Homeopathy Finds a Home
By Laurel Chiten
Southern Florida is not exactly a hot bed of natural medicine enthusiasts. But a small community of them exists; sometimes it takes one film to bring them together.
West Palm Beach, Florida
People lined up around the block on a balmy night in West Palm Beach. My film, JUST ONE DROP, was about to screen in a beautiful art deco theater before a crowd of 120 people. While I gladly take credit for the film I cannot take credit for this gathering. Maya, a local Naturopath, was the Movie Captain™. Prior to this screening she had no experience producing an event of any kind, let alone a sold out screening event through Theatrical On Demand®. Maya didn’t even have a Facebook account when she began to plan. But the lack of experience and social media accounts didn’t stop her. Maya worked hard to sell out her screening within weeks. She would later tell me:
“I wanted to be part of the movement. Hosting JUST ONE DROP changed my life. It connected me to my community and made me proud of my profession”.
I had been making and distributing films for over 30 years when, in 2008 and with great enthusiasm, I embarked on a new documentary about homeopathy — a system of natural medicine. Surely, foundations would share my passion, or so I thought. But after being rejected from every grant for which I applied, I turned to individuals. Over the span of eight years I raised over $300,000 from 800 strangers worldwide who cared about my project. This ”slow drip” crowdfunding method laid the groundwork for what would become the fan-based grassroots distribution of the film.
JUST ONE DROP tells the little known story of homeopathy: the most controversial system of medicine ever invented. Homeopathy is a specific form of medicine that uses tiny doses of a highly diluted substance that stimulates the body to cure itself. To many, homeopathy seems implausible. They fear it is purely a placebo effect or worse, a form of deception or quackery. Yet, homeopathy has been around for over 200 years and is used by millions worldwide. The film explores the controversy, dispels myths and misconceptions, and asks whether or not homeopathy has been given a fair shake.
Since one of the film’s main storylines takes place in Australia, I wanted to start the tour Down Under. But many of my fans who were hungry to show JUST ONE DROP in their communities lacked the resources to produce and host a screening event from scratch. I was facing a potential disaster.
Not soon after, I heard about a relatively new model of distribution called Theatrical on Demand® (TOD), which could utilize the strong fan base I had developed and take care of all the logistics: booking the theaters, the ticketing, even some of the marketing. The best part? It would be free for the hosts. It seemed like a perfect match for my film and my tribe.
I located a company in Sydney, Fan-Force, who was using this TOD model. I got my film on their platform, introduced the leaders of the homeopathy community to them, and the tour was set in motion! By the time I boarded a plane to Sydney, there were over 30 screenings set up and a country-wide tour.
Homeopathy has been maligned and misrepresented for 200 years. JUST ONE DROP gave homeopathy a voice. Watching the film on a large screen, in a group of people, strengthened homeopaths as individuals and as a community. It started to spread to leaders in other areas of natural medicine. One of my favorite screenings was hosted by Blackmores, the biggest natural medicine company in Australia who does not even sell homeopathic medicine. As CEO Marcus Blackmore said when introducing the film “JUST ONE DROP is not just about homeopathy, it is about freedom of choice in healthcare.”
I returned to America eager to continue the tour in my home country. I turned to Gathr Films as my domestic TOD company. In total, the film had over 50 nearly sold out screenings across the United States. There was no marketing budget, no ads, no publicist and no traditional press. This was all thanks to the impassioned fans who became my amplifiers. When given the right support, this organic and grassroots fan base drives the film and the campaign. I provided them with with the tools they needed to promote their events and Gathr handled the theater logistics. Together, amongst us all, we created a successful Theatrical On Demand® campaign.
Even though some of my former films were nationally broadcast and reached millions, Theatrical On Demand® has been one of the most rewarding distribution experiences of my film career. Of course I am always happy to see a profit, and TOD® has brought me one, but more importantly these organic community screening events are connecting people, inspiring dialogue, and educating the public. They provide an evening of entertainment while bringing people together around a topic about which they are deeply passionate. And I must say, it is a lot of fun.
I don’t know about you, but as a filmmaker, it does not get much better than that.
I built a “tribe” of people around the world who were eager to share this film with their community. Gathr Films unlocked the theater doors that welcomed us in.