Guest blog

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

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Lovering’s Sundance diaries: part one

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

 

Arrival

Arrival in Salt Lake City. Drive into the mountains to Park City. Go past Main Street, one of the oldest in America, very pretty, small but crowded with people at this late time. There’s an immediate sense that this is a very different place, time out of time. It feels odd – like I’m an outsider but then I remember I’ve got a film in Sundance. I’ve got a film in Sundance…

Allen Leech and Director Jeremy Lovering have their photo taken to send to Iain De Castecker who sadly couldn't be there...

Allen Leech and Director Jeremy Lovering have their photo taken to send to Iain De Castecker who sadly couldn’t be there…

Day One

We all meet up smiling, Producer Nira Park, Exec Producer Matthew Justice, actors Alice Englert, Allen Leech, DOP David Katznelson and story consultant Jon Croker. We’ve all been thinking the same thing – a year ago we were standing in horizontal hailstones and mud in the night on Bodmin Moor making In Fear, and now we are here. We feel lucky.

I go early to get a bus to go to the Director’s Brunch. It’s an hour away from Park City, the main festival venue and further into the mountains to the Sundance Resort. The clue is in the name – it’s Robert Redford’s resort, the site of the original festival and the place where the Sundance Kid lives.

Every year he invites just the directors of the films in the festival to go and have breakfast with him.

I kind of thought it might be just me and him riding our horses together through the mountains and maybe wrestling in the snow afterwards but every other director turns up.

The journey is an hour – a good chance to talk to other directors. It’s not a secret how competitive directors can be behind the smiles, but on this bus where there are no financiers, no producers, no writers it feels incredibly relaxed and friendly.

Some have their graduation films, some experimental pieces, some are veterans with their fourth movie. But all seem genuinely excited – for themselves and for each other.

Although there is also a dose of fear – many have films later that day and all know that Sundance can make or break them.

The resort is beautiful, we eat breakfast: strangers sharing the same experience, I sit next to a guy with his first short, two documentary makers and a successful writer with her first directed film.

Then Robert Redford walks to a podium to talk. Yes, Robert f***ing Redford. It’s weird but there’s still the impact of Hollywood icon, of old school glamour and he is still pretty cool.

His key point though seems to be how down in the valley, in Park City there is a zoo and up here in the resort the air is clean and the conscience is clear.

He said of course the business, the selling, the sponsorship, the parties, the photos of stars with sponsored handbags are all essential but he had invited us up there to remind us of why we were there – to celebrate the creative spirit.

Maybe it seemed a bit of a romanticized view and after all he can afford to say that cos he’s Robert f***ing Redford, but maybe all he was really saying is that we all know there are many necessary parts of making a film and all of them should be honoured and not any one neglected nor forgotten – especially the quieter, more reflective ones.

We all leave feeling energized and blessed and I swear I look back and there is a golden hue resting over the Sundance resort.

On the way back I sit next to Ben Wheatley (director of Sightseers) and my newfound love for Robert is almost dimmed because Ben is so smart and so funny. Though I’m sure he can’t ride horses.

Nira Park - producer of In Fear

Nira Park – producer of In Fear

 

 

 

The Imposter producer Dimitri Doganis on the film’s lifecycle

As The Imposter garners two Bafta nominations and is released on BluRay and DVD, producer Dimitri Doganis reflects on the film’s journey from inception to awards recognition.

The Imposter’s recent nominations for Best Documentary and for Outstanding Debut were the latest installments of a pretty amazing journey we have been on with the film as first-time film-makers. It was about this time last year that the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival – that evening felt like the end of the struggle to make the film and get it seen, little did I realise at the time it was the start of another cycle – the exhibition, promotion, discussion and (luckily!) celebration of the finished film.

Since then we have been lucky enough to get some amazing responses: Bart’s vision for the film has seen us get some great reviews almost across the board in the UK, US and elsewhere, we’ve been lucky enough to travel around the US and Europe to some amazing film festivals, and even picked up some awards at some of them (Miami, HotDocs in Toronto, Zurich, Cinema Eye Honors in New York).

One year later and the film is no longer in theatres, the DVD is out, and the cycle feels like it’s coming to an end. While I’ve made a lot of documentaries for TV, there is something very different about the experience of the last year. It’s amazing getting the instant feedback from the audience that the cinema allows, but it is also a surprisingly long road to travel – and not just in terms of air miles. From Sundance to the US release and then the UK release, the various film festivals, and the up and coming European premiers, it’s a very drawn-out and time-consuming process!

I am not complaining – I think I’m incredibly lucky to be here, and live in hope that I’ll get to repeat the process with the next film. Bart is being inundated with Hollywood scripts, and there are suddenly all sorts of doors opening. I can see how easy it would be to be distracted by what seem like amazing opportunities, but we are already pretty deep into the next film – another true story you couldn’t make up – and so I guess the cycle is about to start again. I can’t wait…

Click here to read director Bart Layton’s blog about screening The Imposter at SXSW

Click here to buy The Imposter on DVD from Amazon