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Filmmakers Taking Their Movies 'On Tour' Rock Band-Style
Last year, Todd Sklar directed Box Elder, a hilarious coming-of-age college comedy, on a shoestring budget of only $70,000. It immediately found a following in the college town of Columbia, Missouri (where the film was shot on location) playing to sold-out audiences for a month straight. Sklar knew his film could find an audience outside Columbia, but instead of following the standard art-house film distribution model (show at festivals, sell to investors, then get a third-party distributor) Sklar took a cue from the music industry and decided to take his film "on tour" to promote the movie, much like a band would try to promote a new album.
Sklar and his pals took Box Elder on the road, screening in over 30 markets, most of them college towns like Columbia. They sold nearly 10,000 tickets, using only old-school, grass roots marketing techniques like handing out fliers and hosting on-campus events. That first tour went so well that Sklar and his friends decided to start a niche-oriented distribution company called Range Life Entertainment.
Now, they're back on the road again, but this time Box Elder is not the only flick along for the ride. Three other critically-acclaimed indie films; On The Road With Judas, Registered Sex Offender and In Memory of My Father make up a four-film traveling "mini film fest" that stops in each city for four nights, with each movie getting its own night to show a screening of the film and have some sort of companion event (concert, Q&A session with the cast & crew, afterparty, etc).
The tour's Los Angeles stop begins tonight with a 10:00 PM screening of Box Elder at the Laemmle Sunset 5 Theatre. After four days of screening films, handing out fliers and afterparties; the filmmakers will pile back in their vans and drive on to Arizona, followed by Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas... and on and on and on.
It's a familiar pattern for rock stars... but for independent filmmakers, this could become a popular new method of finding an audience for their films. It certainly seems to be working out for the self-proclaimed "dude-bros" who made Box Elder.
Tickets for tonight's screening of Box Elder and the tour's other films can be purchased through the Laemmle Sunset 5 Theatre website or at the box office.