Now that I’ve been to four or so panels, I’d advise filmmakers not to attend. The first third is spent on introductions, there is usually little information of value, and I’ve always wished I’d been at a film or home sleeping. I suppose they would have value for people totally outside the filmmaking process, like curious fans or students. But once you’ve been through the process yourself, you’ll just be hearing echoes of your own experiences. The smart thing is to get some patsy (like me) to go for you and condense the information in blog form.
The panel reminded me that the separation between an insider and outsider is very thin – there’s so little difference between those in front of the crowd and those in the crowd. In fact, one major takeaway from this panel (a round-table of directors and composers) is that the essential thing for career or getting anything done is personal contacts, connections, and friendships. In other words, it’s who you know. That being the case, the discussion feels like those reality shows about cooking or remodeling – there’s never enough nuts-and-bolts substance, all the focus is on the people and their relationships.
The first bad responses to the film came in today. Jon and company were down in Salt Lake City all day for the screening there (most of the Sundance films have a screening in SLC), so it would be many hours after reading these articles until they came back. I spent the day wondering how they would react. As bad reviews go, these weren’t horrible. But somehow, in a way hard to explain, it was the novelty of the experience that was the shock – like a splash of cold water in the face. You’re suddenly high-profile enough that someone would want to take you down instead of help you up. But it brought me down to earth a bit – there’s now a ceiling to the film’s ascent, and you can looking around instead of up, and appreciate where you are. Playing for big happy crowds at Sundance feels like the important thing, instead of the road ahead.
It’s still hard not to look at the tone of the criticism and wonder, what is this person’s motivating force? I can be very critical of film work, even well-intentioned work by emerging artists. To me it feels like a hope that the work will get better. But you can get a sense that some people are doing their job, and some people smell blood and want to score points. The worst (and really the only roundly critical notice) was some columnist from Houston who had to fallaciously insert a line into the movie (‘another dead end’) to tie into a lamely snarky zinger at the end of her piece. The other article was from the Hollywood Reporter – it was even mostly positive, but called the film ‘anticlimactic’. That is definitely arguable, but it’s a legitimate point to bring up. This calls to mind the strangeness of Sundance, an indie fest that collides with the ultimate industry perspectives. Could the Hollywood Reporter not write from out of conventional wisdom? Ultimately, after reading all this, it was my first thought that stuck with me: A choice can’t be admirable unless there’s someone else who’d make a different choice. And sometimes that other person is going to be in a position to pass judgment on you.