Coming Soon: How To Change The World

Robin Smith of Toronto-based distributor KinoSmith on the theatrical release strategy for Greenpeace doc How To Change The World.
Greenpeace

Coming Soon, an ongoing editorial feature from Playback, highlights the distribution strategies for soon-to-be released Canadian films. Here, we speak to Robin Smith, founder and president of KinoSmith and CEO of Blue Ice Docs about the distribution strategy for How To Change The World.

The film: How To Change The World is a documentary charting the inception and evolution of Greenpeace. Using archive footage, the feature-length doc begins in 1971 when a group of Canadians’ protest of a nuclear test zone catches the attention of the world’s media, redefining the green movement in the process.

Production credits: The doc is directed by Jerry Rothwell (Town of Runners) and is produced by Toronto’s Insight Productions, London, England’s Met Film Productions and U.K.-based Daniel Film. Barbara Bowlby, Lorraine Charker-Phillips, Dan Cogan, John Brunton, Ian Darling, Chris Collins, Lizzie Francke, Stewart Le Marechal, David Wilkinson and Jonny Persey serve as exec producers on the doc. How To Change The World is a U.K.-Canada coproduction.

Distributor: Toronto-based distributor KinoSmith is handling the theatrical release of the film in Canada. Kinosmith is sharing the rights to the post-theatrical release with Bell Media via CTV.

Theatrical: How To Change The World opens in Toronto at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, in Vancouver at the Vancity Theatre and in Montreal  at the Cinema du Parc on Aug 7. In both Montreal and Toronto the film is scheduled for a one-week run, with potential for holdover based on ticket sales. In Vancouver, the film is booked for a three-week run. The film will also open ByTowne Cinema in Ottawa on August 28.

The Greenpeace doc previously screened in the Hot Docs festival in Toronto at the Hot Docs Cinema and as part of the Vancouver Film Festival at the Vancity Theatre, prompting the distributor to return to these two venues for the theatrical release, said KinoSmith CEO and founder Robin Smith. “Knowing that they had hosted the films, we knew that if we got the films back commercially to them [the same venues in Toronto and Vancouver] that they would…re-promote it through their channels,” he said.

The theatrical run is also a set-up for the film’s broadcast premiere later this year, Smith noted. “Theatrical returns are never a massively profitable scenario. What we’re really cognizant of is that this film going to be airing on CTV later this year. We want to draw some awareness of this film, as well as draw some awareness for a broadcast launch at that point in time,” Smith said.

Marketing: The marketing push for the theatrical release will focus more on social media than traditional ad buys. Greenpeace will handle the majority of the social media push themselves, using their large membership base to reach its audience. “We’re not going to be doing a heavy advertisement buy on the film. It’s just not something, in the doc world, that we’re firm believers has a massive impact,” Smith said. Smith also pointed out that Greenpeace alone has a global membership of more than 2.8 million people. “It’s a huge base that we can rely on to put bums in seats,” he added.

Special screening events will also be held in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto in the form of Q&A’s with Greenpeace representatives and people closely affiliated with the cause. Emily Hunter, daughter of Greenpeace founding member Bob Hunter, will do Q&As in Toronto, while Bob Hunter’s wife Bobbi Hunter will do the same in Montreal. Founding Greenpeace member Rex Weyler will be in Vancouver to participate in Q&A sessions.

“I think when you’re dealing with Canadian films, let alone non-fiction Canadian films, you need to make it more than a screening to really draw the attention of the mass consumers out there. So bringing in these speakers is one of the ways we are trying to push that opening weekend,” said Smith.  Having personal family connections to Bob Hunter, and a founding Greenpeace member, will give added legitimacy to the screenings, added Smith.

Target Audience: How To Change The World skews more toward an older, “baby boomer” demographic that grew up in the same time period the doc looks at, Smith said. However, Smith also believes that the film will appeal to a younger generation. “We’re hoping we’ll capture the attention of people with a nostalgic look back at what was, and a younger generation that’s looking forward to what will become,” he said.

Additional windows: Initially, the distributor will focus its energies in the post-theatrical window on building up buzz for the doc ahead of its CTV broadcast premiere in the fall. Once How To Change The World airs on CTV, the focus will switch to placing the doc on transactional VOD platforms. Though no exact platforms have been announced yet, Smith said Kinosmith will be targeting the educational market heavily.

What makes the film unique: The “warts-and-all” telling of the Greenpeace story is one facet of the doc that makes it unique, said Smith. “There’s no issue with it being a love letter to Greenpeace. They have no qualms about showing all the pros and cons, and the organization is willing to look at itself and figure out where its flaws are,” he said.

Budget: How To Change The World was produced with a budget of over $2 million. Financial backers included SKY UK Limited, Bell Media and the British Film Institute. The film was also financed via U.K. and Ontario tax credits.