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Jeremy Lovering’s Sundance Diaries: part six

15 Feb, 2013 Posted in: Directors, Festivals, Guest blog, Online, Sundance

In Fear writer-director Jeremy Lovering shares his final thoughts on Sundance 2013 and bids a fond farewell to Utah…

Alice Englert and Allen Leech

Alice Englert and Allen Leech

Day and Evening 4

I wake feeling good. This time I look in the mirror and all is calm. Everyone else is happy and they are heading off, leaving Sundance.

Allen is carrying the adoration of Downton Abbey fans with him to LA, Alice is going on the press tour for Beautiful Creatures, the producers and financiers are heading back to London or Paris.

I go up the mountain for breakfast. It’s beautiful. I’ve got some music on my computer that was being shared by a random guest at the hotel that I downloaded earlier. I’m guessing he / she is a snowboarder judging by his / her taste. It’s the kind of track that is amazing when you’re going at speed down the mountain but I know when I’m sitting on a bus in London’s grey winter it won’t feel quite the same.

But I like the fact that a stranger has given me a glimpse into who they are. I like that for this moment they have given me something without knowing it is making me happy.

It resonates with what I feel about the audience last night. I will always remember the look in their eyes.

I grab a lift back down the mountain with a random man. He tells me he is in Sundance trying to regenerate interest in his screenplay. He says he had Ridley Scott interested and now he has the Coen brothers interested. He says it like I should unquestioningly believe him, like why wouldn’t I believe him and suddenly unlike the anonymous and generous snowboarder I feel like he is trying to take something, not give something.

I can’t really explain that, but that’s what it felt like and it makes me sad.

Sundance is full of dreams and hope – there’s so much going on that I haven’t mentioned – the lunches and talks and panels and screenings and all that is part of the fabric that is exciting and positive –  amazing people from graduating filmmakers to veteran directors, indie actors to mainstream stars, wide-eyed short film producers to the impresarios of Hollywood  – but somehow here they all fit in, they all seem equally part of the Sundance experience that makes you happy to be making films.

But of course there is another side. And of course you can’t make any assumptions.

My last screening is in a bigger venue and maybe the encounter with that man has made me cautious.

Then it quickly dispels. The first gasp, the first nervous laugh and I relax.

The response is if anything even better than the night before. It feels great. Really great. And I feel really lucky. Again.

Maybe I’ve witnessed all the necessary parts of making movies laid out in stark detail – the ideas and creative force of the other directors, writers and actors, the brilliance and kindness of the Sundance programmers – John Nein, Trevor Groth, John Cooper, the seamless organization of Chelsea Rowe and all her team, the support and friendship of the financiers – Studio Canal and Filmfour, the brilliance and cleverness of the best producers – Nira Park and Matthew Justice, the bravado, fun and efficiency of publicists…

…But most importantly I’ve experienced the sheer joy of having reached an audience, seeing the thrill in their eyes and hearing the word ‘awesome’.

It’s like I’ve shared a piece of music in the ether and somewhere there is someone listening to it.
Oh, and I have also been up the mountain and received the blessing from the Sundance Kid.

 

Click here to browse Jeremy Lovering’s previous Sundance blogs

 

Jeremy Lovering’s Sundance diaries: part five

07 Feb, 2013 Posted in: Directors, Festivals, Guest blog, Opinion, Sundance

In Fear writer-director Jeremy Lovering writes for Film4.com about his nerves before the second Sundance screening of his film – and the audience buzz afterward

 

In Fear stars Allen Leech and Alice Englert

In Fear stars Allen Leech and Alice Englert

Day and evening three

OK I’ll be honest – we drank whisky in the night, in the snow. So it was a short day by the time it began.

Remember I mentioned the look in directors’ eyes at Redford’s brunch? A mixture of expectation, pride and fear. Of Judgement Day?

