Real-Time Distribution Case Study, Week 3: Planning the Route & The Vague 3rd Act

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last night i dreamed
that gary and i were at a party
people kept arriving
laughing with glee
covered in dust
nonchalantly saying
they had been jumping
from trees

when it was time to leave,
i snuck to the platform
that would take me
tree jumping

i was led to a room
to wait my turn
they kept bringing me
fancy things
while i waited

an espresso machine
a ball gown
jumping gear

from the platform
i saw gary in our car
looking for me

i’d left on another
questionable adventure
without any communication

he’d forgive me
as usual

but i’m reminded
to lift up my head
and listen for advice
because sometimes i don’t


The thing about a “real-time” case study…

It may not follow a logical progression like an “after-the-fact” case study. Real-time is messy, confusing, 2-steps forward / 1-step backwards (on the good days).

I’m trying to figure out how to organize this behemoth — both the release and the blog.


For now, the outline will be:

  • Progress: what we did this week
  • Next up: or “uh-oh, we’re behind”
  • Stumbles & Revelations: this is where it might get sappy and soupy

Here we go. Week 3.



Tour Map: I spent most of this week working on the tour route. Bands do this every day, but I had no idea how hard it is to choose a path through the country.

It took a lot of time to break through the fog of hundreds of possible cities and roads. I spent one whole day doing nothing but trying to start.

Then finally, I made a first route.

It’s like scheduling a movie. You start with hundreds of components — actor schedules, scenes, locations — and eventually create an efficient (albeit imperfect) path through production.

This is how I finally got my head around routing the tour:

  • Break the tour down into weeks
  • Assign a region to each week (e.g. Oregon, Texas, New England, etc…)
  • Select key cities in each region
  • Fill in the rest of the stops based on distance & release criteria
  • Use RouteXL to find the fastest route
  • Add cities and routes to Google My Maps

Using Google Calendar and Google My Maps gives a visual representation of the tour. Within Google Calendar, we add notes to each city using this template:


ads / coupons on ticket stubs, sponsor logos before film, etc

print, radio, tv, local blogs/influencers, local interest stories

Notes on communities & partners relevant to this city with contact info

Initial criteria for picking each city:

  • cities where previous films have played (Redwood Highway)
  • cities where cast live (San Antonio, New York)
  • places we want to go (including family history sites & national parks)
  • people we want to visit
  • cities over 100k, but not always
  • cities with art-house theaters & audiences
  • cities with active filmmaking communities or universities
  • bowling communities

Resources used in routing and planning

Below is a very draft tour map. Until venues are booked and partners engaged, the tour route and dates remain speculation.

Phoenix, Oregon Screening Tour — Draft v1

Contacting Venues & Partners

For each week, I have started contacting key partners and venues in 1–2 cities. Once these key dates are confirmed, I’ll feel more comfortable locking in the rest of the tour.

Ticketing System

Ideally, we are able to start ticketing as early as mid-March. On band tours, it is recommended to announce all dates at once so that fans far & wide can immediately buy tickets in a city near them.

We will endeavor to confirm venues by mid-March, but that may be an unrealistic goal to accomplish within the next 3 weeks.

Unless we rent the theater outright, most venues require tickets are sold through their proprietary systems. Ideally, for one-night engagements, we sell direct to fans in order to capture fan data and track number of tickets sold.

Ticketing systems we are considering include:

  • (band tour ticketing platform)
  • Brown Paper Tickets

In the past, we have also used, but for this release we plan to set up our own ticketing system and book theaters directly.

Next up

  • audience outreach
  • press kit including log line and synopsis
  • key art (poster, branding)
  • trailer
  • movie end credits & final visual effects
  • budget & additional funding for the release

All of the above are in progress, but I feel behind on all of them!

We may need to hire more help, such as a theatrical booker, consultant and PR firm. For now, we’re going with a grassroots model but are also laying the groundwork so that if things go well, we are ready to hire and expand the release.

Stumbles & Revelations

As we go, this blog may read like stops-and-starts, steps forward & backwards, being too late or right on time for every task. Anyone following from the outside, might know when we’re completely off track and want to bring us back to center.


A release tour might not be the best use of our time.

I’m not completely sure why I am driven to do this tour. I just am.

I’ve needed to do this for years, at least since Calvin, or since my twenties when I wanted to visit every baseball park.

When I was 12, my parents took my brother and me on a 6-week cross-country road trip. It is one of our favorite childhood memories.

I’ve spent hours planning the route this week and hours procrastinating planning the route. Hours that could have been spent on promotion, producing content or engaging with our audience.


Like watching a movie, the witnesses to this release may see the 2nd act curtain coming before the characters do, and then you’ll watch to see if we survive the 3rd act.

Right now, it’s still the set-up, the first 10 minutes, and not all of the characters have been introduced. There may be an ally or a villain coming at the 20 minute mark. I vaguely know the ending but not if it will be good or bad.

It’s strange writing a story in which I’m the main character, not knowing what will happen. There will certainly be an arc. The character will grow.

An interesting story includes both joys and hardships, and characters don’t sit on the couch mired in fear. They get up every day, tackle life, risk being a fool, even when the audience is sure to cringe.

Maybe the audience will recognize themselves in the story, in their own fears and embarrassments. Then the audience might turn away… not wanting to see a character stumbling and failing.

Embarrassing stories hit us hard. Like watching Max in Rushmore. Not wanting to be him, yet knowing that deep in our hearts, what we want most is to be more like him.

Instead of squirming in our seats, we want happy endings, easy conflicts, silly bumps that make us laugh.

We don’t want to recognize our deepest fears when characters suffer disappointments.

Don’t look away. Follow this story’s mistakes and embarrassments.

I’ve been here before. It’s not that bad. I’m no longer afraid to be afraid.

I’ve finally realized that it’s not the ending that matters or even the minor humiliations along the way. I am less concerned about succeeding. It is more about the doing, putting one foot in front of the other. One step at a time.

Getting up every day and doing the work.

Because then the pieces start to fall into place.

Just like making a movie…

♡ Annie


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