Wow, we’ve had screenings in over 300 cities across the country! Is your city next? YOU decide: tugg.com
In a tough economic climate and a time when we all get hundreds of fundraising appeals each year from direct mail, phone calls, and social media, how do you create an effective fundraiser for a cause you care about? This was the question my wife and I were asking each other a few months ago, as we started our annual training season and fundraiser with TeamFX in Austin, Texas. TeamFX is a running group that trains for the Austin Marathon and raises money for the Austin Children’s Shelter, a great local organization that provides housing and support for kids suffering trauma, abuse, or neglect. My wife and I committed to raise $1200 this season and in our search for creative fundraising options, we decided to try a special movie screening and raffle.
With Tugg’s help we discovered that we could screen Chariots of Fire, the 1981 Oscar winner for Best Picture and a classic inspirational title for runners. In addition to the movie we built in a short presentation about the movie’s place in film history and, of course, the raffle added to the draw. The ticket sales and logistics on-site went off without a hitch. Staff from the shelter attended to talk about their mission and we had a short video about their work. All told, we raised about $400 for ACS at this event and, more importantly, it was a fun and memorable night for the running community. Several people suggested afterward that a movie screening fundraiser should be an annual event for TeamFX.
The keys to success for an event like this are attendance, location, and moving people to take the extra step to donate to your cause. For any future event I think we would schedule earlier in the year, away from the crowded holiday party season, and we would concentrate a bit more on marketing, although I think we were successful at getting the word out through social media and cheaply produced postcards. We were fortunate that Tugg had a relationship with one of the most popular cinemas in town, Alamo Drafthouse, since I think the Alamo experience itself was a draw for our attendees. Finally, since the goal here was raising funds for the shelter, finding ways to steer people into online donations was important, as was the opportunity to donate cash during the screening - buying raffle tickets, tossing money in a hat, or whatever means you can devise. We raised as much money on the night of the screening as we did online.
Many thanks for Tugg for helping us arrange our Chariots of Fire screening, supporting the Austin Children’s Shelter, and providing a memorable night for the running community!
- Christopher Lucas
As independent filmmakers know, the work of getting your film seen can be as consuming a project as getting the film made in the first place—touring on the festival circuit, working with booking agents, locking down digital distribution, and in the case of documentary filmmakers, applying for grants that allow for the film to get in front of its intended audiences. We caught up recently with Austin-based filmmaker Heather Courtney during one such busy round of grant writing to talk about her upcoming screening of her acclaimed documentary, Where Soldiers Come From.
“It’s all kind of a blur,” says Courtney when asked about the various screenings the film has enjoyed recently. “I’ve had some for veterans’ groups, and of course we’ve worked with a booking agent to get it played. The specifics of how each one has come about kind of runs together. And I’m working on some community outreach grants to help get it seen even more places.”
Where Soldiers Come From, which has garnered awards at festivals around the country, including a Jury Award for Editing at the SXSW Film Festival, Best Documentary Feature at the Philadelphia Film Festival, and the Founders Award for Best U.S. Documentary at the Traverse City Film Festival, follows the lives of a group of young men in a National Guard unit from Courtney’s hometown in rural Michigan. Getting to know them in their small-town home, the film then follows their deployment to Afghanistan and their subsequent readjustment to civilian life back home.
Given the subject matter, Courtney is quick to point out that the film is much more focused on the emotional and human stories of the individuals portrayed than it is in making any overt political statement. She hopes that audiences, including those vast numbers of us with no personal connection to the war, will still be able to connect with and relate to the human and complex lives on screen.
The film of course has an obvious and deep appeal to one group in particular; veterans of war. When the film became available on Tugg, there was immediate interest from veterans’ organizations to create screenings and share the film with their communities.
“I think Tugg is a really great way for films to be accessed by community groups,” says Courtney. “In the past, interested groups might have had to go to a church or a cafe or somewhere like that and hook up a DVD. Not that there’s anything bad about that, but a screening like this allows these groups to see the film and have it look good. It’s very audience-generated.”
The film had its first Tugg screening in San Francisco, put together by SF Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, and will be screened through Tugg again on April 23rd in Austin, TX. The upcoming screening, which will feature a Q&A with Courtney herself, is being presented as fundraiser by Under the Hood Café, a multi-use community space in Killeen, Texas near Fort Hood. The cafe serves as meeting space where soldiers, their families, and community members can socialize, participate in peer-led art workshops, and receive information and referrals on service members’ rights and psychological services.
The screening provides Under the Hood Café a new forum to raise awareness, ignite action, and share with their community the often untold and overlooked real-life stories of our men and women in uniform.
