Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Eugene Hernandez
August 17, 2006 3:03 AM
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DIY DISTRIBUTION: Coming Soon Via The Filmmakers..."Four Eyed Monsters" and "Head Trauma"

Scenes from Susan Buice and Arin Crumley's "Four Eyed Monsters" and Lance Weiler's "Head Trauma". Images provided by the respective filmmakers

One year after implementing an ambitious plan to attract distributor interest in their first feature film, "Four Eyed Monsters," filmmakers Susan Buice and Arin Crumley are putting the final touches on a DIY (Do It Yourself) release for the film that will kick-off early next month. They are among a growing roster of filmmakers, often frustrated by increasingly wary distribution companies, bypassing the traditional system and taking matters into their own hands. Similarly, filmmaker Lance Weiler, who achieved recognition when pursuing a DIY release of "The Last Broadcast" in the late '90s, is taking "Head Trauma", his new movie, to theaters on his own starting this week followed by a quick DVD release next month. Both movies will participate in the upcoming Independent Film Week's new DIY "Do It Yourself" Indie Screening Series in New York City.

"Four Eyed Monsters"

Since talking with indieWIRE one year ago about their efforts, Buice and Crumley tweaked the now common practice of releasing DVD extras, by cutting together bonus footage in advance of their film's release to build momentum for their movie. The fourteen video segments about their relationship and the making of the movie have been download some 500,000 times, via iTunes, MySpace, and YouTube, according to the filmmakers. And as their audience grew, the filmmakers (via their website) encouraged fans to request a local theatrical release of "Four Eyed Monsters" and vowed to book the movie at a local theater where there were at least 150 requests.

"Four Eyed Monsters," a narrative feature about modern love and relationships starring the filmmakers and set in New York City, will screen every Thursday in September in five U.S. cities where they have a fan base: New York City at IFC Center, Los Angeles at the Laemmle Grand 4-Plex, Boston at the Sommerville Theater, Chicago at the Gene Siskel Center, San Francisco at the Variety Preview Room, and Seattle at the Grand lllusion Cinema. Told through video re-creations of key moments from their lives together, the film includes Buice and Crumley meeting via an online dating site and traces the development of their relationship. It also features non-fiction elements and footage of couples in New York talking about their own relationships.

An image of the "Four Eyed Monsters" Google map tracking film requests. Image provided by the filmmakers

"Most theaters would normally avoid a project like ours because we don't have a distributor who would be marketing the film and getting people to show up. But because the audience of our video podcast is so enthusiastic about the project and because we have numbers and emails and zip codes for all of these people, we've been able to instill enough confidence in theaters to get the film booked," Crumely told indieWIRE today, via email.

As of Wednesday evening, the "Four Eyed Monsters" website had logged more than 5,000 requests to screen their film in nearly 100 U.S. cities. Buice and Crumley are determined to book the movie in other cities following additional requests; requests are tracked via a customized Google map. In an email exchange with indieWIRE today, Crumley explained that the goal is to add 12 more cities in October and November. Based on data available on the site, the next cities that should pass the important 150 request mark will be Washington D.C., Austin and Dallas, with Philadephia, Miami, San Diego and Detroit not too far behind. A DVD release will follow quickly this fall, but Crumley said that the plans are still being arranged.

Asked to offer some insights into the experience he and Buice have had, Crumley told indieWIRE, "We've learned that it's almost impossible to distribute your film to theaters the way the current system works, but their are loop holes, and they are building your own audience and then proving to theater owners you have that audience and that they are willing to show up to pay money to see your film thats something distributors don't have to do, but theaters would really benefit if they did."

Concluding, Crumley told indieWIRE, "In the digital age, with digital production and digital projection, we see a future that what gets shown in theaters will be decided digitally." Advocating for what he calls a "collective curation" of content, Crumely explained that he envisions moviegoers rating trailers and other clips. He touted the opportunity to ,"(Let) people decide what they want to see in their theater rather then guys in suits in far away places speculating what people might be interested (in) based on no solid data whatsoever."

