In the summer of 2011, between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I went on a mini-road trip with my family, along the West Coast. This was primarily focused on seeing the more tourist friendly cities, such as San Diego and San Francisco; the last city seen before our flight home was Portland, Oregon. While I was only in the city for a weekend, I found that it was quite to my liking, and I had the hopes of returning to Portland for an extended period of time in my future.
For the past two months, I have been working at Collective Eye Films, a small, independent film studio with a focus on documenting world issues within agriculture and food systems. Their current release is called SEED: The Untold Story; it covers the topic of seed diversity, and the frightening statistic that 94% of seed varieties have been lost in the past century, and is only made worse by the rise of seed patenting rights.
Much of my work has been rooted in research, as is the life of an intern. When a film is released by a major studio, its opening night is the same across all theaters due to contracts between the chains, and the studio; this is why Star Wars can open the same day in 400 theaters across the US, while smaller films might only be shown at one or two theaters in a city. For the majority of the screening locations, theaters that CE’s previous films had shown at were the first contacted; however, this left a lot of potential audiences out, which is one of the first areas I worked in. While I worked in finding theaters, as well as potential support partners across many cities, my main locations of interest were Phoenix, AZ, as I grew up there, and Yellow Springs, for obvious reasons.
When I arrived, there were no bookings or partners located in Phoenix, as there had never been CE’s films shown there; my boss was a bit confused as to why I was set on putting in the effort on a city that has no previous history with CE. The concept of networking has been pressed into my life since middle school, and I have always been careful so as to not burn any bridges, in the chance that I may need to contact someone again. This proved to be a godsend in preparing contracts and documents for Phoenix, as well as benefit the showings in Sedona and Tucson.
My first step was shooting a few emails to my old high school teachers; many were quite involved in the Phoenix art scene, and most likely would have some relationship with art house theaters in the region. My guess proved to be correct, and within a week our first Phoenix showing was arranged, at FilmBar Theater in the downtown district. Another oft overlooked issue with small film releases is publicity; we’re all quite aware of Marvel’s next 20 films, as they’ve got the advertising budget of a small country. The rest of us indie workers don’t have that luxury. It just so happened that one of my best friends from middle school had a parent who was a news anchor on the local Fox syndicate (Note: the local Fox is not representative of the overall Fox corporation.) Calling someone I haven’t seen in 9 years was quite the awkward moment, but it proved to be a worthwhile attempt for us. This past week, an interview with the station’s film reviewer was conducted with my bosses, which will air the weekend of the film release. The station broadcasts across the state, which will bring in more publicity for the showings in other regions. I have a few more people to talk to regarding publicity, and will be doing so over break; it is my hope to arrange a radio interview & film review, as well as a review on another news station.
Booking in Yellow Springs Little Arts Theater was a much simpler affair. A theater owner from Maine was acquainted with the manager of Little Arts, who contacted us directly. While I was hoping to make the bookings myself, it was an interesting exchange nonetheless.
I am not sure where I plan to go after this but out of my four co-ops, I found this to be the most enjoyable. I would work here again, were the opportunity available.
Photo Credit: SEED: The Untold Story, Collective Eye Films – https://www.collectiveeye.org/