Filmmakers Arin Crumley and Susan Buice's "Four Eyed Monsters" is a narrative feature about modern love and relationships starring the filmmakers, set in New York City. 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. The film also features non-fiction elements and footage of couples in New York talking about their own relationships. "Four Eyed Monsters" first screened at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2005, and won accolades later that year at the Brooklyn International Film Festival. The film was recently nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards including the John Cassavetes Award for best feature under $500,000 and best cinematography. "Four Eyed Monsters" opens Friday at Cinema Village in New York followed by other cities.
What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?
Arin Crumley: I'm from Santa Rosa, California where I grew up until I moved to New York five years ago. I started out working in freelance video production doing corporate videos, weddings and music videos and then kept making my own side projects until I decided to just drop everything and make a film with Susan. That started around the time I was turning 23 and now I'm turning 26 in two weeks.
Susan Buice: I was born in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and I lived in Texas for a while, but I spent the majority of my up bringing in Framingham, Massachutsetts. After getting an art degree at UMass and studying abroad, I moved to New York to continue making artwork, but waited tables to survive. I had begun dabbling with video as an art form around the time I met Arin. His skills and technology knowledge get me up to speed with final cut pro and then we started collaborating.
What other creative outlets do you explore aside from filmmaking?
Susan: Drawing, painting, dance classes.
Arin: Playing guitar and designing hypothetical inventions.
Did you go to film school?
Arin: I'm self taught, didn't go to film school, used the internet as a resource and learned through doing. It's been that way since I was 15 and became committed to figuring all this stuff out.
Susan: Didn't study film, just learned by doing. Sometimes when stuck we watch some films we like to see how they solved similar problems.
How did the initial idea for "Four Eyed Monsters" come about?
Susan: The seed for the film came from the initial collaborations we had when we first started dating. We were generating a lot of writing, drawings, videos and we felt we were discovering new things about communication through the experiment of our relationship. So wanting to further that experiment and get across some of the ideas we felt we were interesting we decided to make a feature film using the resources around us.
Arin: Those resources ended up being ourselves to portray the story of our real experiences shooting around New York City and using our loft for over 10 different locations by just re-arrangning things. Also we had access to credit and when we'd run out we got more access, needless to say we are in over 70,000 dollars worth of credit card debt.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in securing distribution for the
Arin: There was a big difference between the way audiences responded and the way distributors responded. Audiences were super enthusiastic, especially people close to our age. If distributors did return calls, they usually said they didn't know how to "market" it. We felt that it was lame that people liking a film wasn't enough. It's frustrating that a film needs to sound compelling in one sentence to motivate distributors to take on a film. And the only other option is if the people in the film are some well-known entities, and we also didn't have that going for us.
Susan: We felt our film did have potential to appeal to an audience so we decided to find a way to bring it to an audience ourselves. Film festivals weren't getting us anywhere fast enough so nine months into our festival circuit run, we stopped submitting and focused all of our energy on what we hoped would be the way audiences could get invested in our film.
Arin: We created a video podcast which built an audience for the film by bringing them into our process and telling the stories that expand on the ideas and themes in our film with all brand new content. With a lot of support from people enthusiastic about the new medium the audience grew very quickly and the question became how we'd get the film to this audience. Still with no distributors coming forward to take advantage of this situation of having demand for a film it was still up to us to physically distribute--but probably because they didn't understand what we had created and how to harness it.
What we figured out was that it was really important to know where these people were so we let people start to sign up to "request" a screening of our film in their area. We then created an online interactive map that shared this information with the audience and let people know that if one area got above 150 requests we'd be able to make screenings happen. This campaign became our Thursdays in September run which resulted in 1691 people coming out to see the film. Each week received more attendance then the previous, which lead to Cinema Village coming to us interested in a full week run or more. So that kicks off this Friday and depending on how that goes, we will be creating our strategy on how to get the film to more cities, and have a DVD release lined up for April that will include both selling off our website ourselves and working with a label to get the film in stores on Netflix and Amazon.
What are your individual personal goals as filmmakers?
Susan: I just want to make something that resonates because when I see something that resonates with me I feel connected. Feeling connected to the world and to other human experiences is what makes me feel alive and happy. When I don't feel connected I feel like a meaningless blob of flesh and I want to die.
Arin: I'm trying to become articulate in as many mediums as possible. Shooting, editing, speaking, blogging, music, podcasting and any useful medium that helps convey my ideas. I'm interested in using each medium really well so people will want these ideas. And I'm interested in how media is distributed so that every idea can scale to maximum exposure. And I need there to always be a democratic feedback loop so that I know as much as possible about how the idea was taken.