If you want to be an independent filmmaker in today’s rapidly changing environment, you face a very steep learning curve. Even experienced filmmakers are throwing up their hands in despair, and if I see another death-of-cinema article in a national magazine I think I’m going to scream.
It’s sad that so many good films never get beyond the festival circuit. They get a buzz, some nice reviews, maybe even win an award, but they don’t get distribution deals and then they disappear, never to be seen again. Many filmmakers still think that their job is finished when the film is done, that it’s somebody else’s job to promote it. That’s where they’re wrong.
When I finished Troubadour Blues in summer 2011, I had big ideas about getting into film festivals, and I wasted a lot of time and money on festival submissions. I got a lot of rejection letters before deciding to go it alone. I don’t want to knock festivals in general, but they seem very closed to “outsider” entries like my film.
Instead, I’ve been booking my own screenings in small non-theatrical venues (music clubs primarily, but also coffee shops, bars, public libraries, classrooms, and, once, a yoga studio). I try to get one firm booking nailed down for a given area, and then try to fill in around it by contacting likely venues to see if they’re interested. There is a lot of reinventing the wheel involved as I learn to be my own booking agent, but there don’t seem to be any booking agents working with films on this level.