DIY filmmaking, marketing and distribution w/ Filmmaker Ava DuVernay

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Le Anne Lindsay and Ava DuVernay
The good part about still being unemployed is being able to attend networking lunches without worrying about being out of the office too long. Last week Reelblack, in conjunction with PIFVA and Scribe Video Center invited industry PR maven, turned indie filmmaker, Ava DuVernay to discuss "Do It Yourself" promotion, film distribution, her new feature length film I Will Follow and a new initiative aimed at giving black films a wide release in commercial theaters, called AFFRM (African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement).

(pictured: me and Ava DuVernay)

Coverage of  writer/director/producer/filmmaker Ava DuVernay from 2011 to present.
(pictured: Producer, Gala P. Goodwin and Ava DuVernay)
DuVernay is still the president and founder of a successful LA based media and marketing firm called DVA, which promoted such films as Invictus, Dream Girls, Shrek, Collateral and more; however in 2006 she became less interested in hyping other people's films and more interested in making her own. She set about making This is the Life a documentary about the LA alternative hip hop scene and My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip Hop. Her narrative, I Will Follow, staring Salli Richardson-Whitfield and featuring Blair Underwood is about a woman who's grieving after the recent loss of a close relative and the interactions she has with a series of people on the day of her move. DuVernay says the film is not edgy or avant-garde, just very much from the heart.

Which brings us back to AFFRM. When she wanted her documentary to be shown in a theater, she four walled it. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, DuVernay explains it thus, "If you say Hello Mr. Theater can you book me in? Mr. Theater responds, No, of co
urse not black filmmaker go away". But four walling is just buying out the theater for a block of time. You do the self promotion to get bodies in seats, but your film will be on the theater's listings of movies and showtimes.

But for this feature film, she wanted to reach a wider audience, giving her the idea to approach 5 Black Film Organization around the country - "What if we all released a film on the same day? Wouldn't that be a national release? Isn't that what the studios do? Can't we just do this? Not just a screening, or a tour, but a national theatrical release." And so on F
riday, March 11th Urbanworld Film Festival in New York, the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, the ReelBlack Film Series in Philadelphia, the BronzeLens Film Festival in Atlanta and the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival in Seattle will open I Will Follow at AMC theaters for 2 weeks with several screening times. If successful, AFFRM plans to have two films released a year, one in March and another in August.

Coverage of  writer/director/producer/filmmaker Ava DuVernay from 2011 to present.

(pictured: filmmaker, Joey B Ellis and Executive at SBE Entertainment)

What are the AFFRM Guidl
ines? Films will be chosen by a panel made up from the 5 black film organizations, all of which, except for Philly, produce a black film festival each year; so only films that have played at one of the festivals will be considered.

How concerned will AFFRM be about choosing films based on making money?
"Our threshold for success is different than say, Paramount Pictures threshold, we're not interested in having to recoup a certain amount of money or triple our investment. We're interested in presenting black film, so for us, making enough just to be able to present the next one is what we're looking for; that will allow us to be much more flexible in what we're choosing. The way the model is put together is gonna allow us to be free of the constraints of what's good and what works, it's about what moves us and what we want to present. That's the goal in theory, so hopefully we can stay true to ourselves and stick to that."

Actor Nakia Dillard 2011
(pictured:Actor/Producer, Nakia Dillard)

Also discussed during this very well attended brown bag lunch (my lunch consisted of a really plump and juicy super sized hot dog from 7 Eleven, better than I remembered, haven't had one in years!) financing, monetizing, promoting and distributing your film. Ava wants to encourage filmmakers to take advantage of the fact that new technology has given us the tools to do a lot on our own. "It's still not easy, but so much more possible. It's about not being intimated and doing the hard work and research."

Tatiana Baccus 2011
For instance, she was offered a DVD distribution deal for the rights in perpetuity for This is the Life, $15,000 which was attractive as the whole film cost $15 grand to make. But she didn't like the word "perpetuity". "Who says that word? It's crazy, are you saying forever to me? Never again will I be able to own my film?" She suggests a filmmaker not even go for a 10 year deal, 2 -5 year maximum. She, however, decided to go the entrepreneur route and replicate the DVDs herself. A contact from the same company that burns and packages for studio films: shrink wrap, cover art, barcode, all completely professional, and all for 95 cents each. She sells them on her website for $19.99 and also distributes through other wholesale online outlets (Blockbuster, Walmart). "So many outlets now, compared to 10 years ago when the only option was to wait for someone to buy the rights and distribute for you. Now you can be on Amazon in a week, be streaming on Netflix (indie flix) in 10 days. In the first year we sold 5000 DVDs, that was just the first year, by holding out and doing the hard work, I tripled my investment and got the satisfaction of keeping my material, which I feel is really important."

