This is harder than I thought it’d be
I’m faced with some difficult choices about how I should present myself and the film. One school of thought is to always present the appearance of success. After all, success breeds success. The other option is to be completely honest, but run the risk of sounding like I’m complaining or whining, which I don’t want to do. Let me take a shot at it and see how it goes.
First off, I have to say how incredibly rewarding it is to hear feedback from people who’ve seen the film. Between the screenings at the two redhead festivals in August, the people who backed the film on Kickstarter, and the people who’ve downloaded it over the last three months, the response has been nothing but positive from every single person who has seen it. (Maybe that just means the people who hated it have been quiet, but on the internet that is rarely the case.) The problem has been getting people to actually watch it.
It starts with the trailer. Either in the comments section on YouTube or on Facebook and twitter, lots of redheads get mad at me because I clearly state that I would never date a redhead. Somehow they must not notice what happens at the end of the trailer and I assume they don’t understand the concept that the film is a journey: a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
After that it seems like the film has been pigeon-holed as only being for redheads. In a way that would actually be fine, there are over five million redheads in the United States alone, if half of 1% of them downloaded my film I’d be laughing, but that hasn’t happened. And from my perspective it isn’t fair to the film; it’s for anyone who has ever felt different, for any reason. But when I tell people about it they usually say, “That’s interesting, I’ll tell my redheaded friends about it.” I want to pull out my hair and scream, “No, you’ll like it too, I promise.”
But I’ve been pigeon-holed farther than that. I’ve approached the writers of several redheaded blogs and offered them the chance to see the film for free to write about it, and while two went for it, Everything For Redheads and Ginger Parrot, most have passed. As one of the writers said to me, “But your film is about redheaded men, and our blog is about redheaded women.” I eventually convinced her to give it a try. That was two months ago, she hasn’t watched it.
The biggest headache for me is hard to talk about because I don’t want to seem ungrateful. Every few days someone messages me telling me I should show my film at their local film festival. Sometimes they recommend I apply to Sundance or Toronto. I appreciate the thought, and believe me, nothing would mean more to me than to screen a film at Sundance or Toronto. But it will NEVER happen for this film. Film festivals are obsessed with world premieres, because I chose to screen the film at the Irish Redhead Convention and The Redhead Days in The Netherlands, Being Ginger was automatically disqualified from every major film festival in the world. After the screening at The Redhead Days lots of Dutch people told me I should screen the film at IDFA, which is the world’s biggest documentary festival, and is held every November in Amsterdam. I’ve been to IDFA the last three years, and I dream of one day screening a film there, but I spoke to a programer over the summer who told me point blank, “If you screen it at The Redhead Days, we won’t even look at it.”
On top of that, the film is now available for download direct from this site. As a result no film festival will want it. And that’s fine. The truth is that film festivals are kind of a scam for unknown filmmakers. They charge around $50 (up to $100) just to submit a film for consideration, but they take virtually none of the films that are submitted that way. Almost all of the films come from people they already have a relationship with, or were something they saw at another festival. This year Sundance will receive over 12,000 submissions, and select about 150 films. Those aren’t good odds.
The other bit of friendly advice I often get is, “You should get your film on iTunes.” Or Netflix, or Hulu, or whatever. I would love to get my film on iTunes. LOVE. A good documentary might get 500-1,000 sales a day it’s first week on iTunes. That would be a huge step towards me clearing my debt. But I can’t just call Apple. It doesn’t work that way. You have to work through a separate company called an aggregator. Two aggregator’s were recommended to me and I approached both. One didn’t respond at all. The second asked to see the film, and said “I really enjoyed it.” But still passed. I politely asked for more feedback and got no response.
So Being Ginger won’t be screening at your local film festival, and it won’t appear on iTunes. It is only available on this web site.
I am planning to tour with the film, and I hope to announce the first few screenings shortly, but the math on this is terrible. The first screening is going to be in a cinema that holds 94 people. IF I’m able to get a sell out, and that’s a big if, I’ll make less that $300. Now $300 sounds nice for a random Thursday night, but consider this: In order to screen the film in 30 cities around the country, as I plan to, I have to attend each screening. If I take a Greyhound bus from city to city for 12 weeks, and stay for free on a fan’s couch, and keep my expenses for food and everything else to just $20 a day, I will actually lose money on the tour. (And that’s assuming every city is a sell out.)
I have a friend who is currently planning a tour of his own for a fiction film he’s made. He is planning to take the film to about ten cities, and to raise the money to do it he launched a crowdfunding campaign. He’s asking for $69,000. For ten cities. I want to do 30.
This isn’t me giving up, by the way, this is just me needing to let out some of the frustration I’ve been dealing with the last three months.
I have a few plans up my sleeve, and for now I shall simply wait and hope.