Vampires are heading to The Community Library in Ketchum for a screening of the new movie “Bite Me.”
The film follows an underground community of people who identify as vampires. When one of them gains viral recognition for a television appearance, the group garners unwanted attention from an IRS auditor played by Christian Coulson.
In the course of his investigation, however, sparks begin to fly between the auditor and the auditee, a vampire played by Naomi McDougall Jones, and a budding romance threatens to derail investigation and preconceived notions alike.
Jones, who also wrote the screenplay and acted as a producer, was initially struck by inspiration while filming an episode of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” During a break, she chatted with a background artist. In the course of their conversation, the latter told Jones that she identified as a vampire, and that there existed, in fact, a sizable worldwide community of people just like her.
From there, she immersed herself in years of research, learning all she could about this fairly secretive group. In the course of the script’s development, however, she had difficulty finding avowed vampires with whom to speak.
“They were a bit cagey ahead of time, understandably nervous that I would make fun of them or at least not do them justice,” Jones said.
That was not the case in the final product, though, and she has received an overwhelmingly positive response from people who claim to be vampires she has met since debuting “Bite Me.”
“I’m getting to meet a bunch of vampires on the tour and I’ve really been embraced by the community,” she said. “They appreciate the research I did and how it feels like an accurate representation of their community.”
The tour she referenced is the production’s innovative solution to the problem of distribution.
As companies like Disney gradually monopolize the blockbuster landscape and oversaturate the release schedule with sure-to-win sequels, franchise installments, adaptations and remakes, original film productions without the guarantee of brand name recognition are becoming fewer and further between.
With the emergence of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, cinemas are hurting, too, and to raise enough money to continue to operate, most are forced to screen primarily the cookie-cutter Hollywood blockbusters.
To cover costs, distributors wind up taking a cut of around 80 percent, so small, independent productions are increasingly challenged to not only gain a wide distribution, but to make even a slight profit.
Having experienced this with her first film, “Imagine I’m Beautiful,” Jones and her team came up with a novel approach to that problem. They reached out to movie theaters across the country and decided to hit the road themselves.
Dubbed the Joyful Vampire Tour of America, this expedition is taking “Bite Me” to 40 cities across the country, mounting 51 screenings in the course of three months. Jones and a few others rented an RV and are driving from town to town presenting the film themselves.
Just as an author may read from a new work on a book tour, thereby engaging person-to-person with the readers, so does the crew of “Bite Me” hope to engage with film viewers.
“It’s so nice to connect this directly with audiences,” Jones said. “Filmmakers don’t get to interact with audiences very much. There are just so many barriers between a viewer and the people who made the movie. This way, I get to meet them and it’s going to make me a better filmmaker. I feel so much more in touch with people in this country than I ever have before.”
The whole tour is being chronicled in an ongoing web series by documentarian Kiwi Callaghan, which people can view on YouTube. Jones hopes their tour will inspire other productions to do likewise, especially those who struggle with fundraising.
“If this works, we want to offer ourselves as a radically transparent case study for other independent filmmakers,” she said.
The whole point of “Bite Me,” from its inception to its production, post-production and now distribution, is not just to be different, but to celebrate difference.
Drop into The Community Library on Tuesday, July 2, for an 8:30 p.m. screening of “Bite Me” and a chance to meet with the filmmakers. Tickets are available for $10.
For those unable to attend the screening, the film is available to rent and purchase online.