Friday, November 13, 2009

Critical Masses

Last week our trailer suddenly spiked 1200 views in a matter of hours. A little Interweb research revealed that somehow our teaser got posted on a Romanian entertainment link site. A little more research revealed it wasn’t “somehow”: another low-budget film called “THE Fugue” is being self-released on DVD, and it seems they mistakenly linked to our trailer instead of theirs.

While it’s great to suddenly have the trailer take on a life of its own (especially since we haven’t sent it to any news sites yet), with an increased audience comes an increase of opinions. In particular, we had some very angry comments from a couple of Romanian guys. I won't reprint them here, but they are still on our YouTube page if you're looking for some Pulitzer-grade critiques.

Now, I’m not posting this to wallow in self-pity or subtly ask for encouragement. In fact, we already had a boatload of very nice response comments to these guys. I’m writing this to illustrate that once you put your movie into the world, the floodgates of opinion swing wide. Anyone with a computer, anywhere on the planet, will have a reaction to what you made. They also have the freedom to post their thoughts about it. And those thoughts may not be very nice or constructive. Often, they will be tactless, cruel, horrendously misspelled diatribes filled with anger and cynicism.

(Side thought: Why is there so much anger and cynicism on the Internet? Probably the anonymity factor. Also, it’s easier to bash something than to praise it. I’m no linguist, but I’d bet there are more words for “dislike” in the English language than “like.” Finally, it seems the haters are more likely to leave comments than fans.)

The point is, as filmmakers we have to find a way to not let the negative comments bother us. The movie is done. Any remarks about how to make it better, or how low-budget it is, or why it doesn’t stack up to "Armaggedon," are moot. All we can do is learn from our successes and failures on this project, and apply them to the next one.

Secondly, we can’t please everyone. It is impossible. In fact, highly respected films will usually garner backlash specifically because everyone likes it. We can hope that more people will like it than not, and that people will want to watch it, but that’s all. We’ve already had people refuse to see the movie simply because of the genre.

Finally, the film doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There are any number of factors – the timing of the release, the nature of the screening, the attitude of the viewers when watching it – that are going to affect how audiences receive it. Once the movie gets out there, we can’t control any of that. We can only hope people will like it and respond to it.

Being an extremely low-budget movie with no stars or a big studio marketing budget, any way “Fugue” gets out there has to be looked on as a success. Already, the trailer has been watched by more than 5000 people – far more than we know personally. Simply the fact that our little backyard movie is pissing off some guys in Romania means it’s grown beyond our little circle.

And hopefully, this is just the beginning.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I hate asking people for money.

As a filmmaker, you’re constantly in a state of selling – whether it’s pitching a movie idea, or talking to investors, or showing your movie to distributors – every step of the way, you’re trying to convince someone else to give you money.

And why? Because filmmaking is, bar none, the most expensive artistic medium there is. It’s pretty cheap to paint a picture, or write a novel, or even sing a song these days. But making a film? Even as inexpensive as the technology has gotten, it still takes real dough.

Take the process of applying to film festivals. Not only do you have to buy and print DVDS (we got ours for around a buck apiece – killer deal), you have to get envelopes, mail them to faraway places, and cough up the festival entry fees. Which routinely run between $40 and $100. We just sent the movie to Berlin, and their entry fee is 125 Euros, or $185 American. Literally, we’re spending more on applying to festivals than it cost us to feed our crew for 17 days of shooting!

Still, it’s an important thing to do. Screening at a high-profile festival is our single best chance of getting distributors to see the film. And that will hopefully lead to getting a distribution deal, which is our main chance of paying back our investors and the crew people who awesomely deferred their salaries (pretty much everyone).

So we have to ask people for money. Since we don’t know any millionaires personally, that leads to us begging our friends and family. Which, during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, makes me a tad guilty to say the least.

To make the whole process more palatable, we decided to a hold a fundraiser screening. All our friends have been asking all year to see the movie, so why not charge $10, raffle off some items, and let them take a look all at once?

We found a club called Busby’s East that rents out its ballroom and video projector (for free!), sent out the Evite to 300 or so people, and gathered some film-related items to raffle off. And on Sunday, October 25, we unspooled (or un-video projected) the current cut for a crowd of 73 people.

And it went pretty great. Being in a bar, the lights weren’t all the way down and the ice machine sounded like an Imperial Walker, but that kind of added to the whole “work in progress” feel. But people still managed to get into the movie, laughing at the jokes, jumping at the scary parts, and keeping up with the story. Even the bartender liked it – she told me she’s worked a lot of screenings in that room, and ours was one of the best she’s seen.

All told, we raised about $1300. And some donations are still trickling in. It’s not enough to cover all our upcoming post costs, but it will certainly help us get the movie to festivals. Just goes to show that even if you don’t like asking people for money, there are ways to do that make it more comfortable for everyone. Thanks again to all our friends and family members who donated!

(And if you’d still like to kick us some dough, there’s a Paypal button on our website: