Sunday, May 19, 2013

On The Care And Feeding of a Midnight Movie

It occurs to me that many of the DVD/Download generation might not understand exactly what makes a midnight movie so special.  They weren't even born before – though, some might have been conceived during – The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  To them, a midnight movie is what one falls asleep on while drooling on the couch.

But not at Dances With Films!  We like to do The Time Warp, complete with pelvic thrust, back to an era of Eraserhead, John Waters, and all those who love the creatures of the night.  From Beasts, Blood and Boobs, to Booze & Boobs comedies, the Dances With Films midnight movies have an outrageous reputation.  So, for the uninitiated, here are some ground rules for the care and feeding of a good midnight movie.

First, sobriety is not required.  We would go so far as to say not recommended, but we don't want to get in trouble with Mothers Against Everything.  Seriously, do make sure you have cab fare, because the subway stops running around midnight – and you know your designated driver is going to cave when someone hands him or her a flask under the seats.

Re: drinking – keep in mind that you're going to be in a dark room watching bright images bounce around on a giant screen.  (And yes, I did mean to say "bounce" after mentioning boobs twice already).  If you're the type who is prone to motion sickness while under the influence – bring a leak-proof bag.  None of the DWF volunteers wants to clean up after you, and we will make jokes about how you can't handle your liquor.

During regular hours, silence is appreciated.  Not so after midnight.  While it would still be rude to loudly talk to your friends about what a rotten guy your boyfriend is for not bringing a sick bag and vomiting all over your best slutty outfit, yelling at the screen to warn the hot chick in panties and a T-shirt not to go into the basement of a clearly haunted house is perfectly acceptable behavior.  Please, though, try to keep your comments short, loud, and funny.  No one wants to hear you babble incessantly through the entire film.

If someone is babbling incessantly through the entire film, you'll be considered a buzz-killing dweeb if you go get the manager to have the not-so-comical idiot removed.  Instead, you should make even louder comments about the person's questionable parentage, or how their beer belly and body order are disturbing everyone's enjoyment of the film.  For example:  "Shut up, you fat, smelly, drunken bastard!  No one paid to hear you run your mouth all night!"

If you are not the person who is talking incessantly – and let's hope you're not – nor the person who shouted him or her down, then it's your job to cheer on the person who did.  Bullies can't stand it when the whole playground turns against them.

This brings me to another important point of etiquette for the midnight movie.  Violence is considered the lowest of the low when it comes to bad behavior.  Most midnight movie goers are geeks, freaks, and the occasional hot cheerleader looking to spice up her boring middleclass existence.  None of them are interested in fighting, so if you are –  remember – a crowd of people running away from you screaming, won't give you the same kind of rush you get from pounding your flesh into another man's body repeatedly until you both become too exhausted to carry on, and collapse arm-in-arm in a heap of spent manhood.
Finally, the most important rule of any midnight movie: The Screen Is Sacred! 

Sure, go ahead and pour a bucket of popcorn on your friend's head, that'll clean up easily – but don't ever, EVER, throw anything toward the screen!  That is our altar of worship, and it's really friggin' expensive.  If you fuck it up, the midnight movie experience will be dead to all of us – and it will be on your head!  Do you really want to be remembered as the douche bag who ruined it for everyone else?

No?  I didn't think so.

So... Don't fight.  Don't mess up the theatre.  Do have more fun than should be legal.  Obey the Golden Rule, and I'll see you at the Q & A.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Just real quick...

We're getting some push back from filmmakers who were upset that this year's slate was published on Indiewire before we got out our pass letters.  For the most part, I don't think the people who have an issue with that are readers of this blog.  If they were, they'd know how that sort of thing works.

Every year we have to balance PR needs with human needs like sleep.  We can only get so much done within the span of our waking hours.  The final schedule doesn't solidify until the last minute - often after press announcements like Indiewire's, so pass letters can't go out until everything is confirmed.

So does it hurt to see a schedule posted without your name on it - especially when you were so close to being in the festival that you could taste it?  Absolutely.

Is the pain of rejection something you have to get used to in this business?

What do you think?

Also, if you're in the LA area and you didn't get into the festival, that doesn't mean you can't be a part of it.  We have panels that are open to the public, in addition to coming to see and cheer on your fellows who did get in.  I promise you, they've been where you are, and will appreciate all you've been through.

They'd better!  If they don't, we'll kick their asses!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Busy Much?

Okay, I can't let Zak Forsman and the Down And Dangerous folks down and not post an update, but the truth is, there isn't a lot to say right now.  While this is the busiest time of year for us, little of it has anything to do with filmmaking, choosing films, or any of that other fun-but-painful process.  

It's all roll-up-your-selves kind of stuff.  You know what I'm talking about.  The real sweat that those people who always say, "what you should do," but don't do themselves, don't know about.  It's "oh, crap!" time; as in, "Oh, crap, if I don't do this right now, it won't get done."

Michael has busted his behind to get the website updated with the schedule, ticket info, and movie pages.  Now it's onto the program, poster, and all things graphical!  Leslee has been coordinating with our party planners and panel providers to finalize what have been nothing but general discussions for almost a year now.  And, of course, there's press, press, press.

