Bringing a Cult Film Festval to Your Town

8 06 2014

We have the great luck of a retail shopping destination client with a 500-seat cultural venue. On the not-so-great side, it’s a challenge to attract patrons and shoppers during South Florida’s off season – the incredibly hot and humid summers (with added bonus of hurricane season). Mainstreet at Midtown is known for its year-round outdoor festivals and events like a 16-week Music on the Plaza concert series (held during the drier and cooler months of the peak social season), its Peace Love & Wellness Music Festival, Children’s Festival, Cool Yule Tree Decorating Contest, and others.

swede fest palm beach 3So, we needed a summer event, and it REALLY needed to be indoors.

And then NPR did this great piece a couple of years ago about an underground film event that sounded like the perfect idea we could get behind and make our client’s own. Indie film festivals have a rich history of showcasing amazing undiscovered talent, where Hollywood insiders troll for the next big thing, where A-list stars promote the small labor-of-love projects they do between blockbusters. swede fest™ palm beach is an indie film festival with NONE of that going for it. In fact, our tagline is “Bad Movies by Good People.”

The key to understanding why is in the “swede.” A swede is a no-budget, laughably bad remake of a hit Hollywood film – the bigger, the better. The term comes from the 2008 Jack Black/Mos Def comedy, Be Kind Rewind, and was made up to explain the sheer awfulness of their remade films by touting them as European – “swedes” because it sounded really sophisticated. Not exactly a classic in its genre, but neither is it comedy kryptonite.

swede fest palm beach 3Next thing you know, there’s an underground sweding craze. Two guys in Fresno invited a bunch of friends to make films starring themselves, then get together to screen them, like they do at Sundance, SXSW, Telluride, Slamdance, Tribeca, and so on – but without the beautiful celebrities, coolness factor, or bidding wars. Hence the coverage on NPR.

We’re the third official swede fest™. First, Fresno. Then, Tampa Bay. Now, the Palm Beaches. This is the third year, and we sell out every time, create super fun/cheesy marketing, a great microsite, go crazy on social media: and , give out silly awards (Best Use of a Backyard Location, Best Use of Man’s Best Friend, Best Use of Tinfoil), and everyone generally has a great time and gets dressed up in total Hollywood drag.

Local schools get involved and sometimes do them as class projects, and the community and local media really get behind it because we deliberately created an all-ages event – you can swede any film, but your 3-minute clip must be PG-13, even if your source material is not. We’ve had swedes of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and The Thing, and already we have someone who has submitted The Wolf of Wall Street for this year’s festival on August 2. We’re anxious to see exactly how they’ll sanitize that one.



12 08 2012

Any time you work on a brand-new event with a client, there’s always the possibility that — even with a great concept and a clever hook, after everyone’s hard work, late nights, inspired ideas, creativity, sharp copy, media hooks, great pitches, relentless social media outreach, promises from everyone to cover the event, smart media buys, great sponsors, high-profile partners, and every other factor you can imagine — you’ll have a half-full venue. There are so many intangibles you can’t control; then add in that it’s summer, in Florida, during hurricane season, when it usually rains every afternoon from 4:00pm until 7:00pm, it’s hot and humid and hair gets frizzy, people are away on last-minute vacations before school starts and/or work gets back to a more normal schedule, and did we mention it’s summer? And that no one knows what a “swede” is?

Midtown's Belle Forino and Sherri Gedraitis in front of the step-and-repeat using our logo and graphics

Midtown’s Belle Forino and Sherri Gedraitis in front of the step-and-repeat using our logo and graphics

Yet none of that seemed to matter last Friday night when the inaugural SWEDE FEST™PALM BEACH launched to a sold out crowd of over 500 attendees on Mainstreet at Midtown.From the red carpet in front of The Borland Center for Performing Arts through the final credits, this was high-energy entertainment for everyone involved, with “swedes” submitted by amateur filmmakers ages 10 to 60.

First, the BG. A swede is a no-budget, laughably bad remake of a hit Hollywood film – the bigger, the better. The term comes from the 2008 Jack Black/Mos Def comedy, Be Kind Rewind, and was made up to explain the sheer awfulness of their remade films by touting them as European – swedes, because it sounded really sophisticated.  No, you probably didn’t see it — it’s not exactly a classic, but neither is it comedy kryptonite. If you did see it, it was probably late at night on Skinemax. We mean Cinemax.

