Category Archives: Filmmakers’ Blog

We hear from filmmakers and how they deal with the Industry!

How to Market a Cinema and Not Alienate People…

You can watch movies practically everywhere nowadays. On your phone, your laptop, in your car, on a plane in the sky…There is so much I can  In the future, all we’ll have to do is close our eyelids and have films streamed into our eyelids in some Blade Runner type optical cinematic experience. It’s great that cinema of new and old is so easily accessible in your hand!

But there is nothing quite like watching a film in a movie theatre, is there? The hum of chatter as you walk through the foyer, the sweet smell of freshly made popcorn, and the fervent excitement of an audience in bated breath to be entertained. There’s a thrill to submerging yourself into a dark room away from the real world, your eyes glazed in wonder as you enter a story of characters and colours. You cannot beat sharing an experience with another fan and the electrified chatter in the air sending shivers of glee down your spine.

Oh, and, there’s absolutely no smartphone in sight. Absolutely not. None. Nope. No.

I don’t mean to sound like an old woman, moaning about new technology and how it is incomparable to the ways of the past. It’s just that, not only is my adoration for cinemas a deep-set belief, like a preacher raised in the church, it’s also my job.

Hello, I’m Sarah, and I am a cinema marketing manager.


The main crux of my job, as small part of the film industry, is to get you, potential audience member and customer, into my cinema to watch the latest releases. That’s it, in the most simplistic of terms.

But it runs deeper than that, I reckon. If you allow me to flourish a little bit, it’s my job to get you jacked up on cinema. I’m supposed to make you excited and get you talking. Sure, the big aim is to get you to buy a ticket or snacks, but a lot of it is to keep the conversation flowing. It’s to make you aware of the next film, and the movie after that, and the project after that, or the festival you have to go to. It’s a cycle of blockbuster belters, incredible independents, and movies that flow between. I’m meant to guide you through this, making you aware of your new obsessions and likes. I’m a cinema cheerleader, corralling you to shout loudly about movies.

There are many different ways to do this on site, on social media, and with partners. Most people recognise posters in cinemas and it’s my job to make sure each frame is filled with a winner. You’re heading to see Infinity Wars. Great, then you’ll love to see the brand new poster for Deadpool 2. You’ll also love these postcards or this chalkboard – pick up one, take a snap . Similarly for trailers, after the ads those teasers you see as you settle in your seat have been strategically plucked for your amusement.

Occasionally you get to do something bloody cool on site and that’s displays. I’ll be honest; I have no artistic skill in crafting beautiful and impressive artworks to promote a special film. Yet I know people who can and I have brilliant ideas. These are always wonderful ways of getting a team together to produce marvellous, imaginative works and honestly, some of the ones I’ve seen have been particularly special.

Social media platforms are perhaps the most modern and yet the most vital marketing tool for getting people engaged (because people just love to talk on social media.) Whilst it’s great for getting ticket links and sales in, it’s also brilliant to keep people twittering. Instagram can be wonderful for just showing how pretty your venue is and Twitter is good for short bursts of ingenuity, aiming for that viral level or simply making a few people chuckle. You are also the social media face of a company and have to act as customer services too – so you have to be prepared for complaints!

Other components to marketing is liaising with the staff to make sure they are up to speed on the latest releases, working with local businesses on special offers for a wide customer base and doubling up on promotion with the companies. There’s also occasionally fun activities such as manning Q&As, working with film talent, and introducing films too – there’s a wide variety of special events you can do with your company. Maybe a costume or two!

Also press. Getting press to cover your releases is magic, especially with print media. The weight of big names giving you the stamp of approval can influence customers coming to your site. For example, if you can get your screening in Time Out Magazine, then you’ve practically sold your listing. Especially if you live in London. That listing is like getting a golden ticket. Keep press informed and in a happy mood always.

Cinema marketing is tricky because it’s constantly changing. Whilst statistics and ticket sales are helpful aids in what works best, you’ve got to be able to shift and slide with each project as they are just as unique as the last. It can be tricky because you could put all your weight behind one project and not sell many tickets. You have to pick and choose your battles – you can’t do full campaigns on a week where five films are being released. So managing your priorities and realising what release would work best for your site is crucial. Movies can surprise you and keep you on your feet (but I guess that’s part of the fun.)

