The HBO premiere of The Kids Grow Up is only days away and the dvd release is just over a month away. And, while we’ve had months and months to prepare for both, it’s still kind of a stunning prospect.
Between the film festival circuit and our theatrical release, the film has been screening in front of enthusiastic audiences for over a year-and-a-half now. So it’s exceedingly strange to think that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface in terms of numbers of people who will ultimately see it.
The temptation at such a moment is to call undue attention to myself, and to boost my ever-so-brilliant career as a filmmaker. And I don’t mean to discourage anyone, feel free to say nice things. But gradually over the past year, I’ve come around to pushing a considerably different agenda. Let me go back a bit to explain.
When you tell a personal story, particularly one about your family, it’s important to place it in some kind of larger social context. During the films’ making, the one that emerged was the sharp contrast in fatherhood styles and attitudes between my old-school authoritarian father and me, and then between me and my step-son Josh (who’s about to take yet another year off to be a stay-at-home dad – something I could never imagine doing). It’s a vivid illustration of just how much more involved and emotionally engaged dads are in the lives of their children these days, and the greater balance we’re trying to find between the workplace and home. There’s been a huge cultural shift over the past few generations.
In preparing to do our theatrical release last fall with very little in the way of a traditional marketing budget, we decided to focus much of our outreach efforts on gaining the support of the growing legions of “mommy bloggers” and their readers. In the course of researching and identifying the best and most influential, we also discovered a small but growing cadre of “daddy bloggers”.
The Modern Media Man Summit last fall was pretty much of a disaster, but it was eye-opening in terms of meeting men who are determined to change perceptions of modern-day fatherhood. Among those that impressed me most were the dynamic Roland Warren, President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, and Doug French, a terrific and well-connected blogger who’s spearheading the Dad 2.0 Summit (which will surely be the galvanizing conference for dads and dad bloggers that M3 only dreamed of being).
I forget who coined the phrase “It’s not a movie, it’s a movement.” In our case that’s probably overstating things a bit, but after M3 I began to feel the film could play a role, and maybe a significant role, in changing public perceptions, as well. When HBO agreed to premiere The Kids Grow Up on Father’s Day, it gave us the perfect opportunity to steer the conversation away from my particular parenting story to this larger story that’s playing out in the culture.
With Doug and Roland joining the uber-talented blogger Catherine Connors and me at our wonderful HBO screening and ‘Dad 2.0′ panel the other night, it felt like the culmination of a long and concerted effort. And, in terms of using the broadcast as a launchpad for thoughtful discussion, hopefully a new beginning, too.
On the eve of the television premiere, it’s nice to think that parents — and especially time-challenged parents of young kids — who would no way in hell pay babysitter money on top of ticket prices to see a documentary in a theater, can now see The Kids Grow Up in the comfort of their chaotic homes. I like to imagine them watching sprawled on the floor, reduced to fetal position just thinking about their little tykes growing up and leaving the nest.
I also like to think there will be plenty of mom and dad bloggers out there watching. My hope is that they won’t so much review the film as use it as a springboard for their own thoughts and ideas about the new, involved, emotionally-engaged Dad 2.0.
I, for one, can’t wait to read what they have to say.
In advance of our HBO premiere on Fathers Day (June 19), HBO is hosting a NYC invitation-only screening of The Kids Grow Up for bloggers and press, complete with wine reception and Dad 2.0 panel, on Tuesday, June 14, starting at 6pm. The panel features Roland Warren, President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, and acclaimed parent bloggers Doug French (Laid Off Dad) and Catherine Conners (Her Bad Mother). It will expand on the changing notions of fatherhood explored in the film, and explain more about the exciting Dad 2.0 movement.
If you and a guest are interested in attending, send us an email and we’ll follow up with an official invite and details: info (at) thekidsgrowup (dot) com. If you’re interested in writing about The Kids Grow Up and can’t make the screening, email us and HBO will get a dvd screener to you a week or two before the broadcast.
For those who don’t get HBO, the dvd, with 45-minutes of great bonus material, will be available from New Video starting July 19. You can pre-order it now.
Screenings galore from Honolulu to Helsinki.
Unexpectedly coming aboard a new doc as Executive Producer.
It wins the Best Director prize for U.S. documentaries at Sundance.
It’s enough to make a boy feel, well… resurrected!
