Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dare Not Walk Alone and "Award-Winning"

We recently learned that Dare Not Walk Alone is now eligible for several awards. One of these is the 2009 Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking (that's their logo on the left).

Film awards serve many purposes, not least of which is acknowledging the years of struggle and heartache and effort and grit that go into getting a good film made. And believe us when we say that making a film these days takes all of these, even when you are being bankrolled by a studio or star. Want to make a serious film without financial backing and/or star power? Then count on the toil and sweat factor being multiplied many times over.

Thus far, DNWA has won one award: the Audience Award at the Deep Focus Film Festival in Columbus, Ohio. This might not sound like a big deal. You probably never even heard of it. But it meant a lot to us. For a start, it proved that the people who go to see DNWA appreciate the film. As you know, there have been some critics who have not [fully] appreciated the film. But we didn't make this film for the critics, we made it for the people. So winning an award voted on by the audience was like getting a whole bunch of hugs and thank you's (we have in fact received many hugs and thank you's when attending screenings, but we can't get to all the screenings).

However, the value of an award goes way beyond making the filmmaker feel good and reminding him or her that all the toil and sweat was not in vain. Awards help spread the word about a good film. Let's face it, there are loads of films out there these days (e.g. DNWA will be competing against close to 100 films for Cinema Eye Honors). And that makes it very hard just to get people to see your film, even if your film is very good and has a big budget.

Obviously we think DNWA is very good, but we know it has no budget (funny thing a budget, turns out that whatever money we could scrounge together was spent on making the film, and even then a lot of people worked for nothing, just because they believed that the story Jeremy was determined to tell, deserved to be told).

So you won't see ads for DNWA on FaceBook. You won't see DNWA as a featured [paid] video on YouTube. What you may see is the results a guerrilla marketing effort, led by those who support what DNWA is trying to achieve. This includes word-of-mouth, both physical and digital, with emails and link-swaps, and blog posts, and phone calls. Basically, the stuff that's free but takes effort. And we have racked up several thousand trailer views on YouTube, a very respectable rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a solid IMDB score.

Awards add a lot to such efforts. You can bet that as soon as we won our first award we started referring to DNWA as an award-winning film. It's one more way to get your film noticed, and thus seen, and it's about as honest as marketing can get. So thanks to Cinema Eye for deeming DNWA eligible for an award. Whether it wins or not, every little bit of exposure helps spread the word and get more people to see the film.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New York Times Says Dare Not Walk Alone "Deserves to be seen"

Cell phone photo of DNWA poster outside Pioneer Theater[Media: cell phone shot of the Dare Not Walk Alone poster outside the Pioneer Theater]

When the toughest critic for one of the toughest papers says that your movie "deserves to be seen" you have to embrace that, even if she leads off her review with some painful [and in our humble opinion misguided] comments that could hurt attendance. It would be a pity if some people who might otherwise be exposed to the film stayed away because of those comments.

However, we are pleased to report that the opening night, Friday, went very well, with a good-sized crowd in attendance. A slight problem with the print was remedied in time for the Saturday screening. Judging by the number of people who hung around afterward to talk with the director and producer on Friday evening, the film was well received (with no reports of the rumored unwatch-ability).

Interestingly, nobody seemed to have a problem with the way the film flowed from past events to slices of present reality, not unlike the way hip-hop mixes samples from old recordings with fresh vocals. So maybe some people just expect films that address this subject matter to do so in a strictly sequential and formal format. Admittedly, Dare Not Walk Alone might be more challenging to watch that a traditional documentary, just as some hip-hop can be more challenging to listen to than traditional music. And certainly the film makes no claim to deliver clear-cut answers to complex issues, but muddled? A lot of people would beg to differ.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thank You New York Times, Maybe

Today's review of Dare Not Walk Alone in the New York Times was both encouraging and disappointing. The line we should all take from the review is: Deserves to be seen.

Those of you who have helped us over the past four years to work against the odds and get this film made and distributed should take heart that a. the film is playing in New York City (an incredible achievement for an independent film about a controversial topic made with virtually no budget); b. it has so far racked up an impressive string of positive reviews, with great scores on RottenTomatoes and IMDB.

What you should not do is pay any mind to the negative comments in this NYT review, which merely echo remarks made by other, equally narrow-minded reviewers on the other coast. When critics say the movie is "muddled" or "haphazard" they are clearly missing the point.

Dare Not Walk Alone
is a different kind of civil rights film, in more ways than one. Just as the film takes you closer to the gritty, street-level reality of the civil rights struggle than other films, it also exposes you to the muddfled and haphazard reality of life today in a community where that struggle was waged.

And if there is one thing everyone can agree on when it comes to the issue of race and rights today it is this: it's messy. So why would a film about this topic be neat and tidy and nicely linear, like every other potted history of a movement that is still working itself out in American society today?

Thankfully, a lot of people who see the film do get the point, and see the skill of Jeremy Dean's direction, particularly those who experience the film in a theater. As we've said before, most movie reviews are not written by people who watch the film in a cinema side-by-side with their fellow citizens. When you do that, when you have that expewrience, you get what the film accomplishes, and why it is, and had to be, so different from the linear, date-by-date history lessons that we are accustomed to seeing on this topic.