I’m lucky enough to work for a chain where cinema is a passion and each site has their own particular marketing manager. From being an usher, and having a manager who helped cultivate my skills, I now run marketing for one of the best cinemas in the country and I couldn’t be happier.

If you have the talent for whipping up hilarious social media posters, have an eye for what posters work in a particular venue, can listen to the conversation and swiftly change (like the coursing river,) and absolutely adore films in all their glory, than cinema marketing may be just for you!

Too long, did not read? Here’s a helpful video on cinema marketing!

How Movie PR and Publicity Works with Film Sprites!

Sometimes in life you find your path…and sometimes, it finds you. After a devastating earthquake in Christchurch, I was sitting in a small independent cinema by the seaside on July 23rd, 2012 when I had an epiphany: I could no longer deny that film was my passion, and I had to work in the film industry.

I’m Lynnaire MacDonald, a film publicist and social media marketer and the founder of Film Sprites PR, a publicity and digital marketing consultancy that specialises in independent film. I never wanted to work for myself- true story! But as fate would have it, that’s exactly what ended up happening. Now, along with my team of freelancers, we provide publicity and social media marketing to filmmakers all over the world. Since 2014 we’ve worked on a range of different films at various stages of production; from crowdfunding campaign promotion through to cinematic and VoD release. One highlight has been working with British director D.R. Hood to assist with the Kickstarter for her second film, Kin (now in post-production). D.R Hood’s first film, Wreckers, debuted at the London Film Festival and starred Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy. Another highlight was providing publicity and social media marketing assistance for the limited NZ release of Canadian sustainability doco Life Off Grid, including an advance screening and Q&A session at Academy Cinemas in Auckland.

In my twenties, I initially trained as a teacher even though I knew deep down in my heart and soul I wanted to work in the film industry. I should have known film was my overriding passion when I would skip lectures on Thursdays to check out the latest new releases at the cinema. I remember seeing the first Spider-Man movie and a restored print of The Exorcist on the big screen, but I can’t recall much of what I had learned in class (oops!)! I’d had a background in writing from an early age, however- writing for the school newspaper, sending my fiction to publishers for their consideration at the age of 12 and then writing for the local newspaper’s youth issues page at the age of 17 and that background has been vital to what I do now. I also went on to get a BA in History (with minors in Communications and Sociology), and a Certificate in PR and Business Communications.

So, what exactly does a publicist do? In my case, I’m a communications octopus! On an average day I can be meeting with potential or established clients, planning/updating publicity strategy and then implementing it, creating press kits and writing press releases, creating graphics for social media, checking out social media stats and analytics, researching, putting together media outreach databases and updating with results, contacting media outlets to secure features/reviews/interviews, writing publicity and digital marketing-based content on the Film Sprites PR blog, allocating tasks to our freelancers if needed, attending networking events or film screenings, and continuing to upskill.

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Publicity is most definitely not a 9:00-5:00, especially when releases and exclusives are time-sensitive. Because I work with clients around the world, I’m also juggling time zones from my office in New Zealand, so quite often I’ll be working on weekends when there’s things that need to be done ASAP. I actually really enjoy the unpredictability of working hours, but then I’m a bit of a nerd! Being a publicist also requires being a bit of a sleuth when it comes to looking at the audiences we want to reach for any given film. It’s about really knowing deep down who our audience is. How old are they? What do they like to watch on Netflix? How do they consume their media? What genres of films do they enjoy? All of that information is vital. You can’t just throw a publicity plan together, fling it out to assorted media and hope it ‘sticks’.

Relationship-building with media and audiences is a vital part of what I do as well. I think of myself as a bridge between the filmmaker, audiences and media. One rookie mistake I made when I first started out was thinking that sending a press release to a media outlet would be enough. In actual fact, it’s about providing value to a media outlet and a journalist by pitching stories and potential angles and following that up with the information in the press kit. For instance, if I approach WMMOW, I’ll introduce the project but will also have a few angles up my sleeve that might be of interest to readers. Loved Wonder Woman? I’ve got a film with a female filmmaker that passes the Bechdel Test and features strong female leads. Horror killing it (pun intended) at the Box Office? I’d like to introduce you to a horror director doing big things here in New Zealand.