"Head Trauma"

In a straightforwward email to journalists earlier this week, seasoned filmmaker Lance Weiler introduced himself and his film to the press, writing simply, "In true DIY fashion I'm not only the writer and director of 'Head Trauma' but I'm also the distributor and publicist. I've set-up my own theatrical run, which will bring my newest movie to over 15 cities across the country starting August 18th." The release kicks off at the Hollywood Theater in Portland, OR and will continue to Tucson, Albuquerque, Scranton, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Austin, Boston and New York, among other cities, followed by an immediate nationwide DVD release on September 26th.

"The revolution in making films has already occurred, anyone with a camera and a dream can make a movie," Weiler explained in his email, "But the real issue is will anyone be able to see it? Distribution has always been an obstacle but now certain advancements in technology are allowing filmmakers to reach a wider audience."

Picking up on the lessons learned from releasing "The Last Broadcast" with co-director Stefan Avalos along with Esther Robinson and David Beard, Weiler told indieWIRE this week that he devised a hybrid distribution approach utilizing both traditional outlets and new technology, but allows him to retain the rights to his work. He decided to start by using the recent Los Angeles Film Festival world premiere as a springboard for the upcoming release, using the event to garner media attention and reviews. He explained, "I knew from past experience that good buzz and some pull quotes would go a long way selling the film." He then began booking the movie for the 15 city release over a six week period, allowing him time to attend screenings and promote the showings locally. Unable to cover the cost of renting the theaters for a four-wall release strategy, Weiler negotiated a revenue split, promising to implement a grassroots marketing plan, anchored in part at his film's own website.

A scene from an iFilm making-of clip for "Head Trauma".

Part of that plan has been to stir attention among members of online communities. "I'm a strong believer in the power of social networking sites, and building community and value for fans," Weiler explained, "For instance I've been able to use indieLOOP, MySpace and others to get info about various cities from people who live there." He added that he's used the sites to create street teams to help him promote the film locally, and he's also established a self-described "scatter shot" online approach with elements of his internet campaign available on a number of sites (including iFilm), driven by simple RSS and XML scripts that allow him to quickly reach many people.

After a head-on collision in 1994 that lead to memory loss, filmmaker Weiler began experiencing vivid nightmares and visions, giving him the foundation for "Head Trauma," a psychological horror film about a transient plagued by nightmares after an accident. To capitalize on the theatrical release, Weiler has set up a rapid push into the DVD window. The September 26th release date for "Head Trauma" will parallel a re-release of "The Last Broadcast." He explained that he structured a favorable revenue split that allows him to keep all of his rights, in particular VOD and TV. "After self-distributing 'The Last Broadcast' I learned a lot about the value of retaining your rights and how to continue to make money from your work," Weiler explained, "For instance "The Last Broadcast" is still selling certain rights overseas and this DVD re-release is another opportunity for Stefan and I to see a profit from our work."

Weiler, who is writing a book about DIY distribution, detailing his experiences, offered one clear tip to other filmmakers (or even established distributors for that matter), "Watch how others build an audience and don't lose that same empowerment that you felt when you picked up the camera and shot the film in the first place." Explaining that he identified his target audience for the film early on in the process, Weiler added, "As you write your script take some time to consider who your audience is, the more time you give to the promotion of your work the more likely it is that people will discover it." Finally, he added, "With advancements in technology and the ever-changing windows of release there is no one way to distribute your work."

TAGS: DIY
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22 Comments

  • Jolly Roger | May 3, 2011 3:12 AMReply

    postis probably one of the most sensible blog i have seen in a while !

    http://www.ipad-jailbreak.org

  • arin_crumley | August 19, 2006 12:46 PMReply

    Hey,
    This is arin from four eyed monsters, eugene, love the article, nice work, and really cool comments going on here, I just spent some time checking all the links out. I just wanted to share the two comments I posted to filmmakingforthepoor site since I'm realizing there is actually a quickly growing community of people really interested in getting their hands dirty with all this stuff:

