What DIY Film Distributors Can Learn from the Launch of the Joffrey Documentary

by |

The marketers of 'Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance' created an event out of a film premiere with a theatrical simulcast for ballet fans. (Photo by Flickr/joffreymovie)

The marketers of 'Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance' created an event out of a film premiere with a theatrical simulcast for ballet fans. (Photo by Flickr/joffreymovie)

Sheri Candler and Jon Reiss are film marketers who always have great advice for DIY filmmakers working to get their project to an audience — especially when it’s a film that will be appreciated by a niche group of viewers who might not be found through the traditional film channels.

Their recent joint post at Tribeca’s blog makes an example of a film they are both involved with, Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance, a new documentary by Bob Hercules (Forgiving Dr. Mengele).

With tens of thousands of films on the festival circuit, there’s a lot of competition. But if you’ve made and marketed your film well, having a small but enthused viewership can still be thoroughly fulfilling — and profitable.

The advice that Reiss and Candler give is a testament to the technology that has turned documentary filmmaking into something grassroots and democratic. From the ever cheaper gear to shoot with to laptop editing, the task of making a film continues to change in the favor of the saavy filmmaker. But so has the task of distribution.

Two major elements are huge: The ability for digital projection at theaters, auditoriums, universities and libraries, to name a few — the filmmakers used the Emerging Pictures network for a low-cost theatrical simulcast — and the use of social media to get the word out.

But, as the pair point out, the premiere is not enough — you need something to promote.

You should always strive to create your live events to be as unique as possible, both from the perspective of media coverage and from the perspective of the audience, to create that need to attend. Many subjects in the Joffrey film are iconic dancers in the ballet world, what ballet fan would not want to interact with them? We created a post-screening panel of former dancers that the audience in the theater could interact with and meet after the screening, but we also enabled audiences even across the country the ability to interact as well.

The event created a larger word of mouth for the Joffrey premiere, which was quantified with TweetReach, a Twitter tracking tool. According to the film’s marketers, 270 tweets containing the hashtag #joffreymovie reached more than 200,549 people on its premiere day.

Not everybody lives the Sundance/PBS/national-release dream, but Joffrey has found its audience.

Here’s a video from the Joffrey team about the simulcast:

Get more documentary film news and features: Subscribe to POV’s documentary blog, like POV on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @povdocs.

Edward J. Delaney
Edward J. Delaney
Edward J. Delaney is a journalist, author, filmmaker and editor of DocumentaryTech, an online project that explores documentary filmmaking techniques and technology.