Sunday, October 30, 2016

Nightcap 10/30/16 Not allowing full reviews, straight on to DOC NYC and links

This piece was written  a couple of days ago when I was very frustrated about a weird split I'm running into where I'm kind of asked to review films...and kind of not. You'll see what 'm talking about when you read it. However since I wrote the piece I had the reasoning explained in part. 

Despite the explanation I am still frustrated. I still don't like it, I understand it but I don't like it. To that end I'm giving you the original piece plus a new bit with the reasoning I was told behind it and commentary. (Thank you NLM)

I am increasingly meeting a weird phenomenon in regard to film festival coverage, the request for no reviews or if not no reviews only capsules. Yes filmmakers and their PR people are asking the press corps not to review their films. I’m kind of at a loss to explain it. But there you go.

In years past PR people would ask that any world premieres be held until after the film first played which is fair but I’m increasing running into weird shifts of festival coverage requests. Several festivals don’t want any coverage until the film has played there, even if it played esewhere. I’m fine with either but occasionally things go real weird, I recently had a festival in California offer me their entire slate of films and asked that I do a curtain raiser but in no way review any of the films. I went one better and did not mention either the festival or any of the films.

This new thing about "capsules only" kind of has me stymied. I thought the point of screening the films at a festival was to get coverage. Asking me to spend an hour and a half to two hours watching a film and then write a line or two is counterproductive. Why would I spend time watching your film but then not be able to talk about it when I could see and write on something else? There are exceptions - I recently saw 3 films for an upcoming festival that all would have gotten very long loving reviews that are getting a couple of lines each instead.  I would not have bothered except I really wanted to see the films so it was a trade off.

The troubling thing with this trend is that more often than not the people who are insisting on capsules or mentions only are the same ones who ask in six months for me to do a full review when the film is released.

“Please give my film coverage” they plead.

“I will rerun the capsule” I answer.

“Could you please do something longer?” they ask.

“I can’t”, I reply, “I don’t remember your film well enough”

“I’ll send you a screener”

“I don’t have the time”

I could understand it if the movie is a dog, which most of the films asking for capsules are most definitely not. I could understand it if they were works in progress because the films aren’t done, but more times than not the films have played elsewhere and are going to play elsewhere.

My mind boggles.

The trouble here is entirely that I’m going the press route. I’m shackled because I’m getting a press screener or going to a press screening. If I went to the public screening I am completely free to say what I want for as long as I want. If I break the rules set by either the festival or the film’s PR people I run the risk of getting black balled, something that doesn’t affect anyone walking in off the street. As much as I would love not to have to rely on the press route it’s just not possible since most festivals have multiple films screening at the same time. We are few at Unseen and can’t do it.

Nowhere has this been as big a problem as with BAMcinema Fest. I didn't cover the fest this year because of problems last year. Last year, and in previous years, they did not want anything more than capsules with full reviews to be held until the theatrical release. When I appealed to the studios I was told the same thing, ”hold until theatrical release”. That was fine for some films but for THE INVITATION I had to hold the review for almost a year…

…and here’s the rub with that, not only had the film played at numerous festivals before, it played in an endless string of festivals for the next year. But because I saw the film at BAM I couldn’t review it- despite everyone at all the other festivals being able to. Tons of reviews appeared for the film- however I had to sit one mine. Of course I could have just published it and been done with it, but I’m not that sort of a guy- I agreed to hold the review and I did.

I really hate this. I’m supposed to be helping get word out on a film and yet the PR people are preventing that. There is no consistency. Things go from Patrick Meaney letting me be the first person to see his great film DREAM DANGEROUSLY and write on it as soon as it’s done to situations like THE INVITATION where I’m bound not to say a word for a year. Do you want me to spread the word on your film and put butts in seats at festivals or not?

Addendum- or Welcome to Catch 22

At the end of the week I spoke with a friend who said that reason there requests for only capsule is that the PR people for some films are asking for it. Because HBO and some platforms don't want reviews until the films run on HBO or whatever the PR people are advising against getting reviews so they can sell the film.

Of course this creates a problem for festivals who need to put butts in seats... 

...and it can be a problem for the films themselves which may not get noticed if no one speaks on their behalf. Its a gamble and can be a kind of  Catch 22 - we need reviews to get noticed but if we have reviews we may not noticed and therefore  get bought,  but with reviews we won't get bought so we can't have reviews but without the reviews we won't get noticed or bought we need the reviews...but....

I completely understand why the capsules are the compromise but in all honesty its a kind of crap shoot - I mean what if the film doesn't sell and it potentially limits the chance of a review when (if) the film gets released later on. Personally I always question capsules since they tend not to say enough about a film.

I understand it but I still don't like it, though I'm slightly more accepting.

And for the record I was told to hold the review of THE INVITATION by Draft House Films. I've also been asked to sit on reviews by several big companies recently and not run reviews despite the films playing festivals like Toronto and despite my telling them I would re run the review..

 I’ve got my head down and I’m heading straight on toward DOC NYC. There are about 200 hundred films screening and while we are not going to be close to the 150 films we did last year I’m looking to bang out a good number of them thanks to Ariela, Nate Hood, and anyone else I can grab and set to writing.

The long range forecast is that pretty much all we’ve seen is, as always, recommended.

Keep an eye on this space because there are a lot of docs coming.
I should mention that next week there are three festivals happening. Ithaca Fantastik, Gold Coast and DOC NYC are all up against each other. I’ll have curtain raisers for all of them with links to the films we’ve previously covered.
And now some links from Randi and John

The worst movie theater ever is no more
A Touring Pixar Exhibit
The most dangerous prosecutor in New York
Lena Hall as Hedwig
One guy seems to be solving the Flight 370 Mystery
A 1974 story on Christine Chubbuck the subject of 2 recent films
NYC most beautiful libraries
The Train that carries the dead
Haunted theaters
Bill Bailey talks

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