Here’s the new clip of Sunset Stories with Sung Kang, Michelle Krusiec and Monique Gabriela Curnen.
Less than a week until our West Coast premiere and I’m biting my nails. I’ve been inviting everyone I know to the screening, which seats 600 and having dreams that only my parents show up. They think the film is okay, not their cup of tea. They tell me I should make films with talking animals, they like those. Then, I wake up and look through my contact lists and send reminders on the countless invites I’ve sent.
Once you’re screening on the festival circuit, it seems like a good time to relax and enjoy yourself. Partly, that’s true. I think you definitely have to soak in the fun and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back, but it’s also the beginning of the second half of the journey that’s just as physically and emotionally draining, even more-so as you put yourself out there to be judged and criticized. Sunset Stories is not my first rodeo. I’ve been in this position a few times before but I’m still just amazed how incredibly unprepared I am and how much harder it seems to get.
After an exhausting race to finish the film, there’s the daunting task of promoting, publicizing and hopefully selling to a distributor. When you roll up your sleeves, put on a smile and push your wares. To many gregarious folks, this is where they shine. But for me, it’s like pulling teeth with a pair of rusty pliers. I like the creative stuff and killing yourself to finish something tangible like a film is an incredible feeling, but when you put so much of yourself into a project and let it out there to be closely scrutinized and keep begging people to come and see it at the festival and lend their support – the same people who have seen it a million times before and have always come to your screenings whose patience are wearing thin – it’s a bit painful and disheartening. Maybe it’s the Asian in me that hates the “begging” and prodding, or maybe it’s my personality type. You need to go out there and sell your film like nobody’s business. Even creating a page on Facebook and asking friends to simply hit the LIKE button seems simple enough, but it gets to be a pain, and soon you’re one of those Facebook spammer self-promoters that you just hate. Unfortunately, we’re in the digital networking age where that simple LIKE is more important than you may know. I know it’s necessarily evil and I’m going to do it, but it sucks, people. It really does, because more often than not, I feel like I’m banging my head on a concrete wall.
Recently, I had dinner with a colleague who I worked with on Sunset Stories and he told me that although the film was one of the best experiences he’s had production-wise, he said he would never do it again. Not only was it so physically demanding, but in the end he thought that no one cares for these small stories. I went home that night and thought a lot about it. Are we as filmmakers just stroking our egos, making films that no one wants to see? I’m pretty sure I’m just as guilty – I mean my eye went first to the sneak preview of Battleship when I saw the LAAPFF screening guide. Is publicity and promotion so incredibly hard because the audience is not receptive to it in the first place? I mean, often times I feel like the screenings to Asian American indie films, especially at the festival level, is akin to preaching to the choir. I used to believe in the mantra that if you make a good film you will find your audience, but is that necessarily true? It’s been a decade since producing Better Luck Tomorrow and it seems like things have gotten harder. So, why is that..?
With the rapid rise of social networking, I thought it would make publicity and promotion a lot easier. With BLT we were doing our grass roots campaign with a lot of shoe leather. We visited college groups and community organizations and sought out our future audience. You’d think Facebook would facilitate all that. I think the opposite may have happened. Maybe the internet has made entertainment so readily available and in vast amounts that we are all inundated, if not assaulted with so many options. I mean seeking out a film and attending a festival screening is just too much work in our age of instant gratification. Streaming a movie at home seems like the easier option. Heck visiting a website, reading a blog, hitting the LIKE button, those take energy that many of us might not be ready to expend. Of course, it’s the filmmaker’s job to understand and navigate all these issues and help their film break through all this static and content noise but what do you all think? Are indie filmmakers completely out of touch with reality? Should they listen and cater to their audiences with more care? Is there a happy medium or is the age of the internet about the masses and aggregate opinions? Has internet killed the movie star?
While many of the new technologies have revolutionized distribution and marketing of films and created amazing opportunities in media (making and consuming), it’s going to take a while before we figure things out. Maybe my friend is right and no one cares about these small films anymore, but for now I’ll give the audience the benefit of the doubt and take on the challenge of making them care.
I hope to see you all at our screening at the DGA on May 12th, 6PM (ticket info here) . Come join my parents, but I hope you enjoy it more than they do.
YOMYOMF is also giving away tickets to the screening via twitter – read the rules. Deadline is May 10. What’s better than free? Being hypnotized by Sung Kang’s flowing locks, that’s what.