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THE YEAR OF THE YAO -- ADVANCE SCREENINGS
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San_Francisco - Friday, April 22, 2005


There and Back Again



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Phil Nguyen shows us how we promoted Yao to the hilt: jerseys, bobbleheads, and posters, posters, posters.
A first-hand journal of the misadventures of Dream League

EPISODE I: Basketball VIPs Come Out to See Yao Movie and Support Dream League (cont.'d)

HOW TO PROMOTE A FILM IN 3 WEEKS

The Young-Lui-Twu crew's problems were far from over. After scouring the Internet for possible venues, not only was the Palace of Fine Arts the only viable location in terms of timing and accessibility, but it (a) was expensive and (b) could seat up to 1,000 people.

Although the Palace is itself a nonprofit, it's a beautiful and accommodating venue. Another interesting factoid: Yang had won the "Mr. Talent" award there at the first-ever Mr. Asian pageant years before!

"So I didn't get sticker shock because I knew the Palace was a prime spot, where we had to be," said Twu. "I knew this was going to be a break-even event, but Yao was going to put us on the map, so I figured it would be more than worth it.

"In that vein, we had to make it a VIP event, too. I knew this was going to require a lot of pounding of the pavement, so we agreed to target a manageable audience of about 300 instead of 1,000. The Palace said they could close off a section of the seating, so it wouldn't feel too cavernous. Dar [Darwin Lui] also made things easier by taking care of some of the online PR and all the other ancillary fun stuff like the raffle."

Twu had had some experience using PayPal, which was a godsend in securing ticket sales by credit card on Dream League's website. "We probably had only 10% of our tickets sold the old-fashioned way or at the door," recalled Twu.

Oliver Chan, author of The Tao of Yao.
Dream League also did a commendable job in the "sponsorship" department, if you want to call it that.

"We couldn't really get sponsors for the event with the three-week timeframe," Twu explained, "so we looked for 'partners' who could enhance the credibility and prestige of the screening."

In incredibly short order, Twu got permission to use the logos of the new Bay Area expansion ABA (American Basketball Association, minor league basketball) franchises the San Jose Skyrockets and the San Francisco Pilots. That helped spur Yang to get the ABA Harlem Strong Dogs as a partner for the New York screening. Twu also got reps from ImaginAsian TV to fly in (they were there to conduct surveys on the Yao crowd).

And it was a can't-miss for Oliver Chan, author of The Tao of Yao, who later reported that he had sold more books at Dream League's screening than any other event he had tried before, even the more ballyhooed Asian Film Festival's at the Castro Theater a month earlier.

Twu actually went to that screening at the last minute to see if he could sneak in and check out the film prior to showing it. That was a no-can-do, even though he spotted Dream Leaguer Jason Ting who knew the producer Christopher Chen, who was giving a Q&A panel with Ric Bucher from ESPN.com. Said Twu, "The line to get in was literally out the door, around the corner, and down the block on Market Street!"

In fact, there was yet another Asian Film Festival screening at Camera12, which Twu and his mom attended by volunteering for eight hours.

"I probably should have just forked out the fifteen bucks for the film festival ticket," Twu said with a sigh. "Luckily, I found out that my old high school buddy Chris Schultz was in charge of everything, so it was kind of cool to see him and catch up on old times. I remember him having a job at the Sunnyvale Town Center AMC. Turns out he's been running the Asian Film Festival for a long time."

So it was a small miracle that Dream League pulled off this event in such a ridiculously short timeframe since a good chunk of people had already seen the film.

Chan said this was his most profitable event to date.

More amazingly, Twu somehow got the ringing endorsement of Yao's agent to use images of Yao to promote the film.

As Twu rehashed, "I actually contacted Lindsey Kagawa [who works in Yao's agent Bill Duffy's office], through LinkedIn.com and a venture capitalist we both know [Carl Nichols of Outlook Ventures]. By then Pequod had shown us a top-notch rendition of what our movie booklets and tickets would look like, but despite the awesome graphic design, I got nervous because we really didn't have permission to use Yao's likeness."

Twu remembered how Michael Jordan didn't even have his likeness allowed in video games and feared Dream League might be headed down a similar path.

Then he got the reply email from Bill Sanders, Duffy's VP of Marketing: "This is fine with us. -- TEAM YAO."

Whew!

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