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
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.
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.