Capitalizing on critical buzz for Sleeping Giant’s release

Michael Robson, D Films' SVP of acquisition and new business development, on the mass-media-supported distribution strategy for Andrew Cividino's festival darling.

Coming Soon, an ongoing editorial feature from Playback, highlights the distribution strategies for soon-to-be-released Canadian films. Here, we speak to D Films’ SVP of acquisition and new business development Michael Robson about the distribution strategy for Sleeping Giant.

The film: Sleeping Giant follows the story of three teenagers – Nate, Riley and Adam – spending the summer in a sleepy cottage town on the shores of Lake Superior. The trio attempt to cope with boredom by pushing their limits, but their volatile dynamic is tested when a girl is introduced into the mix. The film stars Jackson Martin, Nick Serino, Reece Moffett, David Disher, Erika Brodzky, Katelyn McKerracher and Lorraine Philip.

Production/distribution credits: Sleeping Giant is produced by Film Forge and Hawkeye Pictures. Producers are Karen Harnisch, Aaron Yeger, James Vandewater and Marc Swenker. The film is the debut feature from director Andrew Cividino. Aeschylus Poulos serves as executive producer. D Films holds the Canadian distribution rights to Sleeping Giant, with Seville International handling international and U.S. sales rights to the film.

Theatrical: Sleeping Giant will open at the Varsity in Toronto on April 8, followed by an April 15 opening in theaters in Vancouver and Montreal before a wider expansion to other markets in Canada on April 22. After seeing the strength of the film on the festival circuit, Michael Robson, SVP of acquisition and new business development, said D Films believes Sleeping Giant will benefit from the word-of-mouth buzz a platform release can generate.

“A slow, measured rollout allows us to build to that critical mass that you want,” Robson said, adding that smaller indie films tend to benefit the most from this kind of approach. Thanks to the film’s success at TIFF and the connections many of the crew have to Ryerson University, Robson said he believes Sleeping Giant will already have a strong audience base in Toronto, which lead to a decision to forego any kind of event-type screenings opening weekend. However, D Films will be hosting a special screening in Thunder Bay of Sleeping Giant, as the film was shot in the area and two of the stars hail from the city.

Sleeping Giant had a particularly strong run on the festival circuit, winning prizes at TIFF and VIFF and screening in the Semaine de la Critique program in Cannes. D Films, however, had always planned a spring release for the film to ensure it wouldn’t get lost in the awards race and compete against larger studio films, Robson said.

Marketing: D Films will be doing a print buy for every market the film is screening in, starting with a weekly print buy with NOW Magazine and The Globe and Mail in Toronto. “We don’t do print all the time, but because this is a pedigree film we want to put it out here,” Robson said. The distributor will be focusing most of its efforts on online advertising, including pre-roll ads on YouTube and a large spend on Facebook. Advertising dollars are also being funneled towards TV ads. D Films has created both 30- and 15-second ad spots, with a small run confirmed for CP24 and some yet-to-be-determined spot buys.

Additional windows: A DVD/Blu-ray release is currently scheduled for this summer, with a VOD and digital (iTunes) roll out also scheduled for around that time. The Movie Network has the pay TV rights to Sleeping Giant, with D Films currently looking to land a deal for the free TV rights to the film. Robson said D Films avoids releasing films day-and-date, and believes Sleeping Giant will do well across all platforms.  “If you do a strong theatrical release, it gets on people’s radars and legitimizes it when it is on the digital platforms,” Robson said.

Target audience: The primary target audience for the film is adults aged 25 to 49, with the secondary demo being men and women aged 16 to 25, skewing slightly male. Sleeping Giant is a coming-of-age film and would likely appeal to people who can look back at that time in their life with a sense of nostalgia, Robson said, but can also easily speak to a younger demo. “I think it would be a very different and interesting film for people who are actually going through that stage in their life as well,” Robson said. Sleeping Giant would also appeal to those who are interested in the outdoors and outdoor activities, such as cottaging or camping, Robson said.

Financing: The low-budget Sleeping Giant received financial support from Telefilm Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.