Several weeks ago, I went to the Academy screening of all the eligible animated shorts – about 30 films. It's one of my favorite events, because often I discover films I've never seen before and I always have a film that I'm trying to get nominated.
Bill Plympton's "Idiots' Diary"
In the third of my trifecta of “Idiots and Angels” theatrical release appearances, I made a trip to Chicago, where it played at the wonderful Music Box Cinema. Three years ago, Gabe Levinson brought me to the Music Box to run a rough cut of the work in progress to help me make the final cut. It was wonderfully helpful and important.
The big problem with the Oscars is that if there are more than 15 films qualifying, then the number of nominations expands from 3 films to 5. Obviously, with 5 films I have a much better shot, like Secret of the Kells last year. But with only 3 films nominated, they usually go to the Hollywood Blockbusters.
I'm still in LA and I talked to Greg Laemmle of the Laemmle Cinema and he's not very happy. Because of the lack of review for
Idiots and Angels
in the L.A. Times. The box office is way down, so Greg decided to pull the film after this Thursday. What a disaster!
It’s Friday, Oct. 29. I’m in Los Angeles for the premiere of I&A (Idiots and Angels). It opens tonight and I’m not a very happy camper. Even though the L.A. Weekly gave my film a wonderful review and a great article, the all-important L.A. Times refused to review the film!
Now that “I&A” is a success in New York's IFC Cinema, I have to recreate the same excitement and box office in LA. It's opening on October 29th at the Laemmle Cinema for a one week run that will hopefully be held over for another week (it's played three weeks in New York).
Yeah! Idiots and Angels was held over at the IFC by popular demand! This is what I dreamed of. All those distributors who rejected “Idiots and Angels” now must realize that there is an audience for an adult animated film. People want to see mature and provocative ideas in cartoons.
Call it “Crazy Week” or “The Imperfect Storm”. It seems like everything is happening at once. First of all, in my studio, I'm trying to finish a low-budget commercial for an accounting firm. Then I'm working on animation for John Leguizamo' new feature, “Fugly”. Plus, I'm right in the very critical last week of sending my new Rizzoli art book, “Independently Animated: Bill Plympton”, off to the printers in China.
So, it's the morning after the grand premiere of “Idiots and Angels” at the IFC Center. It was a wonderful evening, lots of old friends and a lot of new fans of Plymptoons. I can't say it was a smashing success; even though we had good crowds for both evening shows we didn't have a sell-out, and that's the dream of every filmmaker: A nice fat “sold out” sign over the box office window.
It's a crazy day – besides being the day Idiots and Angels premieres at the IFC Center, it's also the day that all the reviews come out. So briskly, at 6AM, I eagerly go to my local magazine shop and buy all the papers...
It's finally arrived – the grand opening of my animated feature, Idiots and Angels, at the IFC Center. I've been working my tail off, doing four interviews a day trying to get the word out.
As the release date is getting closer, October 6th, 2010, I find that more and more of my work time is allocated to publicity about Idiots and Angels. I've turned down commercial work, pushed aside my new short, Cop Dog, and delayed work on my two new feature films because I've absolutely got to score big in the cinemas with “I&A.” So in this final week, I've been calling all my contacts, anyone who has a blog, website, a newspaper, a newspaper column, a TV show – anyone who can help get the word out, they are now my best friends.
One clever way to spread the word is through a viral video on YouTube. I thought that was a wonderful idea! Besides, it's my job to make funny short films-- it's a natural!
Now, whether posters and postcards all over the city will drive huge numbers to the theatre, that's a different and interesting question - We hope so, because without the money for a full-out publicity blitz, I'm forced to use more street guerilla tactics. Eager student volunteers seem to be the most efficient way.
Today's a big day—we've been scouting the local schools for volunteers to help spread the word about Idiots and Angels opening up in NYC on October 6th. We've built a group of 15 or so eager volunteers called "Team Idiots". Their bold mission is to go around midtown and the lower Manhattan area putting up posters and placing stacks of our postcards, so hopefully everyone will be aware of our film opening. It's called guerilla marketing.
Part of my campaign to build up the crowd enthusiasm for my Idiots & Angels premier in NYC is getting the animation students involved. I've planned a number of school visits to help spread the word to my most hard-core audience. Yesterday, I visited Marty Abrahams' class at The School of Visual Arts here in NYC.
Great news, we just got booked in Chicago's prestigious Music Box Cinema! It looks like it will be screening there the 1st week of December.
I'm now moving into Phase II of my brilliant military campaign to spread the word about my animated feature film premier in NY and LA. This week, I've called up all my writer friends and press associates who have contacts with the media.
So things are going smoothly – I'm setting up a number of signings and showings in LA and NY. Then I'm talking on the phone to Tom Akel of MTV who's setting up a new animation web channel (he even wants to bring back Liquid Television) and wants to do some interviews and maybe show some of my shorts, when I get this panicked call from my NY press agent; the dynamo Phyllis Bishop.
This week my goal is to compile a master contact list of friends, associates and acquaintances. Since the film “Idiots & Angels” is opening on the 6th of October at the famous IFC Center in NY and on October 29th at the Laemmle Sunset in LA, I need a groundswell and a firestorm of publicity. I want to get packed audiences; I have to have big long lines of people eager to see my new animated feature stretching around the blocks. I've sworn to do anything possible to pack the houses, as long as it's legal.
So now the craziness begins. I've got 2 hard dates for Idiots & Angels: Oct. 6th at the IFC Center on 6th Ave in NYC and Oct. 29th at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in LA. So like Patton I'm devising a 2-prong attack. First, I'll invade NYC using low-cost but more personal forms of advertising: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Skype. We can save a few bucks and then I'll turn my forces onto LA.
I've narrowed my list of available NYC indie cinemas to 2: IFC Center and Cinema Village. Both are quite good and have a history of showing animated films. Both theaters seemed interested in Idiots & Angels, so I sent each booker a screener of the film plus the great reviews it got from Variety and The Village Voice. My plan, and I do have a plan, everybody should have a plan, is this…
So I've decided to self distribute Idiots & Angels. The biggest hurdle is finding a cinema in NYC. There are a whole lot of films looking for cinemas and not a whole lot of cinemas, so the trick is the find one that suites my audience. Animation fans.
Many people think that if you can't get the Weinsteins or Sony Picture Classics to distribute your film then it must be crap. Perhaps for some films that may be the case, but let me talk about the differences between indie distribution and self distribution.