Part 19, Taking our film to Eastern Europe

buzz_mclaughlin_producerAfter our American premiere at the Starz Denver Film Festival we continued to tour the festival circuit for well over another year. The entire list of seventeen festivals can be found on this website’s film festival page.

It was quite an adventuresome time for us as we always had at least two more festivals looming as another one was wrapping up.

Probably the most fun experience for us was a trip that Aaron and I made with Ian Somerhalder and his father Robert to the Vilnius International Film Festival in Lithuania. And it serves as an excellent example of how being selected at one festival can lead you to another.

The director of the Vilnius festival is Edvinus Puksta, who travels every year to all the major fests looking for interesting films for his own festival. He saw the film at San Sebastian and loved it. Shortly after San Sebastian he got in touch with us and managed to arrange financing for the four of us to travel to Vilnius a few months later for the festival and to stay at a lovely downtown hotel.

The Vilnius fest was one of the best run festival experiences we encountered. The city itself is an unspoiled old world Eastern European beauty and the venues for the fest were all first rate. And we were treated royally by Edvinus and his team from start to finish.

Best of all, our film was extremely well received by overflow crowds. In fact, The Sensation of Sight was voted the 4th most liked film out of the 60 films hand picked by Edvinas and his programmers from around the world. Extra screenings had to be added beyond those officially scheduled and the enthusiastic feedback we received while we were there was gratifying to say the least.

Aaron and me with Edvinas in Lithuania

Aaron and me with Edvinas in Lithuania

We think that one of the reasons the film was so popular in this Eastern European country is because Lithuanians still had a lingering memory of the repressive communist regime that ruled there less than twenty years before and were able to relate to the themes of loss and rebirth that the film deals with. The audiences there are thinking people who love to engage with cinema with both their hearts and their minds and it seems our film was a good fit for this crowd.

We also had the chance to tour various sites in Vilnius, the most memorable being the KGB prison museum—the actual former prison right in town where political prisoners were held sometimes for years without formal charges against them and who were tortured and often never seen again. It was a sobering experience for four Americans who breezed into town and were being feted at a film festival. It was also a reminder of what these people suffered for so long under communist rule and helped to explain why we sensed this combination of seriousness and spirited enthusiasm from the Lithuanian people we met.

Another memorable part of this trip was just hanging out with Aaron, Ian and his dad and enjoying this unique opportunity to dive into a different and vibrant culture. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming that we seemed to be constantly moving from one event or party to the next with very little time for sleep—especially traveling in the company of the Somerhalders who, both father and son, love a good time and never seem to run out of energy. After a couple of days I realized sleep would have to wait for the long flight home. We all left with many fond memories indeed.

Robert and Ian Somerhalder in Lithuania

Robert and Ian Somerhalder in Lithuania

I want to go on record as saying that the Vilnius International Film Festival is a gem. The film selection, the staff, the city, the savvy audiences—all combine to make this one very special and unique.

So the rest of our festival tour around the world continued over the next year—from Shanghai, China to Durban, South Africa to Krakow, Poland to Tallin, Estonia and to many other American cities like Seattle, Boston, Dallas, San Jose, Santa Fe, Ashland, Stony Brook, and Mendocino. A colorful ride and somewhat circuitous route to be sure.

And all through this extended tour we were also actively looking for a distributor and sending out screener after screener. And that’s a whole other story…

(Next: Moving toward distribution…)

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172 comments »

  1. John W. Bosley said,
    December 16, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

    Now looking back, besides invites, do you feel that long exstensive festival tours like this help the film or end up just being costly?

  2. Buzz McLaughlin said,
    December 21, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

    Hi John. Good question. Seeing we’re an indie film production company with hopes of being around for a long time, we have always felt that stretching out the festival run on our first film was an investment in our future. So in that sense it was worth it. At some point in our festival journey, however, it became obvious that we had reached decreasing marginal returns in terms of actually helping the film itself. I’d say that happened about three quarters of the way through our festival run.

  3. Pj hamel said,
    January 2, 2010 @ 10:12 pm

    Enjoyed reading your writing here, Buzz – a world about which I know nothing, but enjoy imagining you and Kris in it… Hugs and happy New Year to you both-

  4. Greta said,
    October 21, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

    omg!!! he was in lithuania!!! thats where im from!!!!! I love ian!!!! crapm why wasnt I in Vilnius when he was there??!?!????

  5. Greta said,
    October 21, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

    I would do ANYTHING to meet Damon, I would rather meet Damon than Ian, I have to admit <3 <3 <3 <3 i want more pictures of him In Lithuania!!!!

  6. Karina said,
    May 5, 2011 @ 11:08 am

    Too bad that it’s too late to write, but I’m so happy that you have visited our little country Lithuania with Ian and his father :) ) That means for me a lot, that now my favorite actor knows where Lithuania is :) )

  7. Martynas said,
    July 14, 2011 @ 11:27 am

    OMG! Ian in Lithuania!? I wish you like this country! Good luck and come back soon:)

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