Sunday, September 11, 2011

Act 3

I know, I know, I know. It’s been forever since we’ve posted anything here. We’ve certainly been busy – having a baby, working day jobs, writing other scripts and making other projects – but I think the reason we haven’t come back to post here is that the ending of the “Fugue” story hadn’t been written yet. I think, after almost three years since we began this project, the third act is finally here.

How to sum up the last year? We found one sales agent, lost him, found another, spent many months not having a lot of luck finding distribution, finally signed with a distributor, then spent more months trying to find distribution outlets. We were told by many people that almost no small indie films are getting a DVD release any more, because the cost simply isn’t justified. So we decided to master and put out the DVD ourselves, hoping that we could time it with a digital release.

And after more months of waiting, in August we got the news from our sales agent that “Fugue” would be appearing on iTunes and CinemaNow starting September 6. We’re also going to be available on TVN’s Video On Demand service from 10/17 – 12/16 of this year. And on top of that, we’ll be on Hulu in 2012 and we may have some other release opportunities this fall.

So our little movie is finally going out into the world. True, we didn’t get into any major film festivals or premiere in 4000 theaters, but our film also cost less than a new car to produce. I personally feel like it was a great experience, and we literally got to see every aspect of film production, from conception to release. And best of all, we’re not cynical or depressed about the process. I feel like we’re all going to make another feature, only next time it will be bigger and better.

That’s pretty much the end of the story. There may be more updates or posts as things come up, but this is our movie’s ride into the sunset. It’s in the hands of the audience now.

Thank you again to everyone who’s supported us for the last three years, who came to a screening, bought a DVD, or took the time to write us a nice review or comment. Film is a communal, collaborative medium, and we couldn’t have gotten here without your help.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


“Fugue” has been accepted to the 2010 Shriekfest Film Festival!!! It’s a thriller and horror-oriented fest in Los Angeles, and takes place from September 30 – October 3. We had high hopes we’d get in, as Barbara screened “Hurt” there last year, but it still felt good to get the call.

Shriekfest is a smaller fest, but it’s great that it takes place in Los Angeles. For one, we can invite distributors to come see it with a crowd, which is always better than watching it on DVD in a noisy office, on a tiny screen while the exec is checking email. Secondly, we have a shot of getting more reviews and coverage. We had a nice spike in audience interest in June, due to Dances With Films, but it’s fallen off a bit since then.

And I get it: buzz is a very difficult thing to maintain. Some movies start it too early, then interest disappears before the movie comes out. Others get it going too late, so people have no idea the film is even in theaters or on DVD. Hitting that “just right” middle ground is difficult, and there’s a reason marketing firms get paid millions of dollars to massage the buzz.

For us, what makes it especially difficult is we don’t have distribution. Because of that, we don’t have a release date, or even a release platform (theatrical, VOD, DVD, etc.) It’s hard to build toward something if you don’t have an end in sight. So we’ve been attempting a slow burn (much like our film) in the hopes that when we get a release date, we can kick things into overdrive.

Right now, we’re trying to get into some more festivals, increase our profile, and get some more good reviews. Playing at Shriekfest should certainly help with that.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hurry Up and Wait

Filmmaking moves in fits and starts. You’ll be going along at a work-like pace, then something will happen – a festival acceptance, an interested actor – and suddenly you’ll be putting in 14 hour days, eating nothing but take-out, and grinding, grinding, grinding. Then you wake up one morning, and it all stops. You’ve sent off your DVD, or your latest draft, or your agonized-over email, and there’s literally nothing to do except wait for a response.

And wait. And wait. And WAIT.

It can be a bit nerve-wracking, to have spent all this energy on something, only to send it out in to the cold, cruel world with no idea whatsoever is happening. That’s why I learned a long time ago to always have multiple projects going. You finish a stage with one, you go immediately into something else. It’s the only way to not drive yourself completely crazy.

In the “trying not to go crazy” department, we signed with a sales agent a month ago. His name is Jeff Cooper, and he was very up-front about what the market is like right now. Short version: there’s not a lot of up-front money for sales, the DVD market is shrinking by the day, and there’s more and more movies jostling for distributors’ attention.

What we do have going for us is some positive press. The reviews have all been pretty good so far, and we’re confident that once it starts to get out there, word of mouth will help out our sales. For those not following us on Facebook, we just had a great interview with Barbara published in “Rogue Cinema.” You can check it out here.

