The process of releasing and distributing my first film has been a challenge, and as we enter the last month or so of pre-release work I will be sharing more a long the way. In the previous two posts in this series I talked about cutting a trailer and shared philosophical ramblings after our world premiere. In this post, I'm gonna talk about our international premiere experience, putting on our own screenings and preparing for the next steps before release. Hit the jump to read more.
Bulgaria, I love you.
Menthol had its international premiere at the 18th Sofia International Film Fest in Bulgaria, and it was an awesome experience that highly contrasted our previous one. This time around we just treated it as a fun experience and went with the flow and had a much better time. The people at this festival actually cared that we were there. At Santa Barbara we put a bunch of energy and effort trying to make sure our screening was full and we were visible. It was worth it to have a full screening, but it was exhausting.
Editor Kazdyn Nicholson, Producer Nate Kamiya, Director Micah Van Hove @ Sofia IFF
In Santa Barbara we were a small fish in a big pond, in Bulgaria it was the opposite. The festival actually gave a shit that we were there. They took good care of us, fed us, wined us, physically sat us down at tables with other filmmakers from around the globe. This is what a film festival should be, an opportunity to hang out, see movies, and meet other people without feeling like you need to hustle yourself. So congrats to the Sofia Film Festival for restoring my faith in the festival experience. It's always cool when an Italian producer calls your film "pornographic!"
The big question: Who is this movie for?
Perhaps we shouldn’t be thinking too much about the marketing of a film before it’s developed, but what I'm learning with Menthol is that they are intrinsic to each other and the process -- especially in the digital age. As your film takes shape, so must a strategy to get it into the eyeballs of those who will appreciate it. And just as I hope to make better and better movies, I also hope to continue to learn how to give them proper births into the now-flooded marketplace. Going through the release process is teaching me a lot about who my audience is, who I made this movie for (other than myself), and how the movie is seen through different eyes.
Menthol was viewed a LOT differently in Bulgaria than it was in the States. As a film about everyday male American nihilism, it's something the domestic audiences can relate to because they've seen it in real life. But in Bulgaria it was viewed as more of an anthropological study, something so foreign from their every day lives that it showed a window into a whole other world. Seeing the difference in perception across cultures was really cool.
Organizing our own screenings.
While we've been hitting festivals we've been organizing our own screenings in cities that we weren't accepted to or places we think the film would be well received. So far this has proven difficult, given that our release spend is roughly $0. This is something I want to get better at, as I foresee a filmmaker's ability to tour their own film and know where to find their audiences as a huge factor in the sustainability of a career.
Tools like Tugg and Simple Machine can be great for this, as there are no upfront costs. You can also reach out to your own personal network and organize screenings in alternative spaces (if this is what you want to do) like art galleries, museums or even houses. For a small film, I think it's all about getting your work out there, so whatever you do during your festival run/pre-release zone is for the benefit of exposure. We have a screening in San Francisco on May 10th for anyone who's in town, please consider coming out:
Saturday, May 10th
3:00PM at the New Parkway in Oakland, CA
Admission is free but reservation only (Limited seating!)
Release delays/rolling with the punches.
Seeing your first film go out into the world is a scary thing. During the release process I think it's easy to become despondent over self-distributing. Our release date keeps moving back unexpectedly because we are getting invited to film festivals -- which, don't get me wrong, is a really nice thing -- but it can take some wind out of your sails when all you really wanna do is publish the thing for the world. My mind feels like it can't fully move on to other things until this is out there. For me, it has led to a lot of anxiety about releasing the film, so during this time I think it's important to stay on your feet while you wait for film festivals and try not to get in your own head too much.
Update: Menthol is going to the Brooklyn Film Festival! It never ends...
Momentum is everything.
It's a fun thing to say you're gonna release a movie with no money or nepotism, but actually doing it really is harder than it sounds. You have to treat your release as its own project, it's own entire process. I’m a creature who thrives on momentum, and in order to maintain forward movement on a project or a release you have to be vigilant. I’ve been less than vigilant at times and it’s hard to just manufacture it on your own.
Releasing a movie is brand new to me, so I’m the least confident about that part of the process. I've dropped the ball a few times along the road, and I'm learning that self-distribution (or direct-distribution) definitely can't be done alone. As filmmakers, I think we must be looking to our audience to help us with this. The more you communicate with them, the more you’re gaining foot soldiers in the war of getting your film seen.
We're doing some video content for the next couple posts in this series as things ramp up to our imminent online release on Reelhouse. What I want to ask you is: what parts of the process would you like to hear more about? Let us know in the comments below and, most importantly, thanks for reading and joining along. It means a lot to us.
Interested in booking the film for a screening? Hit us up on Simple Machine or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org ~