    Comment 1:
    A couple tips to add, i already commented on another post about trying to collect zip codes of people who sign up to want to see the film, that way you are booking your film in an area you know has interest.
    Another tip for this list, get the right team involved. Just like you need an audio mixer who knows how to aim the microphone at the actor and a DP who knows how to light a set, you need some team players who know marketing and distribution, can speak on the level of theater owners, can approach a venue or a sponsor or whatever, a filmmaker may or may not have all these skills themselves, but just because the filmmaking is over doesn't mean you can't still work with a team, but the team may have to be a different set of people.
    Another couple tips, video invitation, why not use video to communicate with people, as filmmakers this is supposed to be our main ability right.
    RSVP lists, myspace has this tool and others too as well and I'm sure sites like withoutabox will eventually have this, a way for people to see who is planning to attend. Don't forget that the difference between watching a dvd and going to a theater is that going to the theater is a social experience. You laugh at the same time everyone else does etc... so push that, let people know who the others are, because unlike studio films, you will have a community of people that are like minded and you might have a much greater level of social benefits to your audience. We're hoping that people who come see our film at IFC Center in September might meet some other cool people, maybe even someone will find a date at the screening rather then before, or some people both planning on going will get in touch with eachother. So the basic point here is community, it's a good thing, and it's the advantage we have that studios don't.
    Arin

    And here was my other comment:

    ...when collecing email addresses for a mailing list for a film, you mine as well give the impression they are signing up to see the film and also ask for zip and country info. This data can later be processed using access to create either a cluster map to share with the audience like we've done on our site, or you can just sort the zip codes and in excel in order and kind of visually gauge how many you have in each city. When a festival approaches you and you already have a fan base someplace, you know what you are bringing to the table and you can ask for a screening fee instead of showing for free, so that way festivals can start to be used as a platform for distribution and monotizing your film, not just as publicity, because I think we all know by now, that only the main festivals really provdide huge publicity and the rest are really just about finding an audience, but all of this talk about DIY distro and abilities is going to start to make what festivals offer seem not that great unless filmmakers can get a cut for the efforts of not only making the film, but now also marketing the screenings.
    Arin

  • arin_crumley | August 19, 2006 12:38 PMReply

    Hey,
    This is arin from four eyed monsters, eugene, love the article, nice work, and really cool comments going on here, I just spent some time checking all the links out. I just wanted to share the two comments I posted to filmmakingforthepoor site since I'm realizing there is actually a quickly growing community of people really interested in getting their hands dirty with all this stuff:

    Comment 1:
    A couple tips to add, i already commented on another post about trying to collect zip codes of people who sign up to want to see the film, that way you are booking your film in an area you know has interest.
    Another tip for this list, get the right team involved. Just like you need an audio mixer who knows how to aim the microphone at the actor and a DP who knows how to light a set, you need some team players who know marketing and distribution, can speak on the level of theater owners, can approach a venue or a sponsor or whatever, a filmmaker may or may not have all these skills themselves, but just because the filmmaking is over doesn't mean you can't still work with a team, but the team may have to be a different set of people.
    Another couple tips, video invitation, why not use video to communicate with people, as filmmakers this is supposed to be our main ability right.
    RSVP lists, myspace has this tool and others too as well and I'm sure sites like withoutabox will eventually have this, a way for people to see who is planning to attend. Don't forget that the difference between watching a dvd and going to a theater is that going to the theater is a social experience. You laugh at the same time everyone else does etc... so push that, let people know who the others are, because unlike studio films, you will have a community of people that are like minded and you might have a much greater level of social benefits to your audience. We're hoping that people who come see our film at IFC Center in September might meet some other cool people, maybe even someone will find a date at the screening rather then before, or some people both planning on going will get in touch with eachother. So the basic point here is community, it's a good thing, and it's the advantage we have that studios don't.
    Arin

    And here was my other comment:

    ...when collecing email addresses for a mailing list for a film, you mine as well give the impression they are signing up to see the film and also ask for zip and country info. This data can later be processed using access to create either a cluster map to share with the audience like we've done on our site, or you can just sort the zip codes and in excel in order and kind of visually gauge how many you have in each city. When a festival approaches you and you already have a fan base someplace, you know what you are bringing to the table and you can ask for a screening fee instead of showing for free, so that way festivals can start to be used as a platform for distribution and monotizing your film, not just as publicity, because I think we all know by now, that only the main festivals really provdide huge publicity and the rest are really just about finding an audience, but all of this talk about DIY distro and abilities is going to start to make what festivals offer seem not that great unless filmmakers can get a cut for the efforts of not only making the film, but now also marketing the screenings.
    Arin

