Three years ago, when the Huffington Post approached us and asked if we'd like to premiere our short film Happy New Year online, we of course said "Hell, yeah!" Little did we know how much this decision would affect our lives. People across the world saw our 15-minute short about two Iraq War veterans reuniting in a rundown veterans hospital on New Year's Eve. As we traveled the festival circuit with the short, we began development of the feature-length version, an extremely daunting task because our project featured a first-time director and an unknown lead.
But we persevered.
Cut to January 2011. We received a call saying that Happy New Year had been accepted into the Narrative Competition at the SXSW Film Festival. We were elated. However, panic soon set in as we quickly realized that though SXSW was a prestigious festival, simply being accepted was only the beginning of yet another tumultuous journey. How do you stand out within a sea of other worthy projects, many with A-List actors attached? We assembled our team of producers to come up with a plan. Weekly team meetings ensued. Our only choice was to hit the ground running like never before.
We embarked on an intense online fundraising campaign via IndieGoGo. This was a way to engage our supporters and acquire new ones through an aggressive, viral, grassroots effort. We blogged on Facebook and Twitter, created behind-the-scenes clips and even parodied Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video by shooting our SXSW announcement in the midst of a snowstorm in a discreet NYC alleyway -- without permits of course. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. This video was a game-changer -- we paid off most of our post expenses, made our HD-CAM dubs and hired someone to guide us, someone who believed in two underdogs with a film and a dream.
We arrived in Austin a day before the official start of the festival in order to get the lay of the land. Our military advisor Joseph Harell, a former staff sergeant in the Marines, set out on a mission to plaster the town with our posters, while we stayed behind to field calls with reporters, sales agents and vets groups (SXSW granted us a special screening at the Westgate for 100 veterans on 3/13, and the word has spread all over state). The Mayor of Austin was checking his availability. Be careful what you wish for!
Sitting here in our hotel room, we are exhausted beyond belief. It's been an incredibly long four years -- from stage play to short film to feature. There's been a truckload of laughs, tears, disappoints and victories. We have no idea how the world will receive this film. We can only hope that the backbreaking hard work we have done will be fruitful and will inspire other indie filmmakers to follow their hearts.