Axel Grigor with Jill Bilcock.

As the executive producer and distributor of Jill Bilcock: Dancing the Invisible, Sue Maslin knew the feature documentary would appeal to filmmakers and cinephiles.

The challenge she faced was to reach mainstream audiences who may not have heard of the Oscar-nominated film editor but have admired her expertise  on countless movies including The Dressmaker, Elizabeth: the Golden Age, Strictly Ballroom, Muriel’s Wedding, Moulin Rouge!, Road to Perdition, The Dish, Red Dog and Red Dog: True Blue.

So via her company Film Art Media she is staging Q&A screenings around the country for the film directed by Axel Grigor, who produced with Faramarz K-Rahber, and the strategy looks like paying off.

“You just can’t open a film these days and hope to make money. It has to be an experience for the audience,” Maslin tells IF. The marketing spend including P&A is less than half the sum she outlaid to release the 2008 feature documentary Celebrity: Dominick Dunne, which chronicled Dunne’s rise from unlikely war hero and Hollywood producer to correspondent and the defining voice of Vanity Fair.

“Digital marketing has changed everything and enables us to reach a much wider audience base,” she said. “The challenge is to convert that into cinema visits.”

With the proceeds from the theatrical release she aims to recoup the marketing costs, which means the upside will come from sales to free-to-air TV, pay TV, streaming and VOD as well as international sales handled by Embankment Films.

The campaign kicked off with an exclusive engagement at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova, which included Q&A screenings for AACTA/AFI members and the Natalie Miller Fellowship. That was followed by similar screenings in Hobart and Devonport and Sydney’s Golden Age Cinemas and Dendy Newtown. The Q&As were hosted variously by Bilcock, Maslin and the director. The film has grossed $15,000 after the second weekend at its Nova showcase.

“It’s great to see regular audiences are really enjoying the film and hearing Jill’s story,” said Maslin, who became involved after the producers approached her before the filming of The Dressmaker.

Four years in the making,  the doco features interviews with the cream of the Australian film industry including Cate Blanchett, Rachel Griffiths, Phil Noyce, Bruce Beresford, Richard Lowenstein, Fred Schepisi, Baz Luhrmann, Jocelyn Moorhouse, Kriv Stenders, Rob Sitch, Roger Savage, Sue Brooks and Ana Kokkinos.

“Capturing Jill at work on The Dressmaker was a privilege. Observing her methodically fine-tune each scene offered a real insight into how she approaches the editing process. Her commitment to her art is infinite and she leaves no frame unturned in the quest for the best possible experience for the audience,” Grigor said.

On July 19 the release will expand to Dendy Coorparoo in Queensland, Dendy Canberra and Dendy Newtown, CMAX in Devonport, Wallis Cinemas in Adelaide and Luna Leederville in Perth.

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