By Simon de Bruyn

The past few months have held a lot of lessons for Monkey Puzzle director Mark Forstmann and producer Tamara Popper, after they decided to leap headlong into the distribution game to bring their film to Australian cinema screens.

Movie Network had bought the Pay TV rights when the film was at the fine cut stage, Madman had come on board for DVD release, and the film had started to get some traction with festival screenings – opening the Byron Bay Film Festival and winning the Best Environment Film prize in Shanghai – so the filmmakers felt confident they could secure a cinema release.

Forstmann told INSIDEFILM they used the money from the TV sale to market the film, and after securing some screenings at ACMI in Melbourne in September have now secured limited theatrical runs in Victoria and New South Wales commencing this week. However, distributing the film was much harder than either of them had imagined.

“I always thought that if you have a good story and film then it will get out there but I’ve learnt that while people might be satisfied with a good story, they might not go out to the film in the first place. We’ve had to learn along the way and we found out distribution is much harder than we thought. I wish I knew more before I started,” he said.

“I’ve learnt a lot and I think I understand the industry much better now, and understand some of the financial imperatives and realised why it’s so hard for distributors, more than we give them credit for. You need to know not only who your audience is but the most suitable platform for release, and what type of cinemas you should target. We decided to go out digitally, but did make up a couple of film prints to send to [regional cinemas].”

He explained that the foundation of their marketing strategy was the film’s website, which was built by design company Mathematics – which also did the film’s opening titles.

“We knew early on that the only way we could talk directly to our audience was through our website. We used it to build word of mouth, with banner ads and our Facebook site linking back to it and also for people who might have seen it at festivals to find more information. The website also has longevity, as there’ll always be a page there through its festival season, theatrical run and later to promote the DVD.”

Monkey Puzzle screens at:
Chauvel Cinema, Paddington – from Thursday 23rd October.
The Edge Cinema, Katoomba – from Wednesday 22nd October.
Palace George, St Kilda – from Thursday 30th October

You can read INSIDEFILM‘s review of the film here, or watch the trailer for the film here.

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