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.
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”).
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.