Holy crap, the day of our theatrical premiere is here at last! I did a tech check at the Angelika this morning and came away happy with the projection, especially given that they’re not used to digital projection. The manager couldn’t have been nicer – treated me to a double cappucino and moved the blow-up of our humongous Sunday NY Times article outside right next to the box office window.
It’s not like I’m hardened to all this, but we have a group of eager young people in our office here, and they’re super excited about the upcoming weekend. And everyone’s thrilled with the incredible coverage and many great reviews we’ve gotten. A. O. Scott in the New York Times calls The Kids “remarkable” and gives it a Critics’ Pick, as does New York Magazine. Eric Hynes in the Village Voice calls it “nakedly personal” and “profoundly universal,” and Andrew O’Hehir in Salon.com says it’s a “powerful, wrenching movie” (not to worry, he also called it “funny” and “irresistible”).
Whenever you make a personal doc, you have to brace for people ripping you, and sometimes in a very personal way. I’m still amazed that so few slings and arrows have come my way for ’51 Birch Street’ over the years. But with ‘The Kids Grow Up’ opening this Friday in NY, I’m steeling myself again, and probably with more reason.
It’s one thing to put your parents under the probing lens of your camera, quite another to put your young daughter there. So I’m gonna get shots taken at me. In fact, I already have (for the record, Doug Block does like his daughter Lucy). Luckily, I also have my strong supporters.
But one important thing is that the shots will come at me and not Lucy (or so I’d like to believe). Another is that I not only made exactly the film I wanted to make, but that Lucy is still speaking to me. Quite often, in fact, thank you.
One thing I promised myself was that before the film opened theatrically I’d have some kind of response from Lucy posted on our website. And happily, before she went back to college in August, she sat down with me (and my camera) and did a 45-minute interview about her reaction to the film and to being the subject of an intensely personal film by her dad. I should add that it was the first time I shot with Lucy since the end of filming three years ago.
The video is intended for the DVD extras of ‘The Kids,’ at least that’s the plan. But I want to give Lucy a platform before then, so the following is an excerpt from the first few minutes of the interview, very lightly edited for better clarity.
In advance of our premiere at the Angelika Film Center this Friday, two great articles on The Kids in the papers today. The New York Times piece goes more in depth (and gives the film some serious real estate), The New York Daily News opts mainly for a director interview.
More press coverage coming in the days ahead, as well: The Village Voice, Wall Street Journal and indieWIRE, among others.
Thanks and kudos to our extraordinary publicist, Susan Norget, who’s believed in the film from the moment she saw it at our first industry screening last fall. Our entire print ad budget will pay for exactly two postage-stamp sized ads in the Times. And journalists, face it, generally aren’t interested in any film that isn’t celebrity driven, much less a personal documentary. So you can see what kind of job she’s done.
And now it all comes down to getting butts in the seats at the Angelika this coming weekend. If you’re in the NYC area, hope one of them will be yours.
Our country is apparently suffering a serious shortage of modern media men. There couldn’t have been more than 75 people attending this first national gathering of men-folk bloggers, almost all of whom, like me, were flown down to be speakers. While seriously depressing for the M3 organizers, not to mention the dozen or so sponsors sitting all alone at their booths, it was a bonanza for Yours Truly. Just a fantastic opportunity to network and bond with some top dad bloggers and organizations, swap stories and tap into what will inevitably become a growing social force (even if it currently lags far behind the “mommy blogger” movement).
And, I might add, to personally get dozens of dvd screeners of The Kids into some very eager hands.
I tried not to harp so much on how they might help me, though obviously I’d like them to get word out to their readers or membership, at the very least. I prefered to emphasize the ways The Kids Grow Up might be of use to them, as well.
For national organizations like The Fatherhood Initiative, for instance, the fit for their mission is obvious. They’re looking to foster more positive images of caring and involved fathers in the media. Check.
For the bloggers, it’s any number of things: giving them some new and interesting content to share with their readers, making them feel like they’re a vital part of our DIY online marketing effort (which they absolutely are), and giving them first dibs at a film that speaks to their own experiences as dads. Triple check.
Like I’ve said before, when you’re trying to get a movie out into the commercial marketplace on a very limited budget (which includes virtually no money for print ads), you need to enlist some passionate advocates with the widest platform to chat it up. On my desk now are 30 business cards from those I gave screeners to and who seemed genuinely excited about seeing The Kids Grow Up and helping out in whatever way they can.
Promotion aside, I wish I could say I came away from the M3 Summit with profound new insights about social networking, brand building or the changing role of fathers, though all of that was discussed at length.
