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