When people e-mail me asking for advice about how to get into publicity in the film industry, I always tell them- don’t do what I did! I founded a consultancy almost by accident, with no seed money and was surprised (and delighted) that it took off. There’s a brilliant piece on the My First Job In Film (UK) website which gives some really great advice about getting into marketing/PR, so if you’re keen to get into this side of the industry I definitely suggest you check it out. I also suggest joining local filmmaking guilds, etc, for networking opportunities and courses. I’m a member of WIFT NZ and PRINZ, and the networking and upskilling opportunities have been worth their weight in gold. It’s also worth getting a membership to your local branch of Raindance to make the most of the opportunities available through their various regional branches. Last year I did a foundation course in production via Raindance LA and it was brilliant.

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It’s also vital as a film publicist to stay on the pulse of the film industry and the international markets. In the past 10 years we’ve seen massive changes to the media landscape; from the upswing in the use of social media through to digital technology and various digital screening platforms making it easier and more affordable to self-distribute. Things like mergers and sales of studios, filmmaking technology trends, cinema attendance and information about streaming platforms all help to inform publicity strategy in various ways. I have a subscription to Screen International so I can get personalised breaking news alerts and keep up with sales and news from film festivals and the American Film Market, and I also like Stephen Follows’ film data and education blog. Stephen has just published a brilliant 200+ page horror report with comprehensive data about the horror genre, and it’s a vital read if you’re planning on filming, distributing and marketing a horror film.

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing our filmmakers being interviewed or having their films featured or reviewed in print, on blogs, websites or podcasts. There’s always a little thrill when a new piece comes out for our clients, especially if it’s a glowing review or a feature that gets people excited about the film. That means the world to me, because it means I’m doing my job to the absolute best of my ability.

Eventually, I would like to work for a studio or distributor in the UK or New Zealand. As much as I have loved working for myself and embracing the entrepreneurial side of my personality, a studio or distributor is where I’m headed! I also want to do more on the producing side of things. Watch this space! You can keep up with Film Sprites PR via the website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also connect with me via LinkedIn.

How to Network in Film with Social Anxiety

Imagine you are on a quest. You need a golden key for a door. Behind that door is the life you’ve always dreamed of and home, a place you know you belong. However, you have to fashion the key out of different parts. You have to collect them from people with blank, judging faces that are waiting to chew you up. Say the right words, and they give you the treasure. Say the wrong words and you’re ostracised forever.

All you have to do is talk to them.  Daunting, right?

That’s exactly what networking is like.

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With most artistic careers, networking is pretty much key to getting out, getting anywhere, getting all the way to the B – F – I.

That’s because there are hundreds and thousands of people aiming for the same gig – being paid to create movies for a living (or talk about it, but that’s another blog.) A billion faces and a billion talents, all vying for some sort of recognition in the field and all the tools they’ll need to get there. And talking to people is the only way to do it.

Problem is is that talking to people is legitimately  the last thing I’d ever want to do, ever. Especially people who I perceive as important or people I’d admire. I guess most people feel like that too. Going into a conversation is somewhat of an gruelling and exhausting task, especially when battered by constant fear that you don’t belong in the career that you are vying for. You don’t know what to say, you’re sweaty and smelly, and you are pretty sure you confused The Godfather with Penguins of Madagascar as words fumble from your mouth.

Then you meet a dick that makes you want to check out of that conversation, the whole industry, and the whole world like…

After spending five years working my way through film circles, going to press events, running them , and actually meeting new and vibrant film people, you’d have thought that my shell of anxiety would have dropped somewhat. With many new people that I get to know, I often get praised for how easy I am to talk too or how hella beautiful or wonderful I am at just, like, communicating with people because I am ace (people don’t say this but I imagine they think it in revered hush tones.)

But IT IS A LIE! A big fat stinking lie. Sure, you may see me laughing and joking but what you haven’t seen is that I am wearing my fifth pair of underwear, I’ve shoved all my insecurities into the pits of my stomach, still bubbling away, and I’ve had like five shots. I look confident

And there are people I haven’t the balls to go up and say hello too. I see Mark Kermode, a complete idol of mine, and have absolutely no power in myself to go and say “hello.” Heck, one of the biggest bosses in my company is a serious heroine of mine and only NOW have I just uttered a slightly slurred “hi” at her. I still have a day of panic before press interviews. And at screenings, I stick with someone I know, using their presence to ping-pong ball my confidence out of the pit of despair within me. It’s sometimes awful.

