Suburban Nightmare: Richard Halpern’s Experiment in Independent Distribution Image

Once production was completed, the marketing and distribution phase could begin. What good is making a movie if no one is going to be able to see it? In the past, all independent filmmakers could hope for was that romantic vision of being the next Kevin Smith and having their work snapped up at a film festival such as Sundance or Telluride…that is, of course, if the film could even gain admission to be screened at Sundance or Telluride.

Encapsulating the true independent modus operandi, Halpern took matters into his own hands. Recognizing how much film distribution has changed since the advent of the Internet and streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, Halpern created his own mini-studio, Truben Studios (named in memory of his parents, Trudy and Ben) to handle the marketing, PR, and distribution of his films. He credits mini-majors with humble beginnings such as New Line Cinema and Miramax as inspiration for Truben Studios. While the old-fashioned distribution model certainly functions today (filmmakers can still submit their works to studios in the hope of snagging that elusive distribution deal – a method which Halpern has explored with Suburban Nightmare), with Truben Studios, Halpern ensures that he crucially retains the rights and control over the films that he produces.

“I would not risk putting the movie out on a platform like Vimeo without a pre-order launch…”

Halpern has worked with producer-director Daniel Myrick (one-half of the directing pair behind the mother of all independent movies, The Blair Witch Project) on three of the director’s features. As a result of that professional relationship, Halpern has learned a thing or two about the combined importance of marketing and distribution and the need for a “hook.” Says Halpern, “if your movie has a PR “Hook” to it, it can take on a life of its own.” The guy definitely understands the necessity of marketing innovation.

Eschewing popular video platforms such as Vimeo (“I would not risk putting the movie out on a platform like Vimeo without a pre-order launch, because once the movie is online, it’s dead with any future distributor sales.”) and with Truben Studios firmly established as his personal mini-major, Halpern set his sights upon the crowdsourcing innovation and technology site, IndieGoGo. Traditionally, IndieGoGo is where one might go if he or she were looking to invest in the latest gadgets or gizmos (and anything else, really) at any stage of ideation prior to such projects entering the marketplace: think of it as a virtual Shark Tank.

Ever the innovator, however, Halpern tweaked this model and sought to use IndieGoGo’s viral reach to his advantage. He’s not undertaking the typical route of utilizing IndieGoGo’s crowdsourcing platform to fund the development and production of his film; Suburban Nightmare is already completed. Rather, in what Halpern indicates is an IndieGoGo first, he is offering a movie ticket pre-order for $2.99 in which moviegoers can purchase a ticket (as well as movie swag including t-shirts, signed posters, among other goodies) for the world premiere of Suburban Nightmare that, according to its press release, will be held one week following the conclusion of the IndieGoGo campaign. Ticket buyers will either be able to view the movie simultaneously with all other ticket buyers or to stream the movie at their convenience.

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