There is something I love about sharing our journey — hoping to give a gift I’ve rarely had access to. Mentors say: find a business who has done what you want to do and copy them. These people exist in the film industry, but they are hard to find. Even after success, they are still confused, or their success gets pushed aside and buried. Edgy new voices are hurriedly smoothed and fed into the machine. They rarely share.
Perhaps I will provide a dimly lit beacon or at least a few “do this not thats”.
But as I am still in the middle of our release, the sharing also freaks me out.
This is not an industry of stripped down honesty.
It’s an industry of fame, pretending, perception, bloat and “fake it ’til you make it.”
It’s an industry built on the assumption that people act like sheep 99% of the time, that audiences can be tricked, and that opinions can be owned and molded by critics, gatekeepers, and hecklers. It leaves little space to wrestle up a singular belief.
It’s the biggest art form in the world but has the least unique expression.
Whose voices are we missing? Yours?
Every year, there are a few wonderful new voices promoted and heralded. The industry proudly perches these tokens atop their monolithic iceberg. But often, quickly and quietly, without fanfare, these voices are smoothed over and repurposed into the engine.
Frankly I’d like to be scooped up into that engine. It’d be easier; people would do things for me. But my wiser self knows that this kind of ease doesn’t always bring joy.
Stories. Stories will never go away. Humans are built on stories.
We just need to continue to evolve the telling and delivery of stories. To continue to believe that people yearn for honesty, hope and unique story tellers. And that there is a way to cut through the noise, to directly serve our audiences.
Are all industries like this? Creating perception and hype to reach the masses?
We have a good sense of our audience, the people who will like the film. But we have to reach them. Currently audiences are not swayed by “small indie no one has heard of.”
So in trying to reach the audience, our team of publicists and outreach coordinators are using a strategy to make the film “look bigger than it is” — like we spent tens of millions on production and marketing.
We are doing this by putting standees in the theaters, reaching out to local businesses to engage their customers, and making regional communities feel special in ways the big studios might never do. Because revenues from small towns don’t pay the bills for a big studio, they often ignore these communities. We have an opportunity to fill a hole the studios leave empty — to serve not only our niche audience but a whole community.
For us to be wildly successful, we only need to make revenues in the range of 1–5% of a studio film. A massively successful independent film is operating in a completely different industry that a studio film, but the audience doesn’t know this — so somehow we have to play the same game to even attempt success. It’s a convoluted problem.
We are taking an end-run around what is normal, trying to come at the problem in new ways with limited resources, avoiding spending millions to reach everyone, instead using grassroots methods to reach a few — while at the same time making them feel like they are part of something bigger.
We are being honest with our messaging, so that we directly reach our niche audience while at the same time hyping up the perception of size, so that people actually find out about the film.
And here I am blogging. This is definitely NOT something that studios do. And it does not make the film look big to have the producer logging their mistakes & successes.
Why is the producer writing publicly about all the things they do not know?
Part of me is scared — worried that if the audience catches wind of this — we will be found out. Ah-ha! It’s a small indie movie!
But the only reason I have a tiny bit of bravery to do this is that I’ve learned that even the people we think know — don’t really know. Even at the studios, managers may know the tasks in their department, but they don’t have a feel for the overall picture.
If we ever hope to have more soulful, thoughtful films consistently and intentionally made for niche audiences who yearn for art that is specifically made for them and not the masses, then individual filmmakers, boutique distribution companies and producers are going to have to figure this out and find a way around a somewhat archaic system that is lumbering along, entrenched in the ruts of the norm.
Each day, we hit road blocks that make little sense — I’m told “that’s just how it is”. My rebellious spirit does not take kindly to those words — it engages my “who said so”.
We’ll let the studio snowball gain speed and breadth, taking out everything in its path, continuing down its trodden slope. But we’ll be the flock of birds darting and swooping joyfully through the trees and clouds to our final destination. For to take flight is much more fun than to take the same tired road.
There are some things I can’t share until after the fact.
But I’ll try to share as much as I can without putting our release in jeopardy, because that would completely defeat the purpose of trying to share the story — all the pitfalls, successes, twists and turns — of a successful independent release.