Shifting Baselines

As far as anyone that I’ve spoken with in Hollywood knows, this has never been done before. No one has ever organized 50 bloggers to post their reviews of a small movie all on the same day, which is what will happen next Tuesday, July 15, for my new film Sizzle. Turns out it’s an interesting idea. The reason it’s so interesting: Independent film distribution is in absolute chaos. I’ve been hearing this for the past year, but last month it came to a head when Mark Gill, the former president of Miramax, gave a very important speech at the L.A. Film Festival titled, “Yes, the Sky Really is Falling.”

The title sort of says it all. One blog that posted it registered over 100,000 views in the first few days, and all of the filmmaking blogs were on fire with discussion of his speech. Basically lots of independent film companies have shut their doors, and several of the studios have resorbed their independent branches. It’s a grim time. I can see the difference in activity just in the two years since we went to Tribeca with “Flock of Dodos” and negotiated with all the distributors.

There are many shocking stories of films under-performing. One of the most stunning was the recent documentary about steroids, “Bigger, Stronger, Faster.” Julie Janata, who was an executive producer of our “Flock of Dodos,” was an editor on the film. She raved to me about it repeatedly over the past year, and her raves proved to be justified as it received sterling reviews–it currently has an incredible 54 positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and only ONE negative review.

And yet…they opened it at 26 theaters, it has made only $246,000. I saw ads for it on television. Those ads cost a lot. They probably spent well over a million in prints and ads. Somebody lost a lot of money on a movie with near perfect reviews. It makes me think of people who submit NSF grants, receive all Excellents for their scores, and find out they get nothing because the budget for their program is too small. “Congratulations, you win nothing!”

So everyone is panicked, no one knows how to market small films, and the number of movies being produced continues to skyrocket–Sundance had over 5000 submissions this year. How do you call attention to a small film in such a chaotic situation?

Unifying 50 bloggers to post their reviews all on the same day is our idea. We’ll see how it works. Tune in next Tuesday, July 15, as Science Blogs helps to sponsor SIZZLE TUESDAY. The range of reviews is going to be interesting. I already took one solid beating for the movie back in January when I played it for a group of senior scientists at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology annual meeting. They hate, hate, hated it. Lots of reasons why. Some we addressed in the subsequent months of editing, some we didn’t (hey, they’re old folks, they’re not going to get everything). And at the same time, last week we got accepted to the Chicago Reeling Gay and Lesbian Film Festival! Who knew I was a gay filmmaker (don’t answer that). So we’re doing fine reaching the gay audience. The question is what the science crowd will have to say. Yeeks.


SOMETHING NEW: 50 blog reviews, 35 from ScienceBloggers


  1. #1 Umlud
    July 7, 2008

    I look forward to seeing the reviews. I really hope, though, that you show it in Ann Arbor. (I’ve checked the schedules for the Michigan Theater and the State Theater, and neither of these “alternative film” venues say they are showing it.)

  2. #2 Ryan Mitchell
    July 7, 2008

    Umlud – You should contact the folks at the Univ. of Michigan Museum. They had set the wheels in motion to sponsor a Dodos screening, but it never happened. Maybe you can get them to sponsor a Sizzle screening. – Ryan Mitchell, Sizzle Production Team

  3. #3 Che
    July 9, 2008

    I can’t find it playing anywhere near me (FL) but I’d like to see it.

    The one thing that concerns me is that the “skeptics” outnumber the experts 3:1. Also 4 of those skeptics show up on with ties to oil or coal. Morano even worked for Rush Limbaugh and was partially responsible for the original Swiftboat campaign.

    This is a comedy and you probably don’t need many experts to rebuke a typical climate skeptic but still…

  4. #4 miui
    July 10, 2008

    Are these bloggers getting early access to the documentary? I guess it begs the question.

    Flock of Dodos caused some interesting points of contention for me which I am still discussing with others, but I am very much looking forward to Sizzle. Unfortunately the only venue close to me is on the 19th, during the Outfest in L.A. It is about 2 and a half hours away from me. I’m not gay either but I’m hoping to attend. Maybe I’ll take my mother since my boyfriend refuses to go.

  5. #5 yancat
    July 13, 2008

    Several years ago in Los Angeles, Wild Oats (now merged with Whole Foods) sponsored screenings of Inconvienent Truth – – maybe there is hope as long as regional marketing directors have discretion on their budgets…hope to see it soon

New comments have been disabled.