But for the most part, “Fugue” is in the waiting room. Waiting to hear back from festivals, to hear from distributors, and to see what will be required for the next hurry phase.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The End is No End

So you finally finished your movie. Congratulations! Many, many people have set out to make a film, and they haven’t gotten as far as this. But I have some sobering news for you, my weary artistic cinephile: you’re not done yet. Not by a long shot.

Because movies, like all artistic creations, are meant to be seen. To do that, you have to get them in front of a paying audience. These days, that can mean any number of things: theatrical, Video on Demand, Netflix, Redbox, YouTube, iTunes – the list is enormous. There are even filmmakers who do it themselves, selling DVDs of their films directly through their website.

But if you want a bigger audience, you need to go to a bona-fide film distributor. A company who knows the business, the sales outlets, the contracts, the marketing, etc. We literally finished our movie four weeks ago, and we’ve already been approached by sales agents, producer’s reps, and distributors. They all want to see “Fugue,” and if they like it, they all want to be involved with the selling of it to an audience.

This can mean any number of things. Right now, the film distribution market is like the Wild West: there are no rules, there’s not a lot of money, and there’s plenty of crooks trying to take advantage.

We haven’t signed any deals yet, so we can’t mention specifics, but we have developed a methodology that seems to be worthwhile. Here it is:

DO A BACKGROUND CHECK. If someone wants to get into business with you, the first thing you should do is check out their website. Does it look reputable? Do any of the films look familiar? Where are they based? No matter what, DO NOT send a copy of your movie until you’re satisfied they won’t plaster it all over the Internet.
If everything seems above board, then you can move to Step 2:

TAKE A MEETING. In person is best, but phone is a good back-up if you’re not in the same state. It’s a lot like a first date – you’re trying to get a sense if the two of you work together. You don’t have to be best friends, but you want to make sure the people you’re working with are honest, they understand the market, and they have sufficient experience/contacts. Ask them about recent, similar films they’ve worked on. Definitely ask them for references. Remember, they are working for you. Without your product, they have nothing to sell.
Once you get a good feeling from them, and a sense of what they will do with your movie, you can go to Step 3:

GET A SECOND (AND THIRD, AND FOURTH) OPINION. Call other filmmakers the company or rep has worked with. Ask them if they were satisfied with the relationship. How long did they take to get a callback? How timely were their payment disbursements? Do this enough times, and you should get a good sense of who the people are you’ll be dealing with.
If you decide to sign with them, you move on to:

READ YOUR CONTRACT. There’s a reason it’s called the film business. There are contracts for everything. It’s all in extremely boring, dense legalese, but read every line. The difference between 24 months and in perpetuity is literally infinite. If there’s something you don’t understand, have the company or an entertainment lawyer explain it to you. Realize that everything in the contract is negotiable. If there’s a bit of language you don’t like, ask to take it out or change it.
This process may take weeks, even months, but it’s okay to:

TAKE YOUR TIME. You’ve been working on this movie how long – two years? Three? The last thing you want to do is rush things at the end. Because once you sign that deal, you are locked in for a long time. At the very least, you want to be satisfied that you exhausted all your possibilities. Even if you don’t end up with the best deal, you’ll know it was the best you could do.
Finally, throughout all of these steps, remember:

BE PROFESSIONAL. Return emails and phone calls, be polite, deliver stuff on time. If you act like a pro, then hopefully the people you’re working with will do the same. And if they don’t, you will be well within your rights to call them on it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lessons from the Red Carpet

We had a great time premiering “Fugue” at Dances with Films. Our screening was nearly sold out, we got a lot of great comments about the movie, and we met a ton of nice filmmakers.

It was also a major learning experience. While Barbara has been to plenty of festivals, this was my first time showing a movie in a festival setting. For those of you heading to your first fest, or anyone who wants to prepare, here are some lessons we learned from the red carpet:

LOOK YOUR BEST. Everything at a film festival is up for documentation. There are photographers, journalists, EPK interviewers. At any moment, you could be in a picture. Think about how you want to be remembered, and how you want other people to see you on the Internet. The photos of myself on Facebook nearly doubled from the week I spent at Dances With Films, and not all of them are the next cover of Entertainment Weekly.

