By Mark Polish
At our first screening, I remember looking up at the Art Deco marquee and seeing the title of our latest film, For Lovers Only. At that moment, I realized our title implied an exclusivity, like a “members-only” club. It could appear to passersby that the theater was showing movies that were for “lovers only.”
As I waited for the audience to exit our screening, I wasn’t overly concerned whether people were going to “love it” or “hate it.” What I was interested in was if my intention was communicated. I wanted to make a movie that explored what it felt like actually “being in love” rather than “falling in love.” To my mind, the finished film accomplished that. But I soon discovered that when you set your story in France and soak your visual in black & white, it delivers your “being in love” like an M.O.A.B.
The shell-shocked audience left the theater with general praise—but key phrases caught my attention: “this movie is very intimate”; “voyeuristic”; “so real, I almost couldn’t watch.”
I knew as we were prepping to shoot, we were gathering all the right ingredients to make a real intimate film. Only having two actors, Stana Katic and me, was intimate in nature. My brother, Michael, would be both the director and the D.P. He would use the Canon 5D camera, small and unobtrusive. All these elements mixed together would allow us not only to roam freely around France for twelve days, but to also capture an intimacy that would be uniquely ours.
Photo courtesy Mark Polish
But what I hoped would be the power of the picture, I now know could also be its curse. I jokingly thought to myself, "Our film has intimacy issues." This was clearly an unforeseen side effect of the technology that allowed us to shoot whenever, whatever, wherever.
Michael and I discussed how we were going to overcome this. We felt the movie simply would never attain a proper budget to market our message. And, it just didn’t feel right to throw millions promoting a movie that cost nothing to make. What we aimed to achieve was simply to reach our audience without their opinions already being decided for them. Michael put it best: “When you enter a museum there isn’t an art critic’s review posted next to each painting. The viewer gets to judge it for the first time with his or her own eyes. They will like or dislike it on their own terms.” And by no means am I anointing For Lovers Only a spot in a museum, but there is something about that direct approach that appealed to us. We wanted the film to get straight to the viewer, unscathed.
We knew as we geared up for our release that the success of the film was going to hinge on word-of-mouth. We hand-made the movie with no budget, and we had now decided we were going to do the same while releasing it. We were going to hand-deliver it. The same way we used the new DIY technology to make our film on our own. We felt that there were enough innovative tools in place to release it. Leveraging our social networks, we felt we could let an audience know when and where our film was playing.
Photo courtesy Mark Polish
The day For Lovers Only became available on Movies On Demand via FilmBuff, Stana and I tweeted and posted on Facebook announcing the release. In the next 24 hours, the feedback started rolling in. The tweets were very passionate and reflected what I had hoped for. People were connecting with the film on a very personal level. It was a personal relationship—a one-on-one—between the person seeking the film and the emotions of the movie.
I sensed the honest feelings of those who watched the film early on had to count for something. So came about the campaign to use their tweets as critics’ quotes. We made a one-sheet featuring these tweets. Rather than one film critic affecting thousands, I thought thousands of our early viewers could affect tens of thousands more.
Make no mistake; I would have loved for our film to premiere in theaters. But I realized after our first screening that this particular film would succeed in a more intimate setting-- like with an iPad. This was a film that was made from our heart and our audience could literally hold it in their own hands. A film you could take to the comforts of a bed. In the end, it was exactly the way it was titled. We made a film strictly... For Lovers Only.
Editor’s Note: For Lovers Only was launched June 28 on FilmBuff Movies on Demand. Due to positive response it was quickly released days later on iTunes - where it stayed number #1 in Independent and Romance for two consecutive weeks. Currently it holds the 2 spot in Independent and Romance on iTunes.
Watch the official trailer for For Lovers Only:
Mark Polish is an actor, writer, and filmmaker. His past films include Twin Falls Idaho, Northfork and The Astronaut Farmer. He is currently developing a feature film with Escape Artist. This is his first attempt at dropping a love bomb in the middle of a blog.
The Tribeca Future of Film blog is a place where leading filmmakers and experts within the film industry share their thoughts on film, technology and the future of media.