SPAA Fringe 2008: The Burning Season

By Simon de Bruyn

Australian climate change themed doco The Burning Season is aiming to defy traditional release strategies by screening theatrically even after it has screened on four national broadcasters, its writer/director Cathy Henkel told SPAA Fringe delegates today.

Speaking as part of Peter Broderick’s session on Hybrid Distribution this morning, Henkel encouraged the audience to think of distribution as a positive experience rather than a painful hurdle at the end of the filmmaking process.

“It becomes a gift and reward and is why we make the film in the first place. I urge you to look at distribution as a positive thing where you and the audience finally meet,” she said.

She explained that clever distribution using new methodologies can actually give the film much more life than traditional staid methods, as long as filmmakers are not precious about toying with the edit and tailoring the film for different audiences.

The Burning Season has so far screened on PBS in the United States, the BBC in Britain, CBC in Canada and the ABC here, all in different lengths, with different edits and voiceovers.

“The film is rolling out in a very unorthodox way. Throw out the idea that having your film screened on television is the end of it, our film has been screened on multiple broadcasters but we are gearing up for a cinema release. The film has had multiple changes by different broadcasters for different audiences, and we are going back into the edit suite for the cinema version,” she said.

She added that it was important for filmmakers to jump on board with distributors, and echoed Broderick’s comments that there was no longer room for filmmakers who wanted to stay out of the release and marketing process.

“We are working in partnership with a distributor, not handing it over to them and expecting them to do everything. We are also co-financing the release with them,” she said.