Next thing you know, there’s an underground sweding craze. Two guys in Fresno invited a bunch of friends to make films starring themselves, then get together to screen them in another homage: to the indie film festival – but without the beautiful celebrities, coolness factor, or bidding wars.

And that is the somewhat long and winding road that leads to swede fest™ palm beach, the third official swede fest™. First, Fresno. Then, Tampa Bay. Now, “the Palm Beaches” but really, Palm Beach Gardens, where our client is located. We suggested it was important to secure the trademark in such a way to lock up the event in the area and own it; anyone who wished to come afterward and imitate it would not be able to just tack on another word and piggyback on all our client’s financial investment and hard work. Sad, but a fact in the world of marketing and events.

swede fest logo, color variant #1

swede fest logo, color variant #1

Our job was to come up with the logo, tagline, all of the graphics necessary for social media, create a WordPress-based website for swede fest™ palm beach, write all the content for it, produce two 15-second promo commercials to be show in the local Cobb movie theaters (one promoting the call for entries and the other promoting the festival itself), and work closely with Belle Forino, our client Midtown’s Marketing Coordinator, to manage the social media while she approached local schools, the Palm Beach International Film Festival, the entertainment community, the Palm Beach County Film Commission, and Digital Domain (who became a major sponsor along with its Digital Domain Institute) to drum up support for a grassroots amateur film festival in which short, DIY versions of big-budget feature films are reproduced as cheaply as possible, using family and friends as cast; bedrooms, backyards, and local parks as sets; and toys, pets, and found objects as props.

swede fest palm beach Call For Entries :30 TV Spot from swede fest palm beach on Vimeo.

Bringing a swede fest™ to the area was Belle’s idea after hearing a story on NPR. She contacted the Fresno-based originators, and we were on our way with their blessing and the trademark.

Next came the design of the swede fest™ palm beach logo, and the creation of our tagline “A celebration of bad movie by good people,” which has been variously attributed to other people and festivals, but was created by Alchemy for Midtown. Swede fest tampa bay liked it so much they asked to use it, and in the best swedeing spirit, Belle said, “Of course.” Swede fests aren’t about competition; they’re about the love of movies, a fondness for a good time, and how sometimes bad can be so very good.

Once we settled on a basic logo design, we needed a variety of iterations: a “call for entries” version, a general all-purpose version, a variety of sizes to accommodate Facebook, Twitter, various electronic media buys, the creation of a masthead for the website, and versions in two complementary color schemes in various resolutions for print, web, and other uses.

The electronic "mea culpa" on the date thing

The electronic “mea culpa” on the date thing

We decided the fastest and easiest way to create a web presence for the festival was to build a WordPress-based site hosted on the servers, availing ourselves of the handy array of templates and widgets that would eliminate the hours of programming necessary to create a site from scratch or add everything we envisioned it needing to the existing Midtown website. The site could then be constantly modified, added to, and manipulated by Alchemy rather than adding to the already heavy maintenance schedule of Midtown’s webmaster.

The date for the festival, the opening of the entry submissions and the deadline for those entries, and other milestones were scheduled in early March. However, everyone was so focused on educating people about swede fests, getting them excited about creating films and entering them, creating all of these ad/promo/social media elements, getting the local media interested in the event, securing an emcee, and all the thousand other details that ONE LITTLE THING escaped us that had a tremendous impact: the announcement that the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London would be on Friday, August 27th. Yes, the same day we’d scheduled swede fest™ palm beach.

Rather than see this as a PR disaster, once we knew we could roll the date back one week and still have our venue, we recommended that we make a big joke out of the situation rather than engage in any hand-wringing (we did enough of that internally). So we put out a media alert that said:

We’ve tried to ignore it, but it’s time we addressed what you all have been thinking: yes it’s true, the opening ceremony of the London Summer Olympic Games is ON THE SAME NIGHT AS SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH.

The date change graphic

The date change graphic

You can’t fight the power. So we’re taking the high road. We’re willing to step aside and let the U.S. Olympic athletes, and the rest of those competing, have that special night without us siphoning off their audience. We’re moving SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH back a week to FRIDAY, AUGUST 3. Same time, same place. Because there’s no way they can pull off such a sweet move.

