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Sunday, March 27, 2016

How we got our feature on the big screen via 'cinema on demand'

Just to set the scene for new readers. I co-directed and co-produced a micro-budget children's feature film called "Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg?" alongside my colleague Danny Stack (we do a podcast together and have written a book on scriptwriting). The film was made as a home-entertainment release, for a family to watch together or to amuse the kids. Here's the website and the IMDB page.

We made it for very little via a Kickstarter and some small investments, so had modest ambitions for it. But we knew there was a definite gap in the market for live-action kids movies. The figures don't add up to make such a niche movie for a large Hollywood budget, the demand just isn't there. But to make a low budget movie in this genre could offer some good returns.  Plus we love kids' movies, so we went for it.

We cast Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley from the Harry Potter movies) to give it a bit of class and we got some expert advice from film director Nigel Cole and sitcom writer James Cary. So it all turned out good.

The unexpected part was the world premiere of the film being at the BFI London Film Festival. This went really well, especially for a film edited and graded at home on Premiere. We had never really thought there would be a big screen opportunity. And our conversations with the industry continued to confirm that understanding. People just won't go out to the cinema in large numbers to see a film that they haven't really heard of that is just for kids. BUT, while large numbers may not do it, quite a few will. Not enough for a big release across hundreds of the screens, but still a healthy number.

So we are doing a small release ourselves and via OurScreen. Here's the trailer for it.



So here's how we created our own small release. 

Firstly, Danny emailed all the local independent cinemas in our area. We felt that as the film is all shot in Dorset, we could build on that as a marketing angle, getting on the local BBC radio and local papers. Obviously we did a lot of social media work and also got the film listed on the various "what's on" websites.

So via emailing the independent locally ourselves that got us a screening at Exeter and Poole Lighthouse and hopefully Bridport. These would be a simple profit split basis.

To get into the larger chains is trickier. But OurScreen helped us out on that. They are a 'cinema on demand' outfit. Why is this necessary? Well the reason that cinemas don't want to book smaller films is that they can't be sure there is sufficient demand. They could end up with only a few people in a screen. That screen could be showing a blockbuster instead and be fuller and more profitable. We could personally try and convince the cinemas that we have some demand, but why should they believe us?

This is where OurScreen helps. They provisionally book the screen. Then people provisionally book tickets via OurScreen for the screening. Once a pre-agreed minimum has been booked (usually about 20-30 tickets) then the screening is finalised. The cinema has the proof that demand is there and has some bookings already in place. It's a good system. We have 6 screenings on OurScreen so far, but we could ramp up more depending on how it goes.

A final note about certification. To screen a film in the UK you need a rating (U, PG, 15, 18 etc). The normal way to do this is to get a BBFC certificate. But this costs money - which probably isn't worth the investment for a few screenings. You will need to get a different one for a DVD release anyway. However, you can get one from the local council (of the screening venue) for free or a low cost normally. Every set up is different so its a pain. BUT, if it is only a few councils then its not a major issue. Our release is only in a small patch so we went that route.

So that's how we are doing it. Watch this space for how it goes. So far, the tickets are selling about to plan.

Nelson Nutmeg in cinemas

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Podcast Episode 53: our LIVE podcast



We did a special LIVE version of the podcast on TwitCast and Periscope. This is an archive of that. So when you hear us answering questions, these are comments and notes sent in via that those apps.


It was good fun to do, to have the banter! Let us know if you want more.

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