Three titles are currently on the roster for recently formed New York-based distributor Rumur Releasing, spearheaded by "Horns and Halos" filmmakers, Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, as well as the 2002 doc's producers Jeff Sanders and David Beilinson. The experience with self-distributing the Toronto 2003 film, which follows an underground publisher's fight to re-publish a controversial George W. Bush biography, provided an impetus to take on distribution.
"My partners Suki Hawley, David Beilinson, Jeff Sanders and I self-distributed 'Horns and Halos,'" commented Galinsky to indieWIRE Wednesday afternoon. "That process wasn't easy to say the least, however, we learned a lot, met a lot of great people, and saw that it could be done. By focusing our energies and not throwing a lot of money at the release, we actually made a bit of cash on the theatrical run [and] it did significantly better on DVD than it would have if we hadn't put it in theaters."
For their next major project, Beilinson, Galinsky, Hawley as well as Zachary M. Werner (producer, "Chinese Dream") directed doc, "Code 33," which follows two Cuban-American detectives in their 2003 hunt for an unknown man-the notorious Miami serial rapist and has been making the rounds on the festival circuit. Galinsky took notice while traveling with the doc that many films at festivals are often left without theatrical releases. "It's kind of shocking that certain films don't make it to the screen, and we thought there was room for someone to step in to deal with these challenging and compelling films.
One such title is David Redmon's Sundance 2005 competition doc "Mardi Gras: Made in China," which spotlights globalization through the manufacture of Mardi Gras beads from a small factory in Fuzhou, China, to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and art galleries in New York City. Hawley worked with Redmon to re-cut the film, and the collaboration further fueled the group's desire to work with other filmmakers on their projects.
"We started to think about this kind of relationship as a big part of what we'd like to do moving forward. There seems to be a lot of talented folks who are getting great footage and have ideas but don't have the experience to turn those elements into great movies."
In March, while attending the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) with "Code 33," the partners saw directors Garrett Scott and Ian Olds' Iraq doc "Occupation: Dreamland," described as an "unflinchingly candid portrait of a squad of U.S. soldiers deployed in the city of Falluja during winter 2004."
"We were just floored," said Galinsky. "Garrett Scott and Ian Olds had made a massively important movie but couldn't get anyone involved with distributing the film because many people were scared off by the Iraq war content."
The group's work with "Mardi Gras: Made in China" as well as their initial contact with the "Occupation: Dreamland" filmmakers at SXSW spurred them to form Rumur Releasing. "These factors came together and we decided to jump in and build a company where we could release smart films that might not play to the masses, but can find an audience in the theaters -- and as such get enough of a profile to sell some copies of DVDs."
Rumur Releasing plans to market their films through specialized word-of-mouth campaigns aimed at organizations with a natural interest in the subjects of a given title. For "Occupation: Dreamland," which will be the company's first release on September 16 in Fayetville, NC (where the soldiers profiled in the film are based) Rumur is working with outreach coordinators Working Films to connect them with organizations such as Veterans for Peace and others. "It doesn't make sense for us to spend a ton of money on a New York Times ad for a single screen run when half of the money will get the films ads on 25 blogs that are much more likely to reach the audience that we think needs to know about the film," said Galinsky. "Occupation: Dreamland" will open in New York at Cinema Village as well as on screens in Boston (Coolidge Corner) and Portland, OR (Clinton St. Theater).
Following the "Dreamland" roll out, Rumur will open "Mardi Gras: Made in China" at Cinema Village on November 4, while "Code 33" is slated for some time afterward. Going forward, Rumur will likely continue to focus on documentaries, but other genres may eventually work into the company's slate.
"We are evaluating a number of American indies and foreign-language films," said Galinsky. "We'll be traveling to festivals with our own films and also going to look for others. In terms of docs we are mostly interested in verité films. We are also drawn to the kinds of docs that raise a lot of questions about a situation rather than pushing an idea or a position on the viewer. I think both 'Occupation: Dreamland' and 'Mardi Gras: Made in China' give us a deeply unique look into complex situations."