Yesterday – October 23 – was the Buffalo premiere of Saberfrog, held at Squeaky Wheel Media Arts Center, a fitting choice since it had been the shooting location for the finale of the movie, filmed on Day 2 of production.
I'd spent the previous two weekends plastering Buffalo with flyers, and also promoted the film at the Buffalo Comicon convention and at the monthly Buffalo Movie-Video Makers meeting. In doing so I encountered a lot of enthusiasm for the movie, based on the premise and the flyer, and based on this I was looking forward to a big turnout.
Saturday evening turned out to be grim and rainy, however, and this probably kept a lot of people away. The showing was still a modest success – enough people showed up that I made back the cost of renting the space, plus a (tiny) profit.
The film's two lead actors, Liz Mariani (now back in the States) and Wendy Foster, were present at the showing. Several friends of John Karyus were also there, including a mutual friend from RIT. Overall, the audience – though less raucous than the Rochester audience – seemed to really dig Saberfrog. Of all the scenes in the movie, Terrance's one-man play and Bert's online video mashup got the biggest laughs.
The Squeaky Wheel projectionist, Mark, complimented me on the film afterwards, and said that there were other competing events going on in Buffalo that weekend that might have kept the turnout from being higher. He also said it was refreshing to see a low-budget film that put some care into the sound. This was something of a relief to hear, as the quality of location audio had been wildly uneven and I'd worked long and hard to fix as many audio problems as I could during production. While my jaded ear can still hear the remaining flaws, casual moviegoers seem not to notice them.
I'm planning to continue four-walling theaters and alternative venues for the movie, but the farther away I get from the film's home “base”, the harder it's going to be to promote screenings, let alone attend them in person. Promotion of the Rochester and Buffalo screenings was very grassroots – putting up flyers, spreading the word among friends and friends-of-friends – with emphasis on the film's local origins. Drawing a crowd in other cities is going to require much more aggressive marketing, including traditional media – news articles and print/radio/TV interviews.
A much simpler approach would be to just get the film into festivals, although the cost of getting rejected at multiple festivals is comparable to the cost of renting a space yourself – and if you rent a space yourself, you can charge admission and make at least some of that money back. Still, the film has proven itself as a crowd-pleaser, so maybe I'll have some halfway decent luck on the festival circuit.
I'm already working on future screenings, though, and I'll let you know what happens next …