Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dispatches from a Door-to-Door Director

By far the best part of promoting the film has been the face-to-face part...

After shaking hands and kissing babies all the way around the Cineplex that's showing our film here in Montreal (held over now for a fourth week!), I loaded my poster-ettes, my CD's and my thermos into my car and hit my 401.

I arrived at Toronto's Cumberland theatre in time to see people getting seated - and man, were there ever a lot of seats. In fact, the seats outnumbered the people about 6 to 1. But what they lacked in numbers, the people made up for in enthusiasm and warmth. Only two people left when the credits ended, everyone else stayed behind for the Q & A session after. It was lively, engaged and engaging. And then even after that, people came to talk to me one on one - and buy a CD of the soundtrack.

Nonetheless, the low attendance on our "opening night" in the T-dot had taken its toll... Holed up in my hotel room the next day with a bad cold, ear infection and tender morale, the last thing I felt like doing was venturing out into the naked city to show my blotchy face - let alone engage with anyone. But I needed an espresso something bad, so finally my taste for caffeine triumphed over my pride and off I set - grabbing my bag of posterettes on my way out the door...

And in less than an hour, I'd not only put up four posters in busy shops, but met a fellow filmmaker who's got a company called Sharona Films, met a fellow prairie girl hailing from Winnipeg who invited me to another Winnipeg'ers art opening that afternoon and Joanne Kim, who owns City Bakery next to the hotel, and has the warmest, most open smile of any human I know.

And she has a running group! After I signed a poster-ette to hang on Joanne's "wall of fame" just above the coffee condiments, she told me she was going running the next morning with her group, going for brunch, then taking them to see my movie.

We then spent some time swapping titles of our other favourite "sleeper" films we'd discovered by happenstance (hers is "Unthinkable", mine "Junebug"). I polished off the best avocado, hummus, brie sandwich on multi-grain in town and headed out to find the gallery where Winnipeg artist, Janet Werner was opening her show.

When I walked into that gallery, the woman I'd met in the bakery was there with her daughter, holding the poster-ette I'd given her and talking about our meeting to a circle of - as it turns out - other prairie girls! We're everywhere!

After chatting to them for a bit, about the movie and other stuff, I had to get back to the hotel to meet Brad Horvath (my first door to Dolly) for a "congratulatory" drink before presenting the film at the Cumberland again. At the bar, I took out a poster-ette to sign for his office and the bartender came over exclaiming, "The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom! That's the movie my girls want to see! We saw the trailer last night and they said, 'Daddy, can we go to see that?'"

I mentioned that if he didn't want to disappoint those moppets with impeccable taste he would have to hurry, because it was likely the film would not be playing long. He brushed my worry aside and asked if I would sign a posterette for his girls. He ran out to the lobby and came back with a Sharpie. Then offered us another drink - on the house. No self-respecting door-to-door director should ever turn down a free drink but alas, I had to get to the theatre.

Buoyed by all this good will and synchronicity, I jumped in a taxi and sped to the Cumberland...

Where the seat-to-people ratio was even higher than the night before. The valiant, seriously outnumbered people who had come out, stuck together though and every single one of them stayed afterward to participate in another lively, even longer Q & A. And I sold twice as many CD's as the night before!

Despite the dismal box office, I still drove out of Toronto the Trying the next day, the trunk of my car - and my heart - lighter than when I drove in. All because of the people.