Saturday, August 22, 2009
Who knew? "City Island" not only has made it Poland, Brazil and Russia without so much as a "thank you" from the international distributors to the filmmakers, but now we seem to be something of hit in Tel Aviv. Thanks to a lovely man who found me on Facebook, I've been made aware of our films positive reception--and "O" as I'll call him also enjoyed it along with his wife. This thrills me . For the movie to work outside of the Eastern Tri-State New York kind of nabe is terribly exciting. Initially, O wrote me to tell me that:
My spouse and I have just seen City Island today here in Israel and it was absolutely brilliant!!! The crowed was laughing hysterically from the very beginning in a way seldom seen in none-Hangover type movies and people were discussing it all the way to the parking lot. The endless fightings around the dinner table, the secret smoking and the BBW (!?) parts were hilarious but I personally find Andy Garcia's audition scene to be one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time.
After we made personal contact (i.e. "face off on facebook") I asked about how he found out about the movie and how it was
being advertised, distributed etc. Take it, O:
Surprisingly, unlike most movies, the local distributor didn't translate the movie's title to some weird Hebrew name, but kept it as the original, just in Hebrew letters. At the top, it states the movie won the Audience Award at the Tribeca film festival. Up on the right, it says the movie is being distributed by Shapira Films (or Shapira Movies).
The movie premiered on Thursday (August 20) and as far as I can tell is shown in 9 cinemas, including the two leading complexes - Cinema City and Yes Planet, both in the greater Tel Aviv area. As far as press coverage - I haven't really seen too much of it. There was an interview with Andy Garcia on Pnai Plus, a sort of entertainment magazine, but I believe we'll see more of this in the coming week. I actually didn't hear about the movie until last week, when my gf won two tickets to see it as part of a special screening organized by Walla, one of Israel's leading websites -http://www.facebook.com/l/;special.walla.co.il/cityisland/
Walla is doing this kind of thing once or twice a month and I think it's a great way to spread the word on new movies, since I mostly trust my friends' recs and not the media's.
So now we know. BIG TIME THANKS to O, our man in Tel Aviv. I'd dearly love to hear from anyone who saw the movie in Russia or Brazil (aside from the Brazillian guy who found me on Facebook and told me to cut the last five minutes of the movie--go make yer own movie, fer chrissakes!) Meanwhile, a nod to my ancestry-a lovely old recording made ninety years ago by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band called "Palesteena". This was America's notion of the 'homeland' as Jewish people like my grandparents poured into the American cities and began to make their lives here. What's that? Yeah, I'm Jewish. Me. De Felitta. You wanna make something of it?
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
First, thanks for the many lucid and adventurous ideas about selling our movie. Resolved: the internet has become the omnipotent source for information--these days the newspaper ads seem to exist largely to direct you to a theater where you can see a movie you've heard about on the web--and we'll be regularly Facebooking and Tweeting. As the release nears, I'll be posting production stills galore which will also hopefully drive up people's interest in the movie.
Over the past couple of weeks I've been dropping my son off at soccer practice at a park adjacent to the Santa Monica Airport--an airfield devoted entirely to flight schools and private aircraft. The sight of all of those cool little Cessnas and Piper Cubs got me thinking again about aviation (many MANY years ago I took a lesson or two) as well as wondering about the history of Santa Monica Airport. It turns out that it was formerly known as "Clover Field"--and that name still exists as a nearby street and an exit off the Santa Monica Freeway (Cloverfield). In the twenties and early thirties Clover Field was the location of choice (and probably necessity as well) for Hollywood Aerial stunt movies--"Hells Angels", "The Dawn Patrol" and others used the skies right over my sons soccer field for some of their awesome stunt work. The stunt work, or course, was anti-digital in the extreme which is to say totally analogue. No special effects yet existed. (Or does the purity of the actual stunting in fact make it "digital" in the extreme? Hmm...) Flyers were routinely killed doing these movies and it all seemed to be part of the culture--in those days movie making was a kind of all-purpose halfway house for people who'd knocked about in various roughouse pursuits--cowboys, flyers, stunt people, slapstick vaudevillians...failed drunken writers.
What has this to do with "City Island"? Does everything have to have something to do with "City Island"? Yes. At least for the next few months. Bear with me...