If, like me, you’re uncomfortable in front of cameras, do some tests. Find a relaxed look or smile that works for you, and use it. In terms of dress, fancy-casual seems to be the key. Suits are unnecessary, but a nice shirt and pants work well for guys. Dresses a step below cocktail are nice for girls.

BE FRIENDLY & ATTENTIVE. You’re going to meet a lot of new people at the festival, and it helps to be polite. Remember, this festival isn’t just about you and your masterpiece. Dances With Films is relatively small, and there were still 100 films there. Ask where other filmmakers are from, what their movie’s about, what else have they seen or made. Give them five minutes of your attention, and be interested. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a conversation with someone who’s constantly looking over your shoulder for someone “cooler.” You never know what you might get from those five minutes, so make them count.

BRAND YOURSELF. There are several ways to go about this – develop a certain look, wear an over-the-top costume from your film, or make clothing items with your movie’s title on them. But you absolutely must have some way for people to identify you. Again, there are at least 100 movies at a festival – how will people remember who are? By connecting you with a certain film.

One of the filmmakers at DWF wore a cheerleading outfit for days (his movie was about a serial killer who attacks a cheerleader camp). You certainly don’t need to go this far, but it was memorable. We found that simply attaching our postcard to our festival badge was enough. Because we had a recognizable poster, people started remembering who we were. After the screening, we even had people come up to us and say they liked the movie, which they could do because we were wearing the poster.

GO TO AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. You’re at a film festival, and you’ve worked on your movie for years. Take a few days to relax and enjoy yourself. See some movies, meet other filmmakers, go to the talks, have drinks with people. You never know where it will lead. We went to the DWF Happy Hour one night, had a half hour conversation with a couple of people, and they turned out to be distributors. They requested a screener of our movie a couple days later. Which leads to another big lesson --

TAKE IT EASY. You’ve worked really hard to get here, but don’t let the stress and social pressure get to you. Chill. There’s nothing worse than a hard sell, as anyone who’s been in a used car lot will tell you. Be friendly, introduce yourself, but don’t launch immediately into asking how much someone wants to buy your film for, or how you need representation, or finishing funds, or investors for the next project. Talk to people, be nice, get numbers – but don’t launch into business unless they take it there. Then, once you get back from the festival, you can do the final lesson –

FOLLOW UP. Whomever you met, be they filmmakers, crew people, or distributors, make sure to touch base once the festival is over. Like many things in this business, you have no idea where the relationship could go. Maybe nowhere. Or maybe they’ll fund your next project. You’ll never know unless you actually stay in touch with them.

Think of it like dating. If you get someone’s number, you’re not gonna call them that night. You’ll wait a few days, then move it along slowly. If you don’t hear back from them immediately, give it a few days before you check in. Otherwise, you’re a creepy stalker. You don’t want to be like Jon Favreau:

Finally, DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH. This is your time to kick back, but it’s also work. You’re here to sell your film, not prove how good your table-top dancing is. Liquor abounds at festivals, so I recommend the Alternate Method: for every glass of booze, have a glass of water. It’s easier on the pocket book, prevents hangovers, and helps you pace yourself.

Monday, May 31, 2010


We’re officially a week away from our World Premiere, and things are kicking into high gear. Our publicist started sending out press releases last week, and we’ve already gotten write-ups in Pretty/Scary, Fatally Yours, Horror Movies & Stuff, 28 Days Later Analysis, and a cool article in L’Ecran Fantistique sandwiched between “The Hobbit” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Pretty amazing that a little movie we made in Barbara’s backyard could end up in the same news feed as those two.

It’s a good start, but none of this happened by itself. It’s a DIY world in today’s film industry. Even our friends who have gotten their films distributed can’t count on having someone else doing a marketing campaign. In short, it’s up to us. If you’ve done creative work, YOU are going to be in charge of getting it out there.

The good news is, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to spread the word about your movie. Here are several FREE options we’ve done to make people aware of “Fugue”:

- Started this blog, which we (mostly) update regularly.
- Started a Twitter account
- Created a Facebook fan page
- Wrote a press release and sent it to the above websites

Then there’s the marketing for which we’ve shelled out a little dough:

- Hired a designer to create an awesome poster
- Used that design to fashion a website
- Printed posters
- Printed 1000 postcards

All of the above cost less than $1000, which is pretty amazing in today’s marketplace. But we wouldn’t have gotten that price if we hadn’t been willing to do a lot of it ourselves. Juliane, our production designer/co-producer, offered to learn HTML so we wouldn’t have to pay someone to make a website. Barbara and I took turns sending the press release to various websites. And we all banded together to shoot photos of Abby that ended up creating the poster.