And, believe it or not, we're still watching movies.  Not all of every movie that got into the festival has been seen by everyone on the team, so between now and opening it's a mad scramble to make sure everyone gets to see them before the fest begins. 

Why?  Buzz, of course!

That, and we're way to busy during the festival to actually sit and watch a movie!

So that's what we're up to.  What are you filmmakers doing with your time?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Why Buy An Ad In The Program?

First, a little bit of business.  Quentin Tarantino often quotes, "Don't ask for permission, ask for forgiveness."  It's all fine and good to live by that Machiavellian principal, but you must be ready to suffer the consequences if forgiveness is not forthcoming.  We had a film lie to us about their world premiere status.  Is the premiere status so important to us as to without forgiveness?  No.  We understand filmmakers have tough choices to make in their festival journey.  We've programmed films that have premiered at other places –  even though we'd wished they started with us.

It's the lie that requires penance before the forgiveness may come.

That's a fancy way of saying another slot just opened up for a lucky short filmmaker, and a perfect example of why we say, it's not over 'til it's over.  Pass letters will start trickling out this week, but among them will be one or two invitations.

For those who are in the festival, keep an eye on this blog for advice between now and opening night.  For those who aren't in, stick around.  The advice applies to you as well on your run at other venues.

Programs in film festivals are as different as the festivals themselves.  Some are throwaway newsprint intended to get you to a movie you might like, and little more.  Others, like ours, are beautifully printed keepsakes.  Some cost money. We think that's crazy. Why charge your audience money for your best form of advertising?  We give them away for free.

That's a tough combination – a free program that is expensive to make.  To help pay for your piece of memorabilia, we sell ads.  We sell them to corporate sponsors. We sell them to small indie companies, and we sell them to you, the filmmakers.

So should you, or should you not buy an ad?  There's a festival that shall remain nameless, but whose initials are The New York International Film and Video Festival (at least it was, I think it may be defunct now).  They were famous for calling filmmakers who had taken the deal on their buy-in fest to pressure them into buying an ad in the program.  I had the chance to be on the receiving side of one of those calls, and let me tell you, they are hilarious!

"We screwed up! We're about to go to press with the program, and we don't have a front cover!  That means we need to give you a great deal on this one-time only opportunity to have distributors see your film's key art..." blah, blah, blah.  All with an emphasis on the distributors who will be flocking to the festival, see my ad on the cover and rush right out to buy my movie.

I said no for so long that I finally had to remind the sales person that she started the conversation with "we're about to go to press," and hadn't she better move along with that? 

When the festival came around, there must have been fifty movie posters plastered on the cover, each no bigger than your pinky fingernail; each representing the hopes and dreams of someone who probably spent their last dime on what they believed was their chance to get an edge.  That's the wrong reason to sell an ad, and the wrong reason to buy one.

Distributors are not going to buy your movie because they see an ad in the program.  Some audience member might see your ad, then flip to the summary, and if they find it interesting and have the time, they may come to the movie.  Great, but is that enough of a reason to spend money on a full page ad? Or even a little business card sized one?  I don't know.  That's your judgment call.

Here are some reasons I can think of to buy an ad:
  1. Thank your investors.  Investors are the most important part of indie filmmaking. Treat them like the gold they gave you. They probably figured you were never going to pay them back – or even that you'd ever make a "real" movie – so a warm, public thank you might be all they need to feel good about what they've done.  And, oh boy, are they about to be surprised when they see what incredible things you've created with their little green pieces of paper.
  2. Thank your Cast & Crew.  Investors give money, cast & crew give time, and we know what time is, right?
  3. Help support the festival.  Our "no stars" policy makes it hard to win over sponsors that don't understand what we do.  Unlike a destination festival that can go to the local business community with numbers and stats, we have to find sponsors that want to get into the uber-indie world.  To be cool before it's cool.  To win a demographic before they are one.  Ads in the program help us do that.
  4. Some reason you have in mind that I don't.  After all, you're a creative type, right?  You're bound to have an angle none of us have thought of.  So let's see what you've got.
See you all May 30th!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Written On The Subway Walls

Some of you may have heard that our filmmaker's orientation meeting for year 16 is coming up this Friday.  That does not mean that 100% of the slots have been chosen.  There are always one or two issues that haven't settled out.

Still, if you haven't heard from us, the big beautiful woman might not have sung yet, but she's getting her spear and magic helmet.  We do send out the best pass letters in the circuit.  Little comfort, I know, but hopefully shows the respect we have for every filmmaker.

About the orientation meeting.  It is not required, but if you're in Los Angeles it is highly recommended.  It's also a lot of fun to meet your fellow ... what?  Classmates?  It's worth a half day off from work, but not a plane ticket.

For those who are out of town, we are working on streaming it online.  Hopefully the insanity of all of us babbling in Douglas Fairbanks' old gym will translate to a worthwhile experience on the digital screen. 

Speaking of the gym, dress for the weather.  No guarantees on air-conditioning or heat.

That's it for now.  Some of you I'll see on Friday.  Others, good luck!