I did come away knowing there are some truly dedicated dads out there who are equally determined to share their experiences of fatherhood publicly. As well as feeling like I made some genuine connections and friendships that will carry well beyond my efforts to get this one film out into the world.
Mission more than accomplished.
9:50 EST – Ok, I give Cal Ripken credit. Expected he’d just roll in, do a 15-minute shtick, collect his substantial fee and beat it. But he spent almost an hour giving a talk by the indoor pool, telling baseball stories with leadership themes, answering questions, posing for photos and signing autographs (the dire warnings apparently didn’t come from him). Can’t say he said anything particularly memorable but it was a living example of his impressive ironman work ethic. Couldn’t bring myself to hand him a dvd, though I had my chance. It just felt too cheesy.
Afterwards, talked to a few bloggers over drinks and chicken wings. They seemed genuinely excited by The Kids, eager to see it. These guys want to shoot an interview tomorrow. Another is pushing a book driven by his popular blog and is clearly knowlegable about how to drive sales online. Collected a handful of business cards, now flavored with medium hot sauce.
I came in with pretty moderate expectations but this could be a very fruitful few days.
6:21pm EST – On the flight down to Atlanta I try to push out of my mind the dozens of outreach emails I need to crank out and try to focus on the task at hand.
The main one, of course, is I have a film about daddyhood that I want every last daddy blogger here to know — and blog — about. For that I’ve lugged the usual assortment of screeners, postcards and business cards, and actually given some thought to what I’ll say on my Saturday panel. Hopefully I can muster a dollop of personal charm, as well.
Since I want every last daddy (and mommy and son and daughter) to know about The Kids, too, I’m eager to sharpen my social networking skill set. The M3 website promises that I’ll learn all sorts of cutting edge tips and strategies for “harnessing the excitement and electricity of the Internet’s latest buzz” to build my brand.
But beyond all the Self-Promotion 2.0 stuff, I really do have a larger goal. And that’s simply to get beyond any preconceptions about what the M3 Summit is and be open to what can happen when a bunch of thoughtful men who share their day-to-day experiences of fatherhood online get together in one place for a few days. I’m not just eager for a social media revitalization. I need to get my manhood mojo rising.
On that note, I’m about to head off to the opening night party featuring baseball great Cal Ripken, Jr. We’ve been warned ahead of time not to ask Cal for autographs, not to take photos or to record him in any way, shape or form (all cell phones are to be confiscated at the door). Dire consequences are in store for anyone who disobeys.
But nobody said nuthin’ about giving him a dvd screener. Hmmm…
When you have a movie opening soon in theaters that’s essentially a documentary about your daughter (ok, it’s a lot more, but still) and you have little money to market it, you better get pretty damned creative with your marketing. And you better get your sorry ass in gear and start blogging, too.
That’s why I’ll be in Atlanta for the next 3 days at a noteworthy event called the Modern Media Man Summit. Saturday morning I’ll be speaking on a panel called “Over-Sharing: When it comes to your family, how much is too much?” It’s meant for bloggers but could there possibly be a more apropos topic for someone who makes personal docs about his family (not to mention, his teenage daughter!)?
If nothing else, the Summit should bring up lots of food for thought. How are men experiencing fatherhood these days? How are they writing about it? Will the “daddy blogger” movement ever grow to anywhere near the level of “mommy bloggers“? Where oh where is the male Dooce?
I’m bringing along my adorable new notebook laptop, will take it all in like a sponge and hopefully be a bloggin’ and twitterin’ fool. So check back often, I’ll be updating my posts throughout the event.
A truly extraordinary personal documentary that I helped produce will air in the U.S. on POV tomorrow night (Tuesday). Amy Hardie’s THE EDGE OF DREAMING takes on the subject of dreams. And particularly what happens when Amy — a science filmmaker, skeptic and happy mother of three — dreams that her own death will take place within the year. Then her health progressively starts failing.
THE EDGE OF DREAMING is one of those rare films that will stay with you long after you’ve seen it. I’m very proud to have played a role in it, and want to acknowledge the contributions of my fellow producers – Amy, Lori Cheatle and George Chignell. It’s been a long haul, but tomorrow is one of the great payoffs.
So make a date with your local PBS station, 10pm EST (though check your local listings). I urge you not to miss it. But, happily, if you do, or live outside the U.S., it can be seen online for free starting Wednesday and continuing for the next three months.