Sales and Press for Independent Films like Blumenthal

ethanbike Within hours of being notified of our acceptance into Santa Barbara Film Fest, phones were ringing and emails were...emailing? Aside from all the logistic and technical preparations of getting the film printed and ready for screening, the two main discussions of the week are Publicity and Sales Representation. For the uninitiated, here is a brief film-related definition of each :

Publicist - The main job of a film publicist is, well, publicity. More specifically, they work to generate attention and interest in the film through advertising to the target audience and promoting the film to the industry and local and national media. A publicist (ideally) can fill the theater seats with people who will help spread the word through the media (critics, industry executives, etc.)

Sales Representative - Also known as a sales agent, these guys are responsible for facilitating and negotiating the sales of distribution rights. They also work hard to fill the seats with relevant people, but their main function is to sell the film to distributors across all platforms (theatrical, DVD, VOD, etc) and all territories, both domestic and foreign.

Depending on who you  ask, people feel differently about which of these two relationships is more important when attending a festival. Some say both are equally important, and some DIY folks believe that indie filmmakers should do their own publicity (like blogging!). I've had  little experience with either publicists or sales reps, so I'll be interested to see how things go. Either way, these relationships will continue after the festival as Blumenthal makes its way through the circuit. With that in mind, all that matters is that the individual with either of these titles is passionate about the film. Funny, in a meeting this morning a producer pointed out that the same things that brings on good people to shoot, produce, or act in your film are the same traits you need in the people who promote it. The person best equipped to sell the movie is the person who truly believes in it.

Meetings abound, phone calls to make, and emails




Blumenthal World Premiere - Santa Barbara International Film Festival

SBIFF I am pleased to report that Blumenthal will have its world premiere during the opening weekend of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival! You can see the official press release here and read more about the festival here. We are all super crazy awesome excited about it. Although we had submitted a rough cut of the film to some festivals last year, this is the first festival that had received our final cut since finishing the film this past fall. This also marks the very beginning of the festival season, so we are off to a terrific start.

I owe the world an apology for such an epic gap in between blog posts, but much of what transpired the past several months has been waiting, waiting, and more waiting for festival technical polishes to finish and festival responses to come in. (Would you have read a blog post about waiting?)  I suppose if I still lived in NY where the film was being finished, things might have moved a bit faster, but oh well. Here we are!

There are a million billion things to do between now and the end of January when we premiere, so I will keep you all updated fairly regularly. This is the beginning of a whole new chapter in the filmmaking process: getting the film out there. Most of our immediate concerns are press related such as posters, post-cards, websites, trailer release, and sales reps. Each one of these things deserves their own blog post, so I'll aim for that.

In the spirit of making up for lost time, here is a look at a poster for the film that did not make the cut. The general consensus was that people might think the film was a cartoon of weird looking people. that I've typed that it might make a good tag line! Let us know what you think.

The little poster that didn't.

Getting the Movie to the Screen

Lately, I've received a number of requests for updates on the progress of Blumenthal. I must confess that I've abstained from blog posts for the past several weeks largely because I've assumed this period  to be a boring one for this site's audience. With all of the questions I've been fielding, I'm reminded that even the less "exciting"  parts of this process are of interest to other filmmakers and people who are simply interested in how independent movies are made.

The film is pretty much there. While a few sound and color tweaks remain to be done before our final layback, the movie is essentially finished. We finally have a polished product to start submitting to festivals and are pressing DVDs for that purpose. Once we have a premier date, we will finalize the mix and picture and output to HDCAM.

The festival strategy for Blumenthal is a simple and conservative one. We are aiming for upper-tier festivals whose programming tastes and industry marketplace might suit a film of this size and tone. The plan is to push Blumenthal into a premiere and distribution, but not spend too much time squeezing it into every regional festival that might screen it. Don't get me wrong, there are a wealth of benefits in garnering as many festival laurels as possible for a film. The trouble is that with few resources, that process can be extremely time-consuming and expensive. My producers and I feel strongly that as we go into the festival circuit, one of the best things we can do for Blumenthal is to keep making movies. Many of us are already onto other projects, some of which were made possible by our work on Blumenthal. That said, we still have a load of work and responsibility to see Blumenthal to its fullest potential.

Now is a relatively quiet time for the circuit, but fests will begin notifying by mid-summer and into the fall.  In addition to the submission process of sending off DVDs, my producers and I are pushing left and right to cultivate contacts in the indie-sphere to keep the film on people's radar and even establish personal contacts with as many programmers as possible.

There is little science to this part of the indie film business. There is a surplus of product out there and a tremendous amount of noise that we need to rise above if we want our movie to be seen. I do believe (I have to believe) that any good movie will find a way to be seen. It might not be at a multiplex near you, but at a minimum will be reviewed and consumable in other formats such as VOD and Netflix. As in any other industry, the formula for success is a fairly simple one: hard work, persistence, and luck.

I'm thrilled with the apparent anticipation of so many of you to see the movie. Friends, internet strangers, and programmers have been eager to screen Blumenthal and I suppose that bodes well. However, until we premiere the film, we are trying to keep the full-viewings to a minimum. In the interim, we are working on cutting a trailer together that we can share with the world to promote the film. I had taken a pass at editing a trailer several months back, but after a few days of work, I realized that was a terrible idea. Fresh eyes from a real trailer editor make all the difference in the world. Things are progressing well on that front, and I hope to have something up on the blog and site in the coming weeks.

In this relative quiet of creativity in the process, I've been immersing myself once again in screenwriting. I'm swimming in a few different projects at present with a TV pilot and two feature screenplays. My hope is that by the time Blumenthal reaches you all on-screen, we will be at work shooting the next film.