Remember I mentioned Redford’s calming words reminding us of our creative urge and the need to keep that in mind and not get hung up on wondering if our film will sell, if the critics will get it, if the audience will like it?

Well I’m staring in the mirror and I see the look in my eyes but Robert is silent.

Our amazing publicists – Chris Libby, Clay Dollarhide, Brandon Nicholls – on the phone earlier were philosophical. They don’t expect a flurry of declamatory reaction – people take their time to respond.

Chris Libby - brilliant publicist

Chris Libby – brilliant publicist

I remind myself of one time when I was developing a project in Hollywood. The writer turned in a new draft which I really liked. I talked to the executives – they were waiting to hear back from the executive at the top of the food chain. But, I asked, “What do you think?” They replied, “We’ll tell you what we think when [our boss] has told us what we think.”

We are living in risk-adverse times.

And I guess we all secretly, and perhaps unfoundedly, hope that the response will be uniform, and in our minds we factor out individual’s taste, background, ego or simply mood that night.

It feels confusing but actually it’s really, really simple – I like Kippers for breakfast, my girlfriend doesn’t. She’ll eat them in the evening but just not first thing in the morning. And that’s fine.

I stop staring in the mirror. There’s a world out there.

We head to Salt Lake City. It’s an hour away from Park City and for the second screening the film is showing in a regular cinema – similar to a UK Vue I guess, or a smaller Odeon.

There is an ‘inversion’ in Salt Lake City – a mass of low-pressure gets trapped in the city as it’s surrounded by mountains. This then holds in the cold and the pollution, the temperature drops ten degrees and people can’t breathe.

Will people perhaps pass out or die when they are watching the film? I wonder if that will help or hinder it?

I get there I see ‘IN FEAR’ written on the ‘what’s-on’ sign in front of the particular screen – it feels very real.

I overhear a man in the queue – there was actually a queue – saying, “The thing is, you have already played the movie over in your mind before you sit down”. And maybe he’s right – from the very first time you mention the idea to the moment the audience sits down, everyone has part-created their version of your movie in their heads.

And so I realize maybe our biggest challenge is not only to try to get people to suspend their disbelief but also to abandon their pre-invented version at the same time.

The queue gets longer – people are buying popcorn, some ask to be on the waitlist, some are on their phones telling friends they got in. There’s a real buzz.

I go in and the cinema is completely full. People who look like they work in offices, people who work in shops, gyms and construction sites, single girls out with friends, couples, loners, students, city professionals, young and old – people who just want to have a good night out.

At once it feels like it might play well. And it does.

They laugh, clap, gasp, scream – do everything I could have hoped for in all the right places.

In fact the screening tonight is GREAT – they hide behind their coats, scream, whistle, say “No!”, “Don’t!”, clap and whoop at the end.

One man even tried a standing ovation – going too far obviously and a woman near me fans herself throughout with a piece of paper she is so overcome. Though maybe that was the ‘inversion’.

And then 200 people stay for the Q&A – and that’s a massively high number – their eyes full of thrill. They just want to talk about the film. Our film. My film.

And that’s when I realize – I think I have managed to suspend their disbelief. I think I have replaced their version with my own.

I am so flattered. I AM SO HAPPY.

I love Salt Lake City.

And clearly they all love Kippers for breakfast too.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Lovering’s Sundance diaries: part four

In Fear writer-director Jeremy Lovering writes for Film4.com about the experience of pitching up in Sundance with your first theatrical feature film…

 

Allen Leech leads Film4's Katherine Butler and Sue Bruce Smith into the night

Allen Leech leads Film4′s Katherine Butler and Sue Bruce Smith into the night

Evening two

We all meet up to eat before the screening and it feels like I’m with family again. They’ve done this before, I haven’t. They are calmly excited. I’m frankly having a heart attack.

Producer Nira Park, Director of Photograph David Katznelson and I go to ask the theatre if we can do a sound and picture check.