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There are people I know who are experts. Jo and Gloria from the site are genius at whipping up momentum and flitting through rooms with bouts of confidence and hilarious business cards. I know many people who can circle a room like a well-timed hoedown and come out with contacts. I know a guy who walks into rooms like he’s a celebrity and everyone flocks to him (he’s also the sweetest guy ever, so his natural charisma is earned.)

But let me tell you something: That too is also lies. Everyone you have ever talked to is scared or has been scared whilst entering this industry. It’s all about developing your own foundation for networking, and style.

So where am I going with this rambling article?

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There is no denying the importance of networking, you just have to meet and no people, even if you are  but there is also no denying the importance in believing in yourself. Networking is a tricky beast but if you remember some important cliches that’ll help you steer your self-esteem ship in order to acquire a healthy crew.

That metaphor really fell away from me. Still, it is good to remember that whilst there are people in higher up jobs, there is no one  higher or more important than you. If someone treats you in a condescending or rude manner, you don’t need them on your deck. You also have skills and if you don’t, you have ambition, these are tools for plundering and grabbing the gold. Each person is dancing with steps that will eventually fall into the right pattern, skipping into a massive choral number. Hopefully, with pirates.

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Most importantly, anxiety never goes away. But as a wise woman once said; “stay afraid, but do it anyway.”  And that applies to networking. Eventually, you’ll get a swing of it. Just take the first step. Turn to that person next to you and strike up a conversation about anything; the food, the room, the films, your film, your favourite films…raccoons.

Any topic can work. Start with something you are comfortable with, and work into your filmmaking agenda.  Bring business cards or a way of communication afterwards and then send follow up emails where your self-assuredness is like 2342902394723 times better.

Never let people with ghoulish faces or your own self make you afraid of making contacts or pushing forward. You’ll find this industry is full of film fanatics and artistic people just like yourself.

Not only will you make colleagues, you may even make friends.


What are your networking tips? 

Charlotte Sometimes….Talks About Movies

Film criticism is, perhaps, a controversial job in the film industry world. To the public eye, all we do is talk about films and try to take them down. With the rise of social media and the internet, the field has become overpopulated with many people starting blogs to writer about the films they love and joy. Despite this, film criticism is still an important job in the industry: They champion films and push independents forward in attempt to steer you into the best movie experience.

So what does it take to be a film critic?

We spoke with upcoming and brilliant film critic Charlotte Sometimes about working in the field.

Charlotte Sometimes

What job do you do?

During the day I work as a secondary school teacher in East London. But by night, I’m a film critic.

How long have you been doing film criticism?

I’ve been writing reviews for two and a half years.
How did you fall into the field? 

I’ve always loved film to a pretty obsessive extent. I was absent a lot from school and made the most of it by watching as many films as humanly possible. I studied film both at sixth form, then at uni. Once I started teaching it felt like I no longer had time for film, or time for anything at all. I’d bought a cineworld unlimited card on a whim in January 2015 but didn’t actually use it for the first couple of months; I confessed this to my parents one day and they set me a bet to go to the cinema at least once a week and write a review of each film I saw. I created a blog – charlottesometimesgoestothemovies.com – and have been doing it ever since. From there it was thanks to an online ad that I started writing for Vulture Hound and it was through Twitter that I started writing for Den of Geek.
Why did you choose the film industry?

I love nigh-on everything about cinema. The fact that each film captures a particular moment in time, like a time capsule of that particular moment. That it can be universal and with the simplest of comments, ‘Oh, I saw … at the cinema yesterday’ you can develop an instant rapport with someone. That film can make sense of the nonsensical, calm us at our stormiest and take us back to happier times. Aside from books, I can’t think of anything that can do all of that!
How is your job important to the film industry?

