How to premiere your short documentary in the real world. 

 March 21, 2013

By  Pascal Depuhl

Plane parked in Fort Lauderdale.
The actual plane I filmed and flew in parked in South Florida.
So you’ve made your movie and you’ve been busy crafting a social media campaign for an online release and then some kind of opportunity comes along that will make your premiere stand out. Something unexpected, that drops out of the sky and into your lap. How do you transition your online release into a physical event? In a few weeks?
In the case of “On Wings of Hope”, my short documentary filmed in Afghanistan, it was the fact that the plane, which I had filmed and flown in central Asia, was being serviced stateside at a local airport (it’s the actual plane that you can see in the movie). As soon as I heard that, I know I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on my hands that I had to jump on. I mean how many times will I film a great story in a beautiful country of people who are doing incredible work serving others and then have the opportunity to share something as cool as an aircraft with my audience, as they are watching the movie with the plane parked in the same room as the screen? And if that wasn’t good enough, the pilot who would be flying the plane back to Afghanistan – yeah, I know that sounds insane, but he’ll make that 5-day flight in a few weeks – anyway – that pilot would be the same guy that tells the story in the film. So I have the movie, the plane, and the pilot to pull off a one-time premiere.
But how do you go about doing that? (Oh, here’s a few details I failed to mention: there is a zero budget for this event and the pilot will be in the US for 4 days, but I won’t know when until about 3 weeks before). So how do I pull this off?

The reason that I am getting into all of this is to make one point: first of all you have to have great content, ’cause you can’t put lipstick on a pig. But with so much great content out there competing for eyeballs, you must stand out – and since this is the craziest thing I’ve done promoting my work, it seemed like an interesting case study. Will it pay off? I don’t know yet ask me in a couple weeks. Back to the promotion:

Actually, let me back up even further. Before you get into anything, you gotta ask yourself: “What’s my goal?” Do you want to get your work out there? Create some buzz for your client? Fundraise? Introduce a new skill set you have to agencies? … I don’t care what your goal is, but you need to to now the endgame. Otherwise you just start throwing stuff at the wall and hoping it sticks.

My goal for this specific event, is to get my corporate documentary film making work in front of creative professionals that book people like me, in front of other photographers and film makers that want to partner up with people like me and companies and organizations that hire people like me.

First of all you need to get all the impossibilities out of the way. I mean those things that will kill the possibility of the event happening. Case in point: I got the opportunity with the movie and the plane, but I need a place that can accomodate both. If I find a hangar and a person willing to let me use it, but they tell me the rental fee is thousands of dollars, well the whole event is a no go – or it’s back to the drawing board.

In my case I called the company that is doing the work on the plane, figuring they would have a vested interest in helping me, since we’re also (indirectly) showcasing their work. I mean it’s still a long shot, but it’s worth a shot. Find out who to talk to, get through the secretary (not always easy), but I found myself with an appointment to show the CEO the short documentary – what ended up happening, was that he had gathered his 5 VP’s as well and – with a little bit of quick thinking and preparedness – the movie ended up being shown on a large TV – not the iPad I had thought would be sufficient for one person to watch. These guys were so impressed by the film that they asked me how they can help me (Hey, that’s usually my line.) Anyway – to make a long story short, they offered me the use of their 20,000 hangar, so we can park the plane next to the screen when we premiere the movie in a few weeks. If you happen to be in South Florida, you can grab tickets here and since you’re reading my blog – use the discount code “owohBLG” to get in for a dollar.

In the next few days I’ll talk about more ways to pull off an event that is memorable and makes you stand out when you show of you’re great content.

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Pascal Depuhl

Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.