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March 12 at 8:30am

CHILDREN OF INVENTION: Why They Are Glad They Went DIY

By Ted Hope

Again today we have a guest post from Mynette Louie and Tze Chun, the producer director team behind CHILDREN OF INVENTION. The film opens this weekend in New York and their whole journey through DIY/DIWO distribution has been fascinating to watch and a learning experience for us all. They have been truly brave and really generous sharing a lot of information along the way. I really love this film and truly admire both of them. Please support their film.

Yesterday they shared their Top 10 Reasons Why They Turned Down The Distribution Offers They Received. Check it out.

Top 10 Things We’re Glad We Did

1.   Didn’t take an all-rights distribution deal. For reasons enumerated above, but most of all, for freedom!

2.   Played as many film festivals as possible, and traveled to as many of them as possible. We were one of the smallest films at Sundance.  It’s a great festival to premiere at, but the press does give most of the attention to the star vehicles and bigger films.  So, it was really over the course of the entire festival circuit that we got our buzz, awards, and reviews.  It was also great to interact directly with audiences, who essentially act as focus groups for your film.  We were able to discover what people respond to in the film, and which demographics respond best.  Building a relationship with your audiences is really important.

3.    Sold DVDs after every screening and online. We started selling DVDs at festivals immediately after Sundance.  We found that about 10% of audiences will buy the DVD after each screening, and 20% of audiences will buy if it’s an Asian American fest.  We’ve made back over 20% of our budget on the festival circuit by selling DVDs and collecting screening fees (another benefit of playing as many festivals as possible).

4.    Sent out a press release to local press whenever we had a festival screening. We could only afford to hire a publicist for just Sundance, so after that, we had to do our own PR. It was actually at some of the smaller festivals where we got our best reviews, because it’s easier to get the attention of local press in smaller cities where there’s simply less “newsworthy” stuff happening.

5.    Offered sneak previews of the film to special interest groups. Throughout our festival run, we did free screenings for affinity and “tastemaker” groups such as Asian American college associations, film classes, corporate groups, nonprofit organizations, etc.  One of these was Ted’s brainchild, the This is That Goldcrest Screening Series!  If you think of everyone who sees your film as a potential cheerleader for it, then these kinds of screenings make a lot of sense.

6.    Participated in the YouTube rentals launch. This “experiment” has generally been derided as a failure in the press, but we’re glad we did it!  Our trailer got more hits in 3 days than it did in 8 months off our website. Nowadays with so much media and promotional noise out there, you can’t really afford to pass up free publicity when it’s offered to you–take anything that will potentially help distinguish and elevate you above the media din.  Plus, we sent out a press release of our own to announce the film’s availability on YouTube, and it was picked up by a number of significant outlets and blogs, so we were able to direct even more attention to the film.  And while the YouTube revenue itself wasn’t significant, we did see our DVD sales spike, and ended up earning a good chunk of change during those 10 days.

7.    Offered free content. In addition to posting behind-the-scenes photos from production, we documented the “behind-the-scenes” goings-on during our festival and distribution phases too. We also created 2 new exclusive clips of the film for the Apple/iTunes Trailers site, and got the main promo spot on the home page–prime real estate!  Additionally, we launched Tze’s Sundance ’07 short WINDOWBREAKER for free on the YouTube Screening Room last week–it’s the film on which CHILDREN OF INVENTION is based.  And fortuitously, SILVER SLING, the ITVS short we made in the midst of our festival travels last year, launched for free on ITVS’s Futurestates site a few days ago.  These have been great cross-promotional vehicles for us.  Visual content is the best way to spark and sustain people’s interest, so the more of it you’ve got, and the freer you can make it without giving away the store, the better.

8.    Decided to do DIWO distribution in NYC with Dave Boyle’s WHITE ON RICE. Since most major press still won’t review your film if it doesn’t do a week at a commercial theater, a way to split the cost and share the work of promotion is to partner with another film, switching off showtimes but still playing a week.  Who needs 5 screenings a day?  Also, through Dave, we met Dylan Marchetti of Variance Films, who engineered our DIWO release and is really one of the unsung heroes of DIY distribution because he really knows how to distribute a film theatrically for very minimal P&A.

9.    This is technically something we didn’t do, but we didn’t four-wall any of our theatrical screenings. That would have been very expensive, and therefore, not very wise.

10.  Made a film that we’re proud of and still love after nearly 2 years of making and selling it. DIY distribution is tough.  Imagine how much tougher it would be if we didn’t believe in what we were selling.

Please support the NYC theatrical premiere of CHILDREN OF INVENTION and WHITE ON RICE on March 12!  The films will run March 12-18 at the BIG Cinemas Manhattan (formerly the ImaginAsian), 239 E 59th St (bt 2nd/3rd Aves).  CHILDREN OF INVENTION is also making its Los Angeles theatrical premiere on March 12, and will run March 12-17 at the Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St (bt E 2nd/E 3rd Sts).  Buy tickets and get more info here.

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