The Egyptian is the iconic theatre in Sundance – great indie films have had their first showing here – it is characterful (small screen), intimate (no real sub on the sound) and atmospheric (vaulted ceiling that diffuses sound). And the crowd are apparently up for it. (drunk?).

The Egyptian Theatre - first screening of In Fear

The Egyptian Theatre – first screening of In Fear

The theatre kindly let us turn the sound up – I think in exchange for an agreement that they can play Public Image as the audience walk in – British psychological horror? Post-punk? Got to be.

John Nein introduces the film – he was really the man who as senior programmer of the festival championed my film and he’s one of the smartest (and I don’t say that just because he championed my film) but most generous people you could care to meet. If I hadn’t exhausted my love supply on Messrs Redford, Wheatley and Corman, then John would have all of it.

Director Jeremy Lovering speaking before In Fear at The Egyptian.

Director Jeremy Lovering speaking before In Fear at The Egyptian.

Then the film starts. And finishes. 85 minutes later.

Hitchcock said a film should be no longer than a bladder can hold on, (in his days maybe the stiff upper lip explained an extra twenty minutes than now) and I had taken him at his word.

People clap, there are gasps, there are some ‘oh no’s’, a couple of laughs – i.e. all the hoped-for response to a psychological horror; the audience seem to get it.

But forget the bladder – Hitch should have said a film should last no longer than the girl in front of you takes to text her boyfriend ten times to find out where he is, tell her friend sitting next to her that she can’t believe her boyfriend hasn’t turned up, text her boyfriend ten more times to say she is coming to find him then tell her friend she is going to find him, before she then walks out of the film, presumably to find him.

I.e. about 70 of the 85 minutes.

And that is the reality of showing a film. The size of the screen, the sound level, the picture quality, all are irrelevant in the face of the girl who’s had a textual row with her absent boyfriend. I hope she dumps him. Or they dump each other. By text.

And so here I am face to face with another facet of films. I’ve said I was making the film with the audience in mind, but how easy is it to actually picture that audience? And what if they are different on the day? You just don’t know and it’s out of your control.

Q&A after the screening (L-R: director of photography David Katznelson, story consultant Jon Croker, stars Allen Leech and Alice Englert, director Jeremy Lovering and John Nein, Sundance festival programmer.)

Q&A after the screening (L-R: director of photography David Katznelson, story consultant Jon Croker, stars Allen Leech and Alice Englert, director Jeremy Lovering and John Nein, Sundance festival programmer.)

On the way out a young guy came up to me with his younger girlfriend.

They said they loved the film and the guy mentioned a particular line: “Violence is the Mother and the Daughter”. He said, “where is that from, it’s awesome?” I said “Erm, I kind of made it up.” He looked at me and nodded and said, “cool, thanks’, and I said “no, thank you for coming.”

That is perhaps the relationship between filmmaker and audience in a nutshell. And it made me very happy.

Jeremy Lovering’s Sundance diaries: part three

In Fear writer-director Jeremy Lovering writes for Film4.com about the experience of pitching up in Sundance with your first theatrical feature film…

I wake early and head to the filmmaker’s Lodge on Main Street where festival-goers hang out and come to hear different people talk on panels about different things.

I’ve been asked to be on a panel with Eduardo Sanchez, the director of Blair Witch, Ben Wheatley [director of Sightseers] and the godfather of genre, Roger Corman.

These are three figures I admire for their depth of understanding of film and their prolific talent. They are in their particular ways, masters of the genre – Ben is almost reinventing the wheel, Eduardo reinstated found footage firmly into our consciousness and Roger Corman has made literally hundreds of films – he’s kickstarted the careers of de Niro, Scorsese, Coppola, Jack Nicholson and so many others and on top of that he seems really nice.

The moderator is Tim League who is a massive figure in the indie and genre world, running the Alamo Drafthouse and hugely instrumental in SXSW festival.