Sounds and Colors

It's been a marathon of a weekend here in New York for the final push to finish Blumenthal. The past two months I've been relatively hands off with sound and color doing their thing and working away. It's thrilling to get back into the city and see/hear all the work that's been done. I was hoping to blog throughout the trip, but that didn't quite happen. I leave tomorrow and there's still a ton to do tonight, but here is a quick run down of the weekend's work thus far... Friday started early with good coffee and a good meeting at Kaffe 1668 in Tribeca. From there, I shot up to Postworks on 44th Street where Josh Berger, Alex, and Ryan were ready to start the mixing session. All the mixing and sound-editing is being done in a Dolby certified theater and doing a 5.1 surround mix. Right away, I was floored to hear the first reel come on. Over the past six weeks, Josh and his team have been editing the dialogue audio, music, and sound effects. The biggest surprises to me were the foley effects and the orchestration of the score. We trudged through the first two reels for about 12 hours and then called it a night.

Saturday was an early start at 9am. St. Patrick's Day in New York is actually the best day to be locked up in a dark theatre for 15 hours. First up was my own ADR work. We spent the first half of the day in the ADR studio recording both dialogue and voice-overs. Nicole Ansari then joined us for some last-minute ADR for one of her scenes. The day was a revolving door of producers with Garrett, Jesse, and Jason all swinging by to hear the progress. After ADR, we jumped back into the mixing stage with Ryan Dann editing in new sound effects as we went. Editor Alex Kopit joined the process as well.

At around 5pm, Ryan, Kopit, and myself rolled down to Soho for some color work. There we met up with my cinematographer Zak, colorist Seth, and VFX editor Conrad. After a boost of powerful Nespresso coffee and a general meeting, we crammed into the coloring suite to get started. We went through the movie from top to bottom at double speed to take notes. After the pass, Zak and I began a lengthy discourse on contrast ratios and our overall "look" for the film. After Zak and I put everyone else in the room to sleep, we went through all the tricky shots that needed some specific work/discussion. We ended the night at around 1:30am.

Sunday we got to sleep in and started at Postworks at noon. Josh and Ryan Dann had spent the previous evening laying in all of the VOs and ADR dialogue. I was amazed at how much work they had done. Two scenes in particular were completely rebuilt from the ground up in terms of sound. We mixed until 5pm and then moved down to Buck where we colored and tweaked the picture edit of one small scene. Color work was a more relaxing workload as there were only a few scenes we really needed to discuss as a group with Seth and Zak. Otherwise, Seth is just painting each scene from top to bottom. Seth was still there when we left at 12:30am.

This afternoon, we are picking up the rendered reels from Seth and bringing them up to the sound studio to see how the finished picture affects our sound decisions. We'll start at the top and work our way through the whole mix one last time before I leave tomorrow.

ADR in NYC from LA

Today was our first day of ADR for Blumenthal. For the uninitiated, ADR stands for "Automated Dialogue Replacement". Basically, if a scene has any audio issues that prevent the production sound mixer from capturing completely clean dialogue, then we go into the sound studio and the actor re-records their lines while watching the video of their original performance. ADR can also be used to tweak performance as well. In our case, the issues were solely technical as we did a great deal of filming on location in the streets of New York City (very loud). Most times, it's a simple line here or there that gets lost under a car honking its horn.

ADR is being done in New York while I am in Los Angeles. But, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to participate in the process with my actors. With a direct dial-in and some video conferencing, I felt like I was in the room at Postworks with our super fantastic Sound Re-Recordist Josh Berger. We worked most of the day and got everything we came for.

All that's left is a little ADR for my character Ethan which I'll record on Friday when I'm in town. It was great fun working with the actors again. I'm so used to seeing many of them on-screen that it's weirdly exciting when the actual person walks into the room as says something other than what's in the movie. In terms of the lines themselves, we might have actually brought out some new stuff in the performances, too. Bonus!

What's in a Name? - Title Change

We've done it! The new title of our film is Blumenthal. After months and months of everyone already referring to the film by the family name of its characters, it seemed like the right thing to do. It also pointed to the reality that the original title was proving to be a mouthful in cocktail conversations. I've been mulling over a title change since we were in production, so this decision has been percolating for a while now. While I liked the multi-level meaning of Passing Harold Blumenthal, it just never struck me as catchy or easy enough to say without prompting further questions from people. Someone also pointed out the Blumenthal would get alphabetical priority on all VOD menus. So that's a bonus.

I considered retroactively modifying the title throughout past posts on WatchMeMakeAMovie, but decided against it. The title change is part of the process, so I'll leave the posts as a true diary of the moment and leave them "as is" for posterity. Besides, I've often written "Blumenthal"  as a short-cut nickname for the film already.

So that's that. Nice and simple. Blumenthal.

Blumenthal Movie Still No. 1

Here is the first Blumenthal still we are releasing. This is the first of a series of stills that will be used for press purposes once we are ready to premiere the film. It will also likely be the lustre print that will go out to many of our Kickstarter supporters.

Saul Blumenthal sits in the theatre where his brother Harold died of laughter.

Kudos to the Sundance Winner Benh Zeitlin

The Grand Jury Prize winner of Sundance this year was Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild. While it's easy to be cynical about anything with Sundance "buzz", Zeitlin and his team seem truly deserving of the attention their film is getting. I haven't seen the film, but I did watch the 2008 short Glory at Sea that was a precursor to Beasts. This film is awesome. Hands down, the best short film I can remember seeing. The story is inspired, moving, funny, and downright imaginative. Even though the budget of this short was comparable to the budget of my entire feature, Zeitlin and his team at Court 13 manage capture something truly remarkable (even for such a large-scale short film). Check out the short below to see a terrific display of filmmaking skill paired with a childlike imagination.