Surviving Georgia producer McLaren: I had to self-distribute or slip between the cracks

surviving georgia

Vallance, left, and Miranda in the independently distributed Surviving Georgia

Independent producer Spencer McLaren has claimed he was forced to set up his own distribution company to ensure his film Surviving Georgia found an audience after he was unable to persuade existing distributors to take it on.

McLaren, whose film opened to a limited release at the weekend, told Encore that films that fall between arthouse and mainstream struggle to find an appropriate distributor. Surviving Georgia was directed by Sandra Sciberras and Kate Whitbread, and shot for a budget of a million dollars. It stars Holly Valance and Pia Miranda as sisters Rose and Heidi dealing with the reappearance of their odd mother Georgia (Caroline O’Connor) into their lives. The film also features Shane Jacobson and McLaren.

From his conversations with larger distributors, McLaren said: “I had one person say, ‘If you had Meryl Streep we’d distribute it.’ And I thought, ‘If we had Meryl I wouldn’t have this problem.’”

He added: “We spoke to the independent houses and some were also keen, but the film straddles both commercial and arthouse and we slipped between the cracks.”

However, even handling distribution himself though his company Momo films, McLaren told Encore that finding screens was tough because even smaller cinema chains have allegiances with larger distributors.

He said: “We’ve encountered difficulty getting screens because a lot are programmed by the big players. It’s interesting to see who’s pulling the strings.”

He added: “It’s about us getting truly independent screens. Sydney has proved very difficult.”

“We’re trying to work closely with the key cinemas, as if it was a piece of theatre.”

He said that part of his strategy was to do more than simply play the feature. “We’re making them special events rather than just film screenings. We’re doing Q&As. We’ve had cast, directors, DOP and we’ll probably do one with our editor, depending on what venue we’re at.”

McLaren said that he was able to find the film 15 screens across Australia.

He added: “At one point we looked at a Video on Demand with Foxtel with a same-day release as the cinema release and they would only do it if it would also go out to ten cinemas. But then the cinemas would freak out about it and everyone’s comfort level wouldn’t let it happen. I got advice to let someone else go through that door first. So we backed away from that. We wanted to do a theatrical release.”

Surviving Georgia and McLaren came under fire last week when a highly positive review was attributed to The Guardian, when it was actually the anonymous opinion of a commenter on the British newspaper’s website.


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