The Way We Watch Now: Case Studies

Five experiments in theatrical-on-demand

(Page 5 of 5)

Case Study #5: DIY TOD

<i>Derby, Baby!</i>
Derby, Baby!

Theatrical-on-demand doesn't necessarily need a firm like Tugg to run it. In fact, it only really needs two things: First, a theatre. The second? Demand.

That's what documentarians Robin Bond and Dave Wruck found out by accident when they launched a Kickstarter campaign for their Roller Derby film Derby, Baby!. Barring a couple of film festival outings, they had pretty much bypassed a theatrical release. Says Bond, "We'd learned that it wouldn't be in our best interests to go through some of the mainstream theatres, because they would have such a big take in our movies." Instead, they were going to use the Kickstarter appeal to pay for the DVD release and to subsidize a limited theatrical self-release. However, Bond notes, "To go to independent theatres around the world, including the travel we wanted to do to attend them, was not an inexpensive endeavor."

At the suggestion of producer Ron Patrick, they added a one-night public screening as one of the Kickstarter donor rewards. Now this self-released indie doc has 160 screenings lined up for 150 screens internationally. "It took on its own life," says Bond, "and it became, 'Wow, this is its own distribution model.'"

The key was finding a community that was interested in their film – in this case, the international women's flat track Roller Derby community that was the subject of the documentary. For them, the screenings made simple economic sense – $350 secured a screening, and the majority of the pledges came from derby leagues (many of whom were featured in the film). Split that $350 between all of the skaters, officials, friends, family, and fans, and, even with the cost of renting a screen, that's a pretty good return. Bond notes, "The thing that really struck us [is] that our subject, our audience, and our distributors are all the same people. We can't find where that's ever been done before."

Bond and Wruk's Kickstarter campaign closed out in May; their original target was $30,000, but the pair raised $80,762. That's a big financial boost but, unlike a filmmaker using a TOD service like Tugg or Gathr, now Bond and Wruck have to organize the distribution themselves. That's a tall order since the first screening was scheduled for June 16, in Denver, followed by a screening June 17, in Napier, New Zealand. The key now is in promoting outside of the derby community, and that's where the filmmakers will stay most closely involved. Says Wruck, "We're going to start driving non-derby-related people to those screenings."

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