vibramycin dosage for staph

Kids Today: Self-Distribution in the Internet Age PART II

March 11, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

Brian Welesko


Much of the interest around the film Four Eyed Monsters, and its importance, is in the story of its life after production. Like many new filmmakers, Crumley’s and Buice’s hope was to premiere their movie and secure a distribution deal. Short of that, films move around to other festivals and hope to gain more attention, potentially leading to wider release. In 2005, Four Eyed Monsters premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival, an alternative to Sundance that positions itself as a truer representation of independent filmmaking. While their work was well-received, no accolades were given and no deals were made. Crumley and Buice moved on to SXSW of that year.

In Austin, the filmmakers attempted to create more buzz for their film by making a video blog that covered their time there each day. In 2005 this was novel, and a savvy extension of the form of Four Eyed Monsters. In the way that the film chronicled their lives, so too would a daily diary. The success of that further pushed them to create a video podcast, released free online, that delved deeper into their lives and the creation of the film. All this was done to spur an audience and engage them with a storyline that was perhaps more compelling than Four Eyed Monsters: “If the film failed, the relationship would surely fail. So we decided to put 100 percent of our effort into making the film succeed- and deal with the relationship later.”

Crumley’s and Buice’s video podcasts were polished and gripping, serializing themselves and their struggles. They were also some of the first. Featured on Apple’s iTunes and new video iPod site, outlets like IndieWire, the New York Times, cable network G4, and others, linked the Four Eyed Monsters podcasts to the possibilities of the new device.

From "Four Eyed Monsters"

From "Four Eyed Monsters"

In a presentation given in 2007 to Power to the Pixel, a London-based company that “supports the film and media industries in their transition to a digital age,” the filmmakers highlight the response they received from podcast viewers. A montage of audio and video overlaying a scrolling MySpace page featured well-wishers, fans awaiting the next podcast, and many offering their interest in seeing the film that, in 2005, was not at all well travelled.

It is a strange thing to have an audience for something that most had not even had the chance to see. Viewers of the podcast “got to know” Crumley and Buice as a couple, as earnest people, and interacted with them through MySpace, email, and their websites. Put in this way, the Internet feels quite effective at creating social interactions and no where close to the isolating, social hindrance that it often is made out to be.

From "Four Eyed Monsters"

From "Four Eyed Monsters"

But it isn’t wholly one or the other. Forget the Internet doomsayers for a moment and their view that Facebook and Twitter are substitutes for friendship and meaningful contact. Think of them as media services where the content providers aren’t CNN or NBC but us, and the content isn’t a news report or a sitcom, but everyone’s photos, status updates, party invites, comments to Like, and thoughts to promote. We are in a D.I.Y. world, alive with the Internet, and the means of broadcast have changed. Crumley and Buice aren’t necessarily vain or narcissistic, they are simply salesmen with a product using friendship as their soft sell.

But it isn’t the death of human connectedness or face-to-face interactions, nor is it the cheapening of friendship. At a screening of Four Eyed Monsters, a fan is interviewed outside the theater by Crumley. She is visibly excited, hurriedly speaking, “It doesn’t even matter at this point if the movie is good or not because I’ve seen everything else you guys have done up until this point.” The fan holds up her rating card, “Ten. Just for the cause.” If anything, this is probably the zeitgeist of the day. The party invite isn’t what is meaningful, but it is important if we want to go have a good time with our friends and have those lasting connections. Zombie Kid needs to be funny (it would not have been shared in the first place if it weren’t), but the efficacy of the video itself isn’t paramount. It’s greater impact is in the buzz, the meme sharing, the social connectedness that the Internet fosters.

That buzz and connectedness is largely what is so interesting about Four Eyed Monsters. The film itself feels almost forgettable. It ironically misses the mark on its commentary of the Internet, but its ad campaign- the stream of communication- is the prime mover. Crumley and Buice collected email addresses and zip codes, learning where their fans were around the country. Their film was screened in fifteen mid-level cities through IndieWire’s Undiscovered Gems Showcase. Dispatches probing interest in a local screening were sent to those who lived nearby. The reception was dramatic; screenings sold out. Much of the advertising for these individual showings came from enthusiastic fans undertaking the cause, posting flyers and posting messages.

From Power to the Pixel Presentation

From Power to the Pixel Presentation

Still without a distribution deal, the two used the data they had collected to show a correlation between interest and ticket sales to independent cinemas in six larger cities. This prompted a simultaneous four-week run in September of 2006 in Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Over the course of the month, their attendance numbers steadily increased.

After demonstrating the viability of the film, Crumley and Buice were offered a limited distribution deal in New York. This propelled interest in Four Eyed Monsters, garnering them two Independent Spirit award nominations and, in turn, a larger audience. Their audience numbers allowed them to leverage a deal with YouTube to be the first feature film shown on the site, and more importantly, take some ad revenue to pay their production bills. After this, the film has since been available for free through a BitTorrent and it can still be found on YouTube.

In 2011, the exact method that Arin Crumley and Susan Buice took to get their film “out there” may not be viable, but the concepts are largely the same. They have been for maybe two decades. The major difference since the explosion of the Internet is that getting the film out there isn’t so important as the cause around it. It is easy to forget that the commercial Internet is mostly a series of social marketplaces competing for your attention and not necessarily a free-flowing stream of interaction. When so many ideas are coming at you, whether it is a status update, an invitation, a song, or even a feature film, we prioritize and simplify. Get it and move on. For Crumley and Buice that meant focusing their myopic movie into an underdog story, a cause that attention could be devoted to, even if they weren’t fully aware of it. You might think that whatever they have to say should be gleaned from their film, but if you don’t see the film, how can you glean it? If life experience isn’t a compilation of themes or lessons to be learned then all this is something of a glaring contradiction since their campaign and film are so different. But, like the Internet, a series of followed links doesn’t necessarily lead to causality. Sometimes you have to throw your hands up and allow yourself to live a moment at a time. It’s a big world with a lot of ideas, sometimes it is best to play dumb and keep moving.


Filed in: Article, featured | Tags: , , ,

About the Author (Author Profile)

Leave a Reply

Trackback URL | RSS Feed for This Entry