JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT THE WORK WAS OVER
After six days of filming and over six months of post-production my short film, “Gone Forever,” was at last ready to be released. I wanted to make a big splash with the opening, and knew I’d need all these elements to make it a success: press, red carpet, and a large attendance. I had made numerous movies over the past few years and was tired of releasing my films via the Internet to little fanfare. I knew that I would have to put my name and film on display in order for the public and filmmaking community to gain an interest in me. The need for exposure isn’t simple vanity; a well publicized film release could help open new doors for me by securing additional film projects and provide a networking opportunity for meeting fellow filmmakers and talented local actors. At first I was very much looking forward the release, but quickly became worried the when the deadline began to loom large.
The work involved in creating a successful premiere proved to be time-consuming and laborious. It felt like I was back in production, yet again. I quickly decided to hire a local fashion consulting company, Svelte, to help with the event organization and marketing efforts. If they could organize runway shows and photography shoots, I thought, why not a movie premiere? While this was indeed a helpful decision, even with two additional people to help organize the event, the work involved in making it happen seemed endless.
I decided to rent the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland and make the screenings free and open to the public. I felt this was the best way to guarantee attendance while keeping the event respectable, by holding it at a location with an excellent reputation for the arts. I would have two screenings of my 25-minute film at 12:30pm and 1:30pm on a Saturday April 16, and provide free lunch to attendees. While I knew this would help me get people into the seats, there was still the matter of securing widespread coverage of the event in the local press.
About a month before the screening, we started our press and marketing efforts in full-force. We needed a website, trailer, Facebook page and twitter account fast. In truth, we should have had all these things ready, but post-production was taking longer than expected (it always does). I was able to complete most of the marketing materials while finalizing the film, which was taxing on both a personal and professional level. Without the help of my dedicated team, I doubt I would have been able to stay on track. Kalipaar Web did an excellent job with the Gone Forever Website and poster design.
Once we had our marketing materials prepped, we needed to get people to come. Obviously we could count on the cast and crew to attend, but in order for a premiere to be a true success we would need a substantial showing from the general public. How could we get in touch with our audience?
We first sent out posts to all of the DC/MD film organizations listservs. Luckily we found almost a dozen local film groups that allowed us to post our event on their mailing list and calendar. Meet-up groups proved to be another efficient way to reach out to a large number of people in a short amount of time.
But I also needed to appeal to average moviegoers, not just film students and movie buffs. To do so, I printed 500 flyers to disperse to both individuals and local businesses. In addition, I joined all the neighborhood listservs and posted my event there. I think that our strategy of combining large scale digital pushes with grassroots advertising helped immensely. Unfortunately we could not afford paid advertising, although we had originally considered radio and newspaper ads. We requested that the guests RSVP, so we could acquire their names and contact information. This helped us stay in touch with our new audience.
From there we moved into the media blitz phase. This began about two weeks before the screening. I wanted as much coverage as possible in order to showcase the event, so we worked on compiling a list of local news and arts reporters as well as film critics. Each one was sent a press release and invited to the event. When all was said and done, the premiere was covered by six news organizations. However, we were completely ignored by public access stations and local publications. I’m happy with the coverage we did receive, but was certainly disappointed in the response to local filmmaking within the community, which I had hoped would see the event as unique and generate a wave of interest.
From here I needed to work on the logistics of the event itself. I met the theater personnel twice to discuss a myriad of topics: ticket stubs, marquee text, posters, step and repeat, red carpet, signage, event timeline, graphics, music and catering to name just a few. We were lucky to have interns help out with registration, sales and refreshments.
If you can imagine, while all this was going on, my movie was not even finished! I was still making small color corrections, music changes and mixing adjustments. Finally I decided enough is enough; one could work on a film forever and never get it exactly how he wishes it to be. Filmmakers are perfectionists by nature and tend to focus on all the mistakes. I needed to remind myself that the most important thing for a successful film is a good story and memorable characters. I knew I did the best I could with the time, money and resources I had and that’s all that counts. I exported my movie and went to get it mastered on HDCAM, so I could take advantage of the RED’s film quality and resolution. I didn’t want to play my film on a standard definition DVD. However I still needed DVD’s to sell and give out to cast and crew. So I used the services of American Digital Media, Inc. to print 100 copies. Rob Hodge was a pleasure to work with. Thanks for the discount Film Courage!
In the end, the event went off smoothly thanks to all of the diligent work done behind the scenes. Over 130 people attended. The premiere was a great experience and taught me how much time, effort and costs are involved with creating a successful event. I know filmmakers love to be behind camera, but you really must put yourself out there and participate in interviews and photo opportunities, so people can connect with you. I hope this helped to secure my reputation as a talented director and succeeds in creating further interest in both this film and my future productions. Just as importantly, I hope events like this will help generate sustained interest by the local community in the fantastic art that is being made right on its doorstep!
Jason Baustin is an independent filmmaker most known for directing and editing the cult classic horror/comedy film Cowboy Killer. A graduate of American University’s Film School, Baustin has produced, directed, and edited numerous short films. Baustin has also edited and shot videos for fashion consulting company SVELTE, LLC as well as music videos for artists Tae Barz, Nu Money and Devin White. Baustin, who aspires to transition from short to feature films is a native of Atlanta, GA and currently resides in Silver Spring, MD. His latest release Gone Forever depicts the telling story of a man who is tormented by a loved one who has passed away.
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