I’m not an outwardly emotional person, but this moment just about overcame my Vulcan ways.
I was led through a maze of secret tunnels, catwalks, and stairwells. Up ahead somewhere was the source of… the “hum.” The pulsating hum that embodies both light and sound. And suddenly there I was in the midst of giant, state-of-the-art digital projectors and racks of audio processors, the hum building into crackling anticipation. This mystical room is where movie magic actually comes alive and reaches out in its most glorious realm to live theater audiences… For this is the projector booth.
I glanced out the little square windows to see the empty theater below. Yet not so much empty as sitting in a suspended animation of expectant pre-show, with the picturesque semi-silhouette of red plush seats resting in unspoken contract with the faint glow coming off the silver screen.
But I wax poetic. I fired up my computer and the projectionist hooked it into the massive projector and into the speaker system. Literally two seconds later I was gaping in awe at 95ers playing in pristine perfection on the big screen.
I laughed, I danced, I shouted, and I almost cried. The theater manager, who came into the theater and watched for a minute just smiled.
Part of it was of course seeing the movie on the big screen. But, heck I’m paying for the theater and having produced many live events, I’ve seen my stuff projected big before. (Though not this big, not on a cinema-quality projector.) The amazing thing was how good it looked. The scene I was watching originated on 8-bit Canon 7D, shooting at a resolution far below 35mm film, with special effects created in my basement. And yet there it was eliciting not only my amazement but also the unsolicited “that’s wicked awesome” from the projectionist.
I’ve written before about revolutions in the movie-making pipeline that enable people outside of Hollywood to make movies. Feature-length movies are still expensive to produce, but thanks to revolutions in production (cameras, etc.), post-production (desktop editing and digital effects, etc.), and distribution (YouTube, etc.)–it’s not impossible. But there was one revolution that still eluded us: Exhibition. Getting your movie shown in theaters.
Not long ago, it would have cost at least $30,000 to make my first film print, and thousands for each and every print after that. Just getting the film print to a hundred theaters would cost much more than the entire movie cost to produce. Nuts, huh? Now, it’s just a video file that costs about $1000 to get crunched into the right file format. And in my case, all I was doing was plugging a laptop into the projector. (The sound and music also sounded great, but that’s another story.) The way they do it with, say, Harry Potter, is they simply download the video files onto a media server hooked up to the projector, and a database hits play at showtime.
This is the final game-changing piece to the indie puzzle. As Vader would say: “At last, the circle is complete… Now I am the master!“ I guess there is one other piece: a more simple and reliable pipeline for profitable multi-market distribution so more investors will join the fun… BUT, the major price barriers that have separated filmmakers from every single step in the process (other than writing) have now been eliminated.
The theater manager said that for a small fee, they could add the movie to box office and ticket sales would instantly be available there and online. So theoretically, I could personally rent theaters like the one I was in, and actually turn a small profit from just the ticket sales if I kept the theaters full. Crazy.
I don’t know if this 95ers movie will be released in theaters. But I hadn’t really considered it as even being possible before this test. I only watched about five minutes of the movie… but it was enough to blow me away. We’ll see what happens at the premiere… See you at the movies!
(Be sure to forward this to your film buddies! Not many indie resources out there talk much about exhibition… so I think they’ll dig it.)