Innovation is essential for creative industry. As one Mobile filmmaker has discovered, that counts double when it comes to the business end of things.
“This is unique and a great example of nontraditional marketing since the film was created over beers. Not to mention it would seem to appeal to the market, to people who enjoy craft beers,” Gideon C. Kennedy said of his new scheme.
Kennedy is a principal behind the Hurricane Film Festival, a Media Arts Fellowship grant recipient from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and creator of various short movies. With partner Marcus Rosentrater, Kennedy completed his first feature-length work, “Limo Ride,” two years ago. Filmed in Mobile and Baldwin counties, the first part wasn’t necessarily the most arduous in the process.
“I thought making a film was hard. Try getting it distributed,” Kennedy chuckled.
The film’s story is ordeal enough. It’s billed as “the unbelievable true story of 10 friends renting a limousine for New Year’s Day to jump naked in the Gulf of Mexico who, after 24 hours of indecency, intoxication, possession, trespassing, kidnapping and assault, find themselves stranded and left for dead in the middle of nowhere.”
A year of touring the work to festivals was rewarding. It won Best Alabama Film at Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival, then made the rounds through the nation and even detoured to London and Paris.
With reviews like “an ensemble of idiocy, a mosaic of mishaps” and “an odyssey of rock bottom,” the filmmakers hoped to land the work into a wider array of theaters. Accomplishing this was more complex than first thought.
“A lot of these smaller distributors are guys that will gather up lots of different films, not give them very much, then throw them all against the wall and get them all out, not really tour them in any unique way and see what hits — and thereafter, through creative accounting, the filmmakers never see a dime of it,” Kennedy said.
It sounded familiar, akin to the system wherein major record labels exploited bar bands in the pre-Internet days. It was a big part of why less than 1 percent of all bands who signed contracts ever made money.
Kennedy and Rosentrater looked at self-distribution, but that presented other obstacles.
“Here’s an example: to get it on iTunes, you can’t just submit it to iTunes since they normally deal with third-party aggregators. It’s a paid service where they not only act as a gatekeeper for content but they also unify whatever the formatting is. The aggregator strictly handles all that, making sure that every ‘t’ is crossed so that it conforms.”
Storage, equipment, advertising, marketing and other issues cropped up every time Kennedy looked into it. Distributors had all the inroads, all the groundwork laid through years of experience and it would be hard to circumvent them.
What has emerged is a solution brought by their subject matter, Kennedy’s sideline occupation in the bar business and the democratization of the Internet. In mid-February they begin a tour of Alabama breweries and distilleries as part of a fundraising blitz for the film.
The first showing is Feb. 16 at Fairhope Brewing Co. They follow up with Opelika’s John Emerald Distillery on Feb. 21, Birmingham’s Avondale Brewing Co. on Feb. 22, Gadsden’s Back Forty Beer Co. on Feb. 24, Huntsville’s Straight to Ale Brewing on Feb. 26 and Tuscaloosa’s Druid City Brewing Co. on Feb. 28. They are looking at possibly adding Florence’s Blue Water Brewery but this is not yet unconfirmed.
All events will feature a reception at 6 p.m. and the film screening starting at 7 p.m., followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.
Entrance is $10 at the door or in advance through limoridemovie.com/brewerytour. You can also go to the “Limo Ride — The Movie” Facebook page.
“Any money we make is going straight into our Kickstarter campaign that starts the same day and lasts a month. That includes any merchandise we sell, and donors get a copy of the film,” Kennedy said.
One unforeseen benefit to the gap between the festivals and the expedition has been an improved product. Tweaks were possible.
“The film now is drastically better than what anyone saw at a festival or any of the screenings. We didn’t actually finish the final done version until three months ago at best,” Kennedy said.
It has been shortened by a few minutes. Kennedy called the start “punchier” and said as a whole it is tighter.
“The major thing we never had a chance to do earlier was improve ambient sound designs. There were select necessary sound effects before like, ‘OK there’s a car door slamming,’ so a door slams. Now it’s more like you feel the desolation of the cold and the other things. Sonically, now all the scenes feel like you’re really in that place,” Kennedy said.
Since they’re going on the road like a band, is there a special van in store? The director said only one type of vehicle will do.
“Are you kidding, we’re taking a limo,” Kennedy laughed. “We got four new tires and a logo for the side. Luckily gas is cheap right now.”