The panel (L-R:  Ben Wheatley, Jeremy Lovering, Eduardo Sanchez, Roger Corman, Tim League)

The panel (L-R: Ben Wheatley, Jeremy Lovering, Eduardo Sanchez, Roger Corman, Tim League)

We go on stage sit and the panel begins. We talk about our influences in the genre, personal heroes, why the genre has enduring appeal, how the genre has shifted and techniques in our own films – how to create fear.

I’m really enjoying it – it’s energizing sitting with such illustrious figures – and they are all generous, and inclusive. And funny.

The audience return several times to funding – there is an understandable and general moaning at how hard it is to raise cash in the indie world.

Where I think this gets interesting is when we talk about how this has perhaps meant directors must increasingly have a sense of responsibility for the money that is behind their film.

Creative choices must surely be made with the audience in mind but are the days of creative purity that Robert Redford referenced really part of a bygone era?

Are we driven in our ideas and our execution of those ideas by the force of the marketplace any more than those before us? Certainly it’s arguably easier to get a genre film financed – but does that really mean ideas are being compromised?

Perhaps it was always really like this – it’s just got more explicit.

Either way it means there are probably lots of projects that may well be wonderful but that disregard the audience and so end up in dusty drawers.

And maybe this is no bad thing – personally I’m acutely aware that tonight my film will be watched by a paying audience and that excites me. And without sounding like a twat, humbles me. No, I sound like a twat.

But I mean it.

I made this film with an audience in mind – I feel less like an artist painting in isolation and more like a craftsman making furniture – and if the chair is too small for anyone to sit on then surely it’s no longer a chair? Tonight I’ll know.

Carrying those thoughts in mind the panel finishes and I head out to do press and publicity up and down Main Street.

The commercial facet of filmmaking that we were talking about in the panel and Redford mentioned at the brunch becomes quickly apparent. I’m with two of my cast – the amazingly talented and cool Alice Englert and the amazingly talented and funny Allen Leech and various sponsors of the festival (I guess), or maybe just companies doing publicity, I’m not sure, but they want to take photos of them with hats on, shoes on, headphones on, gloves on, typing on computers, listening to music, drinking water that has been ‘influenced’ by fruit, eating beetroot crisps flavoured by smoking herbs at low temperatures and so on.

And in between these are the movie press interviews and photos. Some really want to know what the film is about, some ask pertinent and probing questions, others just want to know if we’re having fun.

This is no bad thing – and it’s a reality. It’s the commercial world. Yes, the world would be beautiful and wonderful if money never existed – then there’d be no wars and we’d all look after each other and wear hemp.

But to make films we need money upfront and we need the audience to buy a ticket and it’s impossible and unnecessary to deny that all this flurry in some way enables that.

But it’s just a part.

We begin to sense a rising buzz about our film. How that happens I’m not sure – but it’s fantastically exciting. People are talking about it, they are asking about it, they are telling us they want to see it.

And it’s sold out…

 

 

 

Jeremy Lovering’s Sundance diaries: part two

In Fear writer-director Jeremy Lovering writes for Film4.com about the experience of pitching up in Sundance with your first theatrical feature film…

 

Evening one

Ah, so this is another side of film festivals. Main street is crushed. We meet up with Harold Van Lier, Danny Perkins and Shyama Friedenson from Studio Canal, Katherine Butler and Sue Bruce-Smith from Film4 and my agent Maha Dakhil from CAA.

They trusted and enabled me to make the film and now they enable me to drink spiced mulled apple cider and vodka in the mountains. Maybe it’s the altitude but I’m thinking these are just the best people in the world. They are all massively savvy about films and making films but here they just seem like great company.

I have press interviews and my first screening tomorrow so whilst they all go off to dance in a huge Lodge in the mountains, I of course go to bed early… of course.

Sundance is definitely unique

Sundance is definitely unique

 

 

 

 

by Jeremy Lovering

Writer-director Jeremy Lovering, whose first feature, In Fear, premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2013.