Under the Hood Café presents Where Soldiers Come From
Monday, April 23rd, 6pm
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar
Tickets and more information can be found here
Classic Screens: billyc1954:
Warner Beverly Theatre shot from Canon Drive in the 30’s. VIA Marc Wanamaker/Bison Archives via Beverly Hills Historical Society
Every Friday at Tugg is SciFriday which means we highlight a scifi movie in our library as the film of the day. Today’s FOTD is RoboCop and here’s a really neat article about the city of Detroit putting up a statue of RoboCop.
American Film Institute Returns to the White House to Celebrate 50th Anniversary of “TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD”
The American Film Institute (AFI), in conjunction with USA Network and Universal Pictures, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at the White House on Thursday, April 5 and with the nation on Saturday, April 7.
More and more, people all over the country are discovering the benefits of Tugg.com to facilitate their cinematic wants and needs. Data, statistics, and advertising are all well and good, but nothing more clearly communicates the advantages and qualities of a service like Tugg than a good old-fashioned success story. We thought we’d share a few of them with you.
Recently, we spoke with Laurel Eldridge, the Program Director of the Arts and Education Council in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Laurel was determined to bring the live-action shorts nominated for this year’s Academy Awards to Chattanooga, but faced some major hurdles trying to secure them for a town of her size. With the help of Tugg.com, she was able to circumnavigate the obstacles of being a small-market cinephile.
Tell us a little about your background and your work with the Arts & Education Council.
We are a nonprofit organization and we have been working in Chattanooga since 1952. We do a variety of programs including the Conference on Southern Literature, a lot of artist residencies in the schools, and we also have several film programs. We’ve done an independent film series since the late 60s. It’s an all-volunteer committee that gets together and selects films and for the past twelve years we’ve been fortunate enough to hold that at the Carmike theater downtown. We also do a monthly Backrow Film series; these are one-night screening events with food and discussion.
What specific challenges were you facing putting these film series together that made you decide to utilize Tugg?
This project came at a really good time for us, because we’d been struggling for the past year or so to get the films that we wanted in the independent film series. Even though we have a great partner like Carmike that helps us negotiate with distributors, it’s just been more difficult over the past year to get the films to come to a market that’s this small and, probably, least appealing to them. We kind have to wait and see how films do in Atlanta, Nashville, and some of the other big cities around here before we get them in Chattanooga. I’m not sure why. It wasn’t too bad for several years, but it’s just been getting more difficult. But we still want to be able to provide film events. It’s just harder to do it as a twelve-week film series and know in advance that we’ll have twelve weeks of movies so we can promote them. So when Tugg came up, it was a great solution for us and it worked out really well our very first time.
You’ve mentioned some of the distribution and exhibition challenges of living in a smaller market like Chattanooga, but can you give us a sense of the film community there and the overall interests of movie-goers?
There’s a really interesting film community here. We have several different groups and we all host different events and sort of reach different audiences within the total community. At the AEC, we tend to reach an older demographic; people who still want to go to the theaters and see independent films, but aren’t as likely to watch them via streaming or some of the newer methods. Then there’s the Chattanooga Film Commission that’s working to bring filmmakers here to get more movies made here in town. There’s also a film society that does events and advocacy, and a couple smaller groups who do the more underground events. So there are all these different segments and we all reach different portions of this growing film community. It’s really interesting. For the size of Chattanooga, I think our audience is not reflective of how the studios would see us. There really is an audience here that wants to see these films.
Why was it so important for you to bring the live-action Oscar shorts in particular to Chattanooga?
Well, we’ve never done that before. Several years ago, we used to bring the Nashville Sinking Creek Film Fest shorts here. It was a one-day event in which people got together and watch these film shorts. It was so popular. But we haven’t had the opportunity to do that in a long time. So with the Oscar shorts, this was a great way to try out Tugg. These shorts are not something you can dismiss in the theater because it’s not as if you can easily watch them at home; you can’t really go rent these shorts. It made the screening a very special opportunity. Right away, there was a huge interest. People were really interested in seeing these films in a setting like this.
So the interest was there, the community was onboard, but you were running into issues as a smaller market brining the shorts to town. How did you discover Tugg as a possible solution?
They actually contacted us. I got an email from a representative kind of explaining what they wanted to do. It was very fortuitous because at the same time we were sitting here with our board contemplating how we were going to survive in this changing industry. So when I got this email, I was intrigued. The rep explained that they were looking at Chattanooga as a pilot city, a test city. I think he found out about us through the other film programs that we’d been doing for so long and thought that what we were trying to do fell right in line with what Tugg was trying to do.
They were pretty proactive then in offering a solution?
How quickly were you able to secure enough tickets to meet the minimum requirement?
