Guest post: How to Sustain Your Film’s Journey

This week we are joined by Michael Stillwater, director of the 2012 Best Documentary Award winner. Shining Night continues to be seen around the world. Most recently, the film received the Audience Choice Award among 25 documentaries at the Friday Harbor Film Festival. Michael writes on how to maintain your film’s journey after the festival comes to a close.

Our 2012 Best Documentary award at the DC Independent Film Festival for Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen was both an unexpected honor and an early confirmation of the film’s public acceptance. Since then, 15 other festivals have selected Shining Night, including the Eugene International Film Festival where we also won Best Documentary.

Enliven Your Screenings

The film offers a glimpse into the life of Morten Lauridsen, considered one of America’s greatest contemporary composers. We were fortunate to have the subject of our film appear in-person at numerous screenings, including the Carmel Art & Film Festival, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Albuquerque Film and Media Experience and our opening at the Danish Film Festival in Copenhagen.

Lauridsen’s strong interest in the project translated into a willingness to take part in screenings when possible. One challenge we faced was coordinating appearances with his schedule at USC where he is a music professor. We found that screenings he took part in achieved significantly increased attendance and enthusiasm.

Clarify Your Niche / Diversify Your Opportunities

Shining Night features a unique focus on choral works. As a result, we’ve received screening invitations from choral groups or festivals around the world, helping to fuel the film’s journey. These screenings often included performances by choruses and piano accompaniment by Lauridsen.

We chose the Hal Leonard Corporation, the world’s largest publisher of written music, for Shining Night’s DVD distribution. Their position in the music-publishing world and their previous relationship as Lauridsen’s music distributor proved to be an ideal platform for sales. We also had early interest from KCET, Southern California’s largest public television network, to broadcast the film as a result of Lauridsen’s close relationship with them.  Additional broadcast opportunities included pay-per-view, library and university sales. We also released a film-companion photo/textbook, Morten Lauridsen’s Waldron Island Reflections, by GIA Publications.

Strategic decisions made in marketing and promotions are vital to fostering your film’s journey. To this day, we are still responding to screening requests. Our choices have sustained excitement and gained new audiences while we continue developing our film series, In Search of The Great Song.

For more on the film, visit

One Reply to “Guest post: How to Sustain Your Film’s Journey”

  1. Thanks Michael for sharing your words, your vision, and the rich textural quality of this movie. It has so many sensual layers, from the amazing sound track, to the visual landscapes that are balanced and paced like a meditative walk on the beach, or a trail through the woods, stopping and taking in the rich sounds of nature. You have captured in Shining Night, the human experience and the deep richness of our soul’s expression of harmony and beauty. Bravo!

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