Observations and Thoughts on Building for the Premiere

Key Themes and Methods in Fighting Through to Successful Premieres

March 6, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

Here are some observations and thoughts on two main themes off of being out this last weekend to promote, build for and get people to come to the film premiere BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!

The first theme I want to touch on is that it seems to me that the line and approach is—and remains—the decisive factor in how people understand the content and significance of these film premieres, on whether they come to the premieres, and be part of building a social movement for these film premieres—a critical moment in the movement for revolution in this country.

It is important that people get their tickets now, seal their commitment to come, and create a favorable and compelling atmosphere in key sectors of society, influencing others. At the same time, it is critical that the mission and method of taking this to the people be consistent with the content and tone of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, and the need and ideological challenge for people to "Get With It!" In other words, our approach has to be in line with and consistent with that, not be narrowed down to just "get your tickets now," severed from content. People need a basic understanding of the content of the film, of what to expect—what folks are coming to hear and why it matters.

In this context, a couple of thoughts/observations:

* The palm card for BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! is a tremendous, and still perhaps underappreciated, resource. This card puts forward with simplicity and in a basic way why this film matters. In my experience, it was really worth having people not only just quickly scan the palm card (as is the fashion in this attention-deficit society), but really take time to read the front and back of the card, including the three quotes—from BA, Cornel West, and the filmmaker—and reflect on it all, forming the basic framework of what often turns into provocative, interesting—and unexpected—discussions. Often, both because many people have difficulty reading and because it is more interactive, it is good to read aloud with them. The content of the palm card, either in conversation or agitation, along with "Clear Your Day" as a tag-line (or "Get Your Tickets Now") poses a challenge and a framework for the rest of the engagement. This might encompass who is BA, other questions about the revolution, and much more—all of which should lead in a broad way and directed towards the film premieres.

* The more there are the "surrounds" and collective engagement with BA the better. While not a pre-requisite for buying the ticket, we found that a great majority of those who bought their tickets had some degree of direct engagement with BA—at times on the spot and for the first time—either through watching some clips and/or listening to the Cornel West and Michael Slate interviews or quotes from BAsics. This "speaks to the serious" like nothing else, and deepens the understanding of what to expect—what folks are coming to hear and why it matters.

* Overall, there is an approach modeled in the last editorial "Clear Your Day" of directing people to the film, of not trying to answer every question exhaustively but utilizing the method of the editorial, saying these are the big questions of our day, they are substantively taken up in this film and this is why you need to Clear the Day, this is why you need to be there. A conviction that this is the most important thing they can do with that day—to Clear the Day for BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!

This same editorial also poses the big questions that objectively exist in society and are subjectively brought to the fore by this approach. Posing these questions brings them to consciousness. As the editorial states, it is not about answering all the questions, or agreeing to everything as a prerequisite to come to the film, but having these questions is reason to be there! I had an instance where I ran through some of these questions with a high school student. He was relatively quiet, and at a point, I asked "Don’t you sometimes wonder if this is the best of all possible worlds or is there something better, not some heaven or utopia but that we can make?" and he replied, "All the time." "That's why you need to be there," was my response—and he just took out his wallet and bought a ticket.

* As part of this process, many have given us their contact information. Some did not have the money on hand to buy tickets, some have questions and want to learn more, and many are still contemplating all this, often hearing for the first time what is completely outrageous and eminently reasonable. If approached on the right basis, it is important to recognize that folks giving us their contact information is often a meaningful step in the process, indicating they are seriously weighing all this—and it is very important that we follow up with them.

This takes a variety of forms including phone-calling, meeting up for coffee, sending them the daily emails from the BA Everywhere initiative, or links to the interview and film clips and other works of BA on revcom.us. While we can't go chasing after people who aren't serious, it is important to take the time to fight for those who actually are seriously weighing this.

Drawing People in on the Spot

The second theme I want to touch on is that it seems to me we need to get much better at, and find more forms and means for drawing people in on the spot and organizing and consolidating cores and groupings to come to the film premieres. It'd be great to hear others' experiences in this regard so we can all learn from them and popularize and emulate some approaches and forms that achieve these.

