Today is the last day that my documentary, ALL THE QUEEN’S HORSES, streams on Netflix and it’s bittersweet. As I reflect on my journey—successful by many accounts—I still can’t seem to shake all the rejections (see What 20 Film Festival Rejections Taught Me About Resilience). However, being on Netflix was a life-changing experience.
Since my last post about my film festival experience, I’ve made great progress. I was accepted to multiple festivals, won some awards and had some major impact in communities all across the world.
ALL THE QUEEN’S HORSES screened in thirteen festivals, two international (Amsterdam and New Zealand) which means the film has been translated into Dutch. And it was paired with the Oscar nominated short documentary Knife Skills at the 2017 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. That’s probably the closest I’ll get to the Oscars, but I will take it!
The film’s impact on viewers—another measure of success—has been profound. At festival screenings, I was able to see the true impact the film had on viewers, up close during the Q/A. Because of my CPA and forensic accounting background, my post-screenings Q/A sessions were more like Dear Abby sessions where people brought me their fraud concerns instead of asking me about the creative filmmaking process. For example, a Lutheran pastor whose church was shut down because the church treasurer embezzled $150,000 told me that she found closure in her own fraud case by watching my film. As the pastor tearfully explained to a sold-out audience how she could relate to the residents of Dixon, I learned the power of film and story.
ALL THE QUEEN’S HORSES had some major festival success, selling out 7 of the 8 screenings at the 2018 Beloit International Film Festival and winning the Golden Laurels Award, an award given to the most popular film at the festival. I also walked away from the 2017 Equus Film Festival with the Best Equestrian Director Award. I can guarantee you that I am the only accounting professor on the planet that has been named the Best Equestrian Director.
And yet, after all of this profound impact, I still reflect on all of the rejections; 52 in total, but who’s counting? (I am an accountant after all…) Our film – about Chicagoland, and made here – was even rejected from the Chicago International Film Festival! I was really disappointed by that. But our production partner, Kartemquin Films, instead booked us a two week theatrical run at the Gene Siskel Film Center. We had multiple sold-out shows, TV news appearances, radio segment interviews on WGN, WBEZ and WVON to name a few (seriously, there are too many to name), newspapers write-ups in the Chicago Tribune and then a 3½ star review from Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper. 3½ stars – and then the Siskel Center even invited us back for an encore 1-week run!!
After the Gene Siskel Film Center screenings in Chicago, Kartemquin and theatrical distributor Argot Pictures booked the film in select movie theaters across the country. It was amazing to have events with 500 people filling a movie theater on a rainy Monday night to see a true crime documentary directed by an accountant. I was invited to screen the film and talk at Harvard University and Columbia University twice. I’ve shown the film to over 4,000 City of Dixon residents in efforts to help that community heal from the theft in their hometown and screened the film online for the Department of Justice (which employs over 100,000 people) for a two-week period. I even donated the film for a charity event for the Hooved Companion Project which seeks to save horses from the kill pen. A horse arena, a dirt floor, one of Crundwell’s horses purchased at auction and a movie screen made this event an absolute success. Dang; talk about impact. How many films can do this? Not many I would suspect.
The film launched on the video-on demand platforms on April 10, 2018. A few days later, the documentary viewing numbers from the film’s digital distributor Gravitas Ventures came in and as I tell my students on a regular basis, numbers tell the best stories:
#1 Amazon Prime Video
#1 Google Play
# 1 Direct TV
The Netflix premiere shortly followed on July 10, 2018. I got – and still get – thousands of responses to the film over emails and social media. As I reflect on the organic growth for this film, I can say that I am proud. For the most part, I’ve been a one-woman marketing machine sharing the ALL THE QUEEN’S HORSES story and just filled with passion for my film. It’s been an honor to share the stage with true crime Netflix films such as Ozarks, Orange is the New Black, and Dirty Money.
ALL THE QUEEN’S HORSES helped thousands (possibly millions) of people and helped heal a community almost destroyed by a fraud. By the measures that count, I won. So good-bye to Netflix for now but you can still catch my film on iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, DirectTV, YouTube and your local cable pay-per-view options.
And as my good friend and fellow podcast co-host, Bill Kresse, likes to say, fraud never sleeps. So, be careful.