Tuesday, March 09, 2010


This last Saturday - 6 March 2010 - marked the end of a long road for me and Lana; the local public screening of our film Vagabond Lane. With the help of Andrew Ellis, we screened the film two times that night at the Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise. We had media support prior to the film: a Twitter blitz, constant Facebook updates, mentions in the Idaho Statesman's Scene section, an e-interview with local NBC affiliate reporter Maggie O'Mara, plugs on the radio and even an NPR interview. It's safe to say that - insofar as the press is concerned - we hit it pretty well. Certainly, it could have been better - major coverage on the television would have been nice, full-page ads in the paper would have been nice, lengthy articles with photographs would have been nice, but yeah... what we could get for free, we got a lot of it.

And it still didn't help.

Out of a possible 1,540 seats in the Egyptian Theater, we sold... 178. I would almost guarantee that everyone in that theater is less than two degrees of separation from me.

Insofar as covering the costs of leasing out the theater, we were good - we lost six bucks. Insofar as this was a fundraiser for
Vagabond Lane's festival run, well... not so good.

Am I irritated? Absolutely. Not only was it ludicrous that we couldn't sell 300 seats, but it's ludicrous what this says about the residents of Boise. Let's do some math.

The greater metro area around Boise in 2008 had a population of 587,689 people. Let's say that it's gone up a bit since then, which is true - I just don't know the exact figure. BUT... I can say without a doubt that the population of the area isn't any less than the 2008 numbers show. That means that we reached .0003 % of Boise's metro area population with our film.

Three ten-thousandths of a percent.

The number's only slightly better when you look at Boise's city population of 2008, which was 205,314. That means we reached a whopping .000866 % of the population. Eight-point-five ten-thousandths of a percent. Wow.

Greg Bayne tried to teach me; I didn't listen. "Boise," he said, preparing for his documentary about Jens Pulver, "is not a film town." Clearly it isn't. Clearly the masses of Boise voted with their wallets and chose to stay home, rather than see an Idaho film that represents a point in Idaho culture. Hell, even the price was right for movie watching: we only charged a general admission price of six bucks. Six bucks to sit in a grand old theater, watch members of your community perform something that is (if I say so myself) of higher quality than your standard "good" community theater presentation (which, of course, costs twice as much to attend)? At that price, I'd attend every screening of every local film - and I'd bring friends.

But Boise isn't a film town.

Certainly, I can be as guilty of this as the next person. I haven't seen every local film presented, and I feel some guilt over that - but I also feel that, at $10 a ticket and when you're as broke as I am... nope. Can't do it. I suppose, then, I was projecting a little when I set the ticket prices for
Vagabond Lane at $6. I was empathizing with the community -especially since I'm in an economic vise-grip as well.

But that's aside from the point. The point is this: if people in Boise actually valued local independent cinema, then they would have been at the film (films, actually - I'm not the only indie filmmaker in this city), regardless of the price. As it is, it appears that only .000866 % of the population of Boise has any interest at all in developing a culture of local cinema and film making.

Which brings me to my real-for-reals big cheesed off epiphany. Of the individuals in town that present themselves as some kind of gear in the machine that is local film making - actors, directors, editors, producers, musicians, sound people, costumers, etc. - very few came to the film. Certainly, there were the actors and the like that I have relationships with that land somewhere between "friends" and "acquaintances". Those people showed up. But those self-important pseudo-professionals that live in the community and wave their "Look! I lived in Los Angeles for two years! I know what I'm talking about!" metaphysical resumes in the faces of anyone who might listen and/or benefit them in some way - those people didn't show up.

Fine. Clearly if the Boise film making community doesn't get its act together and start supporting one another, then it is doomed to crumble upon itself. That means the members of that community - regardless of personal feelings - need to quit playing silly reindeer games and foster support for one another. That doesn't mean we all work on each others' movies; that doesn't mean we have the floating $100 bill that goes to fund one project after another, but is really just the same $100 bill changing hands every six months; and that doesn't mean we have to BELIEVE in the projects or the contents of the projects themselves, but merely in the idea that developing a film community in Boise is good for Boise and our culture. Until that time comes, we're just a bunch of egotistical self-righteous children with entitlement issues.

