For those based in NY, the DOC NYC panels in the Fall are a fantastic way to meet some of the filmmakers you would otherwise not rub shoulders with. We are huge fans of Marshall Curry's films (If a Tree Falls, Street Fight, etc) and Gary Hustwit's "Urbanized", "Helvetica," etc. We sought these guys out after their panels and they’ve been immensely helpful with their advice and support ever since.
We also knew Gary was a huge guitar fan and so we invited him to our premiere in November 2012 at DOC NYC. He's a master of social media and when he kindly sat down with us afterwards to give us some feedback about the film, we recognized that our audience may not use social media in the same way as his core audience of plugged-in design types. We realized we would need to go out and find the guitar lovers, we couldn't do it from our basement.  We had already started to do community screenings to possible partners — Musicwood is about a forest, so outdoor enthusiasts, and environmental and Native American groups were top of our list — but we needed to take the film on the road to the musicians.
We approached a ton of musicians about participating in Musicwood. It was a very involved process, with day after day of emails sent, phone calls made, pitches presented. There were lots of close calls, with musicians expressing interest or wanting to be in the film, only to find that their schedules didn’t work. One of our closest calls was with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. We knew Jeff would be interested in Musicwood because he’s been very outspoken about using sustainable materials in guitars, even going so far as to lend his name to a signature acoustic guitar made with sustainable woods.
Although it didn’t work out with getting Wilco in the film, we sent them a copy of Musicwood once the film was finished. A few months later, out of the blue, Wilco suddenly tweeted about Musicwood. It gave us a huge bump on social media and got the idea of the film out to Wilco’s sizeable fan base. And then, they asked us to take part in their Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, MA. We were thrilled, they loved the film.
Often, when making a documentary you’re trying to save costs, so for every trip and every bit of outreach, we would double up. August 2012, we tripled up.
Reverb, a partner we wanted to approach (a non-profit with similar goals as our own film) was based in Portland, ME, and it just so happened that Mumford & Sons would be playing in Portland on my birthday.  So hitting three birds with one stone, we set out on a road trip. We had a Musicwood DVD in hand for Mumford & Sons (you always gotta try), a meeting scheduled with Reverb and a birthday to celebrate. We had a great weekend (what a town!) and managed to run into Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons at a bar, where we handed him the DVD. We left beaming and with a ton of great ideas.
Mumford & Sons’ tour took over towns when they came through, making a real effort to patronize local businesses and get the towns involved in the tour to create a big event. It seemed like there was something about that excitement that we could potentially harness for Musicwood, albeit in a much smaller way.
All of these experiences coalesced when Portland, OR’s Hollywood Theater approached us to screen Musicwood as part of their Eco-Festival. Both Portlands will be forever engrained in our memories. This happened at the end of our film festival run this year and right when we were working on the idea of how to merge music festivals and theatrical screenings, if it was even possible. We knew it would take hard work and possibly a lot of money to do theatrical screenings alone. We knew we couldn't four-wall theaters as we didn't have the cash. So how could we really make it work in a way that would have an impact?
For some reason I had it in my mind to screen at 5 music festivals and 5 cities theatrically, if there was any crossover way to make this happen.
The Hollywood Theater were great. I talked to them about opening four days after Portland's Pickathon festival (this year headlined by Feist), and they agreed, seeing the potential of promoting Musicwood to the Pickathon audience. And then everything snowballed from there.
Within six weeks, Rock The Earth came back and confirmed we would show at Bonnaroo. Wilco confirmed that they would have us screen at Solid Sound. And after approaching Newport Film with a pitch, they finally came back to us saying we could be screen there at the same time as the Folk Festival. It’s only the second year they’ve had films running in parallel with the Folk Festival, so we felt extremely honored and excited. The dream is coming true and it’s all starting to fall into place.
We're still in the planning stages of putting together the Chicago opening alongside their Riot Fest, Seattle opening alongside Bumbershoot and a California screening timed with their Outside Lands Festival. But things are looking very good there as well. And heck we'll bring the artists to our New York screening! We'll make our own music festival right there! I can dream, right?