You have to be willing to put 100% into it, for no pay. If you don’t love it that much, how can you convince anyone else to give you 90 minutes of their time? Look at everything we have to compete with: TV, studio movies, sleep. To make people notice your little movie, you have to be willing to go the extra mile.

Or the extra six miles. That’s how much I walked on Friday, hand-delivering our postcards to various spots around Los Angeles. I hit the Third Street Promenade, trod the breadth and length of the entire UCLA campus, and papered the Sunset Laemmle with our postcards. We also recruited friends and family members to leave postcards in Sherman Oaks, USC, Cal State LA, and the Hollywood area.

It’s really not clear how much this will translate into actual butts in the seats on Sunday, but the real goal is to expand awareness of “Fugue.” If we pass out 1000 postcards, get 100 people to visit the website/watch the trailer, and get 10 people to see the movie, then that’s pretty good. More importantly, getting people talking about it will drive up our web traffic, and will expand our profile.

It seems to be working: our website traffic spiked 235% last week, and our IMDB pages nearly doubled in visits. Hopefully we’ll keep getting good reactions once people watch the movie. Because when it comes to independent film, you have to be awesome just to stand out from the pack.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Two Thumbs How?

This morning, Juliane gave a copy of “Fugue” to Susan King at the Los Angeles Times. She’s writing a piece on Dances With Films, and our publicist made sure she was aware of our movie and was going to watch it. In fact, she took the DVD out of Juliane’s hand in person. Even though newspaper budgets are low, it says something about our publicist that she gave the delivery personal attention.

Since we were in the middle of the mix and operating on less than five hours of sleep, we didn’t appreciate the enormity of what had just transpired. Our little backyard movie is going to be watched, and hopefully reviewed, by the largest newspaper in Los Angeles. Whether we get a good or bad review, the exposure will increase the visibility of our project exponentially.

What’s ironic is, I used to be a film reviewer. I’ve dismissed and lauded plenty of movies without a second thought as to who actually made them. In fact, I noticed that it was actually easier to write bad reviews – there’s just more synonyms in the English language for “crappy.”

This brings up an interesting thing about making movies. We’ve been working on “Fugue” since December of 2008. Up to this point, it’s been ours to do with as we wish. We’re still making decisions every day that slightly change the film (hopefully for the better). But once we put it out there, it’s no longer our movie. It will take on a life of its own. People will be free to think whatever they want about it. And in this, the Age of Interwebs, they will also be free to post those thoughts online for all to see.

All of which puts us on pins and needles a little bit. Our baby is officially out of our hands. Ms. King could give us a great review, a lousy one, or she could choose to not to mention us at all. It’s a bit of a crap shoot, really – we’ve all been in bad moods when we’ve watched films, and no doubt it colors our perception of them.

So I have a favor to ask the regular readers of this blog. If you like us, if you support us, send some happy vibes Susan King’s way. If she has a nice day, it may make a huge difference to the future of “Fugue.”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

We have a POSTER!!

It’s been a long time coming, but it's finally here. Thanks to Ryan, our awesome designer, and Stephanie, who took the source pictures. And of course, Abby, who could sell ice cream to an Eskimo. Check it out:

Getting to this final design has been an interesting and illuminating process. We have been talking about the poster since last June, and the core team is very happy with our final design.

Ryan was kind enough to include an alternate design, as well:

We like this one, too, and plan on using it for postcards and sections of our website at the minimum. But in the end, we thought the “shoulder poster” had a bit more visceral punch.

Since we’ve now picked a winner, I thought it might be fun to look at some of the also-rans. None of these are “bad,” per se, they just ended up not selling our movie in what we thought was the best way possible.

An early, alternate take of Ryan's. Cool colors, but we worried about comparisons to the color palette of "Avatar."

Totally different direction. Love the upside-down head, but it ultimately felt more like an arthouse drama than a scary, ghostly thriller.

