By Mellini Kantayya
The team behind the independent feature Bite Me recently joined NYWIFT for a panel case study on how they flipped the film distribution paradigm from something you “get” into something you “do.”
Bite Me is a romantic comedy about a woman who believes she’s a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her. The team felt they had a unique and edgy while still relatable and heartfelt film, but it wasn’t quite fitting into the current festival and distribution landscape. So, they forged their own path ahead.
Here’s a foray into the four ‘A’s (sorry, couldn’t resist) of their filmmaker-empowered release model.
Acknowledgement – They recognized festivals aren’t what they used to be: There was a time when festivals like the Sundance Film Festival, launched the careers of countless filmmakers who made groundbreaking films on shoestring budgets. Now they’re teeming with star-studded, big-budget features that already have distribution. Festival programs are currently bending towards more serious films in tone and subject (perhaps reflecting the current zeitgeist). The team also saw that the deals that foreign and smaller films were getting would be inadequate for their mid-range project.
Acceptance – They met the market where it was: Instead of crying in their metaphoric beers, they saw the pragmatics of their situation, faced the fact that the conventional festival-to-distribution model was going to underserve their film, its investors, and its potential audience. They recognized they needed to throw out their original plan and hatch a new one.
Action: Thus, the Joyful Vampire Tour of America was born. They’re renting an RV for a 40-city, three-month tour of screenings—each paired with a campy, on-theme event varying from Vampire Balls to Vampire Yoga. And, to take a walk on the meta-side, their distribution plan includes a weekly YouTube documentary-serieschronicling their adventures throughout the tour.
Audience – They knew their audience: A through-line across Bite Me’s inception to self-distribution is that writer/actor/producer Naomi McDougall Jones had a crystal-clear awareness of who the film’s audience was, which created a solid foundation for marketing. For example, though they didn’t get a superstar name attached, they got marvelous actors who had cred with the various types of movie-goers who could become fans—Christian Coulson (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story), and Annie Golden (Orange is the New Black). In knowing what demographics Bite Me would resonate, they were able to create a marketing plan tailored-made for them, both through events and social media campaigns.
The Bite Me team believes that “indie filmmakers should not be forced to make distribution decisions about their films with as little data as is now available.” They are offering up this venture as a “case study in creative distribution” and will be transparent about all their costs and revenue to give fellow filmmakers an opportunity to learn from their experiences. Follow along at https://www.bitemethefilm.com/joyful-vampire-tour.
Want to hear more? We recently sat down with the team from Bite Me on our Women Crush Wednesdays podcast:
(not in attendance) Naomi McDougall Jones (Writer/Actor/Producer)
Panel Producer: Terry Greenberg
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