'Boy' takes New York

Taika Waititi has successfully used a micro-funding site to raise the money needed to release his hit film in North America. But why isn't it on iTunes?

A nice coda to Taika Waititi's crowd-funding effort to release Boy in the US (see below): the film has garnered good notices in the US. press.

The Wall Street Journal called the film  "super-exuberant and super-affecting."

The New York Times said, "This quirky father-son story stands out in multiple ways: for its refreshing and stellar child performances, for its surprising interplay of sad and silly, and for its rustic and beautiful New Zealand setting. It’s a detailed, funny and moving coming-of-age tale from the writer-director Taika Waititi." (The Times also catches up with Taika to discuss his next project - a World War II film - here.)

It's not a case of wall-to-all good reviews. The Village Voice found, "The abundant charm of first-time actor James Rolleston, playing the 11-year-old of the title in Boy, doesn't quite save the aimless, nostalgia-woozy second feature from Taika Waititi."

But, on balance, like the movie itself, it's a heartwarmer.

Detail's of Boy's US roadshow are online here.


TAIKA'S MICRO-FUNDING

  • $1 or more: 313 backers (receive a digital copy of a poster)
     
  • $20 or more: 432 backers (receive a digital downloads of Waititi'stwo of my short films, Two Cars, One Night and Tama Tu)
     
  • $40 or more: 207 backers (short film you downloads, plus a “Crazy Horse” membership card and jacket patch)
     
  • $100 or more: 256 backers (all of the above plus an autographed DVD copy of Boy and an autographed poster)
     
  • $250 or more: 54 backers (the above, plus "an animation drawing inspired by you and personally signed by the artist, me.")
     
  • $600 or more: 16 backers (the above, plus a hand-painted “Crazy Horse” gang motorcycle helmet, as worn by Taika in the movie)
     
  • $2,500 or more: 6 backers (the above plus a “Crazy Horse” gang jacket plus two tickets to premiere event in the US)
     
  • $10,000 or more: 0 backers (the above plus a personal day-long tour of Waihau Bay, where Boy was made, "with some of the cast and crew members, followed by dinner cooked by me and my aunty. We’ll arrange two round-trip domestic airline tickets, food and lodging included. Let’s sit on the beach and get to know each other.")

Feb 25: New Zealand director Taika Waititi has successfully used a micro-funding website to raise the $US90,000 he needed to release his movie Boy in the US.

The money will be used for what's known in the industry as "P&A", or creating prints for theatres, plus an advertising campaign (the cash-strapped campaign also has an official commercial distributor, Paladin).

Openings are now planned in New York on March 2 and LA on March 9.

With more than $9.3 million in box office takings, Boy, released in 2010, is the most successful local film of all time in terms of its domestic gross (discounting the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Yet the director was left to his own devices to arrange US release.

Mr Waititi began his campaign on February 6, soliciting donations through Kickstarter.com.

Last week he was only a third of the way to his today, but a surge of backers has seen the Boy fund top its target this weekend.

A total of 1493 people have now donated $92,807 (via online credit card payments), or an average of $62 each.

"Self-distribution is definitely harder but it feels WAY better to be doing it yourself," Mr Waititi said today in an email to supporters.

NBR is a big supporter of Mr Waititi's work, which includes writing and directing for Flight of the Conchords. And this newspaper's review of Boy ("I you don't go to see of it, you're an egg") was used in the film's in-store promotional campaign when it was first released on DVD.

So NBR's expense account-happy technology editor was happy to chip in with $20 on the publication's behalf.

Yet your correspondent is still fuming at a letter to the editor sent by South Pacific Pictures boss John Barnett, complaining of soft-headed coverage of alleged internet pirate Kim Dotcom [UPDATE: I finally got to argue with John in person - update here.]

No one would support DVD piracy, but complaints about online piracy from the likes of South Pacific Pictures ring hollow when some of its hit films, such as Sione's Wedding, are not on popular commercial download services such as the movie section of Apple's iTunes.

Nor does Boy (backed by the New Zealand Film Commission and marketed and distributed by the commission's NZ Film agency) appear on iTunes US (increasingly popular with frustrated Kiwis) or iTunes NZ.

Asked why Boy was not on iTunes US - on the face of it a cheap and user-friendly way to reach a mass audience - Mr Waititi told NBR, "Because it's nice to see films on a big screen in a darkened room, rather than on a laptop."

(iTunes TV programmes and movies, or any digital content, can also be viewed on a normal television with help from a gadget like the $149  Apple TV).

Fair enough. 

But what about in New Zealand, where Boy has long finished its theatrical run, DVD promotion and TV screenings?

"iTunes NZ - yep why not?", the director messaged NBR. "Would be great but up to those who own and distribute Boy in NZ."

Let's hope they change their minds, and open them to the online future. Most people can and will pay when given the choice.

Meanwhile, hats off to Mr Waititi, who's proved a dab hand at using the internet to self-fund US distribution.

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