I think film criticism is simultaneously both extremely important to the film industry and not very – or at least to the extent that some people I’ve spoken to believe. Often, when it comes up that I work as a film critic, I’ll be asked if I enjoy slagging off films. The obvious answer is no, as I’m not a cinematic masochist! Maybe because the term ‘critic’ is involved, there’s this misconception that we want to criticise all films and that we enjoy hating films – but why on earth would I want to spend 2 hours of my life (plus any ads, time getting to the screening etc.) to watch something I might hate? Every single time I go to a screening I want to see something I love, something good which represents all I adore about cinema and that I will connect with on some level. That’s where the important bit comes in, writing the best possible piece the good films deserve to help them get seen by others who will love them just as much as I did. There’s the Goliath films – the blockbuster juggernauts that might be panned by most critics but that won’t put off people seeing them – that’s when film criticism is less important. It’s the David films – usually the smaller budget, less well known films – that make film criticism important. Like some sort of matchmaker, I write as I want people to go the cinema, discover something they may not have seen otherwise and love it just as much as me! Few things thrill me as much as when someone watches something I recommended and comes back to me singing it’s praises as loudly as me!

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What advice would you give people trying to get into the field?

Just keep doing it. Even when you think no-one is reading or that no-one care, just keep doing it. On the most obvious level it’s great practice – the more you write the more you develop your craft and hone your writing style. Plus, you never know who may be reading..!

What has changed about film criticism?

I know it’s been written about by those far more informed and articulate than me but the biggest and most obvious change is the role of social media. ‘Everyone’s a critic’ may be an old adage but it’s more than apt now. Anyone can declare an opinion via tweet or post. Anyone can set up a blog and get writing. I did/do both of those things but as a result there’s more voices than ever.

How hard it is against all the film critics out there? 

I don’t tend to think of myself as being in competition or against any other critics, the temptation to compare would lead me on a self-sabotaging spiral of anxiety/inferiority! I love film twitter and feel like it’s allowed me to become part of a community that I would never have known otherwise. I think the hardest thing for all film critics, particularly those like me starting out in the industry now, comes from higher up – from established institutions that refuse to pay for writing or from websites that use your writing without your knowledge/consent.


Find Charlotte on Twitter!

Part-Time Filmmaker, Full Time Talent

Hi. My name’s James Wilsher.

 

By day, I’m a Hospitality Executive  but in my spare time I make films.

I’ve been writing since before I could remember – short stories, monologues, and jokes populated my work. When I hit my teen years,  my love of films slowly took over my life- I started writing scripts and screenplays. I thought this was my future, thankfully encouraged by my teachers, but it took me a while to write something of any worth.

Nearly twenty years in fact…

In my mid thirties, I found myself in the position where I could actually make a movie. I had become a more confident writer, met some people who had access to gear and, as is the way in hospitality, met quite a few actors and actresses who were ‘really interested’ in working on something with me.

“I never went to film school, I went to films” so goes the famous quote, and the same goes for me. Apart from two years of Film Studies at college (while it was a fledgling topic and so mainly involved watching French and German films and discussing art over commercialism) all my knowledge of film and film making was through watching films at the cinema (three or four times a week) and becoming a member of my local rental store (this was the 90’s, pre-Netflix, pre-streaming, pre-guy in pub car park selling knock off DVDs, this was pre-DVDs!). I watched, I consumed, I read, I rewatched, I reread and with the eventual dawn of DVDs I listened to every director’s commentary until we rejoin me in my mid thirties on set of my first film in 2014. Sadly, it was a film I never finished.

But with failure you can either give up or get back on the horse, and I decided to ride on a year later and try again. I raised cash by eating nothing but beans on toast, racking up credit card debts, and putting myself through a sponsored chest wax (all with various degrees of pain) and in Feb 2016 I found myself on the set of Ex From Hell, which would be my first finished film as writer/director, a quirky little horror with a new take on the ghost story.

I surrounded myself with talent, (it’s the best way to bluff it!) A cinematographer who knew which lens was which, a producer who had great practical knowledge, a sound team who had been doing it for years and pro actors who took a wage and took it seriously. At first it was daunting to not only be surrounded by such professionalism, but also being in charge of people who knew so much more than I did. But soon, and again, with encouragement I realised that as long as I had my ‘vision’ (a term I found pretentious yet apt in retrospect) and I could articulate that to the team, we would be fine. That’s the key to being a good film maker – articulation,  getting your point across to people. They all want the same thing – to make something good, great even – so there shouldn’t really be any battles.

