Bikini Bandits was tipped by the Times as the hottest ticket of last year's Raindance and picked up by MTV for an Xmas day screening. Director Steven Grasse on bullets and tits and selling out.
The really unusual (some would say disgusting) thing about the Bikini Bandits was that it was conceived not as art, but as a marketing concept. I knew that if we created this 'thing' we could create a whole brand around it. Which explains why there is no plot whatsoever. The plot was irrelevant. It just needed to be an open-ended vibe, a feeling, a thing people wanted to take part of. Of course, this is what I say now. The truth was closer to the fact that we didn't have the talent to come up with a coherent screenplay. We also didn't have the time or money to make a more traditional movie.
Seriously. Though, I own a surprisingly successful advertising agency here in Philadelphia called Gyro. So I know more than most about these things. I read an article once about the birth of Def Leppard. Before there was even a band, the dude had posters, t-shirts, everything. He even printed up fake ticket stubs for shows that never happened. But before long, people started believing Def Leppard was real talk about putting the cart before the horse. Def Leppard is precisely what the inspiration was with the Bikini Bandits 'If you build it, they will come.'
We launched the g-mart store and the g-mart line of clothing at the same time as the first Bikini Bandits short film. So right away fans had a whole world they could step into.
We also threw fantastic Bikini Bandits parties all over the world. This was done primarily so fans could come inside and experience the world of Bikini Bandits and g-mart for themselves.
What we're doing here is creating a loyal market for out line of products.
And, as independent filmmakers, we're protecting ourselves from the normal bullshit that befalls us. For instance, when The Bikini Bandits Experience DVD comes out in the states this summer, we don't really expect to make much money on it. Why? Because it won't sell well? No, we expect it to sell buttloads. We expect to be screwed by Hollywood accounting but that's okay. Each DVD sold will help sell g-mart clothing and merchandise, and the clothing line is something we entirely control the distribution and profit of.
Think about it, the Bikini Bandits films are nothing more than extended infomercials for g-mart. The performance art aspect of the whole thing is that it's an ad you pay to watch. So some pimply-faced fourteen-year-old buys the DVD and watches it with his pimply-faced friends, then they immediately go online and load up with g-mart merchandise.
So, should you all feel duped by our crass commercialism? No. not at all. Our brand of blatant commercialism is, in its own way, a sort of postmodern Warholian performance art piece. What really cracks me up is that we've managed to convince Atom Films to pay for all seven of the Bikini Bandits films (g-mart commercials). We've managed to secure a big time Hollywood agent (United Talent Agent). And, we have two big ass Hollywood production companies fighting it out to make a big ass big budget Hollywood Bikini Bandits Movie.
That, my friends, is art.
And then there's MTV airing the 'movie' and running endless promos, which, once again, inadvertently promote g-mart. Of course, if some big assed corporation were doing all this, it would really piss me off, but it's not. Gyro is pretty successful, but it is small and independent. We're not owned by some large mega-conglomerate that cheats its shareholders. I built Gyro with my own blood, sweat, and tears from the ground up.
It's this do-it-yourself mentality that's at work here with the Bikini Bandits. We like to think of it as a Fugazi with boobs. Meaning, we make our own way in the world and control every aspect of our destiny, like the band Fugazi. Instead of waiting for Hollywood to come calling, we went out and made something they are now fighting to get a piece of. Suckers.
So how come Bikini Bandits managed to get so much attention and press when so many independent filmmakers make films that never get seen?
Relentless self-promotion. We've probably sent out over a thousand press releases since we started this whole Bikini Bandits business. We have a list of magazines from around the world that we send things to. We're also stages a variety of events designed to get the media interested in covering the Bandits for instance, the big ass party we threw at the Cafe de Paris in London after the Raindance screening.
Of couse, there have been some key events that really helped get the ball rolling. When Atom Films first went public they had $10 million to spend on advertising. They chose our film, the first Bikini Bandits episode, to be the keystone of their marketing campaign. They spent more than $1 million alone on MTV airing a 30 second spot for people to go to their website to see our film (of course, Atom is all but bankrupt now, as most dotcoms are these days).
Somehow we got Maynard from Tool, Jello Biafra and Dee Dee Ramone to be in our film, which almost guaranteed media interest. Here's a hint: put bikini girls in your movie. It will make almost anyone else want to be in it.
We got MTV UK interest in airing the movie. This was huge for us. And, it happened by accident. We sent them the music video for the Dee Dee Ramone song "In a Movie" (the Bikini Bandits theme). They told us that instead of airing the video, they'd rather show the movie. We were floored.
We are also really careful about getting email addresses on our website. And then we talk to our fans at least twice a month. We also say yes to all sorts of promotional opportunities that come along the way. Here are a few examples. We did the Gumball Rally last year. We figured the enormous amount of publicity this event generates more than justified the cost of sending four hot chicks coast to coast in a 69 GTO. We also put the film on tour alongside a movie by the Suicide Girls called Four Days in Panties and three hardcore bands. It's called the Backseat Film Festival. And last year we went to the Vans Warped Tour with Troma. It's endless and relentless.
So, my parting words to you independent filmmakers are fuck art. Make something that people want to see, something with boobies. And, most importantly, realize the movie is not as important as the marketing. Lack of self-promotion is where 99% of you royally fuck up. Get out there and sell yourself. This is America, damn it. Or it is from where I'm standing.