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‘Color Outside the Lines’ – A Film That Festivals Want, But Not Really… Or Something Like That

'Color Outside the Lines' - A Film That Festivals Want, But Not Really… Or Something Like That

As a filmmaker, I’ve been at this for 5 years, 3 spent working on my debut feature Color Outside the Lines; a documentary exploring the history and lives of black tattoo artists.

Tattooing as a valued art form amongst historians and appreciators of art has not been explored at length in film. There are a handful of documentaries out there, mostly leaning towards the Japanese and American Sailor cultures, which still leaves about 40 years of history in the culture unaccounted for. That’s where tattoo artist Miya Bailey and I come in; we made this film because if we didn’t tell the story, who would?

When it came time to figure out our distribution strategy we wanted to at least try the festival route, figuring we have a unique story, it doesn’t suck, audio is good, pictures are pretty… it doesn’t suck… shouldn’t be THAT hard.

On paper Color Outside the Lines fits the criteria festivals tell you they want; unique story, unexplored territory and for the festivals where you have to be black while making movies about black people, I think we fit that part too.

However after 3 tries, about 6 months of waiting to hear from festivals and 3 rejections, we were over the idea of festival submission, at least for this project. I know 3 isn’t a lot of times to submit, but it’s more times than anybody likes to be told NO, especially when you know you don’t suck. Honestly I would rather be told I suck upfront than, “well things are really competitive this year, best of luck!

When is life not competitive, that I needed that reminder? 

We really were made aware of the audience that wanted to see this film, when we raised $14,000 through a successful Kickstarter campaign for this project. Ever since then, we’ve been constantly asked: when is the film coming out?, when can I buy it? I wanna buy it, lemme see it… lemme see it (in my Bun B voice).

Fresh off our final rejection about a month ago, we simply decided we didn’t get to this point waiting for somebody to give us permission to be great, lets just go be great and tell people about it later.

So now the option is self-distribution, meaning we have a room full of half naked men and women bagging up product as we speak (code for we paid disc makers a bunch of money to replicate hundreds of DVDs), and we’re hitting the streets and interwebs ourselves with this film. We’re doing a big screening in our home base of Atlanta, half or more of the 40 artists in the film will be there, the local tattoo community is coming out, we’re wearing nice clothes and getting haircuts and it’s going to be awesome.

Essentially it’s what you would do at a film festival, minus the people with big checkbooks sitting in the audience… maybe.

I still believe I will make films that festivals might actually want, but I have been made aware of the fact that I should approach every project as if I might need to just put it out my damn self. Ultimately there is more to gain by taking the extra time to connect with a fan base, know who they are and go right to them. Had my film gone to a festival, it still may not have gotten picked up, and I’d still be trying to figure out how to put it out.

If it’s really as good as I think it is, and we work hard, the people I need to meet will meet me, I believe in fate that way.

Why did we quit on festivals after three tries? It’s because we are uninterested in being told nobody wants to see our film, because we know somebody does. That’s essentially what those rejections boil down to, and that’s just not something you can accept after the way we’ve seen people rally around this film getting created in the first place.

What’s the point of being independent, if you still need permission to show your film to a room full of people, listen to their opinions, and maybe even give you some money AT THE SAME DAMN… never mind.

Color Outside the Lines (Trailer) from artemus jenkins on Vimeo.

This Article is related to: Features



This is a very inspiring post often times artists face this road block from gatekeepers people that can give the artist so called acceptance or respectability. However, every artist has to decide how long he or she will wait for the gatekeeper to let them through the door? Artemus, decided not to wait and that's a good thing because I think it does take courage to move beyond the whole mainstream festival circuit and get work to the masses.

willie dynamite

as isolated showcases for this film. Look at them as a way to help build your brand. If the film is received well, the main question that will be asked of you is "what's next?" Be ready for the next.

willie dynamite

Artemus, congrats on completing your film. Once you start seeking distribution either on a large scale or even using the do it yourself method, the road will get rocky. Rejection will be commonplace and perseverance is mandatory.

Don't bash the festival route after only 3 attempts, there are thousands of festivals that would probably love to screen your film because of its unique subject matter. All that I ask is that you do your homework. If you have a withoutabox account they constantly list festivals from all over. Look them up and inquire about past films screened.

I feel you on giving money away in applying for film festivals but that is part of the cost of filmmaking. You can definitely sell it yourself, just use the festivals to help you with that. The festivals will expose your film to an audience that you currently are not aware of and then you can sell copies right after the screenings, that can help recoup the festival application costs as well.

Good luck and congrats, you just passed mile 5 of a 26 mile marathon

One last thing, don't just look at the festivals


Beautiful trailer, don't give up. I am not a fan of tattoos especially on dark skin. But your subject matter is original, and the characters are engaging and talented. I'm surprised there hasn't been any festival interest, I would definitely watch this.


Please give purchase details, I need this documentary in my life!


Quite honestly Artemus, you're right, your film is a no brainer. I could easily see how this could be on a lineup during Sundance, SXSW or Slamdance or etc. This seems to be the type of films they lean towards. Interesting.


Well hopefully you all will be doing some screenings outside of Atlanta…like in Chicago. All the best.


"Tattooing as a valued art form amongst historians and appreciators of art has not been explored at length in film." That's because it isn't a valued art. Stop drawing on yourself.

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