Monday, September 24, 2012

on distributing a movie

By far the most common question we get asked about the documentary is: when and where can I see it? Our answer has typically been, and still is, something along the lines of: "we don't know, but stay tuned." That's a pretty vague answer, but movie distribution is a long and complicated adventure that we're only just beginning to embark on. For now, I'll keep it simple and touch upon some of the basic steps.

Film festivals are basically carefully curated smorgasbords of independent cinema. You submit your film, and if the festival deems you worthy you screen to their audiences of festival-goers, film fans, critics and other industry movers and shakers. Festivals can often be the best way to start expanding awareness beyond just your friends, family, community and core audience on the Internet. Building greater and greater awareness is a crucial part of the overall gameplan--think of a movie like any new type of product a company wants to launch. You have to get people interested, excited, engaging in conversation, until it all builds to a critical mass that can hopefully crossover into the mainstream.

If your movie plays well at certain festivals, you may start to see interest from buyers in distribution rights. There are all sorts of distribution rights: theatrical, non-theatrical, VOD, television, DVD, educational, and digital rental/download are some of the big ones. These buyers have access to the biggest audiences and specialize in delivering your movie directly to the most interested eyeballs. So for our project, film festivals are the first step. If we sell the movie, the where/when question gets answered in conjunction with the dealmaking. One of our top priorities is making sure that the film is released in a timely manner, and hits a global audience.

Depending on how they perform at festivals, some filmmakers may choose to go on tour! Think of this as an extension to the awareness-building. Here you're taking the movie around the country and playing to audiences most excited about seeing it. Kind of like a band goes on tour for a new album, but instead of filling concert venues with music we'd be filling theaters and conference rooms with an online poker movie. 

This usually comes last if you crush at festivals and sell all your rights for MEGA BUCKS!!!, but depending on how things play out this could happen sooner. Some filmmakers have been conducting interesting experiments in delivering their movies direct-to-fans and cutting out all the middlemen and red tape. The Internet has had a majorly awesome impact on creating and distributing content, and seeing as how Taylor and I are very much cut from the cloth of online poker players, Internet creators and entrepreneurs, we are totally psyched to see what kinds of strategies we can come up with to push the envelope. How could you create a feature length online poker movie and not have a badass online component, amirite?

Anyhow, I hope this sheds some light on the subject for those curious. We may be finishing up work on the movie itself, but there's still a long road ahead. When/where can you see our movie? We don't know yet, but stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

BOOM documentary blog

Ryan, Taylor and I are crawling out of the filmmaking abyss with a nearly finished movie. This is a wild combination of emotions for all of us.

We went into production almost two years ago, but since putting up our trailer in May 2011 we've been mainly radio silent. Our reasoning was simple: we consider ourselves really lucky to have the chance to tell the "story of online poker" on a cinematic scale, and we didn't want to screw it up. This is everyone's first feature and despite possessing a variety of useful experience, there are tons of lessons you only learn in the heat of battle. It turns out turning 300 hours of footage (even when you've carefully planned out what to shoot and why) into a 80-90 minute documentary is an incredibly difficult task. 

We originally planned to look at online poker with a certain focus: the evolution of poker as a game thanks to television and the Internet, and the evolution of the poker playing professional as he moved out of the card room and into the living room. We decided to follow three different pros to achieve this (Danielle "dmoongirl" Anderson, Tony "Bond18" Dunst and Martin "AlexeiMartov" Bradstreet), but Black Friday complicated the story hugely, and it took us some time to figure out the right way to address the impact within the movie. I'd like to say that we "cracked the code," but Ryan and I are so deep in the forest at this point, endlessly analyzing the minutiae of beats, scenes and sequences that it's tough to judge how good it is. I like this Woody Allen quote:
"I have an idea for a story, and I think to myself, my God, this is a combination of Eugene O'Neill, and Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller … but that's because [when you're writing] you don't have to face the test of reality. You're at home, in your house, it's all in your mind. Now, when it's almost over, and I see what I've got, I start to think: what have I done? This is going to be such an embarrassment! Can I salvage it? All your grandiose ideas go out the window. You realise you made a catastrophe, and you think: what if I put the last scene first, drop this character, put in narration? What if I shoot one more scene, to make him not leave his wife, but kill his wife?" 
Neuroses aside, we have shown early edits to a small group of people and reactions have been very positive. So this weekend we mail our tempered optimism and an advanced cut of the finished documentary to the Sundance film festival for consideration. No matter what happens, our ultimate goal remains to get this movie to as wide an audience as possible (likely in 2013)... but it would be SWEET!!! to world premiere at Sundance in January. Time to cash in all that Micros Rungood!

The idea that there is a world coming in which people will be watching a complete version of the movie is incomprehensible. Simultaneously it feels like this will be immensely satisfying, like we're samurai, surfing a hundred foot wave onto a poker table to topple Howard Lederer's stack.

Hahaha! Making a movie is nuts. I hope it doesn't suck.