Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ta Daaa!!

At long last, I can post the news I've been hoping for ... The Atom Smashers has been acquired by PBS!

We're going to be on Independent Lens!!

Not sure how to make that text as big as it should be since I'm practically shouting it.

Let me tell you how this all came about. Remember back in September of last year? We attended the IFP Market in New York. At the time, Independent Lens requested a meeting with us. They were one of seven or so distributors who asked to meet with us to discuss the film. At that time, we thought we were about done with the edit. We spoke to Kathryn Lo, who was extremely friendly and encouraging. She didn't commit to anything at the time, but asked us to keep in touch.

We returned from NYC excited about the whole experience and ready to launch our film. Then, we entered the "waiting zone" that so many films encounter. We entered several film festivals but weren't accepted by any of them. We had many nibbles from different distributors across the country, both big and small, but we couldn't seem to close the deal. Meanwhile, our edit went from 97 minutes down to 88, then 85. We had quite a bit of feedback and tightened the cut, making it leaner, meaner, and more succinct.

At another IFP event in Chicago, the interest started to pick up again. P.O.V., another show on PBS, saw a 7-minute trailer and requested a dvd. Nova asked for a copy. Film festivals in Europe began asking us to enter. Netflix re-affirmed their interest. The World Science Festival in New York heard that we had made a documentary with Leon Lederman and asked for clips. The Science Channel was interested. We knew we had a good film on our hands --- but we just couldn't land a deal.

Each time we had a new edit I sent a copy to Independent Lens and followed up with an email and a phone call. Finally, in April, Kathryn Lo indicated they would make a decision on a certain Friday about whether to air our film. She asked at that time if we would be opposed to cutting it down to an hour. I told her we'd prefer to keep it at the current length of 81 minutes, but that we'd go for the 53:30 cut if they did indeed want to air it. The Friday came. We were on pins and needles. It was a cold April day and I went to the Garfield Park Conservatory here in Chicago to walk around tropical plants and breathe in some warm, moist air to keep my nerves in check. Finally, Kathryn Lo called. The verdict ... they ... said... maybe! They couldn't decide! They were going to put off the decision for another month. Agonizing. The issue was they weren't sure if the film could survive the drastic cut from 85 minutes to 53. Kathryn said she wasn't sure if the film would retain its "charm" if we had to take such a chainsaw to it.

So, we waited again. In the meantime, Andrew, our producer, watched the film with some friends, and came to Monica and I with a list of suggestions. We took another long look at our baby and realized there were still some problems with the story. We got out the scalpel again, sliced and diced, and stitched it back up again. We ended up with the tightest and best edit yet, and once again I sent it off to PBS with an email and a phone call.

Finally, last week, we got the good news! We'll be broadcast sometime in November, and have been told that our film will be seen by 1.5 million viewers.

Ulp. 1.5 million viewers.

Anyway, now that we have emerged from the endless circling pattern, I'll have something to write about again. The film will be moving into broadcast and we, as a young company, will be moving into our first film's premiere. I'll begin posting again and will let you know how all this works. We're going to be drinking lots of coffee around here...

Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll check in regularly for the next phase of this long story!




Hi Kooky said...

YES! I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU! Oh my goodness, what terrific news. I can only imagine how you guys must be feeling. I can't wait to see it. By the way, it's completely appropriate to use caps lock in these sorts of situations. :)

Lee said...

I agree with kooky. THAT'S GREAT NEWS! A well-deserved win after all that work. And I also can't wait to see it.

Libby said...

Wow - I never had any doubt! (Easy for me to say, right?) I'm thrilled for you!

Bill Rexroad said...

Congratulations, Jeff. I look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

Anonymous said...


I am late in hearing the news, but am very glad to hear it at all.

Am looking forward to reading about your anticipation of the broadcast as much as I have enjoyed reading about the details of creation. Surely, waiting for the big day will involve many things of interest to those of us who will not likely reach 1.5 million persons.

You have much to be proud of with this news. And the news bring much pride to those of us who knew you first as the Mudflaps drummer.

Great job.

Michael L.