Nate von Zumwalt
Michael J. Larnell’s stark ode to St. Louis is an earnest depiction of a day in the life of three friends as they rove aimlessly through their hometown smoking “squares,” pursuing girls, and testing their luck. Cronies centers on a growing rift between lifelong friends Louis (George Sample III) and Jack (Zurich Buckner), resulting from the former’s newly established friendship with Andrew (Brian Kowalski) and the latter’s complacency with letting his life steep in Missouri’s summer heat.
Larnell’s frank depiction of quotidian Midwest life effortlessly shapes a portrait of what it really means to “be real”—to your friends, to your family, to yourself, and how it’s never as easy or fun as it may sound. Cronies premiered in the NEXT section of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and later played Sundance NEXT FEST in Los Angeles. The film is currently available to rent/buy on digital platforms. Below, Larnell offers five reasons for why and how he chose to creatively distribute Cronies—and what insights he learned along the way.
1. “Cronies was my MFA Thesis film at NYU Tisch School of Arts and when it came time to think about distribution, I was ready to take risks and learn through experience just as I did with the film’s making. The more I learn about the industry as a whole, the more I grow and improve as a filmmaker. It is really important for any filmmaker to understand all functions of the film business.
“This eagerness for growth was probably my main reason for taking the creative distribution route with support from The NYU Production Lab, a new incubator at NYU for creative filmmaking talent, and Sundance Institute Artists Services. The NYU Production Lab provides support with the theatrical distribution (via TUGG), while Artist Services has helped to set up the digital distribution (via Premiere Digital).“
2. “The film premiered in New York in December 2015 and was supported by the Independent Filmmaker Project Screen Forward Program, which is a weeklong theatrical screening of selected films at the IFP Made in NY Media Center in Dumbo, Brooklyn, NY. This was a great experience because not only did it give me the opportunity to get the movie out there, it also helped me learn how to coordinate a series of events around seven different screenings. Not to mention that we had to pull this off on a budget of under zero dollars.“
3. “In order to attract people to the theater in December, the most difficult month of the year for independent films, we planned a series of events before or after every screening. At every screening a discussion panel based on different themes really helped garner attention. While it was tedious to book panelists and drum up press for every event, overall it was a success, especially considering what we learned from the experience.
4. “Many of Cronies theatrical screening opportunities have come about through film festivals, colleges, universities, and film societies around the world. Many of these entities reached out to us and we’ve come to realize that these are our best opportunity for Cronies to be seen in a theatrical setting.
“So we’ve continued to pursue more public screenings at colleges, universities, and film societies. We facilitate our screenings through TUGG, an online platform that pairs audiences with films, which allows filmmakers to independently distribute their films. It also provides a way for people who are passionate about a particular film to bring it to their community.”
5. “We continue to reach out to entities that are not familiar with Cronies and many of them are interested in hosting screenings. A main takeaway we’ve learned is that you need to know your film’s audience and know how to reach them. It doesn’t even matter the size of the audience. I think this approach is best not only in distribution, but in raising money for an indie film project. The more you know about your film and its audience at the beginning stages of your film, will only help with the writing, production, and distribution.“