I Wake Up Screening - What To Do Once You´ve Made That Movie

Book Review by Willard Manus

Although it's mostly aimed at independent filmmakers who have just made their first feature and are wondering how they can get it noticed and distributed, I WAKE UP SCREENING can be read profitably by anyone interested in movies, if only because it has been co-written by critic John Anderson and publicist Laura Kim, who know the business from the inside.

"What we hope to do within these covers is to take a mental machete to the seemingly impenetrable thickets of fear, intimidation and bad information that envelop the whole hype-driven marketplace of independent cinema. And, being small-d democrats bordering on Marxist radicals, we hope to do it for filmmakers at every stratum of economic privilege or need, You may be able to afford great PR representation; if so, go with God. But you may also have sold your mother's iron lung to finance your movie and need to take the self-help route to the Palme d'Or and your enshrinement as the next Tarantino/Linklater/Soderbergh/Anderson (P.T. or Wes, take your pick). The aim is attention, the right kind of attention from the right people, at the right time. And at some point, the playing field is level, and no amount of squeaking will make someone like it, buy it, or write about it. Your film will speak for itself and there's no better time to be heard."

Anderson and Kim offer twelve chapters packed with practical advice keyed to succeeding via the film-festival route--how to put together the right team, deal with the media, find a lawyer, win friends and influence people, etc. Equally informative--and entertaining--are the "case-study" interviews with the marketeers who put together the PR campaigns that turned such unknown, low-budget films as Kissing Jessica Stein, The Brothers McMullen, Mulholland Drive and Gods and Monsters into profitable releases.

Producers rep Jeff Dowd (the model for the Jeff Bridges character, The Duke, in The Big Lebowski), is quick to point out just how tough it is to achieve commercial success with an independent film. "A general estimation is that there are about 5,000 films out there right now that are not going to get a release of any kind, whatsoever," he said. "They're not going to get theatrical. They're not going to get video. They're not even going to get on cable. They're not going to get a DVD release, they're not going to get on NetFlix, and they're not going to get foreign."

Estimate each film as a $100,000 shot, Dowd added, and what you're looking at is a total of five billion dollars. "That's a lot of money to fall off the planet."

(Billboard Books, 224 pages, $18.95 ppbk)