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For indie filmmakers, the trick is finding an audience

In these digital days, anyone can direct. But with hundreds of microbudgeted movies made each year, the competition for exposure is fierce.

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At the Independent Film Festival of Boston's première of "On Broadway," the ticket holder's line wraps around the block. Limos pull up to the Somerville Theatre, delivering cast members Joey (New Kids on the Block) McIntyre, Will ("Arrested Development") Arnett, and Eliza ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") Dushku. Even Boston Mayor Thomas Menino makes an appearance.

But hordes of locals, a name-brand cast, and the mayor's blessing can't guarantee the Boston-made film will have legs beyond this festival weekend. Even the paparazzi clinging to Dushku's tight, gold- and silver-sequined dress can't make writer-director Dave McLaughlin's dreams of theatrical distribution for "On Broadway" come true.

So McLaughlin has adjusted his expectations. Sort of.

"Success/failure will be a matter of whether people are moved by the film," McLaughlin wrote in an e-mail the week before the festival. "Whether they respond to it."

The trick is reaching that audience. In these digital days, it seems anyone can direct. But with hundreds of microbudgeted movies made each year, demand for venues and audiences is way up. Many films don't reach the festival circuit, let alone get a theatrical release or rack space at Blockbuster. Some go straight to DVD. Some find a specialized audience on the Internet. Some go nowhere.

The measure of "success" has come to mean something other than a "Spider-Man 3"-sized opening weekend for indie filmmakers, who have become creative marketers to rally a fan base.

So let's say you're a McLaughlin. You've lined up $30,000 or $3 million in financing and maxed out your credit cards and/or your parents' goodwill. You shot, you scored, and the film is in the can. Now what?


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