., we provided special group discounts.

 

We did “red carpet” events for troops, veterans, and seniors. We deployed our interns across each city, pitching to local groups that had any connection to the film. In Washington, DC, days before our theatrical opening, we had a special screening on Capital Hill with POV, the USO, and Hands On Network as our partners. It garnered national press and the next day, we received an invitation to the White House to meet with Vice President Biden.  That visit was not only an incredible, lifetime experience; it also helped spread the word about the film.

But now the film was also going to create an amazing personal opportunity for us as well…..

 

END PART IV.  Part V, and the conclusion of the series, is tomorrow with:

GOING LOCAL PAYS OFF

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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

DIY Chronicles: THE WAY WE GET BY (Part 3 of 5): Going Local and Maximizing Your Distribution Window

Today's guest post is the third of five from filmmakers Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet concerning their experience making and distributing THE WAY WE GET BY. The students at Harvard Business School realistically saw no way for us to do a theatrical run without a significant investment in film prints and print and advertising. But they noted that by leveraging our POV broadcast with a DVD release, we could feasibly make our first real revenue stream. That coupled with a strong educational and community screening plan showed that there was perhaps some hope of making a living. However, they all agreed, it was going to be A LOT of work.

The one date we knew we couldn’t move was our broadcast. The Way We Get By was going to be a common carriage POV Special on Veterans Day (November 11). We knew we had to come up with a strategy to market and promote the film leading up to the broadcast and direct our audiences towards the DVD.

As we waited to see which film festival we would “world premiere” at, we realized we had a growing audience and strong support in Maine. We knew we had to figure out how to leverage this regional support base to help us nationally. We began fundraising in Maine, in hopes that we could pull off a small theatrical run within the state. Through our networking efforts, we were introduced to our eventual Executive Producer. His son was serving in the Marine Corps and had gone through the Bangor International Airport five times. This hub, where much of our film takes place, held a very emotional place in his heart. Being a Vietnam veteran, he also still had emotions involving his own journey home. In short, he had a personal stake in our film succeeding. He wanted to see it find the largest possible audience. His first significant contribution to the film came in the form of a donation to help with the costs of marketing and outreach. But it was his next contribution—sharing his personal relationships with us, that helped us also secure a critical deal with a local bank in Maine.

We had originally approached Bangor Savings Bank asking for support to help finish The Way We Get By. But since they had never financed a film before, they saw it as too risky a venture. When we went back to them with our finished film, they loved it and wanted to be the exclusive sponsor for a set number of screenings across Maine.

The bank initially wanted to pay us to license and screen the film at around ten locations around Maine—including a speaking fee for each event we were a part of. But we knew if we were going to do something significant in Maine, as well as nationally, we needed to forget about a quick financial gain and leverage it for something long term. We decided to counter offer with a different plan entirely. We told them we would bypass any screening or speaking fees if they were willing to pay for a film negative and film prints (roughly $35,000 in hard costs)—making it much easier to screen in theaters around Maine. Finally, they agreed to spend over $100,000 in marketing the film across the state and purchase a large quantity of DVDs.  This included throwing receptions before screenings in many cities, and using their standing in the community to help get local press. In return, their logo would always be on the screen before the film played, and they would have the option of having a bank representative introduce the film.

We brought on a friend—Ben Fowlie, the founder of the Camden International Film Festival—to act as our theatrical booker in Maine, as he knew almost every theater owner in the state. He quickly helped lock down the theatres for the Bank sponsored screenings as well as several additional theatres. After our world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in March, while we were still just getting started on our festival run, we decided we would launch our theatrical run in Maine stretching out through the summer.  This was a gamble because during the summer, theaters were playing the big blockbuster films and audiences would typically choose to see Star Trek over our documentary—or so we thought. With all the press and promotion we were able to secure with the “Made in Maine” angle, we played in over 20 theaters, splitting the box office with each theater. We framed the photo of the neon marquee of a central-Maine theatre touting Star Trek through the week and The Way We Get By on the weekend, and we still have the Rentrak reports, from a western Maine theatre, showing our head to head box-office battle with the latest Harry Potter film—we doubled them in box-office that weekend!

Coming off the high of our success in Maine and with five film prints in hand, we debated on giving the film a national theatrical run. But if we went for it—we could risk losing the money in Maine and even more…..

END PART III.  Part IV continues tomorrow with MINIMIZE YOUR LOSS AND HOPE FOR A GREATER PAYOFF IN THE END

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

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

DIY Chronicles: THE WAY WE GET BY (Part 2 of 5): Timing Is Everything

Today's guest post is the second of five from filmmakers Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet concerning their experience making and distributing THE WAY WE GET BY. In November, we got a call from POV. We were being picked up for the 2009 season. Around that time, we also found out ITVS LINCS had approved us for funding. With a national television broadcast now in place, we were on the path to reaching our goals.

Now, we had to figure out the festival, theatrical, DVD, digital and online markets. Surely with a broadcast in place, other outlets had to at least be interested?

We started reaching out and calling theatrical and DVD distributors, trying to see if maybe with a television broadcaster in place, they would want to acquire our film. Our eagerness quickly turned to despair as we began to place more calls to distributors.

Every theatrical distributor that took our phone call basically told us our film had no theatrical appeal. Without even seeing a cut, they would cut us off and say something to the effect of “your film is about old people and troops—no thanks.” It was incredibly frustrating. We knew there was a market out there for our film. Nearly one million troops had been through Bangor and actually met our film subjects—shaking their hands and giving them hugs. On top of that, these troops had families and friends spread out all over the country that wanted to know these greeters that had been there for their loved ones.

By this time, we also had several national groups interested in supporting our film and our grassroots efforts—National Council on Aging, HandsOn Network, Vietnam Veterans of America. These groups had significant memberships that we hoped we could rally.

Feeling we weren’t getting a fair shake, Aron and I decided to take control of the distribution of our film. We needed a plan to identify and maximize all the different revenue streams, and we needed to think of ways to tap into supporters of the film more than just financially. We felt scared and excited at the same time, but we also felt a real sense of freedom. Since no one had any definitive answers on how to successfully distribute on your own, we used our film as a testing ground for every possible distribution method we could come up with. We knew it would take a ton of work, but also be a valuable learning experience—a perfect choice for our film and our careers.

Through a little research, I found a professor at Harvard Business School, who worked with major studios helping them with their business models. I approached her and after a little convincing, she agreed to have her students work on a business model for The Way We Get By.

After explaining the distribution situation, the students spent the first month calling and talking with others in the industry. They found direct DVD retailers for us, researched fulfillment houses, and developed marketing data that we could take to distributors like Netflix and Amazon, showing potential sales and rentals.

In the end, the report provided us with a game plan— but the question was ---could we pull it off and honestly-- did we really want to?

END PART II.  Part III will continue tomorrow with "Going Local and Maximizing Your Distribution Window"

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

DIY Chronicles: THE WAY WE GET BY (Part 1 of 5):Finding A Spot In the Line-up

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