Real-Time Distribution Case Study, Week 11: Autonomy, Calendars & Carrots

Previous ... Next

We spent a wonderful weekend with cast, crew, friends and family at the world premiere of Phoenix, Oregon.

The film showed to a standing-room-only crowd of 500+.

The energy was contagious. The audience laughed and cried in all the right places.

The love, support and cheers at the end were beautiful and oh so rewarding.

It was an evening I will always hold dear and remember with the utmost gratitude.


Evenings end…


I can’t believe how good I feel today. And it’s not just because of the awesome weekend.

With previous films, the days after the premiere were a slow slide into stagnation and empty hoping, days full of let-down, reliving each moment, trying to make sense of audience reactions, days hoping for a savior, believing someone (or some company) would swoop in to nurture and guide the film’s next steps.

My brain relentlessly grasped for stubbornly fading memories.

This time, the premiere was just one step in the larger plan. We celebrated all weekend, and Monday morning, I woke up with a long list of tasks for the fifty city tour. That felt so incredibly good.

Feedback from the screening is incorporated into our strategy, just like any business (or studio) would do after launching a product: learn, integrate, act, strategize, execute.

Filmmakers are not taught this. If anything, we learn the opposite.

We are taught to believe that there are gate keepers, and unless those gate keepers approve of us and our work, we cannot continue.

So we wait.

Indie filmmakers have been indoctrinated… to wait for approval, to wait for Sundance, to wait for a critic’s praise.

People are incredulous that we are venturing out on our own, taking action, and controlling the film’s calendar and destiny. It seems abnormal and downright crazy; aren’t the “gate holders” supposed to tell us when, how, where?

I have been asked continually, why am I not spending a year on the festival circuit, waiting around for news of festival acceptance and distributor validation.

In the past, that was our plan, but this time, we decided to control the calendar.

We were tired of putting all of our resources into one screening only to have buzz fizzle and then have to start all over weeks or months later for the next festival. This time, the first festival is a launch for the rest of our screenings, and promotion will continue until the film is released on all platforms.

This is exactly what the studios do. They would never waste precious resources on un-leveraged events. It would be exceedingly irresponsible to all of their stake holders and creative partners.


Something significant is shifting in me…

With each of these confused queries, I become increasingly indignant at the extent to which cinematic artists have been indoctrinated into believing in our own impotence and lack of autonomy. We are so bought into this lie that we even encourage this behavior in each other.

Filmmakers are artists, called to express their voice through film.

Yet the art form has been buried in cynicism, to the point where most filmmakers only make one film, if any.

Why do filmmakers allow other people to write their destinies?

We have been brainwashed into a culture of can’t. And fear.

We breed, encourage and live-out exactly the things we stand against, instead of living the fruits of artistic expression: hope, courage, love, resilience, truth.

We allow ourselves to be swayed by every passing comment, every dictatorial piece of advice.

We step out of the stream of our art and wait on the banks to be saved, to be dried off and sterilized, and placed in a waiting cab to take us to the gilded halls of studio fame.

What are we thinking?

I don’t know how I didn’t see this before.


as artists, we are called to create
it is our responsibility to continue
no one is stopping us

the few that get plucked from the stream,
straight to studio fame,
their path deceives us.

so be it,
but it is not normal.
why do we believe that it is?
why do we think this is the holy grail
the only way

play at festivals for a year
get spun around, churned up and spit out
let everyone else tell us what to think
about our own art

and then at the end of the year
let others decide for us what is next:
to never again make another movie,
to miraculously be crowned a “filmmaker to watch”,
or what may be the worst fate:
get a pat on the back,
just enough encouragement to keep paddling,
without wings

we must practice
and honor our art
no matter what
for as long as it takes

to those who say too many movies are made
this makes no sense
we would never say too many drawings are drawn

who decided filmmaking was a competition?
art does not live by the rules of supply & demand

art is art

art might make money,
but in and of itself,
art is not a business

art is and always has been
an expression
of a unique inner voice

with each creation,
the artist grows

the answer is more. not less.


make more movies. paint more pictures. dance more dances.


maybe filmmakers will make no money
for what feels like a million years
but eventually we might
as our art starts to connect and become relevant
to a small and then larger audience

make art first
get better
believe in an audience
who needs what we share

my favorite films
the ones that change me
that make me feel not so alone

often these films are vehemently hated
by friends
it’s strange

but thank you, God,
these films exist for me

our job as filmmakers
is not to network
to get noticed
to make a deal
to get our films bought

our job is to dig deep
find what scares us
express our voice
grow, get better,
face our calling
no matter how scary

to keep going

ignore the carrot on the stick
until it hits you on the head
and drags you to the bank

until then keep working
avoid illusive distractions,
tempting oppressions


gary & i have been at this 27 long years…

in college
i sat in a dark theater
watching gary’s play

and i knew
i would do this with him
for as long as it took
i knew
what i was getting into

at first
people would ask me
when are you going to stop
have a normal job
and a house

and then it changed to
i admire you so much
for following your dreams
to which i would think

i am so tired
i am so tired of being admired
i am so tired

then it was
how do you put up with it
how do you keep going
how are you not discouraged

to which i’d answer
because when we succeed
i don’t want to look back
at years wasted worrying

i want to look back and see that i was
happy, optimistic, and hopeful
all along the way

this serenity
isn’t easy to maintain
but when i can,
it certainly makes it easier
to keep swimming

♡ Annie


Leave a comment