Emerging director Guy Davies cold-called cinemas to get his coming-of-age romance Philophobia shown – and it worked
“I’m Guy, a filmmaker in my 20s from the UK. My debut film, Philophobia is coming to cinemas nationwide tomorrow! It’s fully independent and low budget with no studio or govt money. It’s a self release and I am in direct contact with all the cinemas.”
Getting a small, independent movie into cinemas is a huge challenge at the best of times. Ironically, it might be easier in the worst of times. Which, thanks to Covid, is now. That is what Guy Davies found with his new film Philophobia, a coming-of-age romance set in his home town of Stroud. With the big studio movies now in hibernation, cinemas are hungry for new content, which means opportunities for smaller fare. So Davies decided to take the initiative. “I’d been banging on doors all year with the film,” says the 29-year-old film-maker, “so I just thought: why not go directly to cinemas?”
“It’s a peculiar position to be in, with more space in the cinemas because of studio movies dropping out, some independent films like mine have managed to squeeze in. We’re going up against TENET this weekend who spend millions on marketing and there’s me working from my bedroom in PJ’s with no marketing team let alone a budget. I’ve been doing my best to maximise press and social media publicity. ”
Philophobia will not be everyone’s cup of tea (think a broodier, dreamier Sex Education). Some plot elements are very familiar and the gaze is somewhat boy-centric, but it is heartfelt and handsome, with a promising young cast. Furthermore, the themes and modern-day setting should appeal to young adults, probably the least catered-to demographic in cinema right now, and also the least afraid to actually go to them.
Davies was partly inspired by the success of After We Collided, another YA romance, which was independently released in September, again with zero marketing. It came in second to Tenet at the box office, and has taken £3.5m in the UK so far. (Davies cannily got cinemas to play the trailer for Philophobia in front of it.)
A new ecosystem could be emerging here. This time last year, Joker was hogging more than 650 UK screens, and the forgettable Addams Family remake another 550. With the big studio movies felled by Covid, some light is reaching the forest floor. The result could be space for new talent, catering to new audiences. With some enlightened cinema programming, this could sustain the industry through these lean times – and beyond. Davies’s advice? “You have to be a bit relentless. You’ve just got to keep knocking on the door and hope for the best.”
Here’s a link to a write up in the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/oct/26/philophobia-guy-davies-with-blockbusters-on-hiatus-could-small-indie-films-save-cinema