When I finished my new film "Gei Oni" (based on the novel by Shulamit Lapid), I approached three major Israeli distributors and asked them to look at the film. The first distributor (LEV SRATIM), said nice things about the film, but gave me a negative answer – the second (Forum Films) said the film was not for them – but said they liked it and thought it was important and that if I would find a distributor they would help me by giving me their theaters as exhibitors. The third and the most powerful distributor in Israel “United King”, liked the film very much and said it would gladly distribute it.
After a few meetings with “United King” – they sent me their contract. To my dismay it was very harsh and as far as I was concerned – unacceptable. The contract said that they would invest in prints, advertising, P.R. etc. but they conditioned it by asking for the control of my film in all medias (Television, cable, satellite, D.V.D. – V.O.D. Jewish and Israeli film festivals, International festivals and you name it) for at least ten years!
They said that they would share profits with me only after they recoup their original investment.
I agreed – but I asked to limit the investment to an agreed amount. When I asked how much money they’ll invest, they said it would be up to them. When I asked how many people would have to attend the film in order for them to recoup their investment and start sharing profits with me – they didn’t answer.
I was very upset and felt I had no choice but distribute the film myself – guerrilla style.
As I had no money for advertising – television commercials, street and newspaper adds -- I used the internet, Facebook, Youtube and an attractive and powerful website - www.geioni.com (which was designed by my daughter Shiraz and her man, Sivan) I sent all my personal friends a letter asking them to create a chain of letters passing from friend to friend. In the letter I told the story of my distribution attempts and problems and asked people for their help to beat the system and help me distribute it Guerilla style - by attending my film in it’s first two weeks of distribution.
I ended the letter with the words – “Bebirkat halah Hatykunim” (“and away with the tycoons”).
In one day the word got around and my website collapsed three times because I had between three and four thousand visitors every day. I had to pay to change the website so it’ll have unlimited capacity and this way - solved the problem.
What happened was quite amazing. I got and still get - hundreds of letters every day from a lot of people and organizations offering to help. Some magazines (like “Eretz Acheret” offered to give me a full page for free, to advertise my film - people in remote towns asked me to send them posters to hang, people organized big groups to go to the cinema. Just unbelievable.
For me, getting these personal letters meant something much more.
If before I worked in a limbo – knowing only that somewhere there are people who care for the kinds of films I make – people who might be interested in seeing my films. Now - suddenly, through the internet letter chain, I was in direct contact with these people – the people who care for my films.
In the past I had to pay a lot of money to put adds in the paper – and I was never sure it will effect the right audience – my audience. In the past - distributors used to say to me ”the cinema is empty – your audience will wake up and come to see your film only after four, five weeks. We can’t wait that long. We’re taking it off”. But here, I got a chance to tell my potential audience in a direct letter that it was vital that they go to the cinemas in it’s first two weeks of distribution.
Soon the word of my guerilla distribution got to television, radio and internet communications etc, and suddenly I was invited and interviewed all over. You won’t believe this – all this happened just now - over the last two weeks.
I am kidding around saying to my friends that now it’s all “wall to wall Wolman”. Everywhere I go I have to step on myself – repeating myself and answering the same questions again and again.
I had a thought that maybe I got the idea for this exciting new way of distribution from my ailing heart, because, basically the idea is to bypass. Luckily my heart gave me the idea with out asking for any percentage or residuals. (I know the idea is not so new) but at least here in Israel – I was the first who tried it successfully with a feature film.
In it’s first two weeks the film is doing unbelievably well. Since it opened all the tickets for my film were sold out in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, even in the first rows where one can actually touch the screen and see it in Braille.