In this context, a couple of points:

* Drawing in and involving people on the spot has to be built into our approach in everything we do, not an afterthought or add-on. Even as people are first introduced to the film and weighing buying a ticket, people can become part of the process of building for the film (and often this can impact back on their desire to be there as they learn more). This might include taking stacks of palm cards and distributing them, contributing funds, inviting us to their home and club to watch the clips and listen to the interviews with their friends and family, and joining us in outings to the campus, to the projects, and to different events.

What I learned this past weekend are some ways popularized by the local Revolution Club along with others. Buttons with BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! have proven to be popular particularly with a section of the high school students and creates the feeling and the realness of a social movement for this film. There are a group of young kids in the projects—“shorties”—who have gravitated to this, and are part of the crew, wearing "The System Has No Future for the Youth, The Revolution Does!” t-shirts, drumming when people are out among the masses, handing out cards to each apartment and postering all over the place. They are asking people—neighbors and others—"Have you got your ticket yet?" creating a "vibe" and contributing to the surrounds and social compulsion. The Revolution Club has created a simple stencil of Revolution—Nothing Less! for t-shirts, backpacks, etc.—popular among the youth. Getting a stencil of this is getting involved. Having the shorties and others do it and making it a mass phenomenon seems the next evolution. These are just a few examples, and we need a lot more and consistently.

* Organizing and consolidating cores and groupings to come to the film premieres will be critical, from the standpoint not only of successful premieres but also in making these a decisive moment in the movement for revolution in this country.

People being approached should also be encouraged and worked with to speak with their friends, family, neighbors, colleagues and associates about this, those "they talk serious things with," invite them to engage with BA and come to the film premiere. People can be part of selling tickets for this whether they are extremely "fired up" and on a mission for this film or if they are new but serious about trying to bring their friends. This applies even more to those who came to the fall events where BA spoke live and have some understanding of what this experience can mean and result in!

A basic read and discussion of BA: A Contended Question helps give them a correct framework to process and understand their friends' reactions—and their own. There are natural "organic" groupings in different social realms whether it be the campus or the projects or society more broadly, but forging and consolidating cores takes leadership—method, attention and work—and it's worth it. It seems to me that collectively listening to and watching BA—in the film clips and the interviews—even while taking it out to and with others is a critical aspect of consolidating these cores.

What I got a deeper sense of this weekend is that not only do we need newer cores we meet and forge through this process, but we also need to grow already existing cores like the Revolution Club, Revolution Books, or the local BA Everywhere Committee. These are very attractive centers with people gravitating to and orbiting around these cores. The local Revolution Club for example has become a recognized force and reference among certain sections of youth including students. New people can learn a tremendous amount, as well as contribute—both through their own involvement and even by simply being present with the revolutionaries—by joining in these efforts. I saw some evidence of this when a few youth, with life stories and histories borne of the profound oppression of sections of people by this system, ran with the Revolution Club for parts of the day, both contributing in significant ways and showing the potential for much more.

The bookstore and the committee have reach and influence among strata ranging across artists, intellectuals and basic masses. While primarily ideological and political centers, these can and must also be centers of organizing for the day, making sure people come to the film premieres—including, as much as possible, helping coordinate simple logistical measures like organizing shared and collective transport to the theaters/venues, and working through other obstacles like childcare. Revolutionaries leading in the mass initiatives to stop mass incarceration and to end pornography, patriarchy and the enslaving degradation of women are a similar attractive force representing a future without all these horrors, a conviction that it no longer needs to be this way, and should be selling a lot of tickets and involving people in building for these premieres.

Again, collectively listening to and watching BA—in the film clips and the interviews—even while taking it out with others is a critical aspect of cohering and consolidating these cores. Without making a "stage" out of this, instead doing this as part of the dynamic of being out in the world, and building on the beginnings around all this, it seems to me we can and should strive to realize the full potential and do much more around this…. and I think 10 days is still enough to make it all happen!

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