Wednesday, March 21, 2012

As Laker Fans Say Good-Bye to Derek Fisher – We Bid Farewell to the Sunset 5 and Hello to...

Dances With Films has found a new home! I can't tell you how excited I am. I think this partnership marks not only a landmark for Dances With Films but for all of Hollywood as an industry.

But, it does come with a touch of melancholy. For all but one of our 15 years, DWF has been held in a Laemmle Theatre, and every year they have been the best to us. Before I worked for Dances, I was a filmmaker just like you, and I will never forget how excited I was to premiere on Sunset Blvd at the Laemmle Sunset 5.

For those of you not from the area, or new here, the Sunset 5 was the place to be for indie film. Sure, sure, filmmakers can sit around a bar to argue the point like sports fans taking on Jordon vs. Kobe, but for a Valley boy, there was nothing like coming over the Hill on Love Street, and seeing the Sunset 5 like a beacon welcoming all to West Hollywood. And when that beacon held up a DANCES WITH FILMS banner, man oh, man... sweet. I will never forget standing outside the box office hearing a complete stranger say, "two for Jacks or Better." That's what it's all about.

But Laemmle's vacated 8000 Sunset in January, so our search for a new space began. We desperately wanted to stay with the chain that is as tenacious about indie film as we are, and we have, but it's not Laemmle. We will miss them as much as Laker fans miss Derek Fisher. We wish them all the best in their brand new North Hollywood home, as well as all their other venues.

Our new home is an old one under new management. The new guys in an old theatre have sworn a commitment to indie film the likes of which has not been seen since Chaplin, Pickford, and Fairbanks started United Artists.

...okay, so that might be an overstatement... but not by much.

This much is true: If you can't premiere on Sunset Blvd, there is only one other street in the world to be on – and that's where we're heading.

Hollywood blvd, baby! Dances With Films new home is The Chinese Theatre. Your films will premiere just spitting distance of where the Academy Awards are given. You'll be hanging out at Hollywood & Highland, taking the subway, checking out the footprints in the sidewalk, and buying cheesy tourist stuff along the boulevard.

But first – your film has to get in the festival, so on to the screenings:

I left my notes behind, and my memory hasn't been what it used to be, so this might be short and sweet. The unintended theme last night was period movies with foreign accents. Right now, I'm sure someone has shouted, "He's talking about my movie!" You might be right, but I'm also talking about at least three others. We watch the submissions pretty much at random, so it's a fluke that most of the movies last night had this in common.

The other thing they had in common was a certain amount of stiffness. Nothing bad enough to disqualify them from consideration, but if you're making a movie set in the past, read on.

When you're doing a period piece, you're asking a lot of your actors. This is where training comes in. The art of acting is to look like you're not doing it at all, and that is made more difficult when the clothes you're wearing, the culture you're portraying, and world you're in have nothing to do with your own. Any modern woman who has worn a hoop skirt or corset can tell you how difficult this is. Men, slip into a suit from the Victorian era, or the 1700's and then try to pretend how natural this is, and you'll understand. In theatre, actors rehearse for weeks in rehearsal costumes to get the physicality of the period. They have to get the muscle memory of how everything is different, in order to forget how different everything is. Once this is done, they get on with the job of portraying the character in the given situation.

Now, add to that an accent, or in some cases a completely different version of their native language, and you get a sense of the mountain your actors have to climb while appearing to stroll down the street. If you've cast actors who have not trained for the period in college or a stage play, then you can't leave them hanging. You have to give them the rehearsal time they need to look like they haven't had to rehearse at all. Otherwise, you're just going to have a bunch of modern day people in stupid clothes and wigs strutting around with accents that wash in and out like waves on a beach.

Not that all the movies last night had that problem – but you certainly don't want to risk it.

That'll do for now. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you all at the Chinese on Hollywood & Highland in June.


David H. Steinberg said...

Awesome, this is a great announcement. Definitely on par with the Sunset 5. I will be there, whether my film joins me or not!

RSMellette said...

Now THAT is the right kind of attitude to have!

You'll go far with that kind of thinking.

Kelly | Discount Suits said...

I agree, that attitude is going to be the best for it..really.