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‘tallhotblond’ Director: A Title Easily Confused as Porn Will Make Your Doc a Success

Sample tweet: “got talhotblond thought it waz porn. Liked it anyway.” Redbox rules

Who says independent documentaries have a hard time making money? Everyone. But an exception to that idiom …

“talhotblond” was a Best Doc darling of the 2009 film festival circuit (best documentary awards from Seattle and Cinema City Film Festivals, an IDFA 2nd place and Toronto "Hot Docs" finalist).  But no one came calling. What? No late night offers after our sold out midnight showings?? Undaunted, we tap danced for a well-known sales agent who liked the show, and launched a TV bidding war. Finally, our bank account felt respected. A high-six-figure salary and a premiere on MSNBC. 

(Alas, no interest in a theatrical run. We consoled ourselves with midnight showings. In our homes. With our own popcorn.)

Next, Paramount purchased distribution rights, and decided on a digital strategy, releasing it via Itunes, Amazon, Netflix and the like. 

(More in-home popcorn – Paramount wasn’t interested in a theater run, either.)

Our title shot up to #1 on the Itunes and Amazon documentary movie rental charts in for some brief shining moments days after its December release. 

Then came "talhotblond’s" DVD release in January. We knew we’d made it big when we saw our title at Walmart. And yes, all my relatives in the Midwest were forced to buy a copy. 

And while Netflix and Blockbuster rental figures were respectable, it was the Redbox $1 rental figures that really impressed. See, the masses were moved by our movie’s deep and important social message! Sample tweet: “got talhotblond thought it waz porn. Liked it anyway.” Redbox rules.

Fast forward a few months, and we’re signing papers to turn talhotblond into a feature film with an A list director attached. Details to be released soon. Success! But still no popcorn in the theater for the doc. 🙁

Then, suddenly, out of the blue, a theatrical moment. In a highly unusual move, since the movie has been on TV and available online American Cinematheque will be showing ‘talhotblond’ for one night only, despite the fact the distribution strategy was totally bass-ackwards. A programmer called to ask if they could screen the R-rated version because they had seen it, and felt it was " a better Catfish than that Catfish movie.”

So finally, at long last – we can say, “Come see talhotblond in the theater!  Wed. Nov.3 at 7:30, the Aero theatre in Santa Monica. Tickets at fandango.com.”

No need to bring your own popcorn

Aaron Barlow writes about film, new media (especially blogging) and whatever else happens to pique his interest. Past owner/operator of a cafe, a store, and a gallery (among other activities), he began teaching at New York City College of Technology (CUNY) four years ago. His newest book is “Quentin Tarantino: Life at the Extremes.” Visit him online at www.aaronbarlow.com.

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