Now and again on social media I’ll chance on a plea from a teacher in East Texas or elsewhere on the planet in charge of a class of third-graders. “I want to show my class the power of the Internet so can you please share this message to show how far it can go?” Happily the message will attract say, 250,000 shares and even more likes. And I wonder – are those third graders excited by this? And what exactly can they learn?
Last night at a press launch it was announced that ‘Voyageuse’ will screen at the Glasgow Film Festival 2018 on Thursday, March 1st at 6pm. There’s also a second screening on Friday, March 2nd at 11am. This offers a rare and possibly unique chance for people to experience the film on a screen bigger than their phone. It’s also the perfect time for Elemental Films to launch a campaign with Hydrogen, a Glasgow-based social media agency to promote the online release of the film to coincide with the first screening on March 1st.
For months, I and my eternally-patient husband have debated the fate of the film. If, according to Stephen Follows, (see my last blog post) more than 50% of UK feature films never see the inside of a cinema, then what chance for a micro-budget feature film made by one woman in a remote corner of Europe? Slim to zero, I suspect, is the right answer though to be honest it never occurred to me to exploit the film beyond a few film festivals. Frankly, I’m alarmed by the stats quoted by Follows because they illustrate what a lost cause filmmaking in the UK is.
Of course I’m delighted ‘Voyageuse’ is screening at the GFF because I know there are those who want to see it. Barring any major mishaps I’ll also be doing a Q&A with the audience along with the wonderful Dame Siân Phillips. Beyond that, and in the absence of conventional sales and distribution, to release the film online isn’t a case of opting for the last resort; indeed it’s an attractive proposition.
Typically a distribution deal locks a filmmaker into licensing their work for a specified period in a given territory and/or medium. In the precarious world of indie movies, where the maker has no power over cinemas, a film without name talent or a heavy marketing spend can easily vanish after only a few screenings. A producer friend of mine once saw his well-reviewed film disappear after only a few days. He estimated that the money spent by the distributor on marketing could have kept the film on screen longer had it been used instead to give away free tickets and hence grow the audience through positive word-of-mouth. Like countless others, sadly he’s no longer in the producing game.
But releasing online isn’t a question of monetising my work. On that score I’ve no expectations to manage. Rather, I’m more interested in the impact, if any, that a targeted social media campaign can have. At best it offers the chance to know who the audience is. At worst, I might get a few shares and likes. Either way, to release the film online has to be better than shoving the DCP in a drawer where it can languish as the world’s greatest home movie.
Meanwhile I take comfort from the generous messages and tweets I’ve received, especially from the film critic and broadcaster, Siobhan Synnot, who has chosen ‘Voyageuse’ as her pick of the GFF, describing it as ‘epically intimate’ which sounds about right and deserves at least 250,000 shares and likes. Thanks Siobhan.
The above image is a graphic, the date of the online release of the film. If anyone reading this is in or near Glasgow, it would be wonderful to see you at the premiere.