Since we’re moving our renegade amateur film festival back a week, we’re going to give our sweders another week, too. THE DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES ROLLS BACK TO FRIDAY, JULY 20. Everyone wins.

Put it on your calendars now. SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH deadline for entries is Friday, July 20. SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH is Friday, August 3. Screenings begin at 7:00PM at The Borland Center for Performing Arts. Take that, London.

And created a graphic that we emailed to the database and posted to all our social media that was essentially a gigantic mea culpa. It worked.

swede fest palm beach Event Announcement :15 TV Spot from swede fest palm beach on Vimeo.

The "sweded" Mainstreet at Midtown logo

The “sweded” Mainstreet at Midtown logo

And in spite of the fact that this did create a few glitches (the need to find new emcees — The Jove Comedy Experience stepped in and were just amazing; the fact that so many community calendars had already run the original date and it was too late to get most of them to run the new date; and a few other little things), the client was thrilled with the media coverage, the event turnout, how many new visitors of all ages were on Mainstreet at Midtown that night, how many great people volunteered “in kind” sponsorships to be involved (edited to mention that Hollywood Cupcake makes Kelly’s heart sing for joy and her cupcakes are little sugar bombs of happiness and rainbows and angels singing. Was that too much?)

In fact, we think you can consider a first-time event a success when the client tells you at said event the date she’s chosen for next year’s event.

The best-dressed swedeing team EVER

The best-dressed swedeing team EVER

swede fest™ palm beach will be on Friday, August 2, 2013 for those of you who want to start planning what film to swede now and whether you’ll be raiding Goodwill’s toy department for your cast, your pets will play supporting roles, or whether you’ve always secretly wanted to wear a superhero costume and/or play Wolverine. You know you want it.

The team who sweded "Old School"

The team who sweded “Old School”

Yep. we’re going to go out on a limb and say that not only do people now know what a swede is, we’ll easily double the almost 40 entries in swede fest™ palm beach 2012 with an embarrassment of riches — in this case, a plethora of swedes — in 2013. This is what special event are supposed to do for your client, and this little renegade, amateur film festival really delivered.

A Barking Good Time on Mainstreet at Midtown: Valentine’s Paws on Parade

13 02 2012
Paws on Parade

Paws on Parade

Be My Valentine?

Be My Valentine?

By the time the sun broke through on Saturday, there were sailors, peapods, skunks, princesses, fancy pink or red dresses, chef’s whites, Sweetheart candies, rhinestone sunglasses, heart-shaped bandannas, Victorian gowns, Argyle sweaters, a variety of hats, tutus,  and an outfit made of balloons interspersed with characters wearing nothing but collars.

Some guys just don't need costumes...

Some guys just don't need costumes...

Look-a-Like Winners

Look-a-Like Winners

It was the inaugural Valentine’s Paws on Parade and Block Party on Mainstreet at Midtown in Palm Beach Gardens, and the costumed characters were all dogs vying for prizes like “Best Valentine Costume,” “Best Non-Valentine Costume,” “Best Dog & Owner Lookalike,” and our own Best in Show, “Cupid” and “Venus.”

Dig the hat...

Dig the hat...

Relationships blossomed...

Relationships blossomed...

We’ve been so busy working with Belle Forino, Midtown’s Marketing Coordinator, on this and Midtown’s third annual free concert series, Music on the Plaza, that we haven’t had time to announce that we’re now Midtown’s agency of record.

The Valentine Paws on Parade costume contest and Mainstreet at Midtown Block Party celebrated all things canine to benefit Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary & Hospital. The judges were Kool 105.5’s Mo & Sally, long-time supporters of Safe Harbor.

Woofgang Pup, another winner...

Woofgang Pup, another winner.

Regular, two-legged children.

Regular, two-legged children.

The event was designed for the entire family (that’s children of the two- and four-legged variety),  including a Kid’s Corner with face painting, McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog, and their own DJ; dozens of dog-friendly vendors; Safe Harbor Animal Activities: obedience class, on-site adoption, pet psychic, pet portraits, dog tricks; rabies vaccinations; food; live entertainment by OFF THE RECORD, The ROWDY ROOSTERS, and DJ MICHAEL BONICK; and more. The event and parking were both free. It was an opportunity for people to come out and support the community and Safe Harbor, celebrate Valentines with their canines, and have a barking good time.

It worked.

%d bloggers like this: