Why is this here?

I'm a filmmaker currently touring the DIY Feature A Genesis Found around the campuses of colleges and universities across the Southeast. This is the personal account, for better or worse, of its successes and failures.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

80's DIY Rock, Festivals, and Stop #1: The University of Montevallo

Frankly, this is a cheat.  I'm supposed to cover aspects of the tour BEFORE or AS I'm experiencing them-- not a week later.  But I never got around to starting this blog before the first stop on the tour (a prototype screening of sorts) so I'm back peddling a little.  Bear with me.

The first stop on the tour was at the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Alabama (about 30 miles outside of Birmingham).  It was a pretty small, informal, but over all enjoyable screening.  Got to see some old friends and my cousin (writer/poet Matt Avery) and his wife who live in the area, in addition to some highly interested locals and some less interested students-- but I still gave them kudos for completely committing to ignoring the movie, and smiled at the fact that I had now become one of those boring presenters I suffered through for extra credit back in school myself.  And with a two-hour flick about Alabama archaeology, those guys really had to earn it.  They are thanking God for iPhones.

Regardless, we got some really nice local press which has already led to some other interest. (You can read the stories here and here.)  Couldn't get my blasted iPod to work on the 2+ hour drive there or back, but at least by the time I got to Cullman I could pick up Braves radio (why no stations carry Braves baseball in Birmingham baffles my mind) and listen to them finish off the Nationals.

All and all a good trip, and more importantly I think a successful (if not somewhat glitchy) test run for the rest of the tour.  Honestly, I felt a bit more personally invested in this screening then I probably will at most of my future stops.  First, with the DVD just getting done by the middle of July, I didn't have much time to bother preparing for the screening, and didn't wind up looking for any promotional support until a week before-- that, matched with it being a slow summer on an already small campus, led to some obstacles about getting the word out to relevant folks, and I'm still not sure how successful my efforts were.

Regardless, I did something I will try to NEVER do again-- and that was flier up a campus I had never been to before.  To make matters worse, by the time I got there, (and this was the Wed. before, by the way) most of the buildings were closed (I kind of underestimated the drive), and spent 3 hours scouring the campus and littering it with as many 13 x 19 posters I possibly could.  The trip home was tainted as the Braves blew a lead in the 9th to the Padres.

Most of the posters were still up the following week when I came to the screening, so I guess it wasn't a total waste.

I remember reading in Henry Rollins' fantastic detail of his life with the DIY or Die Black Flag "Get in the Van" about a glue the band concocted that made fliers virtually impossible to get off telephone poles.  Of course, since my name is ALL on the fliers, might not be too good of an idea for me to use myself.  Maybe I'll send the recipe along with the promo materials I send to student groups posting fliers around the host schools for me.  That way folks could read about the screenings for years to come.

Looking back at the 80's/90's Independent Rock scene (and I use this as a general term-- spare me having to be overly specific about the types-- I don't care if you don't consider "Hardcore Punk" Independent rock), it's really inspiring to see what bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat, The Replacements, etc. were able to do nationally with little of nothing to work with, at least starting out-- and more so, what their labels were able to do back then and actually stay financially afloat and relevant (and not just as a part-time, no profit banner like Wonder Mill has kind of been for its first four years).  SST, Sub-Pop, Twin/Tone, Dischord.  I've been "living the dream" (ie being a filmmaker) for two years now, and though it certainly isn't my chief source of income, I certainly have a much more profound respect for people who can support themselves making art their way.  I can't do it yet.  It's also given me less respect for the festival system, and films that tend to excel in the festival system.  Nothing against them, I guess-- but I think in this world of Manufacture on Demand, social networking, and HD internet streaming, putting up with festivals seems like less and less the ideal option for storytellers who want more control of the distribution of their works-- unless of course their a "name", or have "names" in the cast, or something that's an easy "sell."

I mean, with the bands in the 80's, they toured-- and their tours were about THEM, the band, and other bands.  Festivals are, well, about the festival-- not your flick.  "There couldn't be a festival without the films" is essentially wishful thinking I don't advise we put too much stock in-- do you know how many Stargate episodes they show at "Sci-fi Festivals"?  The last thing the world needs, in terms of Demand, is another DIY feature.

Regardless, there's nothing inherently WRONG with festivals-- and I've played some with "Genesis" and some were quite good-- but I guess I'm guilty of, like most filmmakers starting out, not thinking enough about distribution before getting there-- leading to a fairly long-winded recovery period where we have to try and figure out what the heck we're going to do with this thing that also makes some financial sense-- let's be honest, festivals are NOT a good investment.  Man, I wish I had that grand or so I spent on festival fees that led to rejections now, to spend on actual screenings that are all about THE FILM-- not a fest where, even if I get accepted, I've got to compete with other filmmakers for an audience.

Of course, I guess there's something to be said for getting accepted by and celebrated by a noted festival-- festivals are still, despite their flaws, the easiest "gatekeeper" to get on your side and "discover" you-- and there's something to be said for participating in the current independent "scene."  Of course, if that's really all you want to do, be "in the scene", I suggest you become a critic or groupie and stop further over-saturating the "pool".

And I'm looking back at the tales of the 80's Independent rock DIY ethos with rose-colored glasses (it's been a while since I read Our Band Could Be Your Life).  Let's not forget the struggles of DIY pioneers like Orson Welles and Stan Brakhage.  But still, looking at my current situation not as a storyteller seeking the easiest way to get my story out there, but instead as a pragmatic entrepreneur with a product to sell, going out and making our own screenings is about the only option myself and my collaborators can afford.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Inagural Post

Welcome to Wonder Mill Films' "Son of Arkie", a web diary of sorts examining the grassroot distribution efforts of myself and my cohorts for the 2010 DIY Independent Feature Film, A Genesis Found.  The film is now available on DVD, and in September will be touring colleges and universities across the Southeastern U.S., in addition to limited screenings at regional film fests, sci-fi cons, and house parties.  I feel considerably more justified in creating a blog to chronicle the never-ending phase of distribution than I did when the film was about to enter Pre-production (you can see my "better than blogging" Inagural Post here).  Looks like there'll be about 71 stops over the next nine or so months, so hopefully I'll have some fun adventures to relay here.  I'll also cover other developments with Wonder Mill Films, as well as my progress on the next big script I'm writing, Lament the Masked Man.

What's A Genesis Found about anyway?  You can check the official site for more info, buy the DVD, buy the Book, or watch the below history of John Patton Jr.