Written and directed by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, and produced by Cara Marcous and Lynette Howell, On the Ice opens in select theaters on Friday, February 17th.
MacLean’s feature debut follows two Inuit teenagers on the snow-covered Arctic tundra, at the top of the world in Barrow, Alaska, as they try to get away with murder.
Featuring breakout performances by Josiah Patkotak and Frank Qutuq Irelan, On the Ice, premiered at the 2011 Sundance film festival and has won numerous awards including Best First Feature and the Crystal Bear for Generations 14plus at the 2011 Berlinale. The Village Voice says the film is “a marvel of concentrated, classical storytelling” calling it “ethnodocumentary noir, since MacLean includes elements of Iñupiaq language and culture.”
Producer Cara Marcous takes a moment to reflect on the hybrid release of the film, working with PMK-BNC Films, Sundance Artist Services Initiative and others to help create the best distribution strategy.
With the help of many, On the Ice begins Distribution
a guest post by Producer Cara Marcous
On the Ice opens this Friday, so things are a bit of a blur. But I wanted to write briefly, and share some of what we’re trying to do. We are releasing this film without an outside distributor. We are collaborating with Marian Koltai-Levine and her team at PMK-BNC Films, Sundance Artist Services Initiative, WME, and Brigade PR. It’s been a long process so we are all very excited to finally get our film out into the world.
Our release falls somewhere in the gray area between a self-release and a release with a traditional distributor. We are not four-walling theaters, we are not re-inventing the wheel; we are working with experienced distribution professionals to function as a traditional distributor would function. The difference is that we are making the final decisions, we are strategizing day to day. Together with our team, we are digging into each market and devising our best approach. We are by no means coming to those decisions on our own, but the collaboration goes both ways because we understand our film and its unique audience better than anyone else could.
We raised our distribution funds through Kickstarter. Many of the backers were basically pre-buying the DVD to support us, some wanted the cool gifty stuff and then some just wanted to support the film or our team. We raised about $85,000 through Kickstarter and another $5,000 directly through a foundation, to end up with about $82,000 for our entire release (after covering Kickstarter’s fee). It is not a lot of money to release a film—very little in fact—but we have had a determinedly lean and mean approach and we’ve managed to do a surprising amount with our $82,000. We’ve confirmed 16 theaters so far nationwide, a much wider release than many indie titles see. It’s been an intense crash course in film distribution, but it’s also been a thrill because things are tangibly changing in the indie film distribution universe, and I hope we’re on the cusp of it.
I hope you will all come to see On the Ice this weekend because it is a suspenseful entertaining film, from a fascinating place. I also hope you will be excited to support a team of people who are actively taking a risk to find a viable alternative distribution method. Small indies with unique voices and first-time actors can make money. Help us prove it. See you at the theater!
Cara Marcous (Producer)
Cara produced the award-winning feature film On the Ice which premiered in competition at Sundance 2011. On the Ice won Best First Feature and the Crystal Bear for Generations 14plus at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival; The FIPRESCI Prize for Best New American Film at the Seattle International Film Festival; and Best Feature and Best Cinematography at the 2011 Woodstock Film Festival. She also produced the short narrative film Sikumi, which has won numerous awards including the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and the BAFTA/LA Award for Excellence, and has screened at over 50 festivals around the world. In 2005, she produced the documentary feature When the Season is Good: Artists of Arctic Alaska after working for years with acclaimed independent producer Ben Barenholtz. She has also produced several plays including the premiere of her own full-length piece Lapse at Walkerspace in New York City. Ms. Marcous is the recipient of the Sheila Johnson Fellowship for the 2009 Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Creative Producing Initiative.