As a final note, I had a small number of cast and crew members that didn't come to
Vagabond Lane because they were actively trying to sabotage the screening. For some reason, they think they are in competition with me. I understand. I am their scapegoat, their despised tyrant, their nemesis. All I can say to their behavior is that it is childish, short-sighted, and they will not benefit in any way by acting as such. While I will continue to support Boise filmmakers and the grand ideal of fostering a culture of Boise independent film, I cannot support these individuals, because they have behaved despicably. They are beneath me, and are a cancer that needs to be carved away so that the host body may survive. This is the last I will write of this issue.

Vagabond Lane is finished, and now makes its way onto the festival circuit where - most likely - it will die the death of most independent films. That saddens me, but the realization that this is the likely result of four years of hard work does not discourage me - rather, the opposite. I have made projects before (and during) Vagabond Lane; I shall make many more after.

Here's to Boise film making.


9 March 2010.


Brandon Freeman said...


Having no connection to the film other than friends that were involved, and being a local filmmaker myself, I attended with my wife Saturday night to the 6pm showing.

I thought I'd share my thoughts, and I hope that this is seen as coming from one filmmaker to another.

First off, just a note; I'm not interested in any kind of trivial competition. I think some competition is good, the kind where we challenge each other to do better, but the trivial competition that stems from ego and self-righteousness, like you described, is a waste of time for me as well.

So what I say here, I just want you to know, isn't out of anything but one filmmaker trying to give another some of his own thoughts.

When I attend a film (whether it’s a Hollywood film, a local film, or my own screening), I try to go with "non-filmmaker" glasses on. That is, I try to reduce myself to the mindset of the lowest common denominator, so that I can see two things: one, what everyone else might be getting out of something that I personally don't appreciate (like “Avatar”, the most overrated film in history), and two, where I as a filmmaker need to eat humble pie (i.e., come to terms with my shortcomings as a communicator to the masses).

I don’t necessarily want to critique the film itself, but what I would say is that I don’t think it’s a piece that is going to draw a large crowd.

Now I’m not coming to you with “This should have been cut, that should have been done” feedback, because I think that’s another discussion. But what I am saying is I think it’s unfair to demand that the greater population be interested in a film just because it’s been crafted where said population exists. I think we have to push for more than that. We have to meet the audience where it’s at, whatever that means.

We can’t expect anything from anyone. We can’t take Idahoans or any other people from any other state for granted. They shouldn’t be expected to come just because something local was made. (That isn’t necessarily a compliment to the filmmaker, anyway.) Rather, they shouldn’t be able to resist; not because of hype or a city’s status as a “film town”, but just because the film itself looks so damn good.

I know I have got a long way to go, and we as filmmakers need to keep pushing ourselves. Your screening of Vagabond Lane was a major victory – the completion and showcase of a project that you and many others cared about for many years. Now is the time move on, back to the plow, and improve, improve, and improve our craft.

As filmmakers, we can’t blame the audience (or lack thereof) – we have to ask ourselves what we need to do different next time.

Now, local filmmakers? You’re exactly right – we need to stop bitching, stop competing like divas on a supermodel reality tv show, and start supporting each other. We need to take feedback with grace from one another, not give feedback out of spite, and above all, show up for each other’s screenings so we can at least know where everyone’s at.

I’ll be there for your next release, Will.


AARD7ARK said...

Totally get what you're saying, Brandon. I'm not sure I'm "demanding" a larger audience simply because the film was shot in Idaho - but maybe I am. However, what I clearly failed to say in my rant is that I am somewhat surprised at the limited numbers of people in Boise + surrounding area that are interested in a culture of independent, home-grown film.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, however. Boise hasn't been an "artistic" town since... well, yeah. Since maybe a bit in the 70's. I do feel that it is our job as local filmmakers to make our films 1) of good quality; 2) interesting; 3) accessible. If we don't do that, then it's tough to get an audience. Unfortunately, it seems that even when we DO that, the audience doesn't show up. I realize that Vagabond Lane is on many levels an "art house" film - it's definitely out there and non-traditional. However, that shouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, should it?

*sigh* It's the same old mantra: you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it waterski. Or something like that.

Comments appreciated; hope all is going well for you. I'm moving forward.