Jucy: Alternate means of distributing and promoting independent films

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 8th November 2011.

Fans and supporters of Australian cinema were given a treat on Friday night as Orange hosted a gala screening of the new film, Jucy. Although promotional tours are common in the film industry, Orange is rarely on the itinerary.  Brisbane based director Louise Alston, writer Stephen Vagg and stars Francesca Gasteen and Cindy Nelson are on a road trip to promote their low budget independent feature. With successful screenings in Canberra and Wagga Wagga under their belts so far, they were keen to interact with audience members during a Q & A session following the screening.

I was particularly intrigued by this grassroots approach to film distribution and promotion that is so far removed from the marketing of your typical robots fighting robots mainstream blockbuster, and had the pleasure of chatting to the filmmakers and actors before the screening.

Director Louise Alston says she was buoyed by the success of Bob Connolly’s independent film, Mrs Carey’s Concert, which utilised a similar marketing plan, and as a filmmaker, these screenings really brought her in touch with her potential audience. “We have more love (for Jucy) than somebody selling a whole lot of films. This is our baby so we put a lot of effort in.”

Writer Stephen Vagg explained that this was the second stage in the film’s promotional life and that Jucy had already been well received on the international film festival circuit, with successful screenings at festivals in Toronto, Seattle, London, Seoul and Tel Aviv. “For non-Hollywood films, festivals are very important and they have been for us, but now we’re doing a domestic release and we really want to push it as much as we can by doing personal appearances. We don’t want it (Jucy) to sit on the shelf. We want as many people to see it as possible.”

Vagg also revealed that Wagga Wagga was chosen for a screening because it is director Alston’s home town, and that some of her aunts and uncles hail from Orange.

Described as a “womantic” comedy (think “womance” instead of “bromance”), Jucy is loosely based on the lives of stars Gasteen and Nelson, best friends in real life and both stalwarts of the Brisbane theatre scene. Jackie (Nelson) and Lucy (Gasteen) are best friends, collectively known as Jucy, who do everything together, including amateur theatre. As outsiders, their attempts to fit into the cool crowd by becoming more mainstream create unforeseen pressures which may tear their friendship apart.

The cinematic success of Red Dog this year proves that there is a market for Australian fare that doesn’t involve horror, crime or depressing drug stories. It was great to see posters for a low budget home grown flick like Jucy sitting alongside promotional standees for box office behemoths such as Real Steel and The Smurfs.

The nature of cinema in general does not really allow for a personal connection between the filmmakers and the audience. I am sure that the audience on Friday enjoyed meeting the stars and creative team behind Jucy. Let’s hope this marketing approach is successful and more independent films (and filmmakers) can come to Orange.

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