WELCOME TO THE PAGE ABOUT CINEQUEST
Burning Annie screened as a work-in-progress on March 8, 2003,
Our page in the Cinequest Program Guide is HERE. It's mucho nifty.
PHOTOS! by Megan Dexter
More photos! (by Christina Ferguson)
*** Zack the writer's Cinequest report ***
"Adventures at Cinequest"
From my point of view, the fest went really, really well if you didn't have huge expectations. In other words, we didn't sign a distribution deal, get a ton of new financing, get agents, or anything like that (although we did lay the groundwork for some of those things to happen) but there were plenty of positives, and it was a lot of fun.
San Jose is a cool town, and the locals really supported the festival. Our screenings were well attended (both maybe 2/3 full, which means we probably had 350 people at the premiere) and the audience responded ecstaticly both times. I'm not sure if the latest edit had something to do with it, or what, but the audience seemed more "into" the movie than I've ever seen, laughing even in the last scene. (In my experience, the film has tended to shellshock people through the last couple of scenes, making the end feel like it drags a bit. But these audiences didn't have that reaction at all.)
After our screenings, people ran up to Randy and I all weekend to tell us they really liked it. One student journalist liked it so much he shadowed us through the whole closing party and is working on a feature. (If only he wrote for Entertainment Weekly, and not some school paper.) At the same party, a couple of potential investors approached Randy.
Randy had a few major technical difficulties compiling and "onlining"-- not quite the proper terms, but you get the idea-- the film off the super-computer onto a Hi-Definition tape in the days before the festival. Things got so hectic that as late as Thursday (two days before the first screening) there was a chance he might not make it. Finally, late Friday night, he was all set, and he left L.A. in the morning.
Saturday at noon I went to a filmmaker's lunch event organized by the festival, where I met the member of the programming committee who lobbied hard to get us in. He approached me, angry that the tape wasn't there yet just hours before our screening.
"Uh, he's on the way... he should be here in an hour or two."
"You need to get on the phone with him right now and find out exactly where he is and when I'll have the tape in my hands."
So I stepped outside and called him, Randy assuring me he was about an hour outside of San Jose, had the tape, and all was good. I went back into the lunch and passed that along. The programmer seemed relieved.
Five minutes later I'm finishing my lunch, sitting next to the programmer, and my cell phone rings.
"You shouldn't have called me."
"What do you mean?"
"My tire just blew out."
The programmer asked me who it was.
"It's... uh, my sister. I better take it outside."
Naturally, I never told anyone from the fest what happened. Instead, I turned my cell phone off and hid from programmers for the next several hours, until Randy finally arrived with the tape in hand, about four hours before showtime.
When he did arrive, he warned me that the tape had some serious technical problems that he was unable to resolve. He prepared me for the worst, saying that maybe 1/5 of the movie has off-sync sound, in addition to a few small visual problems. Due to time constraints, he had only scanned the finished tape quickly, so he wasn't even quite sure how extensive the problems were. We briefly discussed not even showing the movie, but decided that the best thing to do was show it with a brief warning to the audience that this is a "work in progress with a few technical problems."
Keep in mind, we were premiering at 9:15 on a Saturday night, in a nice, new 530-seat repertory theater, the flagship theater of the festival. There was a line halfway down the block. And none of us even knew how bad the technical problems would be. We had also heard reports of the theater experiencing their own technical problems with digital screenings earlier in the week. I was half convinced people would throw things at us during the Q&A.
Once the houselights dimmed, and the opening credit ("some lucky distributor presents") got a big laugh and applause, I knew we'd probably be all right. The technical problems turned out to be not quite as bad as expected, more annoying than disastrous. On the plus side, seeing the movie-- now color timed and upgraded to HD, on a big screen for the first time, projected digitally-- was amazing. The film looked great, visually. Some of the actors' reactions jumped out as if for the first time, and I have a new respect for Van's sense of shot composition and camera movement. People laughed from beginning to end. (Even at the really subtle things, like Sam's refrain that he broke up with Jen for good.) And as I said above, my impression was that everyone enjoyed it, warts and all.
The Q&A after the film was brief (less than 10 minutes) but went well. A couple of people asked about the technical difficulties. Other people asked about the history and inspiration of the project. The audience laughed at our jokes.
We were much more relaxed for the second screening, sunday afternoon. The audience reaction was similar. At the Q&A, someone impressed me by asking about the "Anhedonia" reference--he knew that was the working title of "Annie Hall." Someone else asked if the material was close to reality, and I said, "Uncomfortably close, I think." More technical questions, then it was done.
A few people told us we should expect to be reviewed in a couple of places, including Daily Variety, but that hasn't happened yet. Aint-It-Cool News, FilmThreat, and lots of local press were there, and supposedly there were several critics sighted at our screenings.
So that's about it. On a personal level, I saw lots of pretty-good-to-great movies and am generally inspired by what can be done on a fairly small budget. I met lots of cool filmmakers, including a few from NY. I went to San Francisco for the first time-- although I was only there for a few hours and didn't get to see much. Learned a lot about how to promote at a festival. Lots of cool parties. Can't wait to do it all again at the next festival.
Randy, how's that coming? ;-)
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