Today is the one-year anniversary of Beer Wars Live! A year ago, a distinguished panel including Charlie Papazian, Sam Calagione, Greg Koch, Ronda Kallman, Todd Alstrom and Maureen Ogle convened together with an audience of 800 at Royce Hall on the UCLA Campus in Los Angeles to broadcast the film and panel discussion live via satellite to 440 theatres nationwide.
It was a magical experience that we will never forget. It was a full-scale theatrical production (on the same stage as Yo-Yo Ma, Los Lobos an Arlo Guthrie perform) with tons of high tech electronics including 5 HD cameras and satellite trucks. For me, it was the culmination of a 3-year journey to make a feature film depicting not only the U.S. beer industry but also the American entrepreneurial spirit.
The journey to get the film seen has been fraught with challenges. They say that “it’s all in the timing” and for independent films, these are the worst of times. Not only is there a glut of finished films (including some with big name stars) sitting on the shelf but also the traditional distribution model has all but disappeared. And the media world has been transformed due to the influence of bloggers and social media. What this means is that the fight to get noticed for an indie film goes beyond distribution (and Beer Wars is a success story in that realm) to finding new ways to reach an audience. Fewer film critics, fewer newspapers and magazines mean less opportunity for mainstream reviews. Shrinking ad sales mean there’s no chance that a network would risk offending a major advertiser. You get the point.
So yes, it’s been a rough ride. But for all the downs, there have been many ups. I’ve met some amazing people on this roller coaster ride. And I’m grateful for the kindness of complete strangers I’ve met at screenings, bars, and festivals and through Twitter and Facebook. I wanted to start a conversation. I wanted to get people to think about the choices they make. And I love hearing that indeed the film appears to have made a difference. Small perhaps (because most Americans have no awareness of the film) but it’s a start.
I’m hoping that the conversation will continue and that it will involve brewers, distributors, retailers and regulators who will strive to create a more level playing field for beer consumers.
So I raise a (virtual) beer to everyone who has joined me on this amazing journey.