For the past two years, the LEF Foundation has supported a forum created by the team at the Cinema Eye Honors. The Forum takes place each year the morning of the event, gathering Cinema Eye nominees and industry leaders for a round table discussion. The intent is to engage filmmakers in a discussion of their experiences and challenges, find areas of mutual benefit and concern, and strive to work collectively toward learning and change.
The participants in this year’s forum were remarkable: Andrew Garrison/Trash Dance, Alison Klayman/Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, Wojciech Staroń and Malgorzata Staroń/The Argentinian Lesson, and Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky/Indie Games: The Movie. These were four very different films with widely variant experiences in their festival runs and distribution efforts.
Though they each have unique stories to tell (particularly Alison Klayman – her first film Ai Wei Wei leading to an Oscar nomination, how does one follow that up?), I want to take a quick moment to turn your attention to Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky. Since the dawn of filmmaking, there have been independents directing, producing, editing, shooting, and distributing their own work. However, with each new iteration, each new technical opportunity and logistical challenge, I marvel at the resourcefulness and just pure HUSTLE of these artists.
Lisanne and James built an international army of fans around Indie Games: The Movie from the very start. There were hundreds of people cheering them on as they went. This not only lead to success in raising early funding for the film, but informed their decision-making about distribution. When they got into Sundance in 2012 and won their first prize, offers started coming in. They quickly realized that just pre-sales on the DVD from their crowdfunding campaigns were MORE than some of the deals they were being offered. They also knew that the pre-sales were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the potential sales for the film. It wasn’t a difficult leap from there to decide to take the reigns and distribute this film themselves. In many ways, they took a cue from the creative innovators they chronicled in their film. Take a look at the trailer.
Their journey and decision-making process is worth visiting. They blog about their entire experience here: http://www.indiegamethemovie.com/news/2012/10/31/indie-game-the-movie-the-case-study.html. It’s open, informative, and helpful.
I want to note that not every film is as well-poised to have this model work for them as it did for Lisanne and James. They had an audience waiting for this kind of film, and had the talent and insight to make a film worth getting excited about. That said, I think there are a lot of lessons here for all kinds of projects.
Happy reading and I hope you’ll be joining us for the next Forum!