So I'm having coffee at the "Spitfire Grill", checking out the nifty planes and get it into my head that a little field trip to see some vintage planes might be a good Saturday activity for me and the kid. Off we go to "Planes Of Fame", in Chino (yes, for Goddsakes, Chino!) California--one of the greatest collection of vintage aircraft ever assembled and the site of one of the best air shows on earth (so goes the publicity...I haven't seen it). While touring the many hangars filled with planes--and there are some rather amazing finds: old Japanese "human missiles", Nazi war planes, a B-17 that is being restored that you can climb in etc.--we found a Sopwith Camel.
Now if you are or have ever been a reader of "Peanuts", you'll know that the Sopwith Camel is the plane Snoopy flies while battling the Red Baron. The damn things exist. And in Chino! (For Goddsakes, Chino...) Before moving on to how all this intersects with City Island, allow me to share an extraordinary piece of film with you. In ghostly silence, observe a forgotten day back in the spring of 1917 and watch the brave men of the air load up the ammo, hand push the beastly Sopwith down the field, and then take this spectacularly effective fighter plane off into the blue. Dig...
Now back to how this intersects with "City Island". As mentioned at the top of the post, we are preparing to enter "sell hell"--the mode of thinking in which EVERYTHING is geared toward getting peoples asses in theater seats on the opening weekends. Somehow one assumes that this wasn't a problem back in the old days--that movies were more of a habit and people just went to see whatever was thrown up on the local screen. But the below clip exposes this as the canard it is.
Apparently, Howard Hughes felt the need to seriously hype his World War 1 aviation epic "Hells Angels" and did so by creating the following promotional reel. I don't know who the poor man is who is forced to deliver the following lecture, but it must rate as one of the least effective, dullest and most poorly conceived attempts at hype ever produced. Then again, things were different in 1930 and it's possible that the below clip sent people into paroxysms of frenetic, mouth-watering anticipatory glee. Somehow, I doubt it. Still, here we are looking at it eighty years later. "Hells Angels", by the way, took so long to make that after two years of photography (1927-29) sound had come in, rendering the finished product useless. Hughes had to go back and reshoot all the diaglogue scenes, adding another year to production--reference is made to this unusually lengthy time span in the below reel. By the way, the clip at the opening features brief candid glimpses of celebrities attending the "Hells Angels" premiere. FIrst is Dolores Del Rio, followed by a somewhat drunken Buster Keaton, and then a brief and tantalizing glimpse (but no voice) of Charlie Chaplin, au natural sans moustache...
Thursday, August 13, 2009
A few nights ago, "City Island" was screened at a mall in Paramus, New Jersey, in what is known as an OTX screening. Basically, an audience is recruited from a shopping mall and asked if they'd like to see a free movie that hasn't been released yet. The victims are asked in return to fill out a questionnaire which asks things like "which parts did you enjoy most", "which did you enjoy least", "tell us your favorite scene" , "tell us your least favorite scene" etc. (The questions aren't these exact ones and may be just slightly more sophisticated...but only slightly). There is also a "focus group" afterward, wherein the moderator asks participants what other movies they would liken this one too and--the hundred thousand dollar question--would you recommend this movie to your friends and/or family?
The purpose is to give the company releasing the film information on the the films strong points and weak points. Presumably this helps the marketing team decide what things about the movie to focus on in terms of selling it. And, frankly, it serves as a preliminary indication of the likely answer to that all-important and all-terrifying question that must be faced: do we have a winner? Or do we have a dog? The truth is, most movies are flops--if you define flop strictly in terms of "did they make their money back". The movie business exists on the backs of a very few very big hits. The OTX screenings are highly reliable early indicators of whether or not a movie "speaks" to an audience. Generally the overall approval rating of a movie doesn't rise above 65 percent--this is considered good because it's well above average and no movie can please every age/sex/class group of filmgoer. And what were the numbers on "City Island" you may well be wondering?
