This is the story of the ‘Faintheart Fiasco’ – at least as it felt to me. I consider myself quite savvy with all this online stuff, and yet the simplicity of the novel and innovative – nay historic promotion of Faintheart left me flummoxed and low:
I was beginning to realise that it would not be possible to see this week’s new British films in the cinema. I was on the buffers, all momentum lost. It was predictable that the arty Better Things (bleak, depressing, but stunningly directed) would not be in the multiplexes (it will be shown in the art cinema next month), but it was a little perplexing to find that Faintheart didn’t appear to be showing in the region anywhere. Faintheart is showing for todya only (Thursday) at 4.15 at the Reel Loughborough – but I can’t make that screening. However, the film’s website was offering a chance to ‘SEE FOR FREE AT A CINEMA NEAR ME’ – or so I hoped. All I had to do was SIMPLY enter my postcode in an application called the ‘Heart Map’ at the film’s website on MySpace – and so I did. The idea was a popularity contest – there would be 150 free screenings on 27th January to reward the MySpace community who had been involved in this ‘user generated feature film’ according to expressions of interest in the most popular places. Leicester was in 30th place – result!
I didn’t take part in any of the MySpace community activities around the production of the film, so maybe I was a little out of the loop. I expected to be informed by email about where the screening might take place – maybe I didn’t check the ‘Notify me of screenings’ box properly. Maybe I just wasn’t getting what I was supposed to do to get in on the ‘innovative ‘ action. There was also the promise of being able to see the film for free online on the same day – but no details. This was becoming a theme.
It was only after the free screenings had begun and ended that I started to piece everything together. The launch of the film was featured on Channel Four News that evening and the film’s producer explained how the strategy was to cut out the traditionally expensive cinematic distributions costs, create some initial interest and to go as soon as possible to the more profitable bits – DVD (available 2nd February), television and downloads. Is this the future of the popular £1m budget British film?
“It’s very, very tough out there. Everything is in a state of flux. The coal face economics are a harsh reality – the cinemas take 75% of your box office and you can’t rely on DVD anymore” says Alan Niblo from Vertigo Films, one of Faintheart‘s producers.
Later I did some digging around online – found a news story posted on The Guardian website at 13.26 GMT saying that the film would be ‘launched at 6.30 this evening with free simultaneous screenings at 46 cinemas around the country, and will be available to watch on the MySpace website (http://www.myspace.com/) for one day only – not 150 screens then? The article advised going to the UK Film Council website to find information about screenings and to download a voucher for a free ticket. So I did.
As we all know, the UK Film Council is ‘the Government backed lead agency for film in the UK ensuring that the economic, cultural and educational aspects of film are effectively represented at home and abroad’. The website is very informative, actually, but the bit about Faintheart was only in a press release published on 23rd January- ‘UK Film Council Lottery cash delivers free public screenings of Faintheart, the world’s first user generated film’. Faintheart had already received £325,000 of Lottery funding from the UK Film Council’s Premiere Fund and had now been given a further £34,937 to pay for the film screenings in cinemas and digital distribution from the UK Film Council’s Prints and Advertising Fund which is designed ‘to give UK film fans more choice and gain exposure for films which might otherwise only have a limited distribution’.
At the bottom of the press release was a PDF downloadable ticket voucher for the free screenings
and details of the 46 screenings including 9 across the Midlands and in Leicester at the Showcase Cinema de Lux:
I had missed a screening opportunity of a unique event. At the time of the screening I was sat in my office less than a mile away – I should have been there.
I am left with a number of questions to which I would like to find answers:
- Why was the method of distributing the ticket vouchers and advertising the screenings so convoluted and difficult?
- How many people attended the screenings?
- What was the technology that was used to show the films in cinemas at such late notice?
- On what was the £34,937 of lottery funding for the free screenings actually spent?
I’m sure there are more things to think about, but that will do for now, and I hope to be back with some answers fairly soon.