News and updates about SKIN
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Skin South African PremiereSKIN is having a very successful release in its home country - South Africa. It has more than tripled the projected theatrical box office income and advanced rentals of the DVD are well above expectations. There was a mountain of media coverage - mostly positive - and the reviews have been terrific. I feared it might be rejected as a 'foreigner's take' on an important South African story; instead, it has been welcomed and embraced. 

 The film is also having a successful run at the Perth Festival - filling the 1200-seat outdoor cinema last weekend, and receiving a 'six stars out of five' review from a punter on ABC drive-time radio. 

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The last few weeks have flown past, which is why there has been no blog entry for a while. We opened in the US 30th October to generally positive reviews (still very fresh on the Rotten Tomatoes scale), most of which can be found on our Press page. I was especially pleased by Roger Ebert's four (out of four) stars and Leonard Maltin's ringing endorsement on Reelz Channel - these were two of the biggest Critical Cheeses of my adolescence and early adulthood, and I am proud to have made my first feature in time to see their pronouncements.

Our US release proceeded as planned, covering much of California, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Detroit - with a number of key cities (Boston, Columbus, Denver) still to come in 2010. We didn't shoot into the stratosphere like Precious - but neither did we embarrass ourselves at the box office (nor, alas, did we have the support that Precious enjoyed from Ms. Winfrey and Mr. Perry).  All in all, I am delighted that the film had a chance to be release in the US. SKIN may not be everyone's idea of a good time at the movies, but those who discover the film have been very appreciative (and it ain't over yet).

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I admit it. I've been neglecting the blog. But if you had been around me these past couple of weeks, you would understand why. No - I did not go down with swine flu.

Please take a look at the Press page, which has recently been updated. We've been busy! But here's some news that's not on the press page: We had a spectacular opening weekend in LA. SKIN was the no. 1 film (out of 9!) at the Laemmle in Encino and the No. 3 film (out of 10!) at the Landmark in West LA - after Michael Jackson's This is It and the hit indie film, An Education (both those films have considerably higher advertising budgets). We were also the no. 1 film at the Beekman in New York and hit similar numbers at the Sunshine downtown - despite Halloween, the marathon and the World Series badly affecting box office in both those theaters. Even with the modest figures in New York, SKIN had the 6th highest per-screen average in the country and was among the top 25 box office earners.

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It feels very strange, after over a year of promoting SKIN at film festivals, to be nearing not the finishing line but the starting line, as we head towards our US release 30th October. Not that our releases in the UK and Holland have been insignificant milestones - but I can't help feeling the US is really where the film could and should achieve lift-off, because the market is so much bigger.

So many aspects of American culture and history resonate with this story (not least its current president's own life story and the challenges he faces), I can't help feeling SKIN will truly speak to people in the US. And it is, after all, where the film has received the most number of prizes. Most recently. Helene Muddiman, the film's composer, picked up two awards - the first from Moondance International Film Festival, the second from the Accolade Film Awards, where she received the Award of Excellence.

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Just prior to my trip to Amsterdam to publicise the Dutch release of SKIN, a harried courier arrived at my front door carrying a heavy package: inside were the two awards from Giffoni - the Amnesty Prize, and The Aluminium Griffon. I must confess, I hadn't been terribly impressed by the sound of the latter but was pleasantly surprised - the little statue is magnificent! And it's sitting on a solid block of black marble (hence the weary courier).
 The only prize that hasn't somehow found its way to my address is the Jury Prize from Palm Beach - and no communication seems to rouse them. I will persist, though - there's bound to be something, even if it's just a piece of paper...! 
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....and suddenly, the Dutch release is upon us! I had heard rumours from our sales agent that the Dutch were planning a theatrical release, but the first real confirmation came when I discovered there was a request for trailers. Hurray, it's really happening! Next, an e-mail arrived from a Dutch film festival, Africa in the Picture, inviting Sandra Laing to Amsterdam... and when they discovered I live in London, not Los Angeles (as they imagined), they asked if I'd be willing to fly over as well.

I asked the festival organisers whether the Dutch distributor, European Film Partners, had been in touch, and was told they were in constant communication. A phone call to the distributor provided yet more good news: apparently they initially planned a very small release, but decided to do some test screenings. The public - tough, art-house cinema-goers - gave SKIN the highest ratings of any film released in 2009. Realising they might have a hit on their hands, EFP decided to widen the release and really get behind it. It seems like common sense - asking the public in advance whether they might like a film, before deciding on the scale of release. Why none of our other distributors are following this logic remains a mystery to me...

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I discovered, rather late in the day, that this is a quote from Winston Churchill (not Abraham Laing... or even Georg Solti, from whom I stole it...)

All those who've kept the faith will be pleased to know we sold out at the Ritzy in Brixton tonight - it's been slowly building through the weekend and, as it's our last day there, has come as a very happy surprise.

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Santa Barabara PixHelene Muddiman has just been named Finalist at the Moondance International Film Festival for her score of SKIN. We think it's the only festival with a category for composers and are very proud of this achievement - richly deserved.

In a recent e-mail to her producers and colleagues, she wrote 'Huge thanks to everyone for giving me this opportunity.'

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Thanks to the incredible efforts of Helene and her street team (see previous blog), SKIN is being held for a fourth week at the Odeon Panton Street off Leicester Square and they have actually increased the number of showings per day (from two to three daily screenings). You can see for yourselves how the guerrilla marketing techniques work on a new YouTube clip.

Helene and the team also went down to Brixton, at the heart of London's richly diverse African and West-Indian communities, where Helene did her utmost to enthuse the manager of the Ritzy Cinema about booking SKIN. She was put in touch with the company that owns the Ritzy, who'd previously been ambivalent about a booking - and lo - they agreed to a limited run over the weekend (Friday, Monday and Tuesday).

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Helene in Leicester SquareWe've all read about 'plucky independent filmmakers going out there and finding new ways of marketing their movies...' Saturday morning, still basking in the glory of a sold-out first night at the ICA in London, I had a proverbial bucket of cold water thrown over my head: the numbers at the Panton Street Odeon had been disastrous. After all this amazing press, editorial coverage, great reviews - how was it possible?

Well.... there was no trailer of the film playing at any cinema. That doesn't help. And there are no posters up in the underground, or on any billboards, or on the side of any bus. And of course we have no TV ads... in fact, it's hard to know, apart from the editorial, how anyone could possibly know the movie's out there. I rang Helene Muddiman, my composer, and told her the bad news. "We'll be pulled after this week for sure," I said. "The film's dead in the water unless the numbers are up this weekend."

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