Well. I hate to be the one to tell you (being as I'm the creator of the subject of this little lab experiment) but our movie scored a mind-boggling 91 percent approval rating. I wasn't at the screening (my producers Lauren Versel and Zachary Matz were) but I was told that the laughter steadily built and was more or less continuous through the second half of the movie. (Odd since my intention was to make a tragic tear-jerker). (Joke). Let me quoth Lauren who put this in writing this morning in an e-mail to our various producer-investors/supporters etc.:
These scores mean the filmgoers are saying they would definitely recommend the movie to others and that they believed the movie to be “excellent or very good.” Also, these results were seen in what they are calling “four quadrants,” which means across the board - with young and old women and young and old men. This is very difficult to achieve with one movie. I have been told by many savvy insiders that they have never heard of a film scoring so high in a test screening. We are consistently getting laughs in the same places at all of the screenings. This is very good for us and our movie! We all know the expansive potential of CITY ISLAND, and it was wonderful to watch the Anchor Bay team witness the incredible audience reaction firsthand. These results will be very helpful as Anchor Bay begins to develop and implement their marketing campaign for the film throughout the fall and winter...the current plan is to first open in New York and Los Angeles in one theater. We will all have to help fill the theater that weekend for all of the screenings! If the film plays the way we believe it will, they will then platform release it, or build it to more screens in more markets. It is thrilling to see our baby go out into the world!
Thanks, babe. Mind if I quote you? Should I have asked first?
Seriously, though, check out the last few lines. The subject of this increasingly uni-movie-centric blog is bound to get only more intensely uni-minded as the release date of "City Island" approaches. As Lauren says, we need to fill the theaters that opening weekend and during the rollout into the other major markets. And I will be shamelessly pandering to all of you who have followed the progress of the movies journey thus far to help me achieve a 21rst century sort of digital miracle wherin we create enough buzz via the web to get butts in seats on those weekends. I'm not sure quite how to effect this and I'm looking for suggestions. I would offer to sponsor a contest but what could I offer as a reward--allowing you to buy me dinner? Perhaps I will resort to the auctioning off of memorabilia. I believe I have an ashtray that is still dirty from a cigar that Andy Garcia left in it.
Or perhaps I just need to extend myself to you, dear City Island followers, and ask once again--with gracious modesty and some embarrassment--to HELP US PUT THE DAMN MOVIE OVER THE TOP AND MAKE IT A HIT. (Like you did with Tribeca--I'm quite convinced that blogathon and the air of good-vibeyness resulted in our Audience Award and thus our sale to Anchor Bay). Any ideas would be welcome--mass e-mailing? Invasive internet stalking on sites that would draw audiences? Free Heineken? I'm up for anything but we do need your help.
Leave ideas in the comments section. And by the way, thanks for the translations from the Brazilian/Spanish/Portugese, everyone. Now dig John Pizzarelli in his tribute to my new favorite state, New Jersey...
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Yet another country that's not America seems to be showing "City island"--this time it's Brazil! So you see, upside is down, wrong is right and, as far as I can tell, the best way to get your film shown around the world in every possible exotic locale is to make sure that it takes place in a small, working-class neighborhood in the United States and has nothing whatsoever to do with anything that could possibly be construed as having "global" appeal.
Unless, of course, all families really are the same and thus the movie translates beyond borders. Below, dig the poster that's being used--and can anyone accurately translate the title? (I read it as "Confusion Is Family" and the tag line as: "His Cousins Genetics Explains It". Could this possibly be correct? If so, heavy...) The ad was sent to me a couple of days ago for "approval"--as if I was somehow going to brave the multiple language and time-zone issues and try to re-direct the poster art from my garage studio in LA. Ultimately I shrugged and said that this poster art was fine. For Brazil, that is. If Anchor Bay/Overture were to present this to us as a sales concept, I'd toss a chair across the room and demand a thorough accounting of how the advertising people got their frigging jobs to begin with. That is, I would do that after cleaning up the vomit that covered every surface of the room. Still, viz:
Thanks, JC, for posting the Russian trailer and finding the site with the dozen or so production stills. If any of you readers are interested in seeing this stuff, go to the comments section of my last post and click on JC's links (or paste them in your browser).
And yes, Marianna, if "City Island" can hit Poland, Russia and Brazil, I'm more than certain it will appear in Greece. Probably well before the US premiere in fact.
Below, a little touch of Brazil via good old "Ugly American" entertainment. Sinatra, of course, singing a song that acutally charted number 6 in 1946 and that is, alas, available only as an audio recording--at least I couldn't find any live performance footage of Frank doing it on youtube. Cheers to you, Brazil. Enjoy our damn movie. And may your cousins genetics explain the confusion in your family....