I asked Ava how is she able to do all of this while also running her PR firm, she said, yes, she's a little busy, but she has a hybrid staff of really amazing people who work with her on both ends, and she's now super selective about the projects she takes on in terms of media and marketing; her current selection being the film The Help with Viola Davis. "I take on projects I'm passionate about now."

Philly Filmmakers 2011
(pictured left to right: filmmakers Tiona M (black.womyn), Aishah Shahidah Simmons (No! The Rape Documentary) below Nisa Ra (Black Love Lives)

Covering film events Philly
From distribution the talk turned to promotion. "You used to have to go through a publicist like me, now your film's facebook page can garner 80,000 facebook friends. Even shorts can now make money through YouTube and facebook films." In terms of raising money, there's Indie GoGo, Kickstarter,, people all over the country who patronize film can read about your project and make a donation online. You can set it up with incentives like - $5 send them a poster, $100 gets you a conversation with the director, $1000 attend the opening. She advises not to set large goals like $100,000, instead do pledges little by little, $10,000 pre-production, then come back in a few months and ask for another $5000 for casting or $3000 to attend Sundance...

"People are playing with everything right now, all the traditional models have collapsed. Even Sony and Paramount don't know what to do at this point. It's a brand new world, go and figure it out."

I hope my readers will go and support this film and the AFFRM initiative on March 11th at AMC Cherry Hill - See you there!

While You're Here

Check Out More Tinsel & Tine Coverage of Ava DuVernay

I Will Follow

Earlier this month I did a post on filmmaker, Ava DuVernay (click for post) which among other things discussed the new initiative aimed at giving films of color a wide release in commercial theaters, called AFFRM (African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement).

AFFRM's inaugural release is set for March 11th with Ava's film I Will Follow. Last week I was privy to a Reelblack press screening of the film. Now, it's my policy not to read any reviews of films before I write my own, as I don't want my opinion to be influenced or my words to be inspired by another. However, when I opened by inbox to see that Roger Ebert had reviewed the film, I couldn't help but peep his video review and I have to say, it's exactly what I was hoping to express. So I'm not going to write my own commentary, I decided to re-blog Ebert's transcript below.

One of the things that I love about his review is that it in no way categorizes I Will Follow as a black film, by a new black female director. His review is based on the merits of the film as they stand. And it's not a "black film", it's a quiet film, it's a reflective film and for those reason's it may not appeal to a wide audience, but anyone who loves a good indie pick should go and support this film opening weekend. For my friends and readers in New York City it's playing at AMC Loews 34th Street. For Philly audiences that means crossing the bridge to AMC Cherry Hill, but I think you'll find it's worth the toll.

A wonderful new film named "I Will Follow" tells the story of a woman coming to terms with the death of an aunt she deeply loved. The movie stars Salli Richardson-Whitfield in a perfectly realized performance as the niece, named Maye, who lived with her aunt the last year of her life.

As she packs up her aunt's room, she also deals with her memories and loss. Then Fran, the aunt's daughter arrives. She is played by Michole White, and resents how Maye accepted her aunt's decision to die at home and refuse chemotherapy.

We realize the issues between these two women go back a long way. Fran always believed her mother loved Maye more than her own daughter.

In flashbacks, we see Maye's memories of the departed aunt, played by Beverly Todd. Amanda was a musician for recording sessions--a rock and roll guitarist--who lived life on her own exuberant terms.

As friends, strangers and neighbors pass through the house all day, Sally Richardson-Whitfield shows this woman in a beautifully modulated process of loss and grief, memory and acceptance. "I Will Follow" is one of the best films I've seen about coming to terms with the death of loved one. Directed by Ava DuVernay, it isn't sentimental, it isn't superficial. It is very deeply true.

Coverage of  writer/director/producer/filmmaker Ava DuVernay from 2011 to present.
6th Annual BlackStar Film Festival

Coverage of  writer/director/producer/filmmaker Ava DuVernay from 2011 to present.
Middle of Nowhere Interview with 

Ava DuVernay and Emayatzy Corinealdi

Coverage of  writer/director/producer/filmmaker Ava DuVernay from 2011 to present.
Selma Interview with Ava DuVernay

Coverage of  writer/director/producer/filmmaker Ava DuVernay from 2011 to present.
Filmmaker Maris Curran has Ava DuVernay to thank for introducing her to David Oyelowo
Coverage of writer/director/producer/filmmaker Ava DuVernay from 2011 to present.
Announcement of AFFRM changing to ARRAY

Philly Events Calendar

ADD YOUR EVENT for FREE! - which includes SOCIAL MEDIA BLASTS!  Click AGENDA VIEW to see complete list of happenings.