The 2017 screenings for Ex From Hell were very positive, and so I got the bug. After three further short films I have recently wrapped principle photography on my second feature Sisters, a bitter sweet coming of age comedy drama. I’m looking forward to people’s reactions to this one.

So despite it being part time I love this film making lark. I really hope it’s my future. I get a buzz from being surrounded by creative types, making ideas happen, and creating something that will have an emotional reaction from an audience, and being in the cinema with an audience, hearing them laugh, gasp and jump, (not to mention the odd smattering of applause), makes all chest waxing, bean eating, credit ruining, long hours, sleepless nights and stressed deadlines totally worth it.

Sure beats being a Hospitality Executive…


Do you work in the film industry? 
We’d love to hear from you! 
Email: sarah@wemakemoviesonweekends.com with your tales! 

My No-Budget Films Got Into The Biggest Art Festival In The World

Written by Jackie Jorgenson
Lead Creative Advisor & Marketing Director
Actor, Writer, Director, Producer & Editor
Funny Laugh Productions

 

 


First of all, just a couple of quick disclaimers.

I can’t tell you in a single blog post how to create professional pieces with no budget. There is far too much information to cover on that topic! Thankfully, Funny Laugh Productions has a vlogging series called Figuring It Out that explores this topic in depth.

Also, this blog is talking about a project where the films are a secret. Telling you about the films would defeat the purpose of our work. Wish I could, but I can’t.

Okay, ready? Let’s dive in.


About Funny Laugh Productions

Funny Laugh Productions is an independent, international and intersectional feminist production company. It’s lead by:

  • Hayley Simpson – Creative Director – Logan, Utah
  • Mary McDonald – Creative Advisor – Toronto, Canada
  • Myself, Jackie Jorgenson – Lead Creative Advisor & Marketing Director – Grand Rapids, Michigan

The three of us met at Humber College in Toronto where we attended the Comedy Writing & Performance program. Having this relationship was crucial in working internationally and trusting each other when working internationally.

Funny Laugh Productions has been around since late 2014 and in that time we have produced nearly 10 projects, mostly working on no budget.


About ArtPrize

ArtPrize is the largest public art event in the world, held annually here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. According to their website, there were 1,453 works created by artists from 44 countries and were exhibited in 170 venues last year. The event attracts over 500,000 visitors.

In orde for an artist’s work to be displayed, they must connect with a venue space and sign an agreement. This process was something Funny Laugh Productions worked on in June, 2017.

Blind Date With a Short Film

So, how did we hear of ArtPrize? After I moved to Grand Rapids, I discovered this wonderful event and had to see it for myself. The first year we did not apply in order to get a better understanding of how our work could be displayed. By seeing how other filmmakers approached the festival, it lead us to understand the potential opportunities and limitations we had in store.

Then, I kept a close eye on submissions deadlines. I knew we needed to pitch something unique and easy to display for venues. It also needed to be easily accessible for the thousands of people who stroll by without wanting to stop, sit, and watch a film.

That’s when the idea for Blind Date With A Short Film sprung to mind. This piece uses QR codes and links in order to connect audiences to our films using their phones, tablets and iPads. Something everyone has in their pockets in this tech-heavy world.

Viewers will not be told the premise of the short film, but they will be given a vague description that gives them a sense of the tone of the piece. On this dating app style display, they will also be given the runtime, rating and whether or not audio is required to view it. We made sure to incorporate a variety of genres, film lengths and sound requirements so all viewers can find something that suits their needs.

This piece is based off of the viral blind date with a book concept that many libraries and bookstores have been using in displays for years.

Our displays were not created when we created our pitch on the ArtPrize website, so that was limiting when trying to connect to venues. However, we provided as much information as possible in our description and made our dimensions and requirements flexible. The fluidity of the idea made up for the lack of imagery and created a competitive pitch.

Shortly after that, Founders Brewing contacted us, discussed the merit of our piece and decided to host us. An agreement was signed and that was that!

Come see us at ArtPrize to view our low and no-budget films!


Blind Date With A Short Film at ArtPrize
September 20th – October 8th
Founders Brewing
235 Grandville Ave SW
Grand Rapids, MI
49503