Friday, October 3, 2008

My Worst Screening

You're right, there's nothing quite like it. I've experienced a few times now and it's always exciting, nerve wrecking and a strange experience. You're at the stage where you've seen the film 100 times through the editing process and screening it to family and friends and watching it yourself. Then comes the big day, the first big screen public screening! There is something magical about it. That screen does something you can't describe, something inside you.

My first screening went off without a hitch. The theatre was packed, we had a five minute standing ovation and everyone came up smiling and congratulating us, shaking or hands and full of adulation. Amazing feeling. 

The second screening was another story! 

Our first festival was Moondance in LA. Seeing as I have friends there I decided to go with my film partner. We were buzzing. According to the website this was supposed to be the american cannes, they compared themselves to Sundance, there was a list of 20 famous actors and directors all of whom were attending. 

It was held in Raliegh Studios in Hollywood, a nice little studio that Charlie Chaplin establish. Walking through the gates we though, this is it, we've arrived. Until we found were it was. One tent. Out the back. Three screens, nice though they were. A hand full of people, all of whom were too occupied to even greet us, even though we had flown from Ireland. No famous people attending at all. We thought we would at least have a festival pass, which is standard when you have a film at a festival, no, we had to pay, we actually had to pay in to our own screening.

We went to the opening party which was in a club in hollywood. Maybe this would be cool. For starters the doorman wouldn't let us in because he never heard of the moondance film festival. 

Eventually we did get in, to a dark room up stairs, with a very expensive bar and a buffet, which consisted of 4 pizzas, two bowls of chicken wing, some doritos and dip!

We got talking to some filmmakers who felt bad for us because we had come all the way from Ireland for this. We just felt stupid.

Then the night of the screening... it gets better.

We arrive all dolled up. There's a big crowd outside. Everyone's drinking, laugh, hob-nobbing. I start to feel the butterflies in my stomach. Our screening is tonight, they must be here to see it. So we go up. 

It took us ten minutes to find the film because the had changed screens at the last minute without telling us, when we asked the oganiser she had no idea where it was. We eventually find it and walked into an empty theatre half way through the first short. The only people there are me and Tom, a friend and the two filmmakers of the first film. So it goes.

I figure maybe everyone else is lost too? No. No one else comes in.

Then our film comes on. I think OK, I'll enjoy it on the big screen, hey, we're screening in Charlie Chaplin screening room, that's pretty f***ing sweet. It's awful. It's in 4:3 when it should be in 16:9. The colour is way down, it's almost black. The thousands we spent on grading, gone. The sound is really bad. Then the projectionist pulls up the menu screen on the projector and starts playing with the contrast. I mean, right in the middle of the film the entire picture is covered with a menu screen and his changing the colours, a full minute he's doing this. Then he stops, it looks no better. 

The film continues. We get to a crucial part of the story and he start to mess with the aspect ratio! And then decides to try the colour again. up pops the menu screen. I almost cried.

We were going to attend the award ceremony... until the told us we had to pay $50 in! I never heard of a nominated filmmaker having to pay into the award ceremony! We said no thanks and left.

It was, without a doubt, the worst screening experience I have ever had. Be warned, avoid avoid avoid Moondance. 

But that was the worst, everything after that was great. I had a great time at the Heartland film festival. Great fest, limos for the filmmakers, top class hotel, flight paid for, pass for everything, cash prize, trophy, and a hell of a night at a hug gala event... I also met my fiancé there!

Oberhausen too did a great job, it was the best I ever saw my film, the colours just popped. I almost cried then too... but a good cry.

side bar: One quick and easy way of seeing how your script reads is read it aloud and record yourself (on garage band or sound forge or a dictaphone) and then sit quietly somewhere stick on the headphones and play it back. It works well. Probably not as effective as work-shopping, but I found it helps, you hear repetition quickly and hear what dialogue is clunky. Put the script in front of you and get your red pen out as you do it, you'll find you'll be editing quick enough.

Just a thought.

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