Inside Indie Filmmaking: Presenting Your Film
I decided to write this series right in the height of my final push in post-production for my first feature film, Almosting It. Throughout that process, I found myself scrambling to make deadlines in a myriad of different locations and situations. With regard to the prehistory of this film, I feel every location I have written in has a story behind it:
- The McDonalds in Potsdamer Platz during the Berlin International Film Festival: I wrote the short film that led me to this feature.
- The plane ride down to LA for my first meeting with my mentor: I wrote the synopsis for Almosting It.
- The lunchroom of the cafeteria I cashiered at before quitting to work on the film: I wrote the first draft of my script.
- The lobby of my first exhibiting theater during the first theatrical run of my career: I wrote this article.
Almosting It premiered just a couple weeks back to a nearly sold out crowd of 676 people. Two days later, we were in the premier art house of Idaho, making a real run at it. I’m still numb thinking about it. We sold out all five shows of our opening Saturday—then moved to a larger auditorium (from 44 seats to 197) and continued to turn good numbers. On Monday I was informed we were booked for a second week, and our gross earnings were higher than several of the larger studio films over at the cineplexes.
I have worked to make as many screenings as possible to host a small Q&A sessions between shows—which is why I currently find myself in the lobby of The Flicks Theatre. I was asked, “What has been my favorite part of this process?”
I have to say, this is it.
Presenting Your Film
Presenting your work—especially after 18 months of sweat, struggle, and self-doubt—can be both terrifying and exhilarating. Fortunately, the experience has been made easier by the fact that audiences seem to genuinely enjoy the film.
I made the decision months back to self-release the film first before festivals. I think it is a shame that so many films, after getting their supporting fans excited, disappear for a year to make a stab at the festival circuit, leaving their home base of fans behind. I wanted to get this film back to the people who helped create it as soon as I could—meaning I set a release date months prior to the film’s actual completion (the film was actually finalized and reassembled only a few days before our scheduled release).
There’s nothing like watching a film in a theater. Emotion is energy, and energy is contagious. Whether you are laughing, crying, or screaming, when others are around you to share that emotion, the energy is amplified tenfold. That is the theatrical experience. I know VOD/DVD release is profitable and inevitable, but I hope to keep the film running at this level for as long as possible.
I’ve referred to Almosting It as a dramatic comedy from the start. What has been fascinating is that—while both elements are present—depending on the mood of the audience, one genre plays out more than the other. There are certain jokes and moments that always play strong and others that pop more depending on the tone of the room.
It’s fascinating to witness, but it’s also fun. I have watched the film so many times through the various edits, revisions, sound mix sessions, and color grades that I truly thought I would never be able to enjoy watching the film again. I was dead wrong, and there are certain screenings I sit in on where—depending on that audience energy—I have just as much fun as the rest of the crowd watching for the first time.
Pre-Release or Festival Premiere?
Several people argue that a pre-release will exclude you from festival play. This is not entirely true, as there are several high-profile festivals that allow distributed films to play (Austin, New Orleans), and several festivals claiming “premiere status requirements” will still allow you to exhibit, just not compete.
But should that even matter? Was your film truly made to only be enjoyed by a select few who can brave the snow and staggering lines/prices of a Utah ski town? I think the general population loves a reason to see a movie, especially a hometown audience, so I took the chance of releasing it locally first.
Writing these articles has been a great way for me to reflect over the process that brought me here. It’s been pretty crazy, and the 30,000 words I have written total for this series seem like an inadequate summation of 18 months. During my post-screening Q&As, I find myself breaking it down even tighter, but again—these Q&As have been a super way for me to reflect on everything.
A question that never fails to be raised is: “What’s next?” or “Will I ever do this again?”
I cannot wait to do it all again. There is still a lot of road ahead for Almosting It as we chase a legitimate distribution deal—though, $21,687.36 on five screens is nothing to sneer at. (Kirsten Wiig’s drama Welcome to Me brought in $32,000 on twelve screens—just to give a comparison.)
There is nothing I want to do more than make films, and having gotten the first one out of the way, I look forward to slightly smoother sailing—as far as not having to worry about the virgin status holding me back. That was always one of the larger hurtles, which I realized during one of the Q&As: it’s tough getting people to take you seriously when you are new in this field.
As for what’s next, I have a few ideas I am kicking round—and one in particular I am fairly set on. I’d like to have a script done by the end of the summer. If Almosting It reaches the elusive and prestigious realm of a profit break by then, I should be at a point where I can go into development.
Nerves will definitely be involved. As huge as the first one is to get out of the way, it is the second one that really decides your longevity and place in this track. Almosting It brought the spotlight to us, now we have to actually perform—and with people watching! I learned so much over the last 18 month about things I didn’t know I did not know. I am excited to put these into play. For me, going into number two feels like taking a test you were given a copy of the night before.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t anticipate it being any easier—just a little less messy. There has been a lot of help, and it’s very flattering to know who is there and wants to see you succeed. This is wonderful world to work in. Not to get too cheesy, but literally anything is possible with film. If you can imagine it, it can be done.
I’m not entirely sure why most folks are stopping in to read these articles—for advice, pure enjoyment, or camaraderie—regardless, I wanted to close with the advice I got before making this film:
You will never be ready. There will never be a perfect moment to move forward. You can sit forever waiting for that magical missing element that is holding you back. But you can’t let that happen. Just go for it, and know that—while it won’t be perfect—it will be the best you can do. Surround yourself with good people, and just move forward.