There Are No Restrictions on this Q&A with John Paul Rice! – Part 2
Filmmakers Notebook is pleased to present Part 2 of our Q&A with independent filmmaker John Paul Rice, who is President of No Restrictions Entertainment. This week Rice released the trailer to the dramatic thriller, Mother’s Red Dress, which is now in post-production and we were fortunate enough to find out more about the project and John’s experiences in the filmmaking industry.
Since you have run charity events and concentrated on self distribution for your films, what have you found to be the most effective strategy in taking that route and the biggest pitfall?
The biggest pitfall I made in marketing and distribution was trying to sell the film as a product to the audience. Where I found success is when I sold the promise of an emotional experience that ultimately delivered to a majority of those who saw the film.
As any film begins with a script, so does its marketing.
The script is your blueprint for the marketing plan. But even before you think about marketing – you need a script that works. Without that, no marketing strategy can save a film. Dara Marks’ INSIDE STORY: The Power of the Transformational Arc and Robert McKee’s STORY are two of the best screeningwriting books available. One read through of either book will improve your script dramatically over the previous draft.
The audience for your film lies within the story’s themes, characters, concepts and elements. The audience is people who identify with the characters, their experiences and emotions contained within the story. To effectively market your film, it is essential to break these pieces down into groups.
For our first film One Hour Fantasy Girl, we found the film’s audience by observing people’s perceptions before and after seeing the film. By listening to differing points of view, our primary marketing strategy would be a focus on the theme of female empowerment and combined our efforts with organizations and charities to benefit abused women. The issue of abuse and its consequences allowed for us to target the social services, medical and non-medical industry professionals who deal with and understand the consequences of the main character’s past and present traumas – the film’s core audience. Feminists, mature adults, survivors of abuse became the secondary market.
We chose to do self-distribution versus giving away rights for years with no guarantees and have reaped the benefits of that choice. It does not come without consequences – less platforms, less exposure, less reviews etc. – but for micro-budget indies like ours and many other filmmakers with no marketing budget, if you do your marketing right, if you allow yourself to experiment with new and creative marketing techniques, if you invest in the long-term model versus the traditional window for a release, you stand a good chance to recoup investment.
Self-distribution does not mean you do it alone. Partnerships are where you find success. Taking the familiar (a known person, service or product) and branding with the un-familiar (your film) increases the film’s perception and awareness.
Jon Reiss’ book THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX OFFICE is an excellent resource for understanding these concepts and others in greater detail.
As a filmmaker who has built up a fan base and created an audience for your work I understand Mother’s Red Dress coming out this fall, so what are your plans for marketing it? Will it follow the same formula you used with social media, bloggers, college groups and charity organizations that you’ve used with your earlier films?
Essentially yes. One aspect I am excited to use is the new Vimeo Plus account feature that allows for full HD feature films to be uploaded and play on their site. We plan to send the film via a password protected link to bloggers and critics – a cost and time saving measure.
Our first target audience will be psychiatric institutions, departments of psychiatry at universities, doctors and nurses with screenings at colleges, streaming, downloads and DVDs.
Before you release a film to the marketplace, the most important aspect of research after writing the script, is listening to the test audience reactions. Their feedback, favorable or unfavorable is invaluable.
Do the test screenings – lots of them with different people each time. Even adverse reactions can inspire new ideas for both the marketing and story.
What is the most challenging aspect for you in making a film like this one?
For Mother’s Red Dress, finding the house and hospital turned out to be the most difficult to find. In the end, the home came from a Facebook friend and fan of One Hour Fantasy Girl – filmmaker Joseph Chastain. I put out a Facebook status update stating I was looking for a home to shoot in for 5 days. Joe connected us with his professor in Upland, CA who taught music and had a love for the arts.
Having received a letter of endorsement from Emory University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, I felt fairly confident we’d be able to film inside of a hospital, but was denied at every turn. We instead found a studio in downtown LA – Central City Studio – from filmmaker Adam Hall on Twitter. Adam had tweeted about shooting his thesis short at the studio and I followed up. The letter from Emory helped secure a hospital room and lobby as one of the studio’s partners was a registered nurse who trained at Emory years ago.
Knowing what you do now, is there anything you’d do differently with your earlier projects if you had the chance?
I would have taken more time, starting long before pre-production to interview DP’s for the projects, soliciting recommendations from friends and fellow colleagues versus solely relying on job postings via websites.
We will have the final Part of the Filmmakers Notebook Q&A with John later in the week, but in the meantime follow him on Twitter @NoRestrictions.