My Love Affair With Marriage is encountering an interesting challenge. On one hand, New Europe Film Sales has booked the film into 55 film festivals around the world (and counting). The film has won nine awards (and counting). Word of mouth is excellent.
At Woodstock Film Festival, Filmmaker Signe Baumane accepts an award from New York Women in Film and Television for "Excellence in Narrative Directing" for "My Love Affair With Marriage". The background image is from the film.
But after the pandemic, festival and cinema audiences are still hesitant to come back to movie theaters: there is still caution about the virus, and people's habits have changed.
Besides, audiences unfamiliar with Signe's previous work are confounded by questions: what is an animated feature film for adult audiences? Isn't animation something kids watch on Sunday mornings?
We have to convince people that watching the film will be worth their time. And we need full-screening venues at festivals to assure distributors that there is an audience for the film.
For Signe, it means traveling with the film, meeting audiences, answering their questions, talking about the issues the film addresses, getting them excited and urging them to tell their friends about the film.
First stop on the October tour: Latvia, where My Love Affair With Marriage was the Opening Night film at Riga International Film Festival. A great honor.
Immediately after the Latvian premiere at RIFF, the film opened in cinemas around Latvia. This was thanks to our Latvian distributor Roberts Vinovskis, who also happens to be the lead producer of My Love Affair With Marriage. There were rumors out there that Latvian audiences had stopped going to movies, so this was our first test: Would audiences show up for the film?
On arrival in Riga, Signe went on a publicity blitz organized by the festival and Roberts' marketing team. Every day she would do five or six events - TV shows, radio, podcasts, photo shoots and interviews both online and in print. It was a lot of publicity for a small country. Signe was everywhere.
Signe's interview on the TV show Kultūrdeva and at a photoshoot tinged with local flavor
The publicity paid off. The premiere at Splendid Palace was sold out. 600 people, including members of the Latvian team, watched the film together, Covid be damned.
The premiere at Splendid Palace, 99-years old and Splendid
At its conclusion, the film received a five-minute standing ovation. It was thrilling.
Signe swimming in an ocean of love and flowers - Latvians love giving flowers
Afterward, at the reception, countless people told us they wanted to see the film again and bring their daughters, moms, and boyfriends. Word-of-mouth had begun...
At film festivals, a movie only screens one to four times. Usually there's little opportunity for word-of-mouth to gain momentum. But with a theatrical release, good word-of-mouth can keep a film screening for weeks, if not longer.
The day after the premiere, we drove to Kino Auseklis in the small town of Talsi, population 11,371, to introduce the film and afterwards have a Q&A. 20 people showed up. But 17 stayed for a passionate discussion in a classroom upstairs from the cinema.
Word-of-mouth hadn't reached Talsi yet, but the outpouring of excitement from audience members was heartening
Signe relishes holding Q&As and interacting with her audiences. There's lots to talk about - what inspired the story, why the story includes biology, the circumstances of producing the film independently, and of course, individual audience members sharing their thoughts and reactions.
Back in Riga, word-of-mouth was working its magic: full screening rooms.
Signe's Q&As at Riga's Forum Cinemas, and at a return engagement at Splendid Palace
As audience members file in, Signe greets them, thanks them for coming, and hands each a postcard. She likes to make the experience personal.
Handing out postcards at the Seville European Film Festival in Spain and at Forum Cinemas in Riga
When she introduces the film, Signe asks the audience to stay through the end-credits so as not to miss Lion, the end-credit song sung by Storm Large. This song encapsulates the meaning of the film and gives a notion on what the future may hold for Zelma, the main character. It uplifts and inspires the audiences before they walk out of the movie theater. Don't miss it.
Introductions at DOK Leipzig in Germany and at the New York Baltic Film Festival
Signe begins her Q&A's by asking the audience three questions from the film. The quickest to answer correctly wins an original drawing from the film.
Drawing giveaways at the midday "Senior Screening" at Kino Bize in Riga and at the Community Center in Signe's hometown, Tukums, Latvia, population 16,999
After a Q&A she signs postcards for anyone who wants them and has brief conversations with each. It is a personal connection.
Signing postcards at Ankara Film Festival in Turkey
From Riga, Signe took the film to festivals in Leipzig, London, New York, Ankara, and Seville. Next up is Goa, India. And on December 10 we will be in Reykjavik, Iceland for the European Film Awards, Europe's answer to the Oscars. As a Latvia-USA-Luxembourg production, My Love Affair With Marriage is nominated for the Best European Animated Feature Film! Please cross your fingers and wish good luck to the film!
And now - some good news! In 2023 the Spanish distributor, Filmin, will release the film in Spain. At the festival in Seville, Signe went through another major round of publicity thanks to the joint efforts of Filmin and the Festival. One critic called her "the Patti Smith of Cinema".
Lots of publicity = full houses in Seville
And - the film has a distributor in France! Tamasa Distribution is a well known and respected distribution company and we are thrilled and honored to be working with them.
Take a look at the stars on the map: they represent the festivals where My Love Affair With Marriage has screened thus far or will be screening. We attended the festivals marked with darker stars.
You can find the complete list of the film's festival screenings and awards HERE.
How does Signe feel about all this activity?
"For seven years I was working obsessively in the safety and quiet of my studio, encountering a few people a day. The pandemic cut down even more on my socializing. So, coming out into the daylight and having to meet and talk to hundreds of people in one day was somewhat of a shock. At first I felt I had lost my socializing muscle, having not exercised it for seven years. But slowly it came back. I do love people and I do love when they love the film!"
Thank you for your love and support.
Sturgis, Signe and the entire My Love Affair With Marriage Team