It’s true that good things come to those who wait. Writer/director/producer Amy Do and fans of Rabbit Fever, her documentary about pet rabbits, are proof. For Do and the Rabbit Fever fans, the payoff after years of waiting is a DVD of Rabbit Fever, which was released in September 2012. It’s available directly through the Rabbit Fever website.
“I decided to self-distribute Rabbit Fever on DVD as a special limited edition, simply because there was a huge demand for it by many rabbit fanciers around the world,” Do said. “I thought it would be a great way to also raise funds to support a wider distribution release in the future.”
She said if DVD sales go well, she’ll continue working with the manufacturer to create more DVDs. “So far, sales are going really well. I’m even getting wholesale order requests all the way from Australia. I haven’t even publicized the DVD release except exclusively to my private mailing list and Facebook fan page — and I’m really impressed with how sales are going through word-of-mouth and my targeted list of rabbit fans. It really goes to show what a big world of rabbit lovers there are out there.”
Funds are critical, because Rabbit Fever is an independent project, and Do raised all of the money by herself for filming, production, marketing, distribution and anything else needed — and the debts built up over the years. Do said she’s now finally starting to pay off debts and set aside funds for future publicity. She credits the rabbit and pet businesses that sponsored the DVD release and groups like the American Rabbit Breeders Association, 4-H clubs and Australian Rabbit Council that have purchased the DVD. And she hopes wider publicity in the future will pay off even more. “I believe the digital release through iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Cable-on-Demand will allow Rabbit Fever to reach a broader audience.”
Do’s journey with Rabbit Fever began in 2000 when she shot her first footage for it at several rabbit shows from 2000 through 2005. In 2004, she found the focus for the documentary, the Royalty Competition for youth enthusiasts at the American Rabbit Breeders Association annual show. Fans got a first glimpse of the documentary when it entered the film festival circuit in 2009.
With the DVD release, the process is nearly complete. So what parts of making and distributing a film did Do find the most difficult and the most fun? “Every step of the process has been challenging and long, especially since a lot of it has been a learning experience for me as well,” Do said. “I will say that I’ve had the most fun filming the interviews, getting to know the competitors and watching their stories unfold. Every year that I met up with my interview subjects at the convention was like seeing old friends. Eventually, I grew to care about all of them very much.”
Reviews of Rabbit Fever have been overwhelmingly positive. A memorable one that Do found online comes from Jason Wiener, who writes the blog Jason Watches Movies and blogged about Rabbit Fever after seeing it at the San Francisco International Documentary Film Festival. Do said that Wiener writes, “There’s a scene where Joseph Kim is breeding his rabbits. For all their reputation, I’ve never actually seen rabbits [have sex]…until now. And it was fascinating to watch.”
Rabbit sex scene aside, the documentary is at heart a touching tribute to pet rabbits and those who show them. It takes quite a bit of knowledge. Do has high hopes for how the film will be remembered and affect people. “I hope Rabbit Fever will be a title that film buffs will reference when they talk about quirky, subculture or competition-genre documentaries, or any animal films of that nature,” she said. “Given the size of the production and the shoestring budget, I know Rabbit Fever is a small film, but I really hope when the wider audience finally gets a chance to see it, the film will hit them in a big way.”
What does Do see ahead for her professional future, beyond the DVD sales and wider distribution of Rabbit Fever? She hopes to make another feature-length documentary, but she hopes it won’t take 10 years to finish. “It’s really hard to predict though,” Do said. “I’ve seen documentaries that have taken only one year to finish, and I notice the quality of the story isn’t quite as rich as documentaries that have been filmed over a course of many years. Real life takes time to get interesting. Real people change over a course of years, not months and days like characters in fictional movies. Rabbit Fever follows a very traditional formula, but I didn’t plan it that way, and I think that’s how a lot of good documentaries are crafted; the story you think you are going to tell isn’t the one that’s actually being captured, instead you discover a whole different story. You think you’ll be filming for a few months, but you end up filming for years just to see where it goes. I’ve seen indie filmmakers collect footage that never gets edited into a final product. It’s a huge commitment.”
Note: Attendees at this year’s ARBA convention in Wichita, Kansas, from October 27 to 31, 2012, will have a chance to buy the Rabbit Fever DVD at the show.
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