NEW YORK — Inspired by traveling concerts such as the Lilith Fair and Lollapalooza, a group of independent filmmakers will hit the road this fall with Fuel, a monthlong film tour of 11 U.S. cities that will be booked by October Films co-founder Jeff Lipsky.
Fuel organizer Suzanne Myers got the idea for the grass-roots approach to film distribution earlier this year during the South by Southwest music and film festival in Austin, Texas, where her film “Alchemy” won best feature.
“We need to find a new system to get films to audiences,” Myers said. “Otherwise, the most original voices and visions are going to be lost. Just as alternative rock bands generate a following by going on the road and building grass-roots support, Fuel will let directors show and talk about their work in a very localized way.”
In addition to organizing the Fuel film tour, Myers founded the New York Women’s Film Festival, which had its inaugural run this spring. A graduate of USC Film School, Myers teaches screenwriting at NYU Film School and writes for several film publications.
After teaming with fellow directors Chris Smith, Dante Harper and Hannah Weyer, Myers was able to win the backing of the Independent Film Channel and other sponsors for the Fuel tour.
The corporate support gave Myers & Co. enough money to put finishing touches on their work, make prints of each film and create low-budget advertising.
Fuel’s maiden journey will include four films:
Myers’ “Alchemy,” which chronicles the journey of a young sculptor as she pieces together her life and her art;
Smith’s “American Job,” which follows a young man through a succession of mind-numbing, dead-end jobs;
Harper’s “The Delicate Art of the Rifle,” a black comedy that puts the 1966 mass murder by Charles Whitman at the U. of Texas under a surrealistic microscope; and
Weyer’s “Arresting Gena,” a coming-of-age story that examines the risks taken by a teenage girl after her mother falls into a coma and her uncle becomes her guardian.
Each stop on the Fuel tour will include an opening-night party, meetings with the filmmakers and panel discussions featuring indie film specialists such as “Spike, Mike, Slackers and & Dykes” author John Pierson and Ted Hope, co-founder of Gotham-based indie production company Good Machine. The hoopla will kick off a weeklong run at a premier arthouse.
“It’s a great opportunity for filmmakers to get their work exposed theatrically in first-class venues,” Lipsky said. “Whether it succeeds or fails at the theatrical level, it gives these films a real shot at exploiting ancillary markets.”
Myers says the Fuel tour could end up being more profitable for the filmmakers than some of the deals they were offered by theatrical distributors. “None of us would have gotten any money upfront if we sold to distributors,” she said. “With Fuel, we agreed to split any revenues we get among us.”