So we say "See it!" For as even the New York Times says: It deserves to be seen.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Good Movie at a Good Theater: Who could ask for more?

When you are a small, low budget, independent documentary like Dare Not Walk Alone you can't exactly pick and chose which theaters you play in, which is why we're delighted to be playing in New York's Pioneer Theater--because it really is a great little cinema! Don't take our word for it, check out these great reviews from people who've seen movies there.

"Perfect little indie movie theatre."

"I was very impressed with this charming little theater!"

We hope you 'll be able to join us there, August 22 at 7PM and the next 6 nights. Try to buy your tickets early because it is not a large cinema and can sell out. Oh, and here's a friendly tip from the review page: "It's a few minutes longer walk from the subway than you would think by the map, so leave a few extra minutes as shows start right on time."

Two Boots Pioneer Theater
Manhattan/East Village
155 E 3rd St
(between Avenue A & Avenue B)
New York, NY 10009

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dare Not Walk Alone Manhattan Poster: Now online

The odds are firmly against an independent documentary ever making it to theaters. One reason that Dare Not Walk Alone has beaten those odds is its loyal band of supporters.

One thing those supporters have done is print out and distribute fliers for the movie when it comes to their town. This is a great way to increase 'buzz' about the film (along with blog posts and calls to local radio stations). And so it is that we proudly announce the Manhattan Project. Sorry, that should be Manhattan Poster. It is now ready to download print, and post [responsibly]. Remember, black and white or color print makes no difference. The message is the same.

Click here to get the poster in jpeg and pdf.

Some supporters have printed these and put them on employee bulletin boards at work, on grocery store bulletin boards, and on church bulletin boards. Other good spots are coffee shops and book stores.

As always, anything you can do to get out the word is much appreciated. A strong turnout is not just a vote for independent film but also a vote to continue and expand productive dialog about race in America. THANK YOU!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

New York Times on Obama's "Delicate Path"

A timely article in the Sunday edition of the New York Times highlights the class/race issue through a discussion of Obama's thoughts on affirmative action. We can frame the issue as a question that may be more challenging than it first appears: Would it be appropriate for Senator Obama's daughters to benefit from affirmative action?

The question can also be framed like this: At what point do inequalities in society become more about class than race? And this question was poignantly raised several years ago during the making of Dare Not Walk Alone. The question naturally arises when the film surveys the current living conditions of some African Americans in a town where one of the great battles of the civil rights movement was fought and supposedly won. And the issue was addressed directly by Dr. Todd Boyd, Professor of Critical Studies at USC, speaking in the film:

"In this generation you have a lot of African Americans who have come up economically. A lot of black people have been assimilated in the society at large. A lot of other people have not. I think the point is, at a certain time it becomes as much about class as it does about race. Now you can’t divorce the fact that being poor and black is worse than being just poor but the poverty component of it is real."

In other words, over the last fifty years the lines have been redrawn. Almost without exception, to be black in 1958 was to be poor. There were also poor white folk in 1958, but being white did not equal being poor. In 2008, to be black is not to be automatically poor. But to be black still means finding yourself subject to institutionalized racism, and probably more so if you are poor and black than if you are black and affluent (although driving an expensive car while being black still seems to be regarded, at least in some parts of the country, as grounds for suspicion).

These words of Dr. Boyd can create something of an acid test of attitudes: being poor and black is worse than being just poor. Some people will balk at that statement. Of course, we think it's hard to watch Dare Not Walk Alone or spend time with black friends and then disagree with it. But the challenge facing Barack Obama, or anyone who wants to tackle the social and economic ills and inequalities of our time, is to walk that delicate path to the common ground where can work on solutions together, poor and affluent, black and white, male and female, and whatever other distinction you want to draw. For as Dr. King said, 40 years ago:

"There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large segment of people who feel that they have no stake in it, who feel they have nothing to lose."

Friday, August 01, 2008

New York Screening Just 3 Weeks Away

Just wanted to remind everyone that Dare Not Walk Alone will open at the Pioneer Theater on Manhattan's Lower East Side in three weeks time.

There will be one show each evening at 7PM starting on Friday, August 22 and running through Thursday, August 28. You can get details and tickets here. With the dialogue about race in America now attracting mainstream media attention, Dare Not Walk Alone is more relevant than ever. In no other film will you witness both the gritty reality of the struggle for equality and the disquieting reality of life today in a community on whose streets that struggle was fought.

Interestingly, as the film reaches a wider audience, we may be seeing a split emerge between folks who object to the way the film mixes past and present aspects of the racial divide in America, and others who 'get' where the film is coming from. We're not quite sure what factors account for this difference of opinion, however, it does seem like younger people, who may have received only a condensed and sanitized version of the civil rights struggle in school, really appreciate the up-close and personal style of Dare Not Walk Alone. They like that the film does not preach or narrate but simply allows you to experience sounds and images and words that convey with great immediacy both historic events and present realities.

This experience may leave the audience with more questions than answers, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. No documentary is going to answer all the questions that the complex topic of "race in America" raises today. But this film makes a good starting point for discussion and many who have watched it found it to be a strong impetus to get involved with finding the answers.