  • arin_crumley | August 19, 2006 11:14 AMReply

    Hey,
    This is arin from four eyed monsters, eugene, love the article, nice work, and really cool comments going on here, I just spent some time checking all the links out. I just wanted to share the two comments I posted to filmmakingforthepoor site since I'm realizing there is actually a quickly growing community of people really interested in getting their hands dirty with all this stuff:

    Comment 1:
    A couple tips to add, i already commented on another post about trying to collect zip codes of people who sign up to want to see the film, that way you are booking your film in an area you know has interest.
    Another tip for this list, get the right team involved. Just like you need an audio mixer who knows how to aim the microphone at the actor and a DP who knows how to light a set, you need some team players who know marketing and distribution, can speak on the level of theater owners, can approach a venue or a sponsor or whatever, a filmmaker may or may not have all these skills themselves, but just because the filmmaking is over doesn't mean you can't still work with a team, but the team may have to be a different set of people.
    Another couple tips, video invitation, why not use video to communicate with people, as filmmakers this is supposed to be our main ability right.
    RSVP lists, myspace has this tool and others too as well and I'm sure sites like withoutabox will eventually have this, a way for people to see who is planning to attend. Don't forget that the difference between watching a dvd and going to a theater is that going to the theater is a social experience. You laugh at the same time everyone else does etc... so push that, let people know who the others are, because unlike studio films, you will have a community of people that are like minded and you might have a much greater level of social benefits to your audience. We're hoping that people who come see our film at IFC Center in September might meet some other cool people, maybe even someone will find a date at the screening rather then before, or some people both planning on going will get in touch with eachother. So the basic point here is community, it's a good thing, and it's the advantage we have that studios don't.
    Arin

    And here was my other comment:

    ...when collecing email addresses for a mailing list for a film, you mine as well give the impression they are signing up to see the film and also ask for zip and country info. This data can later be processed using access to create either a cluster map to share with the audience like we've done on our site, or you can just sort the zip codes and in excel in order and kind of visually gauge how many you have in each city. When a festival approaches you and you already have a fan base someplace, you know what you are bringing to the table and you can ask for a screening fee instead of showing for free, so that way festivals can start to be used as a platform for distribution and monotizing your film, not just as publicity, because I think we all know by now, that only the main festivals really provdide huge publicity and the rest are really just about finding an audience, but all of this talk about DIY distro and abilities is going to start to make what festivals offer seem not that great unless filmmakers can get a cut for the efforts of not only making the film, but now also marketing the screenings.
    Arin

  • arin_crumley | August 19, 2006 11:05 AMReply

    Hey,
    This is arin from four eyed monsters, eugene, love the article, nice work, and really cool comments going on here, I just spent some time checking all the links out. I just wanted to share the two comments I posted to filmmakingforthepoor site since I'm realizing there is actually a quickly growing community of people really interested in getting their hands dirty with all this stuff:

    Comment 1:
    A couple tips to add, i already commented on another post about trying to collect zip codes of people who sign up to want to see the film, that way you are booking your film in an area you know has interest.
    Another tip for this list, get the right team involved. Just like you need an audio mixer who knows how to aim the microphone at the actor and a DP who knows how to light a set, you need some team players who know marketing and distribution, can speak on the level of theater owners, can approach a venue or a sponsor or whatever, a filmmaker may or may not have all these skills themselves, but just because the filmmaking is over doesn't mean you can't still work with a team, but the team may have to be a different set of people.
    Another couple tips, video invitation, why not use video to communicate with people, as filmmakers this is supposed to be our main ability right.
    RSVP lists, myspace has this tool and others too as well and I'm sure sites like withoutabox will eventually have this, a way for people to see who is planning to attend. Don't forget that the difference between watching a dvd and going to a theater is that going to the theater is a social experience. You laugh at the same time everyone else does etc... so push that, let people know who the others are, because unlike studio films, you will have a community of people that are like minded and you might have a much greater level of social benefits to your audience. We're hoping that people who come see our film at IFC Center in September might meet some other cool people, maybe even someone will find a date at the screening rather then before, or some people both planning on going will get in touch with eachother. So the basic point here is community, it's a good thing, and it's the advantage we have that studios don't.
    Arin

