Being a PMD in Austin is sure a lot more interesting than doing the same thing in Indianapolis.
I kind of came across a really interesting opportunity recently with a film maker from Chicago, a gentleman named Fred Uhter. Fred is in many ways a typical first time producer/director: excited about the use of the new digital technology, very passionate about his subject matter, ready to go where the action is to tell the story the way he feels it. Fred and I immediately connected several years ago over our mutual appreciation for Indiana legends, The Vulgar Boatmen.
In our own way, it seemed inevitable that we would do something big around this band. His documentary chronicles the 30 plus year history of the band through oral interviews and lots of great rock and roll footage. The film culminates with a performance which is set to be their final show. Over the next two years he struggled through editors, sound issues, working a real job. While I dedicated all my musical energy to joining the band and keeping their music alive. I was vaguely aware that Fred’s documentary was in production, but it was on seeing the trailer for the first time that I really understood that it was going to be totally cool.
So being in Austin, and after some success with Paradise Recovered, I offered to help Fred promote his film at SXSW Film 2011 and get some good buzz going for the movie. We went through several challenges. The main challenge was that the film was already officially being distributed since he had to sell DVD’s to start to recoup his investment. While other films have a lengthy festival season, Fred wanted to channel his creative energy into his next project and not look back.
To all of you who have not spent much time in Austin or at SXSW may not realize that locals see the festival much differently than the out-of-towners who come to catch the latest buzz movie, gorge on tacos and beer, and manage their lives remotely with their favorite appliance. Oh we gorge on tacos and beer, but there the similarity ends. As I looked for unofficial opportunities to show the film, I realized that a movie about rock and roll needs to be associated with music, which means it needs to be shown in a bar, followed by bands.
The next problem was that the musicians in Austin who were fans of The Boatmen wanted the band more than the movie. But the band was not exactly in a position to come from Indy to Austin on their own dime. Which kind of becomes a marketing problem, for me!
The solution was to gradually pitch each member of the band to check their interest in making the flight. I had to pretend that the money for their tickets and expenses was already in hand, and all they had to do was get here and I would reimburse them for everything. All this when I could not even pay my own rent! But once I got two of the musicians confirmed, I could actually book the band and the movie. Unfortunately the best club was already booked on the night I wanted (Tuesday, because I hoped to grab Tech sponsors on the final night of SXSW Interactive). In a stroke of good favor, it was the yearly band spectacular of The Silos, whose Walter Salas Humara was once upon a time a member of the Vulgar Boatmen. Without a drummer or bass player, we quickly added me on bass, my old friend Michelle on backup vocals, and Walter on drums, and I had a band, venue, film, and the kind of film showcase that any independent producer would be very jealous.
The money? Well I had to cash in a few favors but it all worked out. Our event was Top 8 in the Austin Chronicle and it has re-energized the band to perform along side the showing of the documentary in the future. And the best part is it all came together in a matter of a couple weeks. I wish there was some grand takeaway about the typical PMD activities, but the real takeaway is you got to sometimes go with your strengths, put in the extra creative effort, and above all HAVE FUN!
PJ Christie is an entrepeneur, marketer, and musician in Austin Texas. Since 1998 he has channeled his seemingly limitless energy towards empowering individuals to publish their work to the web, allowing for direct connections to their audience free of corporate influence.
Anticipating trends and technological advancements, he is able to stay on the bleeding edge of entertainment distribution. Technology drives philosophical discussions that are more productive when they are debated by artists, and removed from the realm of industry.
In his spare time he enjoys independent films, dancing crazy at small shows, and bicycling.
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