P.O.V.Point Of View Editorial Page
Point Of View is the invitational editorial page of Proletariat Pictures, written by various film directors, writers, producers actively working in film about their experiences at festivals, markets, in production and post production, with distributors - all aspects of independent filmmaking. The views expressed are a reflection of the diverse nature of making films in today's climate, and are not necessarily the views of proletariat pictures.
An American Filmmaker In Rotterdam
This article is reprinted from the IFP West by permission of the
returned from the 23rd
Rotterdam Film Festival with the dubious distinction of having the
budget for a feature shown at the festival, and it mattered to no one.
director, Emile Fallaux, is to be given highest marks for his courage
interest in programming non-mainstream films from around the world,
American Independents often ignored by Europeans as Valenti influenced
The festival is frequently ignored by the American press partly because
it's timing (it runs concurrently with Sundance, and before Berlin),
partly because of it's history. Rotterdam has long had a reputation as
'serious' festival, a filmmakers festival, a festival you attended to
films, rather than stars. None of the glitz of Cannes, or the single
commerce of Berlin, this is a festival that screens difficult, $10,000
name films alongside films with Lena Olin and Gary Oldman, and this
hosted an overview of new Chinese films in addition to cinema from
the world. The Chinese government sent a committee to Rotterdam to
the screening of a number of these unsanctioned post student rebellion
to no avail. These films displayed the aggressive independent spirit
alive and thriving in China, new wave films as contemporary as anything
West, and subject to as much criticism.
But I intended this article to be a personal reaction to the festival, an open letter from the perspective of a no-budget filmmaker lucky enough to have one of the few independent American films screened, and maybe as an insight for film enthusiasts, and other filmmakers in the same boat.
When I got the word my film had been accepted I was not just thrilled, but relieved that Rotterdam and the director had enough courage to program a film like mine, a film challenging enough to illicit requests to edit the film for screening from other major festivals. To me this meant the director was interested in films, rather than which 'product' could do how much for the festival, and that he had actually watched the film.
The festival paid my way round-trip to Rotterdam and put me up in a Hotel close to the many venues, all of which were within blocks of each other and easily attainable by audiences. I spent the 1st day of my jet lag with my hands in wallpaper paste slapping Xerox posters up on everything that would not move, and some things that did. The festival is centered around the Rotterdam Hilton, and it's various venues, with a large downstairs area for ticket purchase and party/dining room. The staff helped me check in, gave me various badges etc. and a comprehensive catalogue of the films being shown. My film, the world premiere, was scheduled to be shown the first day of the festival, and I was to be present for questions afterwards. Yep, 60 hr's of no jet lag sleep, the world premiere of my first feature, and I was to have a Q&A; I was sweating bullets. I finally met Emile Fallaux just before the screening, a very amiable, intelligent man who attempted to calm me down a little before entering; then I was introduced and the film started, simultaneously, sans sound. Well, OK, it got rewound and started again after a hasty introduction; "Hi, how are ya, thanks for coming." There were projection and sound problems which drove me nuts (part of the screen was out of focus and there was a bad ground hum throughout), but I had already given up control at that point, it was up to the festival. I know my film is a difficult one for some people, regardless, when someone got up and left this horrible sinking sensation and waves of despair started crashing over me. However, by the end of the screening almost everyone had stayed, even applauded and asked some intelligent questions afterwards. My film ended up being very well received and attended, and this is not an easy film with readily accessible characters and Syd Field profundities on the proper pages. Bravo. Now I could get some sleep, and immediately died in my hotel room.
In the following days I went to screening after screening and ran the gamut of emotions, from thrilled to disappointed, an excellent festival reaction reflecting the diversity of films and cultural backgrounds present at a truly International festival. The Hilton proved to be a great place to meet people, both enthusiastic, intelligent locals, and other strangers from around the world. There were a number of interviews from TV and press, and a daily paper that kept up on the current screenings comprising 200 features and 170 docs and shorts. My film was in the top 20's the first week, and in competition with Romeo is Bleeding, Temptation of a Monk, True Romance, Body Snatchers and Short Cuts - this was a great crowd.
The Cinemart section of the festival was a surprise to me, I did not realize the timing and importance of the market aspects of the festival, in which producers are invited to look at scripts the festival has accepted as part of the market, and meet with the filmmakers. This is a novice mistake, but an oversight in communication the festival should correct for future festivals. Cinemart started midway through the festival, when I was scheduled to leave, so I had one day of exposure as producers and distributors started to arrive, and only the promise of an opening party that evening - "invitation only." I made a point of crashing that party and trying to meet people, this last opportunity was not going by without effort. Ah, dear 'droogies', please understand, I thought this might be my last chance at meeting a possible producer for my new film, or a distributor, or a chance at financing, anything, something. So, alas, I became the 'ugly American'; script under arm and doing my best to try and interest people in what they did not want to talk about at a party. I tried to be subtle, but a man with the title of his new film on his hat and brandishing studio bound pages in a party of producers is not inconspicuous. Damn the raised eyebrows, full pitch ahead! Whammo and surprise, surprise!; people were patient and willing to listen, and seemed to be interested, deferring a talk for later in the market, something my airline ticket to leave in the next few hours did not make conducive to an intimate producer/distributor/director bonding. That did not seem to phase KLM, when I tried telling them I had broken my leg and needed to reschedule my flight, they didn't care and insisted my ticket be used on the 1st or I must buy another one. Well, after my over the limit credit card was refused I made my way home, disappointed I could not stay for the Cinemart section of the festival.
The screening and sound problems should be fixed, a festival the caliber of Rotterdam should have the best. My second screening at a different theater was technically superb, but 3rd and next to last at the same theater as the good screening had the same keystone, out of focus problems, and my only print had a scratch through all the reels.
What happened at the last screening? I dunno. What's the deal with the festival replacing prints? I dunno, they haven't responded to my queries, nor returned my print, yet. My real disappointment was not being able to attend the festival when the Cinemart was in full swing, and when my film was being screened, to a first feature filmmaker that could mean everything.
However, these problems didn't deter a great festival, the staff, the screening, the caliber of the films shown, the attentiveness of everyone involved made this a thoroughly enlightening, and enjoyable experience. Enough so that if this Minnesota born, L.A. filmmaker is actually lucky enough to get to make his new film, my choice for World Premiere will certainly be Rotterdam. Bravo Rotterdam.
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