    And here was my other comment:

    ...when collecing email addresses for a mailing list for a film, you mine as well give the impression they are signing up to see the film and also ask for zip and country info. This data can later be processed using access to create either a cluster map to share with the audience like we've done on our site, or you can just sort the zip codes and in excel in order and kind of visually gauge how many you have in each city. When a festival approaches you and you already have a fan base someplace, you know what you are bringing to the table and you can ask for a screening fee instead of showing for free, so that way festivals can start to be used as a platform for distribution and monotizing your film, not just as publicity, because I think we all know by now, that only the main festivals really provdide huge publicity and the rest are really just about finding an audience, but all of this talk about DIY distro and abilities is going to start to make what festivals offer seem not that great unless filmmakers can get a cut for the efforts of not only making the film, but now also marketing the screenings.
    Arin

  • diy filmmaker sujewa | August 18, 2006 3:47 AMReply

    keicol,

    the other 2 links re: DIY distro:

    The New US Indie Film Frontier: DIY Distribution
    http://filmmakingforthepoor.blogspot.com/2006/01/new-us-indie-film-frontier-diy.html

    indieWIRE's indieLOOP DIY Film Group (one of the most popular on LOOP):
    http://social.indiewire.com/group_features.php?gid=4e732ced3463d06de0ca9a15b6153677

    - Sujewa
    http://www.wilddiner/com/

  • diy filmmaker sujewa | August 18, 2006 3:17 AMReply

    Hey Keicol,

    Here are some links for you to persue re: DIY distribution:

    1. Tips for producing DIY screenings:
    http://filmmakingforthepoor.blogspot.com/2006/03/some-tips-on-producing-diy-screenings.html

    2. Intro to the DIY 2005 Film Movement:
    http://diyfilmmaker.blogspot.com/2006/04/intro-to-diy-2005-film-movement.html

    3. Indie Features 06, several DIY filmmakers (Weiler, myself, Swanberg, etc.) post there:
    http://www.indiefeatures06.blogspot.com/

    4. Philosophy of DIY+ (DIY plus) distribution:
    http://diyfilmmaker.blogspot.com/2006/08/philosophy-of-diy-diy-plus.html

    5. Post about 7 indie films that will be seen in NYC soon due to DIY distribution work (films are LOL, Date Number One, Head Trauma, Four Eyed Monsters, The Guatamalan Handshake, Mutual Appreciation, Jumping Off Bridges):
    http://diyfilmmaker.blogspot.com/2006/08/new-york-city-to-see-lot-of-indie-film.html

    1 more link re: a look forward to a point in time such as now written last year re: DIY distro coming in a minute.

    also link to indieWIRE's indieLOOP's DIY Film Group (the most popular group there) coming also.

    Lots of stuff for you to check out re: DIY distro.

    Enjoy!

    - Sujewa Ekanayake
    Director & Distributor of DIY feature "Date Number One"
    http://www.wilddiner.com/

  • keicol | August 17, 2006 12:19 PMReply

    I'd love to see more info posted about DIY Distribution.

  • keicol | August 17, 2006 12:11 PMReply

    I'd love to see more info posted about DIY Distribution.

  • deana wesley | August 17, 2006 9:39 AMReply

    this is what i like to see happening!! one of main reasons i started a myspace page. i knew the network was out there... now i just have to finish my screen play and get a frickn camera. ahahahah!!

  • deana wesley | August 17, 2006 9:39 AMReply

    this is what i like to see happening!! one of main reasons i started a myspace page. i knew the network was out there... now i just have to finish my screen play and get a frickn camera. ahahahah!!

