Breaking into the business

Film studies
By MIKE MILIARD  |  September 6, 2006

VIRAL ROMANCE: Arin Crumley and Susan Buice in Four-Eyed Monsters.
Here’s an idea: what if the Internet’s vast new web of easy multimedia capabilities were used to spread the word not just about B-movie wannabes like Snakes on a Plane, but about good films? Like low-budget indie flicks that otherwise would have a slim-to-none chance of securing even a handful of screenings?

Susan Buice and Arin Crumley’s debut film, Four-Eyed Monsters, is a love story about two New York artists who find each other online and begin to “date” in earnest: “Wanting to avoid a mundane date they decide to only communicate through artistic mediums and have no verbal communication while they work through the start up phase of their relationship,” reads the directors’ synopsis. “[But] is their relationship just an artistic experiment or will they give into being a normal couple and become a living breathing ‘four eyed monster?’ ”

The film is only loosely fictionalized. “We obsessively film pretty much everything in our lives. We have been, pretty much, since the day we met, which is sort of what the film is based on,” says Buice, of her and Crumley’s relationship. It makes sense, then, that while making the film and shopping it around, they documented their travails — filming themselves as they traveled to film festivals far and wide or back home to NYC to regroup and scrape together more money, or showing the toll the stress took on their relationship — and then posted the clips online. Anywhere they could: YouTube, Vimeo, MySpace, iTunes, GoogleVideo, you name it.

The idea itself isn’t entirely new. King Kong director Peter Jackson famously put a series of video “production diaries” online during the ramp-up to that film’s release, giving behind-the-scenes glimpses at how it was being made. But that was a $200 million movie, all but guaranteed to be a blockbuster. The motivation here was a little different. Buice and Crumley were simply hoping that an audience that would like their film but would otherwise never have heard of it, would stumble upon it and decide they had to see it.

“We went into our first film festival with starry eyes,” says Buice. “Hoping to get a big distribution deal. Or even a little distribution deal.” But the realization soon set in that that wouldn’t be happening. Still, she says, “we kept taking it to more and more festivals, and there were always people who loved the film. The audience seemed to react well. It just made us think that there was an audience beyond the film-festival circuit.”

It was just a matter of finding it — and convincing theater owners that it existed. Their plan makes a lot of sense: instead of going $50,000 in debt trying to self-distribute, or hoping in vain for a big distribution company to take on their flick, why not cultivate an audience — one they know wants to see the thing — and then show those numbers to theaters who, secure in the knowledge that seats will be filled, will give the film a screening?

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