Featured Post


Tinsel & Tine Winners for Preview Screening Contest Guest on The LAMB Podcast Lambcast #470: CAPTAIN MARVEL w/ Rich Kirkh...

Food n Film: BURNT

Food n Film: BURNT
Bradley Cooper has more than charisma, he has an over abundance of Chi, which radiates out from him; so for me, this role as temperamental and damaged chef Adam Jones, who also inspires great love and admiration from those around him, works on the level of characterization. In fact, I think he's among a very short list of actors who would be able to pull off being so self-involved and yet likable. Doesn't hurt that he really speaks French too! READ POST

Food n Film: CHEF

Food n Film: CHEF
Much of the movie centers around the father/son relationship, and how much they learn from each other. But the real star of the film is all the food preparation, every other scene made me groan with want of everything up on that screen! Particularly the perfectly roasted and rubbed brisket, the crispy fat of the pork belly, sizzling bacon and the much ballyhooed Chocolate Lava Cake. READ POST


The key to deciphering both the city it beautifully depicts and the man who eats it best - City of Gold

By Tinsel & Tine Contributor Denine Gorniak (The Bicycle-Chef)

What Jonathan Gold, Los Angeles Times food critic/writer, has done for food writing journalism and for the restaurants that he loves, the movie, City of Gold has done for Jonathan Gold and Los Angeles and its surrounding environs – it has planted taco covered kisses on them... READ POST

Food n Film: CHOCOLAT

Food n Film: CHOCOLAT
If you’re a foodie movie lover who saw Lasse Hallström’s The Hundred Foot Journey (see T&T post), this summer you may be wondering what delicious visual journey might be awaiting you in the theater next. Well, how about a look back at his film Chocolat (2000), which stars French actress Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp. Hallström’s has a special talent for turning cooking into a dramatic movie journey...READ MORE


...young Hassan, a soulful-eyed boy with lush, thick eye lashes, places his face into the sea urchin basket, and breathes in the exotic briny scent. He sticks his fingers into the aquatic ooze, takes it to his mouth and is transfixed by the taste. The vendor, oblivious to the thrusting arms of frenzied women, notices the boy and realizes he is the only one worthy of this oceanic prize; he is the one who can “truly taste.” ... READ MORE

Food n Film: JULIE & JULIA

Food n Film: JULIE & JULIA
Personally, I like the unevenness of it, because I fell in love with the post World War II, Parisian sights, sounds, food and romance between Julia and Paul. I always felt a bit jarred back into reality when the scenes returned to Julie's meltdowns and cramped kitchen.READ POST

Food n Film: EAT PRAY LOVE

Food n Film: EAT PRAY LOVE
Six months into my 38th year of this life, I had my first panic attack. I didn't know that's what it was until months later. Symptom after symptom starting piling up on me until there were days I could no longer move my arms or neck. The doctors told me I was suffering from an auto-immune condition that they felt was most likely Lupus. And so began my much deeper journey and exploration into the world of spirit, alternative medicine, yoga, meditation and Eat, Pray, Love. READ POST


With a film like this, food plays a main character in the story and I was lucky enough to get an interview with the film's Food Stylist, Janine Kalesis.READ POST

Food n Film: WAITRESS

Food n Film: WAITRESS
In this 2007 film, Keri Russell stars as Jenna - a desolate diner waitress seeking solace in the art of pie-making. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, she’s eager to escape her husband and her small-town hell and sets about to make a run for it by entering an out of town pie baking contest. READ POST


Those of us in attendance were not only given the opportunity to see Babette's Feast, the Oscar winning, Danish film, considered one of the all-time great "food films"; we also got to taste Babette's menu! READ POST


I participated in WalkMS Philly on 4/30/16
Thank you to the readers who donated to the cause - It's not too late to support! Click badge below

15 Top Food in Film Flicks

15 Top Food in Film Flicks
Cozy Quilt of Food Movies, we'll add more patches as T &T discovers more films where food plays the biggest "roll"

Tinsel & Tine on

Tinsel & Tine on
Really love this platform, you feature your stuff and other people's stuff you follow, and it all configures like the front page of a newspaper. Click to see what I mean

Visit Our YouTube Channel

Visit Our YouTube Channel
View Q & A's with visiting Filmmakers to Philly

Philly Food and Film

Videographer Oliver Gallini 5 min short featuring organic-chemist-turned-chef, Townsend Wentz, who got his start at The Four Seasons Philadelphia.


Cross Content Blogs


Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tinsel & Tine was nominated for a VBA



group of 10,000 women bloggers dedicated to supporting one another by leaving comments

Women Online

The Blogstress Network

The Blogstress Network
Female Bloggers Unite

Contributor from 2010 - 2012

About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

Camera Tips


  © Blogger template On The Road by 2009

Back to TOP