In less than a week my new feature film COMMUNION opens in London at the Portobello Pop Up Cinema and begins it’s journey of self-distribution.
I have made three feature films previously (my first being the micro budget film ‘The Plague’, which got some national coverage).
What has struck me over the years was the fact that your films destiny is constantly in the hands of others. Too many times I hear from Directors, when asked what they are planning to do with their films, the stock answer is either (a) enter film festivals and see what happens or (b) send it to sales agents / distributors and see what happens. Unfortunately this is not a clear strategy as you are always waiting on others and it is not an experience I wanted to repeat.
I decided to set my own timetable and build a sense of momentum from the off. Here’s our plan that will unfold in the coming days, weeks and months.
- Pre-Screening: Everyone has a Cast and Crew screening, it’s the first point of call when completing a film, ours also included our crowd funders and we used this opportunity in May to get everyone that had invested into the film to get behind the release that we had planned for the summer.
- Educational Screenings: Following the Cast/Crew Preview we went on to do a couple of private screenings over May / June at educational institutes (Goldsmiths, Central and Ravensbourne) with an added masterclass to build further support behind the cinematic release.
- Soundtrack Party: The score for COMMUNION was completed by post-rockers 52 Commercial Road who have their own unique following, we held an exclusive live preview in July of the score in a derelict music studio to cross pollinate fan bases and generate more interest.
- London Release: From the 1st-10th August for eight nights only we are screening the film at the Portobello Pop Up Cinema, a unique space co-founded by our patron and film legend Barney Platts-Mills, we the film makers are running the venue in a direct artist-to-audience platform. Yes you read that right, we will be on the door selling tickets and projecting the film ourselves. London is our geographical strong hold, we didn’t want to spread ourselves thin across the Big Smoke, instead we are lucky enough to have obtained our own cinema space and effectively put on our cinematic release.
- DVD Release: Having produced DVD’s for our previous features, which was originally triggered when my distributor on The Plague went bust and I bootlegged copies myself, we are releasing the COMMUNION DVD also on the 1st August but the only place you can buy it is direct from the London screenings. We have produced a Limited Edition run, our strategy isn’t to move units to big retailers but to sell direct to our audience from the cinema.
- UK Tour: Following the London release we are taking the film on a UK Tour, a bit like what a band would do with an album, over the course of August, September and October. We have programmed this tour through three branches, firstly local regular film maker led nights (e.g Kino Kulture in Shropshire) secondly independent unique venues (e.g Talk of Tea in Brighton) and thirdly indie film festivals (e.g No Gloss Film Festival in Leeds).
- International Release: For me it is really important to screen outside of the films country of origin, it raises the reputation of the film even if it is completed on a tiny budget, on the 19th September we will be opening the Bootleg Film Festival – a festival we have built quite a relationship with – out in New York at the TriBeCa Film Centre.
- Online Release: So the momentum we have built from the films completion to screenings has all been heading towards one direction, the final stage of distribution which is the online release on November 1st through Vimeo’s new Video On Demand service.
Having a very clear timetable and set boundaries is really helpful in being able to focus where and how you want to screen your film. I don’t claim to have all the answers when it comes to distribution and I believe each film is unique, therefore how that film gets to an audience partly depends on what is right for the film itself.
With years of experience and a fair few bumps and scratches along the way, I have realised that as an indie filmmaker I’m not going to put my eggs in one basket and make a film that I can sell and buy a house on. Instead it is about career longevity, building an audience behind the work and ensuring the film screens to a paying and captive public in some form or other.
In less than a week I am going to embark on that journey and I am about to learn a whole load more lessons, which is the point of me sharing my experiences and thoughts. I hope you can take something from it when approaching distribution of your film, and if nothing else wish me luck as I test it out.