By lance weiler, April 29th, 2007

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A few weeks ago the HEAD TRAUMA mashup / cinema ARG had its first screening. The event was a collision of movies, music, gaming and theatrics. In a previous post I questioned the viability of traditional theatrical releases for “truly” independent films. The mashup / cinema ARG has promise and event driven theatrical experiences could in fact become an interesting model for independent distro.

- The event attracted regional and national press. Not only reviews but a collection of articles that explained the event. Even though I received press during HT’s theatrical release in Sept. 06 the mashup resulted in even more press.

- The ticket price was $14 dollars and over 150 people attended the event – one night was better than the average gross of each of HT’s traditional theatrical week long runs. The event also allowed me to sell DVDs, Posters, and copies of the HT soundtrack.

- The HT mailing list grows as audience members sign up to receive updates about the film

- The evening was recorded and now there are more promotional materials for the film – a behind the scenes doc, a new alternate soundtrack that syncs with the movie and a couple hundred photographs

- National press leads to a number of amazing opportunities. I’ve been contacted by managers, agents, advertising agencies, additional venues and sponsors that are interested in taking the cinema ARG on the road.

- The success of the first Cinema ARG leads to bookings in NYC, London, and San Francisco

- The Cinema ARG is picked up by a number of trend tracking firms who have the following to say:
“Director Lance Weiler has created a “remix” presentation of his cult indie horror flick Head Trauma, the result of which sounds like a good approximation of the future of film. …As theatres increasingly compete with home entertainment, we believe live film presentations such as this could be a way to keep audiences going out to movies.”

- Wired sends a reporter to the event. To read his take click here.

OVERALL: Even though it was a lot of work, I think an event based theatrical model can be the right answer for films looking to stand out in a crowded market. The important element is finding the right event to center around your work. A good starting point is to identify your film’s hooks. What is it about your film that people will find interesting? Once you figure out the hooks then you can start to build an event. If you do move forward with an event based screening we’d love to hear about it. Send your emails to work [@]

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Posted in arg audience case study development distro diy gaming promotion remix theatrical

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

By lance weiler, April 24th, 2007


Our guest today is author and journalist Heather Chaplin. Heather’s most recent book is “Smart Bomb” which covers the history of the gaming revolution. During our discussion we touch on the emergence of the independent gaming movement and how games can make social and political statements. And perhaps most interesting for filmmakers a look at the collision between filmmaking and gaming.


For more info on Heather Chaplin and her work click here.

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Posted in arg gaming interview podcast

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

    When the time came for Jamie King and the Noble League of Peers to release their film entitled Steal This Film, a documentary about copyright and intellectual property, they took it directly to where their audience lives. Through a promotional deal with a number of the top torrent tracker sites, King and company were able to secure various placements such… read more
  • [SXSW] Rushkoff: Program, or be Programmed
    The thesis: Our society is running on obsolete code.  In order to keep the world working, we need social programmers.  Douglas Rushkoff’s warning, and his call to action: “If you are not a programmer, then you are one of the programmed.” Rushkoff described Programming as a sort of daoist constant.  He said the same type of action can be applied… read more
  • The Movies meet Web 2.0
    Producing a feature-length motion picture is a daunting task. All the more so if you do it without the support of a major studio using money you have raised yourself. But according to independent filmmaker Lance Weiler, “the real struggle” comes after the film is completed. Distributing a theatrical feature — and doing so profitably — poses an even… read more
By lance weiler, March 29th, 2007

I’ve heard a lot of people challenging the theatrical experience – box office numbers are down from previous years, and home theater systems are only getting better. Not to mention all the competition for viewers attention thanks to a 500+ channel universe, broadband and a shrinking amount of free time. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that people still want that communal experience that a theatrical film can provide. But I think that filmmakers need to make the theatrical experience their own and find interesting ways to engage their audiences.

After doing a 17 city, DIY theatrical release for HEAD TRAUMA, I think that traditional theatrical releases of “truly” independent films are a dangerous proposition. It’s next to impossible to pull people into a screening without P&A money. I harnessed the internet to help with grassroots promotion, my social networking friends helped to flyer and sticker for me, they also brought their friends. But a theatrical release is a humbling affair. On average we’d have nights with 25 to 30 people in a screening. On a rare night, we’d have over a 150 people in attendance but often we’d have only 10 or 12. In the end I made money but it was not because of the box office take alone. It was a combination of speaking engagements, poster sales and the fact that I didn’t spend anything on promotion or renting the theaters. I did 50/50 splits with all the theaters to help reduce my risk.

What I think is a more interesting theatrical model is an event driven one. For instance, I’ve been staging a number of one off live events. They are special theatrical events that use a mixture of multimedia, performance, and technology to remix the movie in a new way. Some people have called the events Cinema ARGs (alternate reality games) because of the way they engage the audience in the theater and after they leave.

This coming Saturday, we’ll be doing a special remix screening of HEAD TRAUMA in Philadelphia. It is broken into the following parts.

The evening will consist of Bardo Pond, Espers, Fern Knight and a DJ providing a live score to the movie. I’ve separated the dialog and sound effects tracks, so we can do a total remix of the movie live.

The current remix shows came from a concept we had called CURSED. CURSED the HEAD TRAUMA movie project started as an alternate soundtrack experience for the movie. Similar to how Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon lines up with the WIZARD OF OZ, we created a soundtrack that could line up with HEAD TRAUMA. Turn down the volume on the TV and turn up the volume on the stereo. The following behind the scenes short describes the process.

The night will include a number of theatrical elements. On stage, we’ve constructed a tent which is key to the story of the film and the hooded figure who is the protagonist’s nemesis will emerge at different times through out the night within the audience. There are fog machines, lighting effects and physical scares. The theatrical elements borrow from a cross between dinner theater on acid and the school of William Castle. William Castle was a famous showman who actually wired the audience’s seats to shock them during screenings of his classic THE TINGLER.

The last element of the evening is a high tech one which allows viewers to use their mobile phones to interact with certain characters from the film. Since I’m working with the IndEx media server to project the film, I’ve been able to easily add subtitles. On screen at key moments a phone number appears. When audience members call the number they’ll hear the hooded figure from the film. Depending on their answers they’ll receive a number of clues. At the conclusion of the movie we’ll ring all the phones in the theater at the same time. Then for the lucky few the film will follow them home as they receive additional calls and text messages that lead them to hidden elements online.

This coming show is the first in a series of remix screenings. The release will target universities and museums. Since it is an event the ticket prices are more than double a traditional movie ticket. We’ll see how it goes, but I think it’s an interesting concept that points towards a new type of theatrical experience.

I’ll let you know how it all works out.

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Posted in News arg audience distro diy experiment gaming mobile pov remix theatrical

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

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