Rowland anticipates Being in Heaven will make a profit; dismisses “closed-minded” critics

Michael Rowland, director of Being in HeavenUnlike most Australian filmmakers, director and self-development author/presenter Michael Rowland has the certainty that his privately-funded film has a clear market and will make money.

“One thing is for certain: we will make a profit. We had a strategy and a step-by-step plan to do that, and so far it has played out exactly in the way we planned,” he told Encore. “It is grossly irresponsible for any filmmaker not to know exactly how they intend to generate the income to put the film in profit.”

Although Rowland hopes that the limited run – the film opens today at Palace Cinemas in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, with a commitment of two sessions a day for the first week, and then three Sundays– will be successful, but knows they are unlikely to make a profit from it. That will come from DVD sales and perhaps “large public seminars to give the film more profile and sell it that way”.

The project will be primarily marketed online, reaching its specific audience. Rowland believes that it is an unusual scenario for a film because, unlike an ordinary script, the material in Being in Heaven has been tested in front of thousands of people at his seminars. However, although it is certain that there is a “gigantic market” for personal growth material seminar and non-fiction books, it is still unclear if they will come to the cinema.

Being in Heaven cost $600,000 to produce, and it was 100 percent privately financed. It was shot over eight days on RED cameras by DOP Martin McGrath.

According to Rowland, Being in Heaven has a goal beyond creating an experience for the audience: “revealing fascinating information about a vital aspect of life that society avoids”. This goal, he said, divides not only audience, but has also alienated most Australian critics – The Sydney Morning Herald called it ‘an early contender for worst flick of the year’ and Empire magazine thought it was ‘less than heavenly’.  He believes the country lacks intelligent critics.

“Closed-minded critics have to put it down. It has pushed their buttons; they are unable to step back from the film and see it for what it was designed to be and comment on that. One of the biggest difficulties in the Australian industry is the paucity of intelligent critics, who can respond from a detached overall view, based on a long experience, and so give valuable advice to their readers,” he said.

Being in Heaven is Rowland’s first film as a director, although his career in the industry began in 1967 with a number of first, second and third assistant director credits in projects such as Wake in Fright or the Skippy TV series. Eventually, Rowland put film aside to pursue a career in the lucrative self-development seminar and book market. During that time he realised that there were people who were interested in the material he presented but would never come to a presentation.
“But they would go to a cinema and take it in via a story. So this is why I made it,” he said. “Film is the new religion. People watch movies every week, in the same way they used to go to church every week. If you want to influence society, film is a marvellous medium for this.”

Is Rowland then a priest of this new religion? Australian audiences will tell.


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