  • anniefrisbie | August 17, 2006 9:30 AMReply

    Just tried to trackback but it didn't work- have some extensive commentary on DIY distro over here:
    http://www.zoom-in.com/blog/2006/08/diy_distribution_tactics.php

    "Of course, people will say that self-distribution doesn't carry the same status as having it distributed, financial considerations aside. And writer/directors tend to be incredibly ambitious people, and the DIY scenario can be too humbling..."

  • anniefrisbie | August 17, 2006 9:26 AMReply

    Just tried to trackback but it didn't work- have some extensive commentary on DIY distro over here:
    http://www.zoom-in.com/blog/2006/08/diy_distribution_tactics.php

    "Of course, people will say that self-distribution doesn't carry the same status as having it distributed, financial considerations aside. And writer/directors tend to be incredibly ambitious people, and the DIY scenario can be too humbling..."

  • indiancowboy | August 17, 2006 8:46 AMReply

    Hi Arne, I wanted to clarify that I didn't mean the workload disappears if you do a hybrid, only that you have the opportunity to share some of that work with a few industry professionals, mainly in areans of dvd channel distribution, or soundtrack channel distribution etc. The marketing work is best handled by the filmmaker because they are sometimes the ones most passionate and hardworking, and assuming ofcourse, they have marketing chops and/or collaborate with talented partners who do.

    Nikhil Kamkolkar
    Writer/Director INDIAN COWBOY
    http://www.IndianCowboy.com

  • diy filmmaker sujewa | August 17, 2006 8:34 AMReply

    Yeah, either way it's a lot of work & worrying (through another distributor or through self, see Caveh Zahedi's blog for more on working w/ a distributor). But at least through DIY you can be sure to a certain degree that the work will get done at least kind of similar to how you want it done. A hybrid approach is good if you can swing it, will probably ensure wider availability of the film.
    For more info on DIY distro (or at least the DIY distro story of one new flick) check out my blog DIY Filmmaker Sujewa at http://www.diyfilmmaker.blogspot.com/. And everything depends on how you look at it, a filmmaker who is busy at making or showing a film is doing what he/she signed up to do when choosing the filmmaker career path, sounds cool to me.
    Bottom line, you gotta do whatever to get the movie out, its cool (Lance Weiler told me something like that yesterday :)

    - Sujewa Ekanayake
    Director & Distributor of DIY feature "Date Number One"
    http://www.wilddiner.com/

  • girlsrockmovie | August 17, 2006 8:17 AMReply

    As far as the "whole lot of work" comment, I have a friend who recently had a movie distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, and I'm not sure he ever worked harder in his life. It seems if you want your movie to succeed, it's hard work no matter how you distro.
    -Arne
    http://www.girlsrockmovie.com

  • girlsrockmovie | August 17, 2006 8:14 AMReply

    As far as the "whole lot of work" comment, I have a friend who recently had a movie distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, and I'm not sure he ever worked harder in his life. It seems if you want your movie to succeed, it's hard work no matter how you distro.
    -Arne
    http://www.girlsrockmovie.com

  • indiancowboy | August 17, 2006 7:08 AMReply

    All of this is a whole lot of work -- so my approach is a hybrid diy + working with industry partners. I look forward to seeing your respective films
    Nikhil Kamkolkar
    Writer/Director INDIAN COWBOY
    http://www.IndianCowboy.com

  • keicol | August 17, 2006 7:03 AMReply

    I'd love to see more info posted about DIY Distribution.

  • indiancowboy | August 17, 2006 7:00 AMReply

    All of this is a whole lot of work -- so my approach is a hybrid diy + working with industry partners. I look forward to seeing your respective films
    Nikhil Kamkolkar
    Writer/Director INDIAN COWBOY
    http://www.IndianCowboy.com

  • keicol | August 17, 2006 6:55 AMReply

    I'd love to see more info posted about DIY Distribution.

  • diy filmmaker sujewa | August 17, 2006 6:47 AMReply

    Awesome article. Go DIY distro! I've seen 4Eyed & liked it, looking forward to checking out Head Trauma even though I am not a horror film fan.

    - Sujewa
    http://www.wilddiner.com/