Our very first attempt at a poster, done with a still from the shoot. We've come a long way. Thanks again to Ryan, Stephanie, Abby, and Juliane for their help with the whole process!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

PR or Not PR

Things are moving fast now for the “Fugue” team. We’re three weeks away from our World Premiere at Dances With Films, and while it’s going to be a busy 21 days, we’re pretty on top of our to-do list. Color correction is nearly finished, we start the week-long audio mix tomorrow, and the poster is in its final tweaks.

But first, a bit of news: “Fugue” has been given a screening time of 9:30 PM on Sunday, June 6. Tickets are now available for pre-order through the Dances With Films website:

Just click on the “Tix” button. Tickets are $10 if you pre-order, and $12 at the door.

We’re excited about our screening time – it’s on a weekend, it’s a night slot, and it’s not the first or second night of the fest, so it gives us a bit more time to get ready.

In terms of getting ready, one of the biggest decisions we have to make (and soon) is how to handle public relations. Dances With Films highly recommends hiring a PR firm, so we (really Barbara, as I was in Europe for two weeks) talked with a company about repping “Fugue” for the festival.

PR is kind of a slippery thing. Your goal is to build buzz and visibility for your movie, but accomplishing that is another matter. Reviews help (the higher profile the better), as do write-ups on websites, advertising, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, and on. You hope at some point that awareness will take on a life of its own, but there’s no guarantees. You could do all of the above and still, only your mom will care about your movie.

But you can certainly weigh the odds in your favor. Hiring a PR firm will certainly give us a shot at publications and websites we don’t have on our own. But here are the terms from the company: for $1000, they will spend the next three weeks sending our DVD and emails to any website or publication we can come up with. They may also help set up interviews and behind the scenes articles. There is, however, no guarantee that any of the sites or publications they contact will look at “Fugue” sideways.

So what do we do? We’re mulling that over right now. Being a low-budget movie, a thousand bucks is a lot of money to us right now. But if it helps get us a distribution deal, it’s a thousand bucks very well-spent. And at this moment, that’s the goal: to get a distribution deal.

Later on, we’ll focus on getting audiences to see it. Right now our key audience is a very small group of people in the film industry: those who buy feature films from indie filmmakers and release them to the public.

Nowadays, you can get their attention in a number of ways. You can get noticed at a film festival. You can have a YouTube clip that hits 200,000 views. You can get a great review in “Variety,” the industry’s top business publication. You can build excitement on websites. You can put a page on the Internet Movie Database (which has already gotten us a couple emails from distribution reps). You can have a friend or work associate recommend it to them. And on, and on.

We’d like to do all of the above. But do we need the help of a PR firm to do it, is the question. Right now, the answer seems to be “yes.” This is an industry built on contacts, and the more contacts you have, the better your chances are to get distribution (or really anything, for that matter). Hiring a PR firm may not guarantee anything, but it will significantly increase our chances.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Great news! "Fugue" has been officially selected to screen at the 13th Annual Dances With Films Festival! We don’t have a confirmed screening date yet, but this year’s festival runs from June 3rd through 10th, 2010 at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in Los Angeles, CA.

We’re extremely excited; DWF is well-known in Los Angeles, and they do a really professional job with their festival. DWF’s focus is specifically on independent cinema; their motto is “No politics, no stars, no sh*t.” They’re one of the few fests which likes and encourages films without a lot of money (like ours).

Also, we get the chance to premiere "Fugue" in Los Angeles, where we shot the movie and where all our crew lives. But on top of that, LA is the home base for lots of film distribution companies. Some of them have already contacted us about seeing the movie, and being able to invite them to a screening in a real theater with a real audience will make a huge difference in their reception of our movie.

The other good thing is that it gives us a hard out date to finish. Frankly, we lost a bit of our steam the last few months, and getting into this festival is the last bit of juice we needed to push the film over the finish line.

We got the acceptance packet today, and there’s a lot to do that doesn’t involve finishing the movie – sending screeners for newspaper reviews, making press kits, mailing copies of the trailer, printing posters – it’s going to be a busy month. (And of course, it’s also the month Juliane and I are going to Europe on vacation. If there’s a truism in this business, it’s that your vacation always hits at the moment you’re the busiest with work. We’re still going to enjoy ourselves, even if it means taking my laptop to Paris.)

For now, though, we’re excited to have been accepted to a well-known festival. Again, we can’t thank our friends and crew members enough, without whose great work and generous favors we wouldn’t have been able to complete "Fugue." We hope to see you at Dances With Films the first week of June!