I think it took maybe 36 hours, it was really fast. It blew me away. When you see the link to your event with the ticking clock and the number of tickets sold reads “0,” it makes you nervous. But we put it up on Facebook, Tweeted it, and sent out an email blast to our subscribers and donors, and it just started going up. Every time I looked at it again after that, it had jumped up ten or so more ticket sales. I actually wanted to get something published in the local paper but they weren’t sure how to promote a screening that may or may not happen. But we were able to reach the 50-ticket minimum really quickly. We sold out about a week in advance and then moved to a larger theater and sold about 25 more seats. But we still turned away at least 50 people. Chattanooga’s kind of notorious for people not buying tickets in advance and waiting until the last minute just assuming there will be space. Hopefully this woke them up because yesterday we published the link to another Tugg screening we’re doing for the animated Oscar shorts on April 10th. I think we’re about 30-35 tickets sold since yesterday morning so I’m confident we’ll get to 50 again before the deadline.
I can see how it would be problematic trying to get print media to advertise something that then may not occur. But on the flipside of that, do you feel the fact that the screening lives or dies by the community creates sort of a grassroots mentality or a rallying cry that might actually be of benefit given your film community?
Yeah, and that’s what was really interesting about this event. When I was checking people in at the theater, I was noticing that it was a crowd that I normally wouldn’t think would be that savvy with the Facebook/Twitter social media stuff. I think email probably played a big role with our audience. It was difficult at first to get traditional media to promote us, but luckily we have an alternative weekly paper that’s really good about Retweeting our stuff and posting on their Facebook page, and this was something right up their alley. But when it comes down to it, you have to buy a ticket and then you have to forward it on to other people.
Could you see the film community in Chattanooga being enhanced by the more widespread utilization of Tugg in the area?
Definitely, I really do. Besides the programming that we’re doing, and the other organizations that are trying to get films here that otherwise wouldn’t be, there’s a huge void. The struggles that we’ve been facing in the past year just trying to get the movies here is been a nightmare. I think this a great way to give people another chance to get out and see these films.
Which of the Oscar shorts was your favorite?
I actually didn’t get to see them believe it or not. I gave someone my seat because it was sold out. I was disappointed, I think I was the first person to buy a ticket.
You lead the charge to put the screening together and then don’t even get to see it? That’s dedication to your community. So this theater in which you held your screening, was it a big multiplex or a more local venue?
It was a multiplex downtown, I think they have twelve screens. What was funny is that we were there on the same night as the premiere of The Hunger Games and yet the manager there was saying, “next time, we’ll get you into a bigger theater.” They were really excited to have a sold out theater beyond The Hunger Games. It was great for us to have that encouragement from the theater.
That’s something I think a lot of first time Tugg users will be curious about is the promoter’s relationship with the theater given that the screening is not directly set up between the two of you. But in your experience, they were very amenable to your screening and even accommodating it sounds like?
Yeah, it was great. They were very easy to work with. We have worked with them before through the independent film series, but that’s very different. In that case, we show one movie for an entire week so we’re not down there. We’re not that involved; not interacting them. And since I didn’t get to go inside to watch the shorts, I spoke with the manger in the lobby and got a great sense of what they were looking for and why he felt like Tugg was a great thing. From his perspective, the theater’s perspective, they have some nights that are really dead during the week and this is a great way to get people there.
So what advice would you give to first time Tugg users, maybe not just organizations but individuals as well, in order to make their screening successful?
I would suggest doing some research before getting started to see what people are interested in. And of course, make sure you have a really good film. It was such an easy experience. What I love about Tugg is that you know what people want to see, and if something doesn’t work you know right away. And it’s not a big loss; it actually helps give you some direction for next time.
So you’ve mentioned the animated Oscar shorts screening, do you have any plans to move into Tugg screenings of feature-length films anytime soon?
We’re actually trying to show Bullhead here in May using Tugg, and I’m really curious to see how that goes. With the Oscar shorts, that really feels like a special night. You hardly ever get to see shorts on the big screen, at least not in Chattanooga. I don’t think Bullhead comes out on DVD until June, but it is a film that you could have access to down the road if you missed it in theaters. So I think it’ll be interesting to see how that one does, because that is the type of movie that we would normally show at our film series. We show a lot of foreign language films and I thought Bullhead would be a good one; something our audience would like to see.
Well, Bullhead is a tremendous film and I think your film community will respond to it very well.
And we would love to do something monthly, or every couple of months so hopefully it keeps growing. We had amazing feedback. I got emails and calls all day the day after the screening. They wanted to know when the next one was and to be added to our list, and that’s why we are doing the animated shorts screening. It let us get our name out there as well and to draw attention to our other film series.
Note: As of this publishing, Laurel and the Chattanooga Arts & Education Council have already met their threshold for the animated Oscar shorts screening.
The Archipelago Cinema: Floating movie theater might just be the coolest place on Earth
Movie theaters are inherently awesome places to be on their own, evoking memories of past big-screen adventures and nights spent eating popcorn and candy for supper. For a new film festival in Thailand called Film on the Rocks Yao Noi, an outdoor cinema was constructed in the most unlikely of places: right on top of the water. And it just might be the most amazing place you could ever want to watch a movie.