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'In Your Eyes' gets a surprise VOD release after Tribeca Film Festival premiere

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On April 20, 2014, the romantic drama "In Your Eyes" got a surprise release on video-on-demand (VOD) after its world premiere at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In a video announcement that was played at the film's premiere, "In Your Eyes" screenwriter/executive producer Joss Whedon stated the movie was being released on VOD, immediately after the premiere, on the official "In Your Eyes" website, for a price of a $5 per rental. The VOD release of "In Your Eyes" is being powered by Vimeo.

Whedon is best known as the writer/director of Marvel's "Avengers" movies and for being the showrunner for the TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." He has an independent film company called Bellwether Pictures, which so far has released "Much Ado About Nothing" (a modern take on the Shakespeare play) and "In Your Eyes."

"In Your Eyes" (directed by Brin Hill) is a love story about a shy, upper-middle-class housewife named Rebecca (played by Zoe Kazan) in New Hampshire and a charismatic, working-class ex-con named Dylan (played Michael Stahl-David) in New Mexico who find out that they have been psychically connected since childhood: They can see, feel, hear and think what the other is experiencing. Rebecca is trapped in an unhappy marriage to a successful doctor (played by Mark Feuerstein), while Dylan has an unrequited crush on a local bar patron (played by Nikki Reed). Although Rebecca and David come from two different worlds and have opposite personalities, they have an undeniable connection that leads to an even deeper bond between them.

In a statement, Bellwether Films co-founder Kai Cole commented on the unusual VOD release of the movie: “It was always the plan to release 'In Your Eyes' in a new and exciting way. It’s no secret that the distribution landscape is shifting rapidly and there are tools at our disposal as filmmakers that we could only dream about 10 years ago.”

In partnership with Bellwether Pictures is Night & Day Pictures, which "shepherded the film through production and has been instrumental in forming and executing the release strategy," according to a press release.

Night & Day Pictures producer Michael Roiff added, “We’ve been aiming to do something like this from the get-go. When you work with Joss and Kai, you don’t get to say ‘but this is how it is usually done.' You have to say, 'And now for something completely different’ Finding a partner like Vimeo to power this release was incredible. They are fantastic people working to make the future of distribution happen today.”

Vimeo general manager of audience networks Greg Clayman stated,“We are honored to be partnering with the masterminds behind 'In Your Eyes' to bring the film directly to audiences worldwide. As big Whedon fans we were drawn to the film immediately and our shared vision for disrupting traditional distribution models made this an amazing collaboration all around.”

The day after the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of "In Your Eyes," I sat down with Kazan and Stahl-David for an exclusive interview. They talked about having to most of their scenes in which they had to pretend to be having real-time conversations with each other, when in reality their "conversation" scenes with each other were filmed weeks apart in different parts of the country.

Kazan noted, "It was exciting to be able to see those scenes cut together ... We had two separate conversations that became one conversation."

Stahl-David added, "What was pleasantly surprising was that there was a point I was watching it clenched, like, critical of my tiny little mistakes I saw or vanity things. But then at some point, I felt like we were really talking to each other. And then I sort of relaxed. That's the baseline. You know it has to work."

"In Your Eyes" has been getting mixed reviews so far. Movie critics either seem to like or dislike how the movie handles the concept of two strangers who fall in love through a telepathic/psychic connection.

The Hollywood Reporter said in its review: "A supernatural romance in which a man and woman who've never met share an inexplicable telepathic bond, Brin Hill's 'In Your Eyes' stars Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David as a pair linked by fate but separated by half a continent. Penned by Joss Whedon and benefiting from flashes of his wit, if not from the bantering energy often found in his work, it's significantly more commercial than Whedon's other recent non-Marvel project, the B&W Shakespeare house party 'Much Ado About Nothing.' Its commercial life will be more interesting given that the film was released immediately following its NYC debut for online rental via Vimeo On Demand."

Flavorwire wasn't as impressed, and said in its review: "It feels much more like a syrupy melodrama than a Whedon tweak. He plays this romantic drama fairly straight, which is an even stranger choice considering the utter goofiness of its premise ... The snap we’ve come to expect from Whedon dialogue is missing entirely, and there’s a void in its place; he hasn’t replaced it with anything of note. It’s weirdly earnest, its preposterous premise perched on the edge of accidental parody from the beginning, and tumbling right over in fairly short order."

Film School Rejects also gave "In Your Eyes" a negative review: "Although Whedon has recently found himself some big time blockbuster cred and some serious mainstream appeal – his The Avengers is one of the highest grossing films of all time, so that’s pretty mainstream – the screenwriter and director first earned his devoted fanbase with a bevy of more clever, character-driven television shows earlier in his career. That attention to character development, personal relationships, and big ideas is evident in Brin Hill’s directorial debut, which Whedon penned, but the rest of the film willfully and completely squanders its positive attributes. A supernatural romance with roots in the real world, 'In Your Eyes’ singular and ambitious idea – what would happen if you could literally see through another person’s eyes? – is taken in a number of clichéd and flawed directions, and the film eventually devolves from intriguing to embarrassing."

By contrast, Indiewire gave "In Your Eyes" a B+ grade and noted in its positive review of the movie: "At 106 minutes, the conceit is probably dragged out for a little longer than it should, especially for a central concept that is so slender and weird (and there is probably one montage-set-to-an-inspirational-pop-song too many). Thankfully Whedon piles on the stakes and gives the movie more grit and texture as it moves along, recasting Rebecca’s husband, up until now just a controlling jerk, into the movie’s central villain, while giving Dylan more to deal with on the criminal side of things. But it’s hard to fault a movie whose central weakness is that it’s too damn sweet."

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