“Truth Be Told” Q&A

Truth Be Told is a feature documentary film about growing up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion. Former Jehovah’s Witnesses candidly discuss the spiritual, emotional, and psychological harm inflicted by the religion.

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Disillusioned with his four-walling experience, director Gregorio Smith chose Tugg to share his first feature film with audiences across the country. Within four months, Truth Be Told began a national film tour with the goal of reaching as many “eyeballs” as possible. Below, Gregorio shares insight into his release strategy, tips and tricks, and advice for new filmmakers to the platform.

 

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Q&A with director Gregorio Smith

Why did you choose to distribute your film using Tugg?

Upon review of the material and the website, I was convinced that Tugg was a godsend. It provided the turnkey platform we needed (yet had no idea existed) to deliver our film to a national audience.

Had the film played in theaters before your Tugg campaign?

Tugg exponentially enhanced our ability to get the film in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Before Tugg, we four-walled the film 4 times in 3 cities over the course of 8 months – NYC, Denver, and Boston.

These four screenings were well-received (and well-attended), but…extremely inefficient. Scouting theaters, inspecting facilities, determining media requirements/ limitations, delivering content/copy, performing picture tests/soundchecks, securing contracts, setting-up ticketing interface, waiting for reports/payments – doing this for each location became at once an interminable and uncertain process.

What was your release strategy and how did Tugg play a role in this release? (One-off screenings, film tour, fundraisers, etc.)

The Tugg ticket meme trended on social media

The Tugg ticket meme trended on social media

Within the first four months of joining Tugg, we enjoyed 10 well-attended screenings in 10 different cities. We could not have done this without the streamlined logistics that the Tugg platform provides.

That bears repeating… We could not have done this without Tugg.

These promotional screenings have been instrumental in building the pedigree for Truth Be Told. Scores of pictures and comments from the events – including a Tugg ticket that became a meme – have trended on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and other web destinations.

Tugg will continue to play a role in our future release stages including promotional tour for the digital/VOD/home video release of Truth Be Told during which DVDs will be sold at special screening events.

How did you help promote your film’s events?

Once tickets are on sale, we send messages through the Tugg interface to thank people for their purchase and to remind them that their involvement in the initiative is not limited to simply reserving a seat. They are encouraged to help spread the word by sharing event information and links with at least 10-20 others (family, friends, co- workers, colleagues etc.).

People enjoy being part of the campaign, so it’s important to give them ways to participate and let them know that their involvement is part of the growing pedigree and momentum for the film.

What Tugg Features did you take advantage of?

It’s important to always have a fundraising option for your Event Page… even if you have no need to raise capital.

This is for the people who cannot attend the event but want to show their support. It’s also for those people who do attend the show and want to contribute additional support. Also, whenever we were coming in just short of reaching the minimum threshold we find it VERY effective to remind people of the option to ‘gift’ a seat to a show. Pocketbook advocacy at its best.

Would you do anything differently now?

One very important lesson we’ve learned through our Tugg experience is, to not presume ANYTHING about your audience. We live in a world of market-driven entertainment, short attention-spans, and capricious regional interest. For example, considering how prolific the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion is we assumed Truth Be Told would be a Tugg home-run in any major city. As it turned out, our most enthusiastic and well attended audience was in Portland, OR (a sold-out show that was moved to a larger theater to accommodate demand).

What did you find was most beneficial about using Tugg?

One word…confidence.

The confidence as a filmmaker/producer to walk into any theater knowing
that your content was delivered, tested, and ready to go. To see people – total strangers from across the country – cueing up and presenting tickets to see your film. To watch them grab popcorn and other concessions before entering the dark auditorium to sit next to other total strangers who are there for the same theatrical experience. To see this towering 30 ft x 70 ft theater screen and know that the audience is going to see your work as it was intended.

They’re not just going to see your film…they’re going to the movies.

Any memorable moments, pleasant surprises, or highlights you’d like to mention?

There’s a collective energy, enthusiasm, and conversation generated in actual movie theaters that is not possible through other mediums. In Portland, for example, there were people in attendance reuniting with family and friends that they hadn’t seen for decades. During the Q&A in Chicago, a total stranger shared heart-wrenching stories and advice on dealing with collateral damage from the religion (discussion went on for an hour, plus).

Scores of similar messages were received from every city the film has screened in. This was made possible by giving audiences a theatrical experience made possible through Tugg. Feedback like this is less likely (or at least less forthcoming) through Netflix, Hulu, and other less-communal distribution channels.

What would you tell someone who was hesitant about using Tugg?

I’m reminded of a quote by Marcel Duchamp:
“The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative art…”

So to the person who is hesitant about using Tugg I would say… “Do your job.”

You finished your movie. Great. But the job is not done until you have delivered your light, your vision to a theatrical audience. And it is incumbent on you to make that happen. Period.

It would be more accurate to define a partnership with Tugg as a form of mutualism: a system whereby two different organisms exist in a relationship in which each individual benefits.

Your success is Tugg’s success, and vice-versa. And for my part, I think it’s exciting to be part of a transformative platform that empowers artists/capitalists to do their job in the business (yes business) of filmmaking.

It’s like living in history.