Will Festival Hit ‘On The Ice’ Reach A Theater Near You?

on Thursday, Aug. 25th

Andrew Okpeaha MacLean’s suspense filled drama On The Ice has been a big hit on the film festival circuit this year, making it’s debut at the Sundance Film Festival, and garnering awards in Berlin and Seattle. On The Ice is the first feature-length narrative film by an Iñupiaq writer/director with an entirely Inuit cast. Turnstyle interviewed MacLean and actor Frank Qutuq Irelan back during Sundance.

Despite the acclaim, the Alaskan film’s route from the festival circuit to “a theater near you” has been unclear. Now the filmmakers are taking a gamble on a new model for distribution under the guidance of Sundance’s Artist Services division and their partner, Kickstarter. Director MacLean and producer Cara Marcous have launched a campaign on the crowd funding site to raise $80,000 for striking prints of the film and marketing in ten theaters around the country. It’s a bold gamble that if successful might just blaze the trail for future indie films.

We spoke with producer Marcous via email from New York.

TURNSTYLE: On The Ice has gotten a lot of positive reception on the festival circuit — so why turn to Kickstarter for the push into theaters?

Cara Marcous: A lot of distributors loved the film, but they shied away from it because it’s all first-time unknown actors from a  community far outside the mainstream.  We had a couple small offers, but we had to look at our best opportunity to get the film out in the world in a real way, and releasing under the Sundance trademark seemed like a better gamble for us.

TS: Where are the two of you on the spectrum emotionally on this: excited by the possibilities? Nervous about the risk? Kickstarter campaigns are, famously, all or nothing after all.

CM: We are both excited but also exhausted.  It’s a massive undertaking and we are doing everything humanly possible to make our goal.  We know that there are a lot of people who want to see the film and haven’t backed us yet.  I’m hoping many of them will pre-buy a digital download or a DVD. That way they’ll get to see the movie and support us at the same time.  A lot of Kickstarter campaigns succeed based on sheer numbers so we appreciate any pledge, even if $1 is all you can do.

TS: How involved in this campaign has Sundance’s Artist Services program been?

CM: They have helped us strategize our social media and our approach to our Kickstarter page and videos. They have done this more than we have so their advice has been invaluable.

TS: Has this experience been a bit of a marketing & distribution boot camp for you both?

CM: Absolutely.  You hit the nail on the head with that one.  We’re learning while sprinting and hopefully we’ll get there!

TS: Audiences can get so passionate about festival films, and yet so many just seem to fade away in the theatres or never see release… is it your hope that this kind of campaign can change that fate not just for On The Ice, but serve as a template for other indies?

CM: This whole process has been about building our audience and reaching out to people.  When we complete this campaign and move forward with our release we’re going to have an exceptional foundation to build on.  I think there are a variety of ways to approach indie film distribution in 2011 and I don’t pretend to be a distribution expert, but I think what we’re doing has real potential.  I will be thrilled if we get to the other side of this and can share some insight on what works and what doesn’t.  The more indie filmmakers share information and strategies, the quicker progress can happen.  First thing’s first though… before we can take advantage of this Sundance Artist Services opportunity, we have to make this campaign a success.  So…watch this quick video!


As we go to press, the campaign for On The Ice has just 14 days left and over $50K to go.


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