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What If We Got to Decide What’s Playing at the Megaplex?

‘When The Storm Fades’ is being shown across Canada thanks to a platform that lets audiences choose what should be screened.

Emma Cooper 7 Jan 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Emma Cooper is the operations and development assistant at The Tyee.

It’s one thing to make a brilliant, award-winning, lavishly praised Canadian film.

It’s another to find a way for anyone to see it.

Ask Sean Devlin. After leading a band of Vancouver-based comedians, artist-activists and pranksters in Shit Harper Did, Devlin went on to fuse his love of comedy and social justice in a sincere, funny and uncategorizable docu-dramedy titled When The Storm Fades.

The film, in part about the horrors of climate change, netted Devlin the Jury Prize for Best Emerging Canadian Director at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2018. It’s been shown to acclaim at film festivals around the world.

Academy Award-winning director, writer and producer Adam McKay (Vice, The Big Short and Anchorman) called it “a beautiful film. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The Tyee’s Dorothy Woodend loved it.

When the Storm Fades contains a startling combination of tragedy and comedy so thoroughly intermingled that it’s difficult to tell where the funny ends and sudden overwhelming grief, the kind that cuts you off at the knees, staggers in,” she wrote. “The action is set in a rural part of the Philippines devastated by Hurricane Haiyan. As residents attempt to put their lives back together, the lingering physical effects of the disaster are slowly receding, but in their place is a new set of issues, including the arrival of insurance salesmen, NGOs and developers… A true and genuine gem, don’t miss this one!”

Trailer for When The Storm Fades.

But awards and praise don’t mean a movie will actually be shown outside the film festival circuit.

An innovative platform called Demand.Film aims to change that.

Demand.Film gives producers or fans a chance to champion a movie and organize theatre screenings. They request a showing in a specific market, then use the site to promote the screening. If enough people reserve tickets, the showing goes ahead. If not, no one is charged.

Devlin’s extraordinary film will be screening in 16 cities in six provinces — including Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo — on Jan. 20, thanks to Demand.Film’s platform.

Showings in four more cities — Saskatoon, Regina, Sudbury and Thunder Bay — are possible, if the minimum number of tickets are sold by Thursday.

Cineplex, which works with Demand.Film, has just announced screenings in North Vancouver and Langley. The downtown Vancouver screening was previously sold out but has now moved to a theatre with more seats so tickets are once again available.*

It’s innovative for an independent film’s release to be based on audience-demand basis.

And it’s a genuinely new experience to play an individual role in helping a movie find an audience. I enjoyed the nail-biting suspense of seeing whether the good people of Nanaimo, my hometown, would buy enough tickets to ensure the film was shown there. I really wanted my family members to see it.

And I wasn’t the only person invested in supporting the film. In Nanaimo, one individual was so passionate about Devlin’s film that they offered to pay for strangers’ tickets. (The offer is now over, sorry!) It was incredibly gratifying to check the Demand.Film website and see the banner turn from red to green as ticket sales passed the magic threshold. It’s a feeling I’ve never experienced watching The Avengers, Star Wars or any other corporate franchise movie.

It helps that I know that each screening benefits the Pablo family who were at the centre of the film, with box office profits dedicated to helping them rebuild their home and lives.

Given that Canada contributes an outsized amount of emissions that bring destruction to poorer countries like the Philippines, the opportunity to meditate on our impact on this family located across the globe is a necessary and healing ritual.

That When The Storm Fades is a funny and beautiful cinematic experience doesn’t hurt either.

*Story updated on Jan. 7 at 2:20 p.m. to include information about more screening options for When The Storm Fades in the Lower Mainland.  [Tyee]

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